In the desert of southern Israel, a team of six scientists have begun simulating what it might be like to live on Mars.
The mission's five men and one woman will live in Makhtesh Ramon (commonly known as Ramon crater), the world's largest "erosion cirque," for nearly a month.
Makhtesh Ramon is one of the few places on Earth that, in terms of soil structure, minerals, remoteness, and other extreme conditions, resembles the environment on Mars.
Gernot Grömer, director of the Austrian Space Forum, told Israeli publication Haaretz that his team has been working on the Mars-Israel (AMADEE-20) project for four years.
According to Grömer, in terms of structure and research, the simulation is the most advanced in the world. Makhtesh Ramon is one of the few spots on the planet that looks exactly like Mars, with the added bonus of being able to go 200 meters and see completely different geological formations.
The team expects that AMADEE-20, which was supposed to launch in 2020 but was delayed due to COVID-19, will provide additional information that will aid in the preparation for future Mars missions.
Astronauts will be required to bring back a variety of unusual rocks and other discoveries in any real mission, which may be conveniently rehearsed here. Indeed, according to Grömer, the astronauts' primary goal is to imitate the hunt for life on Mars by first looking for signs of water and then collecting rock samples that will perhaps aid in the identification of living forms.
This isn't the first time a Mars simulation has taken place; in 2018, a four-day mission was completed in the same area.
In perfect timing, the journal Science published an analysis of images collected by the Mars rover Perseverance last Thursday, which verifies the theory that the planet's completely barren Jezero Crater was actually a lake fed by a few rivers 3.7 billion years ago.
This discovery has led experts to think that sediments in the crater may include traces of early marine life forms.
The European Space Agency, which is also considering launching a Mars mission, is backing the project, and NASA will be monitoring progress at the Makhtesh Ramon station and analyzing the data it produces.