By Felix Glauser

Grimsel Space Mission, Manuela Raimbault and Sebasthian Ogalde in their space suits - Comet
Grimsel Space Mission, Manuela Raimbault and Sebasthian Ogalde in their space suits
Source: Comet Photoshopping GmbH, Dieter Enz

Where scientists from around the world can be found conducting research into the disposal of radioactive waste, „astronauts“ in space suits ventured on their first simulated moon walk in mid-July. Now they are back on the Earth’s surface.

„Lots of people spend their holidays at the beach, I spend mine in a cave“, says Sebasthian Ogalde and laughs. Together with five other „astronauts“, he spent nine days in July deep underground in the tunnel system of the Grimsel Test Site. This is where the lunar mission «Asclepios 1» was simulated under the most realistic conditions possible. The 27-year-old satellite engineer from Chile gladly sacrificed his holidays for this opportunity. For seven years he has been doing everything possible to realise his big dream: to become an astronaut! „This simulated lunar mission was a very valuable experience for me. It really felt like we were on a base on the moon“, says Ogalde.

We know that there are tunnel systems on the moon that were formed millions of years ago by escaping lava. A future moon base could be built in such a tunnel system. „This is why the tunnels at the Grimsel Test Site were perfectly suited to simulating a lunar mission“, says Ogalde.

The mission was organised and carried out by students – most of them from EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne – under the umbrella of the student organisation «Space@yourService». The students were supported by various companies and organisations, including Nagra, which made part of its rock laboratory available and supported the construction of the lunar base as well as the implementation of the mission. „Most of our experiments involve interdisciplinary scientists from all over the world, like the Asclepios project. The ability to work together in such teams is enormously important in science today. It was a lot of fun to support these incredibly dedicated young scientists in planning and carrying out this unique project“, says Dr. Ingo Blechschmidt, Manager of Nagra’s Grimsel facility.

grimsel space mission - tired but happy - nagra
„Tired but happy“. The six astronauts back on the Earth’s surface in the „Mission Control Center“ in the school in Guttannen. Source: Nagra

After nine days without sunlight, cut off from the outside world and surrounded by cool rock, one might think that Sebasthian Ogalde would be glad to be back on the surface. But he did not really miss anything. „I could easily have stayed longer at the base. The days were very intensive, but I was able to learn a huge amount from the other crew members. I am very grateful to have been part of this simulated lunar mission“, he says. After a short stopover at home, the 27-year-old is already on his way again at the beginning of August – to Iceland where he will be part of a simulated Mars mission. We hope that he will also return safely to Earth from this new adventure.

grimsel space mission Asclepios
One of the astronauts entering the lunar base. Source: Asclepios