"Cantabria, more and more infinite, arrives until Mars". With these words, somewhat exaggerated, the Cantabrian Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Francisco Martin, culminated this Friday in Fitur the massive presentation of Astroland, a project halfway between science and tourism that promises to recreate as faithfully as possible the life of a human colony on Mars. Of course, in a cave in the town of Arredondo, surrounded by green hills and a stone's throw from the anchovies of Santoña, not in a red planet and without an atmosphere that is an average of 225 million kilometers from the earth.
Departure from the business incubator of Banco Santander and backed by a private investment of two million euros, the company Astroland plans that the first mission of astrolanders start your tasks on June 15th. In total, the project aims to send ten missions of ten people each until the end of the year. Become a member of any of these missions -tripulants called the CEO of Astroland, David Ceballos-, in addition to requiring the age of majority, is not cheap. The passage to Cantabrian Mars costs 10,000 euros. The selection process begins with the registration on the project website: www.astrolandagency.com
Of course, the price includes training between 10 and 90 days - depending on the task that is going to be assigned - in different skills necessary to be a pioneer in the red planet: caving, climbing, psychology, coaching, emergency plans or hydroponic cultivation (the cultivation of plants using mineral solutions, instead of soil) ... What is needed, in theory, to solve the problems that a human colony on Mars should face. They not only look for technical or scientific profiles, but of all kinds. "The idea is how to live in 2019 on earth what would be felt in a permanent colony there," a hypothesis that could be true in about 10 years.
Meanwhile, they have found in Arredondo a substitute, a cave one kilometer and a half and 60 meters high where Astroland has installed pressurized capsules that will serve as laboratories, bedrooms, etc. They receive energy from clean sources from outside and their air is purified, in the same way that it would be in a cave on the neighboring planet. "Getting the administrative permits has been the most expensive project," sighs the person in charge, who has a degree in Business Administration for 42 years.
Life in the cave will not be a walk. The idea is to "test technologies that could be necessary there and achieve advances that could be applied to the earth, as in its day it was Velcro," explains Ceballos. The astrolanders they will not be able to leave the cabins without their space suit, a polymer monkey woven in one piece by 3D printing with the help of the University School of Design, Innovation and Technology (ESNE). An antibacterial suit, waterproof, resistant to abrasion and flexible - it is currently working on the design and anchoring of the helmet - that astrolanders they will have to wear mandatorily when they leave the cabins; upon entering they previously pass through a disinfection zone.
Minimum stay of three days
The crew members will be monitored at all times and will be communicated different assigned tasks according to their profile and will be communicated and monitored at all times from a control center located in the Scientific and Technological Park of Cantabria in Santander. "A kind of Houston," jokes Ceballos. To faithfully recreate the conditions, the communications have a delay of eight minutes, the same as Earth-Mars communications. Only one message will be allowed outside per crew member and the stays will be at least three days. To make their needs, they will carry special diapers that will be properly discarded, so that the human footprint in the cave - and on Mars - is minimized. In fact, studying how to do it is the goal of the first mission.
Why a cave? Ceballos explains that a colony on Mars would have to be underground. "The Martian surface is swept by strong winds, the temperature is very low (about 60 below zero) and the stellar radiation is very high." Therefore, a Martian colony should be installed in a lava tube below the surface. It is true that the severity in Arredondo is almost three times higher than that of Mars. Everything can not be recreated.