ESA title
Science & Exploration

ESA at the end of the world

7469 views 47 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Concordia

The inhospitable conditions around Concordia make living there similar to living on another planet. The base is an ideal place to study the effects on small, multicultural teams isolated for long periods in an extreme, hostile environment.

ESA sponsors a medical research doctor in Concordia every winter to study the long-term effects of isolation. Understanding how our bodies and minds adapt to extreme environments will help to overcome the challenges of long flights aboard the International Space Station and beyond.

The Antarctic environment places inhabitants under continuous stress and poses challenges to all involved. ESA is looking at how the Concordia crew performs, in particular regarding sleep.

Lack of regular day-and-night-cycles and irregular sleeping patterns are factors to contend with in Concordia just as in spaceflight.

View from Concordia in the dark
View from Concordia in the dark

With no sunlight, social commitments such as breakfast and dinner become important indicators of when to sleep and when to stay awake.

How does crew performance and social interaction suffer as morale sinks, sleep is disturbed and stress becomes a factor of daily life? Questionnaires to assess mood, instruments to monitor sleep patterns as well as blood sampling to chart bodily reactions are common practice for volunteers at Concordia.

What measures can be taken to keep the crew working together as a team and performing optimally? ESA is looking to answer this question in many areas, from regular exercise to ubiquitous computer aids and sleep-inducing lights. Concordia is even used to research how suitable materials are for space travel.

Aside from the effects of isolation and sensory deprivation, Concordia has another trick up its sleeve. The thin air holds less oxygen than at sea level. The crew live in a permanent state of hypoxia – lack of oxygen.

Designing space missions with lower atmospheric pressure is easier for engineers. Similar to commercial aircraft, spacecraft and planetary structures can be lighter if the internal air pressure is lowered. In addition, less time is needed to prepare physically for a spacewalk.

Concordia crewmembers are generally not adapted to living at high altitude with little oxygen. Observing how their bodies adapt gives a good indication to how astronauts will adapt to spaceflight far from Earth.

Living at Concordia is the closest thing on Earth to interplanetary exploration. Studying the effects of isolation here is preparing ESA for the real thing: a mission to Mars.

Related Articles

Concordia crew
Science & Exploration

A call for the cold

05/11/2018 7559 views 62 likes
Read
Planet Concordia
Science & Exploration

Run your experiments in extreme cold isolation – or in bed

01/12/2017 2643 views 24 likes
Read
Concordia way
Science & Exploration

New crew and new research in Antarctica

10/10/2017 8820 views 103 likes
Read
Concordia sunset
Science & Exploration

New arrivals at remotest base on Earth – will you be next?

24/11/2016 8591 views 101 likes
Read
Reaching for the stars
Science & Exploration

Step to the Stars

11/07/2016 3677 views 30 likes
Read
Step to the stars
Science & Exploration

Our future in space starts on Earth

07/06/2016 2122 views 26 likes
Read
ESA and European Polar Board sign MoU
Enabling & Support

ESA DG signs MoU with European Polar Board

03/02/2016 3130 views 47 likes
Read
Grey water recycling in Antarctica
Enabling & Support

ESA wastewater recovery picked as key climate technology

02/12/2015 3984 views 52 likes
Read
Laser research in Antarctica
Science & Exploration

Are you a doctor with the right stuff?

02/12/2015 15893 views 50 likes
Read
First plane
Science & Exploration

New arrivals in Antarctica

23/11/2015 6245 views 68 likes
Read
Concordia
Science & Exploration

Test spacecraft piloting skills – in Antarctica

04/03/2015 16359 views 47 likes
Read
Beth Healey
Science & Exploration

Scientific spring in isolated Antarctica

23/02/2015 10282 views 93 likes
Read
Waving to the Sun
Science & Exploration

Concordia calling

16/04/2014 8310 views 46 likes
Read
Concordia
Science & Exploration

The storm before the calm

05/02/2014 5800 views 96 likes
Read
Last sunset
Science & Exploration

Changing of the guard at Concordia

27/11/2013 4667 views 53 likes
Read
Concordia research station
Science & Exploration

Experiments wanted for the next-best-thing to human researc…

02/10/2013 4530 views 18 likes
Read
Science & Exploration

Hazy shade of winter

22/08/2013 2225 views 19 likes
Read
Daylight is not far away
Science & Exploration

First morning at Concordia

09/08/2013 6087 views 72 likes
Read
Science & Exploration

A hard day’s night

07/05/2013 6913 views 52 likes
Read
Concordia station shelters in Antarctica
Science & Exploration

Doctor needed for mission to white space

24/04/2013 7251 views 19 likes
Read
Scan of the veins used to regulate fluid in the brain.
Science & Exploration

Measuring skull pressure without the headache

19/12/2012 6746 views 37 likes
Read
Enabling & Support

Shadows on ice: Proba-1 images Concordia south polar base

12/12/2012 13936 views 34 likes
Read
Concordia crew in the cold
Science & Exploration

Ready for winter

23/11/2012 2226 views 5 likes
Read

Related Links