The first Pangaea course took place in 2016 to train astronauts in identifying planetary geological features for future missions to the Moon, Mars and asteroids.
The first week saw astronauts work under leading European planetary geologists and apply their knowledge during field trips in Bressanone, Italy.
The theory included learning about planetary geology from Matteo Messironi, a geologist working on the Rosetta and ExoMars missions, lunar geology from Moon expert Harald Hiesinger, meteorites from Anna Maria Fioretti and Mars from expert Nicolas Mangold, who works with NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover.
The theory part was followed by field trips in carefully chosen areas representing other planets in terms of geological features. The practical lessons saw the students recognise rocks, draw landscapes and explore a canyon that has sedimentary features similar to those discovered by Curiosity on Mars.
The second part of the course started in October on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Spain.
The first students that took part in Pangaea, were:
- Luca Parmitano, ESA astronaut and test pilot
- Pedro Duque, ESA astronaut and engineer
- Matthias Maurer, ESA astronaut and scientist
Luca, Pedro and Matthias have a vast experience combined with missions on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station as well as spacewalk and mission control experience.
Their scientific background is diverse which helped verify how well the course was designed.