March 19, 2020

How to survive Coronavirus self-isolation: An analog astronaut explains

Disponible en español. Disponibile in italiano. Verfügbar in Deutsch. Available in Spanish, German,  Arabic and Italian.  After exiting my sleeping quarters, three steps lead me to the sanitary room which is only a few steps wide itself. I have my privacy there but, as soon as I leave it and join my fellow teammates at the breakfast table, I won’t be alone for hours. In the small, restricted confines of our habitat we eat, sleep, carry out experiments, do our fitness routine and our daily housekeeping chores. After one week in isolation, my mood starts taking a slight downturn. As much as I like my teammates – we were tested extensively and chosen for…

January 25, 2020

Martian deserts on Earth – Part II

Story also available in Spanish. One summer day in 2018 I spotted a small article in the local newspaper as I sat at my desk at work having lunch; the Austrian Space Forum was auditioning for a new class of analog astronauts. It sounded like an amazing opportunity so I immediately checked out the website. Over the next few days I feverishly prepared and sent in my application. That I might be an analog astronaut one day would not have occurred to me even two years ago. My career path has been a very winding one with a sole constant, the joy of learning. As a child books were my best…

December 16, 2019

Martian deserts on Earth – Part I

Story also available in Spanish. As the visor closes, the head-up display of my spacesuit lights up while initializing. I’m hit anew by the realization that from now on, I’m completely dependent on my skills, the technology of my suit and the support of my team if I’m to survive the next few hours unscathed. I’m thinking ahead to the days to come… After exiting our habitat, we take a look around the isolated, barren desert surrounding the small structure while Operations in the base check our suits’ telemetry. With the equipment wheeled by two vehicles, we carefully pick our way through the valley leading from the base to the area…

December 16, 2019

Desiertos marcianos en la Tierra – Parte I

Al cerrarse la visera, se enciende la pantalla principal de mi traje mientras se inicializa. Nuevamente me golpea la idea de que, a partir de ahora, dependo completamente de mis habilidades, la tecnología de mi traje y el apoyo de mi equipo para sobrevivir las próximas horas ilesa. Estoy pensando en el futuro, en los días por venir… Al salir de nuestro hábitat, echamos un vistazo al desierto árido y apartado que rodea la pequeña estructura mientras el personal de Operaciones en la base revisala telemetría de nuestros trajes. Con el equipo transportado por dos vehículos, partiendo de la base hacia el área programada para explorar hoy, elegimos cuidadosamente nuestro…

July 26, 2019

Escaping a war to conquer the skies

Surrounded by thousands of stars, complete silence, and a cold breeze, I stood on top of the bunker in Mojave Desert at 2:00 am, awestruck by nature’s beauty steeped in darkness. As the team worked endlessly in preparation for the morning’s rocket launch, I was completely hypnotized by the isolation of the night. I then realized that I wanted to dedicate my life to understanding the mysteries of our Universe. “Come down here! It’s freezing!” my teammate yelled at me as I was looking through the telescope and taking pictures of the moon. People live through different experiences that shape their perspective on the world. In 2003, the Iraq war…

February 27, 2019

Catching Up With a Girl Left Behind

Sputnik launched just as I started elementary school; the first astronauts landed on the moon soon after I finished high school. I watched the story of our first space age unfold on our old black-and-white Philco TV as CBS news anchorman Walter Cronkite deftly narrated events that held me enraptured. What kid growing up during this heady time wouldn’t want to be an astronaut? Sadly, girls of my era were not allowed, encouraged or academically prepared to pursue careers in science and tech. “You don’t have the right temperament,” my high school guidance counselor admonished me when I told him I wanted to take advanced trigonometry. He signed me up…