Photographer Florian Voggeneder says this image of analog astronaut Gernot GrÃ¶mer was the most challenging shoot of the series. â€œThe flight planners donâ€™t want to have an analog astronaut standing on top of a hill because they could tip and fall over,” he says. “What you canâ€™t see in the photograph is that the safety is standing right behind the hill on the other side.â€�
Gernot GrÃ¶mer led the development for the Aouda.X space suit heâ€™s wearing. The suit weighs nearly 110 pounds and takes 2-3 hours to put onâ€”â€œif youâ€™re very fast.”
Michael MÃ¼ller, one of the nine field crew members, at work in Kepler Station. â€œAfter the evening debriefing, the crew spends the last hours of the day compiling scientific and personal logs and does final preparations for the next dayâ€™s experiments,â€� Voggeneder says.
Analog astronaut JoÃ£o Lousada returning to crew quarters from an extravehicular activity (EVA). Keplerâ€™s landing module comprises both rigid and inflatable structures.
A crescent moon hangs above Kepler Station. â€œHaving witnessed a lunar eclipse the day the crew arrived in the desert, the full phase of the moon marked the end of the mission,â€� Voggeneder says. In September NASA announced its Moon to Mars campaign, with the goal of returning to the moon in the 2020s and sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.
Carmen KÃ¶hler was Keplerâ€™s only female analog astronaut. A physicist by training, KÃ¶hler works with Die Astronautin, an initiative to send the first German woman to space.
Analog Astronauts Gernot GrÃ¶mer and JoÃ£o Lousada inside the stationâ€™s main dome, which was used for everything from rover repairs to medical checkups.
Like any mission to space, the Kepler Station analog ran in isolation, buffered from the outside world by a 3-mile perimeter maintained by the Omani military and a 10-minute lag in communications between â€œEarthâ€� and the crew. Food, water, and equipment needed during the three-week simulation was stored at the station.
A closeup of the inflatable greenhouseâ€™s reflective cover. The analog crew experimented with the hydroponic cultivation of microgreens including red amaranth, red cabbage, and red mustard.
The Kepler Station was named for the German astronomer Johannes Kepler, who is credited with formulating the three major laws of planetary motion.
â€œI was assigned as a suit tech a couple of times,â€� Voggeneder says. â€œThereâ€™s not a single switch or connector in this PLSS thatâ€™s not checked during the donning procedure.â€�
Analog astronaut Carmen KÃ¶hler back from a nighttime extravehicular activity (EVA). Many of the images in the series were shot at night because Voggeneder had more time to set up the shots. â€œDuring the daytime everything is rather rigid in the mission architecture,â€� he says. â€œItâ€™s more or less the same as any actual space mission. There a bi-hourly or even quarter-hourly roster of slots, and within these you have to stick to your duties.”
Analog astronauts IÃ±igo MuÃ±oz Elorza and Kartik Kumar conducting FIELDSPEC, one of 15 experiments the Kepler crew was tasked with during the mission.
IÃ±igo MuÃ±oz Elorza returning from an extravehicular activity (EVA) west of Kepler Station. â€œEach suit has an assigned safety who would kind of shadow them, carrying a backpack with a heavy duty pair of scissors, a fire extinguisher, a medical aid kit, stuff like that, bottle of waterâ€¦ just to provide a basic level of safety,â€� says Voggeneder. â€œAs a safety, you would try to stay out of sight of the astronauts. So for them, it should feel like theyâ€™re actually alone.â€�