Privileged to host Mars mission in Oman, say Austrian space scientists
November 5, 2017 | 9:13 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan, [email protected]
The scientists from the agency, which is known as the OeWF (Oesterreiches Weltraum Forum), will be conducting a series of experiments at Marmul, in Oman from February 1 to 28. Photo-Supplied

Muscat: Travelling to Oman to conduct our Mars mission is a privilege, say scientists from the Austrian Space Forum, who will be visiting the Sultanate next February.

Read also: Oman to be Mars mission staging ground

The scientists from the agency, which is known as the OeWF (Oesterreiches Weltraum Forum), will be conducting a series of experiments in Marmul, a tiny town with a population of less than 5,000, best known for its proximity to oil fields, and which is located about 220 kilometres from Salalah, in the Dhofar Governorate.

Marmul’s remote location and geographical composition are very similar to that of Mars, and the OeWF team will be in Oman from February 1 to 28 to conduct 17 experiments for their mission, entitled “AMADEE-18.”

“It is a huge privilege for me to take part in the AMADEE-18 mission in Oman,” said Carmen Kohler, an astronaut taking part in the operation. “There are a number of geological and mineralogical features, which we also detected on Mars, such as ancient river beds, or minerals that have been in long lasting contact with water and have been altered from the geochemical perspective. Hence, the test site is an interesting proving ground for the international science teams.”

“Space has always fascinated me, especially the moon because it is a celestial body, which we can see clearly with our own eyes,” she added. “I would love to go to space and see the fragility of earth from a satellite’s perspective.

Working in such an inspiring surrounding, as well as the multidisciplinary education and adventure, makes being an astronaut the perfect job for me.”

Dr. Gernot Gromer is president of the Austrian Space Forum and will be leading the experiments in Oman. He too had much to say about the Sultanate’s role in making all of this possible.

“From a scientific and logistical point of view, Oman currently offers a package that suits the mission’s requirements perfectly,” he said, speaking exclusively to the Times of Oman.

“Thus, the Austrian Space Forum is very much looking forward to conducting AMADEE-18 in the Dhofar region, a desert that is sufficiently isolated and remote and at the same time accessible in a reasonable time should the situation require it. We also always seek to forge lasting collaborations with our partners: a continued cooperation with Oman would therefore be highly appreciated.”

“From the mission perspective, the Government has agreed to provide substantial logistics and administrative support for the AMADEE-18 project, including transportation and communication infrastructure for the small base station in the desert,” added Gromer. “In return, Omani researchers and young scientists/engineers are involved in our science activities. Also, the Austrian Space Forum and its international research partners from about 20 nations are eager to share the fascination and passion for space exploration with the upcoming generation of Omani scientists and engineers.”

Gromer also highlighted the Sultanate’s famed hospitality, which was shown in no small measure to OeWF scientists when they made a preliminary trip to Marmul earlier this year.

“The government has shown a great deal of hospitality during the first site visit in March 2017, provided by the Astronomical Society of Oman,” he revealed. “We highly appreciated, not only the technical expertise and local/regional knowledge about the test site, but the Austrian delegation also experienced the wonderful hospitality and first introduction to the wonderful culture of the Sultanate.”

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