Polish astronaut becomes first Pole in unique space mission simulation inside lava tunnel
A Polish astronaut has become the first Pole to take part in a unique simulation of a space mission to the moon, the first of its kind in the world to take place inside a lava tunnel.
Agnieszka Elwertowska, a computer engineer and student of the WSB University in Gdańsk, took part in the CHILL-ICE mission organised by Euro Moon Mars ESTEC in one of Iceland’s lava tunnels.
As an analogue astronaut alongside a group of others, her main aim was to build a functional habitat with a source of electricity and communication inside the tunnel in eight hours.
Elwertowska, a space enthusiast who has taken part in cosmic projects for four years and is a member of the European Space Foundation, wrote on her Facebook after the experience: “Why was the mission inside a lava tunnel? There are many lava tunnels on the Moon and Mars, which being below the ground, can protect astronauts and their ‘houses’ from harmful radiation and for example meteors.
“As far as I know, it was the first mission of this type anywhere in the world and I think I am currently the only Pole with this type of experience.”
Over the course of the three day mission, the astronauts remained isolated inside a specially designed cold habitat, called the ECHO (Extreme Cave Habitat One), which they had to first set up inside a lava tube.
Inside the astronauts conducted experiments such as measuring their levels of concentration under isolation and testing their astronaut uniforms and equipment such as rovers, as well as collecting geological samples from different parts of the lava tunnel.
Describing the preparation for the mission, Elwertowska told Radio Poland: “We prepared for the mission over a week.
“We took part in trainings and lectures about the look of the habitat we were supposed to build, how to use the rover, put out solar panels as well as how to do first aid.
“The main aim was testing the prototypes of devices which were designed with space missions in mind. Everything was carried out in astronaut uniforms and helmets.
“The whole plan was a surprise for us. We had to learn to cope in different conditions.”
“After the training, we began exercises in rocky fields. We had to take equipment with us and find the specified lava tunnel.
“We went down, where we set up the habitat and stayed for three days. I’m happy that I could take part in this mission. I learnt many new things. I will definitely want to collaborate with the organisation.
“I hope I will be able to take part in more simulated earth missions and in future maybe also a space mission.”