Earthbound astronauts set out for Canada

A group of 'astronauts' and a mechanical rover have set sail through the stars across North America to an impact crater near Mistastin Lake in the wilderness of Canada, travelling by helicopter rather than rocket ship, in what is known as an "analogue mission":

Beginning today (August 29), a team of scientists and engineers led by Dr. Gordon Osinski from The University of Western Ontario will travel to an impact crater at Kamestastin Lake, Labrador, where they will run analogue human and robotic sample return mission scenarios. An "astronaut" team will conduct a series of investigations in the area surrounding the lake supported by a robotic rover. Ultimately the astronaut-robot team is anticipated to be able to gather relevant scientific data more effectively than either could achieve independently.

"The Kamestastin Lake crater was chosen because it has a very similar geology to the Moon," says Osinski. "Conducting analogue missions like this one allows scientists to determine not only what kind of samples they would encounter on the Moon, but which instruments are best suited to help them determine the samples that should be returned to Earth for further analysis."

The mission astronauts will be able to do a quick intuitive assessment of the quality of the samples they select, something that would not be done in a purely robotic mission. Data will be relayed back to mission control, which is located at The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, throughout the mission.

The team are keeping a blog of their extraterrestrial mission here, and the rover team has their own blog here. Already they've been shaken by a passing hurricane, proving that even in space, no one can stop Irene. (I'll get my coat...)

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