Bedouins and Sandynauts
i
Illustration by Tomasz Kozłowski
Outer Space

Bedouins and Sandynauts

A Kepler Base in the Desert
Agata Romaniuk
Reading
time 12 minutes

In 2018, a Martian base was created in the middle of the Dhofar desert where, over four weeks, analogue astronauts practised walking, took rock samples, grew plants and conducted experiments.

From above, the domes look like lumps of white cheese with a clear sieve pattern; one large and five small ones, tightly connected with grey tunnels. Around them the bright rectangles of containers and Ziesel electromobiles – armchairs on caterpillar tracks – moving between them. Each has a basket for samples. They are driven by sweating, lumbering drivers, dressed in bulky, silver suits with glass spheres on their heads.

“The Kepler Station”. Photo by Florian Voggeneder

The Aouda.X spacesuit is covered with a skin of Kevlar and Panox, a special thermally-stabilized fibre. Its aluminium surface gleams in the sun. It is extremely tough. Nothing gets through it; not a bullet, nor space dust, nor a scream. It weighs nearly 40 kilograms and there is no way to put it on unaided. For who will tighten the screws on the neck? Who will check it is airtight? Who will ensure the round collar is correctly set; screw on the CO2 filter? It all takes time. Putting on the Aouda.X takes two hours. This is how the day starts. Locked in their spacesuits as if in a capsule, the analogue astronauts walk around the stony surface every day. Very slowly, one step at a time. It

Information

You’ve reached your free article’s limit this month. You can get unlimited access to all our articles and audio content with our digital subscription. If you have an active subscription, please log in.

Subscribe

Also read:

Reaching Out to the Stars
i
Portrait of Maria Mitchell, H. Dassell, 1851
Science

Reaching Out to the Stars

The Life of Maria Mitchell
Julia Fiedorczuk

Maria Mitchell – the first American woman astronomer, who discovered the comet known as ‘Miss Mitchell’s Comet’ – did not have a university education. Yet her knowledge was unmatched; her intelligence and personal class remarkable. She was prepared to question all authorities: those in the world of science, and those who dictated social norms and customs (including norms preventing women’s access to knowledge). In leaving her native island of Nantucket, she was determined to devote her life to the intellectual culture of women.

Question everything

“There is something elevating in the study of any of the natural sciences, and especially there must be in the study of other worlds. When we are chafed and fretted by small cares, a look at the stars will show us the littleness of our own interests,” said Maria Mitchell in 1865. She was greeting her students at Vassar College – the first American college for women, founded four years earlier by Matthew Vassar, a successful brewer from Poughkeepsie, New York. Vassar, an exceptional man, believed that women should enjoy the same access to knowledge as men. He also maintained that women students needed women teachers as role models.

Continue reading