Preparing an human mission to Mars by living in Antarctica

Sarah Baatout, researcher at SCK.CEN was at VKI this Monday morning in the presence of 6th grade students. Sarah will join the Princess Elisabeth Polar Station on 16 December 2017 and will stay there during one month. During her mission, she will study the impact of extreme conditions of living on the human body in order to simulate some of the effects of extended periods of space flight for astronauts. Antarctica provides a good analogue to study the physical and psychological challenges of long-duration spaceflight, like an human mission to Mars.

Instead of the astronauts, the radiobiologist will monitor the polar station's crew. She will take several types of samples (blood, saliva, …)  before, during and after the stay of the crew. The results of their analyze will give precious information on the stress level of the members of the crew and on the effect of this particular environment on their immune system. Sarah will also study the properties of spirulina in extreme conditions. This green algae is already used as food supplement for astronauts and could have a beneficial effects on the intestinal flora harmed by the stress.

Since 2004, the Princess Elisabeth Station is unique in the world of Polar stations. Its uncommon architecture, able to resist the extreme meteorological conditions of Antarctica is still today unique in the world.

The von Karman Institute was also part of this technological prowess. Tests in wind tunnels have been performed to evaluate the comfort and resistance of the station against the snow and the extreme wind (which can blow until 250km/h) for different architectural concepts and the integration of the station on the mountain peak.

Sarah BaatoutSarah Baatout

Sarah Baatout behind the mock-up of the polar station tested in
the low speed wind tunnel of the von Karman Institute