Have you ever wondered where astronauts go to train?
The gym could surely be one for physical strengthening exercise, yet they are sent to training camps in Antarctica!
Why do you ask?
Antarctica offers a perfect training ground for astronauts on long space missions. These astronauts are sent to Antarctica four months in advance to spend time in an icy region that trains these astronauts for several months of isolation and confinement and prepares them to face extreme environments.
The training takes place during the winter months in Antarctica, considering that the continent is without sunlight for four months of the year.
This year, the sunlight-free period began on May 13 after sunset.
The European Space Agency (ESA), which runs Concordia, the most remote base on Earth, said this marks the beginning of an exciting time for the 12-member crew.
What the researchers will study
ESA said the team will live and work in isolation for six months in the name of spaceflight research. They will conduct biomedical experiments on themselves to understand how humans cope with living in extreme isolation.
“From sleep studies to gut health measurements to mindful practices, the crew is pushed and prodded to help researchers understand and overcome the challenges that extreme environments, such as space, pose to present and future explorers,” ESA said on its website.
No sunset for four months
An image of the penultimate sunset (May 13) was posted on ESA’s website and social media platforms, showing the Sun appearing only as a thin strip in the sky.
The last plane with supplies visited the Concordia station in February ahead of the nine-month-long investigation. Four of these will be in the total darkness of the Antarctic winter.
Harsh conditions in Antarctica
Concordia Station is just a few kilometers from Earth’s the South Pole. ESA said temperatures can drop to minus 80 degrees Celsius in the completely frozen darkness outside.
No supplies or people can be transported during the winter months and the high altitude causes the crew to experience chronic hypobaric hypoxia or lack of oxygen to the brain.
the Concordia base
Concordia is a collaboration between the French Polar Institute and the Italian Antarctic program and is one of only three bases that is inhabited year-round.
This year’s crew members are a combination of Italian and French researchers and technicians, plus Swedish supervisor Dr. Hannes Hagson, who will manage the base and conduct scientific activities in Antarctica’s exceptionally pristine landscape.