PDO reveals logistics details of Mars mission

Energy Saturday 24/February/2018 21:07 PM
By: Times News Service
PDO reveals logistics details of Mars mission

Muscat: Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), which is spearheading the preparation of setting up the Mars research camp in the country, has revealed the logistics behind the operation that began almost five months ago.
The team from the Austrian Space Forum (Oesterreiches Weltraum Forum or OeWF) arrived in Muscat early February, before heading out to Marmul, nearly 250km from Salalah in the Dhofar Governorate, where it has to spend a month conducting experiments with the intention of ultimately putting a man on Mars.
Christened AMADEE-18, the mission will see over 200 scientists—some of whom will be based at the OeWF HQ in Innsbruck, Austria—conduct nearly 20 experiments centred around testing how successful they will be on the Red Planet.
On the ground, PDO has been overseeing the set-up of the AMADEE-18 research base in Marmul. “Since the Mars mission is in our concession area, and since PDO is a representative of the National Directive Committee formed for this mission and chaired by the State Council, we took care of a lot of services in providing the logistics, such as setting up flights, land transfers, telecom services, and high-speed internet,” Munira Mohammed Al Balushi, stakeholder management lead, PDO, said.
“We actually set up a new camp just for them,” she remarked. “We also provide catering to the crew and all other parties, and are handling VIP visits,” she added.
“The programme, in terms of visits, includes both VIPs, as well as students. The tours are organised in collaboration with schools and universities, so that students can come to the site and learn about the mission,” she said.
In addition, squads from the Oman Army have been deployed on the ground, to provide security for sensitive experiments at AMADEE-18. A number of contractors have been hired by the PDO to ensure the camp is up to scratch.
Key role
“PDO is playing a key role in all of this, because we are a representative in the main committee and our working team has been meeting every week for the last two months to look at things and see what kind of support is required,” Al Balushi said.
“PDO has a lot of contractors and we pay them to do our job. For this project, we hired one of our super LCCs (super local contracting companies), so that we could contribute in terms of adding value to the nation. Many of these companies are based in the interiors, so they provide valuable services in the Sultanate,” she explained.
“We began preparing everything in October 2017, and the actual set-up began last week. The distance was a major concern, but flights ensured quick and safe travel. A lot of things were transported over land and this was something the contractors took care of. The area itself is full of sand, and it was very difficult for heavy vehicles to go there, so we had to compact the roads for them to travel there,” she added.
Al Balushi also believed that this would be among the first of many scientific missions undertaken in Oman.
“The Sultanate’s topography across many regions is highly selective and scientists coming to Oman find it very similar to Mars. They wouldn’t have selected the area of Marmul, unless it was naturally close to that on Mars. In addition, PDO is also supporting some high school students in Izki with their idea on how to explore Mars for water, using the technique that we use to search for oil and gas,” she said.
“I believe this will definitely open many doors, and it will also attract a lot of geological tourism to Oman,” Al Balushi remarked. “I think this mission is a good start for Oman, because we at PDO support scientific research and we have big projects coming up to close the gap between academia and industry, so we are working closely with the Research Council. Since this is a scientific programme that will one day enable a human to go to Mars, this is also in accordance with our national mission,” she noted.