• Switzerland's news in English

Report: Switzerland ideal for Mars simulator

Caroline Bishop · 24 Oct 2014, 12:09

Published: 24 Oct 2014 12:09 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The report Oïkosmos, obtained by newspaper Le Temps and presented by UNIL to the conference NipConf in Lausanne on Friday, says Switzerland has the scientific, technological and industrial capabilities necessary to create a closed artificial ecosystem to test the viability of humans travelling to Mars.

It would be impossible for a shuttle to Mars to carry enough food, air and water to sustain a team of four to six people over the 1,000 day journey, therefore participants must be able to produce their own food and recycle water, air and rubbish in a closed environment.

A simulator in Switzerland would enable scientists to test ways of doing this, and at the same time develop technologies beneficial to us here on Earth.

For the moment the European Space Agency hasn’t initiated any such project, but if it did, Switzerland would be in “pole position” to host it, says the report.

The idea is not a new one, writes Le Temps, and exists in part at the International Space Station.

But producing food in a closed environment is highly complex, and various space agencies have had only limited success to date.

A project named Melissa launched back in 1989 led to the creation of a closed ecosystem simulator in Barcelona in 2009 which will be tested with rats in 2015, but nothing has yet been initiated for humans.

“The ultimate step will be to construct on Earth a similar installation capable of reproducing the specific constraints of a closed environment, but for humans this time,” Théodore Besson, co-author of Oïkosmos, told Le Temps.

After having studied the infrastructures present in Romandie, the biologist feels that Switzerland would be the ideal place to create such a simulator, both because of the resources available and the interest that innovations in recycling and sustainable resources would create here.

“This would be a very fertile and synergetic place for it,” he said.

“We have around a hundred research groups in the region who would benefit from such an installation.”

Academics, researchers and private companies in the fields of microbiology, engineering, IT and physiology could all benefit, he said.

Volker Gass, director of the Swiss Space Center at EPFL, agrees.

“This is a sensible conclusion, because Switzerland is well known for its ability in matters requiring accuracy and in miniaturization technologies, two very useful skills for such a project.”

Story continues below…

However the costs involved mean that as yet no space agencies have initiated such a project.

And it would be a strategic error to embark on a simulator for humans before testing with animals has been completed, and before there is a real international will to do so, experts told Le Temps.

“But there’s nothing stopping us profiling the region,” said Philippe Moreillon, vice-chancellor of UNIL.

In the meantime, the university will officially join the dozen-strong consortium of partners in the Melissa project on November 20th.

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Caroline Bishop (news@thelocal.ch)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swiss woman wins headscarf court battle
Photo: Jack Guez / AFP file picture

A Swiss court has ruled against a company that fired a longtime employee after she began wearing the Muslim headscarf, marking one of the first such rulings in Switzerland, media reported Sunday.

Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Could Montreux host the 2026 Games? Photo: Ivo Scholz/Swiss Tourism

Montreux is to put itself forward as the host city for the 2026 winter Olympics as part of a potential bid by the cantons of Valais and Vaud.

Geneva car share scheme could help reduce city traffic
Catch a Car is aimed at short hops within a city. Photo: Catch a Car

Catch a Car, already in Basel, launches in Geneva next month.

Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Female employees in Switzerland earn 19.3 percent less than their male colleagues. File photo: Randy Kashka

Switzerland's gender pay gap means from today, Friday October 21st, women in the country will effectively be working for free for the rest of 2016.

Swiss luxury watches stolen in Paris raid
Police outside the Girard-Perregaux watch store on Thursday. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

The 10 Girard-Perregaux watches are worth half a million euros in total.

Brother-in-law arrested over murder of Swiss teacher
The victim worked in a school in Stabio, near the town of Mendrisio. Photo: Oliver Graf

The primary school teacher was found dead in Ticino earlier this week.

Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Designed to house 20,000 people, the bunker was built in and over two motorway tunnels. Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben

The Local takes a tour of the Sonnenberg bunker in Lucerne, opened 40 years ago at the height of the Cold War.

Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
File photo: Renato Bagattini/Swiss Tourism

Skiers in Switzerland pay the highest prices for their ski passes of anywhere in Europe, according to research.

Eco group fights Bern over wind farm plans
There are currently more than 30 wind farms in Switzerland. Photo: Alpiq

Wind turbines are “gigantic and destructive” machines, says Paysage Libre Suisse.

Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Antoni Da Campo will now carry out his military service. Photo: Antoni Da Campo

A Swiss man who was told he would not be accepted for military service because of his strict veganism has finally succeeded in making the army change its mind.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
Photo: File
Bern argues over passports for 3rd generation foreigners
Photo: Broad Bean Media
Muslim pupils must shake hands – ‘no ifs and buts’
jobs available