Photographer Florian Voggeneder says this image of analog astronaut Gernot Grömer was the most challenging shoot of the series. “The flight planners don’t want to have an analog astronaut standing on top of a hill because they could tip and fall over,” he says. “What you can’t see in the photograph is that the safety is standing right behind the hill on the other side.”
Gernot Grömer led the development for the Aouda.X space suit he’s wearing. The suit weighs nearly 110 pounds and takes 2-3 hours to put on—“if you’re very fast.”
Michael Müller, one of the nine field crew members, at work in Kepler Station. “After the evening debriefing, the crew spends the last hours of the day compiling scientific and personal logs and does final preparations for the next day’s experiments,” Voggeneder says.
Analog astronaut João Lousada returning to crew quarters from an extravehicular activity (EVA). Kepler’s landing module comprises both rigid and inflatable structures.
A crescent moon hangs above Kepler Station. “Having witnessed a lunar eclipse the day the crew arrived in the desert, the full phase of the moon marked the end of the mission,” Voggeneder says. In September NASA announced its Moon to Mars campaign, with the goal of returning to the moon in the 2020s and sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.
Carmen Köhler was Kepler’s only female analog astronaut. A physicist by training, Köhler works with Die Astronautin, an initiative to send the first German woman to space.
Analog Astronauts Gernot Grömer and João Lousada inside the station’s main dome, which was used for everything from rover repairs to medical checkups.
Like any mission to space, the Kepler Station analog ran in isolation, buffered from the outside world by a 3-mile perimeter maintained by the Omani military and a 10-minute lag in communications between “Earth” and the crew. Food, water, and equipment needed during the three-week simulation was stored at the station.
A closeup of the inflatable greenhouse’s reflective cover. The analog crew experimented with the hydroponic cultivation of microgreens including red amaranth, red cabbage, and red mustard.
The Kepler Station was named for the German astronomer Johannes Kepler, who is credited with formulating the three major laws of planetary motion.
“I was assigned as a suit tech a couple of times,” Voggeneder says. “There’s not a single switch or connector in this PLSS that’s not checked during the donning procedure.”
Analog astronaut Carmen Köhler back from a nighttime extravehicular activity (EVA). Many of the images in the series were shot at night because Voggeneder had more time to set up the shots. “During the daytime everything is rather rigid in the mission architecture,” he says. “It’s more or less the same as any actual space mission. There a bi-hourly or even quarter-hourly roster of slots, and within these you have to stick to your duties.”
Analog astronauts Iñigo Muñoz Elorza and Kartik Kumar conducting FIELDSPEC, one of 15 experiments the Kepler crew was tasked with during the mission.
Iñigo Muñoz Elorza returning from an extravehicular activity (EVA) west of Kepler Station. “Each suit has an assigned safety who would kind of shadow them, carrying a backpack with a heavy duty pair of scissors, a fire extinguisher, a medical aid kit, stuff like that, bottle of water… just to provide a basic level of safety,” says Voggeneder. “As a safety, you would try to stay out of sight of the astronauts. So for them, it should feel like they’re actually alone.”