ESA is now training astronauts in identifying planetary geological features for future missions to the Moon, Mars and asteroids. This Pangaea course – named after the ancient supercontinent – will help astronauts to find interesting rock samples as well as to assess the most likely places to find traces of life on other planets.
This video was made during the second part of the Pangaea course held in Lanzarote, one of the Spanish Canary Islands in 2016 with ESA astronauts Luca Parmitano, Pedro Duque and Matthias Maurer and features interviews with the instructors and astronauts.
The students were tasked with interpreting geological features to understand the history of how the island formed. The goal is to help astronauts choose the best places to explore and collect rock samples.
This session put into practice a week’s training in Bressanone, Italy, where they learned about Earth and planetary geological processes as well as how to recognise rocks and meteorites.
The trio went on progressively difficult day trips, ending with a free exploration of the countryside searching for interesting samples while keeping in contact via radio with scientists at ‘mission control’.
Lanzarote was chosen for this course because of its geological similarity with Mars, such as a volcanic origin, mild sedimentary processes owing to a dry climate, hardly any vegetation and a well-preserved landscape.