A plant researcher as an analog astronaut in the German TV program GalileoAna Caño-Delgado participated in a simulated expedition to Mars
On September 2020, CRAG researcher Ana I. Caño-Delgado was invited to a very special scientific mission: a Martian space expedition, on Spanish soil. This strange combination happens thanks to Astroland, a Spanish agency that has developed and operates the first permanent Mars cave analog extreme environment in a real cave near Santander, in the north of Spain. Completely isolated from external interferences, the cave hosts Astroland’s own Martian analog habitat, a station equipped with everything necessary for eight people to live and do science on Mars.
Caño-Delgado was invited due to her recent advancements on the development of plants that can resist severe drought, the main aim of her ERC Consolidator Grant IDRICA. The other members of the crew were Carmen Köhler, PhD in physics of the atmosphere, entrepreneur and analog astronaut, and Iñigo Muñoz Elorza, an economist and aerospace engineer, analog astronaut for the Austrian Space Forum, and head of analogs and space operations at Astroland.
Muñoz Elorza explained: “A research interest for Astroland is the future uses of plants that can thrive in extreme environments as a key component of Martian habitats, as elements for food production, CO2 sink, and other benefits like food production. In this sense, we are very happy to have counted with Dr. Ana Caño from CRAG as crew member in one of our missions, setting a starting point for discussion about future developments in this area, including the test and validation of different approaches in Astroland’s analog environment.”
For Caño-Delgado the possibility to test the development and survival of the plants she develops in such extreme conditions will be also a valuable tool towards her aim to enhance crop production in our climate-changing planet.
The 4th member of the mission crew was Martin Dunkelmann, a German journalist reporting for Galileo, a German science TV programme that has been aired for over 20 years daily on ProSieben, one of Germany's biggest private networks. On the 6th of October, German viewers could enjoy the 22-minute long reportage on this analog Martian Mission. In the near future, international viewers will be able to visualize it through Galileo’s youtube channel.
Sreenshot from the Galileo TV Program (courtesy of Comberry Studios)