Man wants to set up a human settlement on the red planet and the latest entrant in the field is the Austrian Space Forum. They plan to send a team of Astronauts to the Oman desert and the site it has selected bears a strong resemblance to the surface of Mars. The team of six will remain there for one month to prepare for future missions to Colonize Mars.

The Austrian Space Forum, based in Innsbruck, is organizing the program scheduled for February 2018 and the venue selected is the Dhofar desert in Oman. The participants will live in total isolation while they conduct a number of predetermined experiments to search for traces of life.

The tentative plan

Daily Mail UK reports that the astronauts will have equipment like drone, robotic rovers and a hydroponic greenhouse to simulate missions on Mars and conduct the Amadee-18 experiments. While one team will be in the Oman desert, a second team will be in Innsbruck to monitor the activities. There will be a 10-minute signal delay between them and it will be similar to real life situations. The program will act as a stepping stone to colonize Mars.

The Austrian Space Forum has chosen the deserts of Dhofar as the venue because its surface offers a wide range of sand and rocky surfaces similar to that on the red planet. The team will have to undertake a total of 19 experiments during the month long mission and these would include growing microgreens in the greenhouse and DNA sequencing supported by rovers.

Dr. Gernot Gromer, president of the Austrian Space Forum, is hopeful that the mission in the desert of Oman will provide an impetus to Mars related missions of other space agencies like NASA and SpaceX.

Others in the fray

Mars has always been a pinnacle to be conquered and Netherlands-based Mars One set the ball rolling. It has inducted a team of volunteers who will proceed on a one-way mission to Mars.

They have been selected from applicants across the world. It is expected that these astronauts would be the first human beings to land on the red planet and colonize Mars.

NASA already has its Curiosity rover on Mars for the last five years and plans to send humans in the 2030s. It is preparing the ground work and is conducting experiments on the International Space Station keeping in mind the goal.

Hawaii has stepped in to train astronauts for Mars mission. It has established HI-SEAS (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) on an isolated location at approximately 8200 feet above sea level. The region resembles the topography of Mars.

Elon Musk, of SpaceX, hopes to launch manned missions to Mars from 2022. His team is now working to eliminate glitches in the Dragon spacecraft to the Red Planet. This could be the first privately funded mission to Mars.