Asclepios is a student association made up of young people from all over the world, with different educational paths and backgrounds. The purpose of the association is to organize an analog space mission in Europe, re-proposing on Earth situations similar to those experienced by astronauts in space.
Asclepios is made up of 5 teams: the management team, the group that is responsible for organizing the activities of the astronauts, the science, the design, and the communication team, plus the team of nine astronauts who will tackle the mission.
Analog mission: Asclepios II
The association’s second similar mission, called Asclepios II, will take place in July 2022 at the Sasso San Gottardo, a fortress from the Second World War located in Airolo in Switzerland.
The Asclepios II project aims to teach skills that differ from those learned during the academic career, skills such as project management and different communication techniques, but also more specific skills that can be learned through the realization and preparation of various experiments. In addition to the education, carried out by the association in terms of workshops and trainings supported by the EPFL space center and other EPFL laboratories, Asclepios also aims at scientific research allowing numerous laboratories around the world to test prototypes and develop useful experiments for the exploration of the Moon or Mars.
All this makes Asclepios a platform for carrying out projects related to space technologies, in particular the research topics were: environment and physics, engineering, life sciences and medicine.
The phases of an analog mission
The selection of projects and experiments consists of two phases. First the candidates submit a proposal, those who are deemed suitable will move on to the second round where they will have to submit a complete proposal.
This year Asclepios received eighteen proposals and twelve of them passed the selections, six projects belong to the Life Sciences and Medicine section, two to the Environment and Physics, while four to Engineering.
The Life Sciences and Medicine projects cover the topics of:
• Sleep dysregulation: research and design of new innovative ideas to improve the well-being of astronauts during the mission;
• Figures: the Diversity and Gender Equality project to embrace diversity in the aerospace sector;
• Diet: focuses on the nutrition of astronauts and the factors that influence their nutritional choices;
• fNIRS: a quantitative study on the assessment of mental workload in an isolated and confined environment;
• Drug Management: Explore the experiences and needs of drug management in similar space missions;
• Social interactions: it is planned to map the social interactions during the mission, to understand the coordination mechanism of the teams and the applications in terms of selection, training and support of future astronauts.
The Environment and Physics projects consist of:
• Turtle: to evaluate and exhibit prototypes and techniques for a sustainable lunar habitat;
• Soil period: intends to analyze the feasibility of calculating the soil period in spatial environments using the analysis of the horizontal / vertical (H / V) spectral ratio.
The engineering projects concern:
• Hydration: High-throughput hydrogen monoxide recovery and soil identification on new worlds, Asclepios will assist an MIT team in tackling the project;
• Astro Helmet: aims to improve the design of the helmets of the space suits of the previous mission;
• LEXICON: is dedicated to the extraction of water in the lunar habitat;
• Solar Array & Reflector: Inspired by origami principles to design, model and fabricate an openable solar array array that can be mounted on a robotic arm.
In addition to the student teams, some mentors are also part of Asclepios, who perform functions of assisting the students in carrying out every aspect of the mission in the best possible way. Among these figures we find for example:
Claude Nicollier, former ESA astronaut and currently professor at EPFL and member of the Swiss Space Center. He participated in the astronaut selection process at ESA, and is the main mentor of the Asclepios team of astronauts.
Available to all Asclepios teams to ensure consultations on mission realism is Marc Toussaint, former ESA member, and General Delegate of the Community of Ariane Cities (CVA). Currently professor at EPFL and member of the Swiss Space Center.
Another relevant figure is Alban Michon, adventurer and explorer who has made several extraordinary expeditions, who together with Mike Horn, South African rally explorer and co-driver, accompanied the boys in their first training. The team of astronauts in fact spent a week in the Swiss Alps to live in an environment that was as similar as possible to a space one, working on team spirit and the ability to cooperate.
During the months preceding the mission, the team therefore embarked on a path to better prepare. In fact, the members took Russian lessons; while Céline Renaud, a public speaking expert gave lessons to deepen the astronauts’ abilities to speak to a wide audience, media and newspapers. Together with the French engineer Romani Charles, the team has undergone medical training, the teacher is a member of the 520-day isolation crew of the Mars500 study, a mission aimed at simulating the round trip to the planet Mars on Earth. Anna Fogtman, member of the EAC Space Medicine Team, explored the theme of the impact of the space environment on the human body, her work focuses on the assessment of the health risk of astronauts during missions with particular attention to research on radiation.
In order to finance the project, Asclepios has entered into agreements with various sponsors and partners that will make a huge contribution to the realization of the mission. In addition, a crowdfunding project was launched during the months of May and June aimed at raising funds from anyone interested in the full success of the project.
An important collaboration for Asclepios is the one with School of Distruption, a platform that offers training on innovative topics that will be the basis for future business. This allows Asclepios to collaborate with more students and companies and therefore expand both in terms of people to be reached, and in terms of group growth and therefore of continuous growth.
Maria Nobili, Asclepios content producer