The European Space Agency reports this week that it is satisfied that Lanzarote offers an excellent testing ground for missions to other planets, and is currently considering establishing a base on the island to test the effects of isolation on their astronauts, who would be subject to an 18 month trip to Mars without the possibility of external help.
This concept is not new, as NASA has been using Mauna Loa Volcano in Hawaii as a remote space for teams of astronauts to simulate experiences of being on Mars, and only connecting with Earth by a virtual radio with a 20 minute delay for answers.
Loredana Bessone, ESA astronaut instructor has been considering recreating a Mars space base in La Corona or another volcanic tube in Lanzarote, as this represents a six kilometre tube formed by an eruption 21,000 years ago.
Some might question why Lanzarote would make a good Mars experience, as millions of tourists visit the island each year for beach holidays, but may not know that that ESA and NASA have already used the Lanzarote landscape for testing their robotic vehicles used on recent missions to Mars, because there is no other similar landscape identified on Earth.
An article in Time Magazine in 2016 written by Francesco Sauro, an Italian geologist reported that astronauts that land on Mars would be protected from radiation if they found refuge in a volcanic tube on the planet, so it seems that using the volcanic tubes on the island of Lanzarote would be very useful experience. The first astronaut to travel to Mars could be soon after 2030, and the round trip could last between 500 days and 1000 days, with no possible help from Earth, and the trip can only be made every two years when the orbit of Mars is closest to Earth. So, expect to see trainee astronauts coming to Lanzarote in the next few years to learn what a Mars space trip could feel like.
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