ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson are getting world-class geology training this week during the fifth edition of ESA’s Pangea course.
A balanced mix of theory and field trips, the course will take the pair across Europe to hone their geological skills. The training began last week in the Italian Dolomites with lessons on basic geology knowledge and skills, Martian geology and asteroids at Bletterbach Canyon.
The rock samples from the canyon Alexander has in this image are a combination of gypsum (white shade) in siltstone-sandstone (reddish shade), and are analogous to rocks found on Mars.
This week, Alexander and Stephanie will follow in the footsteps of the Apollo astronauts to study the Ries Crater in Germany, one of the best-preserved impact craters on Earth, where American crews trained before their flights to the Moon.
The course concludes the year with a trip to the volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote, Spain in November to learn about the geological interactions between volcanic activity and water – two key factors in the search for life.
The final part of the course has the astronauts traveling to Lofoten, Norway, to focus on rocks that resemble the lunar highlands. These will be important sites to explore during future Artemis missions, as they may hold key information for unraveling the history of the Moon and our Solar System.
The various field sites visited under Pangea are used to train Alexander and Stephanie on how to read a landscape, collect scientifically relevant samples, and effectively communicate their geological observations with teams back on Earth.
Alexander is a geophysicist, volcanologist and most recently the commander of the International Space Station in 2018 and has seen 5700 sunrises and sunsets in space. Pangea challenges this experienced space scientist to become a field scientist in preparation for future deep space missions where the astronauts will be the eyes and ears of the scientific community on Earth.
Follow Alexander on Twitter for his bid to get back into the classroom to Pangaea.