MOONWALK Mars Simulation

The MOONWALK project has completed the first of the 2 planned planetary mission simulations: a demanding 2-week long operation in the barren landscape of Rio Tinto, Spain, which features a similar geology to that of Mars, and is populated with iron-eating, acid-loving bacteria that bear similarity to the extreme life that could one day be found on the Red Planet.

Rover and Astronaut traversing the simulation area (images: AFP)

Space Applications Services has developed and operated an Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Information system prototype, allowing to communicate real time with an Intravehicular (IV) crew, as well as to send and receive directly information such as video streams, voice, or annotated imagery, to/from a Mission Control Center (Brussels MCC) and a professional astrobiology team on "Earth", controlling and receiving telemetry from payloads, biomonitoring and robots, and following the procedure steps that the surrogate astronaut is performing real time (IV) and with delay (Brussels MCC).

The MOONWALK extravehicular Activity Information System

At the core of the data exchange, lies YAMCS, the Mission Control Software already in use for International Space Station (ISS) payloads, specially customized for the Analogue simulation.

In addition to developing and operating a Mission Control Center staffed by in-house ISS operators, Space Applications Services designed and operated the complex communications infrastructure of the Mission.

Brussels MCC with a delayed communications link (procedure viewing, video, text, audio) to Rio Tinto

External experiments were conducted including the takeover of the IV (Mars base) duties by a team of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, GA and the data collection and mission logging for the SCALE project by Georgia Tech, Northwestern and U. of Florida, project funded by NASA Behavioral Health and Performance.

3 EVA crew test subjects with extensive space operations experience were provided by Space Applications Services, contributing to a pool of qualified individuals fitting astronaut demographics

June 2016 will see an equally or even more demanding simulation underwater in Marseille, where spacewalks on the surface of the Moon will be simulated in a water immersion partial gravity environment.

The MOONWALK consortium includes, Space Applications Services, Belgium; DFKI, Germany; COMEX, France; AIRBUS, UK; LIQUIFER, Austria; NTNU, Norway; INTA; Spain.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 607346. 

Astrobiology Centre (CAV) Team in direct communications with Brussels MCC

EVA information system being used by the crew in the habitat

Surrogate astronauts from Space Applications Services