Asclepios Mission

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Asclepios program
Logo.png
Asclepios insignia
OrganisationAsclepios association (recognised by EPFL)
LocationSwitzerland
First mission date12/07/2021
Mission capabilities
Typical crew size6
Maximum crew size6
Typical mission duration14 days
Operational history
Days occupied40?
Total crew3
Total EVAs20
Technical data
Internal volumeFlexible
FootprintFlexible
Power capacityFlexible
Facilities
Technical equipmentDependent on the mission
Scientific equipmentDependent on the mission
EVA environment
  • One airlock
  • Geological formations

Asclepios is a program of space analogue missions created in August 2019, designed by students for students, under the mentorship of trained professionals. It seeks to simulate short-term space missions on another celestial body, such as the Moon or Mars, thus paving the way to the future space exploration of the solar system. So far, three missions have taken place in Switzerland in different underground locations, simulating lava tubes on the Moon.

The Asclepios missions are exclusively opened to students with the goal of arousing their interest in future space endeavors as astronauts, space engineers or members of the Mission Control Center. The goal is to help the space domain test and experiment their processes or products in a realistic environment. The stated objectives of this effort are to act as an enabler for scientific entities, train students through their work and promote space sciences. Experts in the area such as the Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier act as mentors and advisors regarding the mission preparation.

These missions are organized by the "Asclepios" association head-quartered in Switzerland. The organization is a non-profit and only a member-fee of 30 CHF is asked to join the project should you be selected.

Description[edit | edit source]

The Asclepios program doesn't have a fixed base compared to other analog missions. Each year, the student team selects a location that fits the research's objectives and builds a lunar base adapted to the location's requirements.

The description of each mission can be found below.

Asclepios I[edit | edit source]

Asclepios I was a Moon analogue mission focusing on short-duration (8 days) scientific mission in Lunar lava tubes. It was organised in July 2021 and located in the tunnels of the Grimsel Test Site of the swiss nuclear waste technical competence centre Nagra (National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste) located in the Swiss Alps. Experiments were conducted during the mission in collaboration with academic laboratories and companies. They included psychological study of the analogue astronauts behaviour, environmental studies, and product testing of space related technical solutions. Some of the experiments required to perform extravehicular activities with simulated spacesuits. Selected from 175 applicants, students forming the astronaut crew were six analogue astronauts with specialized roles (commander, base engineer, payload specialist, communication specialist and health officers) with 2 supporting back-ups. The astronauts were supported at all times by a Mission Control Center composed only of students trained to follow procedures inspired by those of the European Space Agency.

Asclepios I was a platform where scientists, companies and students can run their experiments in the context of an analog mission. During actual space missions every detail must be controlled, every instrument or machine must be tested and in Asclepios I, the goal was to reach this level of precision. The experiment fields spanned from psychology to geology, from material sciences to robotics.

The 8-day mission was planned well in advance, 30 minutes by 30 minutes, and ran following the Flight Plan. The analog astronauts spent their time working on scientific project, working out, get medical checks by the trained medical officers, cook their well researched and plant-based food, doing a lot of maintenant on the lunar base and their equipment, and some outreach to the press, schools, mentors... The Mission Control Center team consisted of fourteen students, members of Asclepios, divided into four shifts to monitor the mission. During the day shifts, seven members were working together to ensure the analog astronauts’ safety and the success of their activities.

Asclepios II[edit | edit source]

The Asclepios II mission was designed in a year building from all the lessons learned and successses from the previous mission. For the first time, the mission was associated with a primary mission objective: the use of in-situ resources (ISRU) on the Moon. The most known resource existing on the Moon is water either as ice or contained within Lunar rocks (regolith).

Asclepios II was set to be twice as long as the first one (14 days of isolation) to improve the realism of this second mission. It took place in July 2022 inside the tunnels of the Sasso San Gottardo fortress, an old military fortress kept secret for years, now transformed into a Museum, in between Switzerland and the border with Italy.


The scientific experiments conducted during the mission were selected following a Call for Project, open to all researchers across the globe (private or public). The selected projects underwent a two-step selection process requiring them to submit a full project proposal including protocols, questionnaires, ethics, etc. Once selected, the Science Team of Asclepios was working with the different researchers to help them develop and implement their experiments within Asclepios, including astronaut training.


The analog astronaut crew, selected over 200 applicants, followed an intense year-long training during week-ends and holidays. Trainings were split between three categories: basic trainings, specific trainings (tailored to mission's objectives) and advanced trainings. Online training examples include space knowledge with our mentor Pr. Marc Toussaint, public speaking skills with Celine Renaud , psychology with extreme environment psychologist Alexandra de Carvalho and Konstantin Chterev. On-site trainings happened across Switzerland three times during the year for a total of 21 days. The first one was an extreme environment traning in the heart of the Swiss mountains in Verbier and La Tzoumaz. 2 days were spent at high altitude with Mike Horn, a Swiss South African adventurer. Successively, 4 days were spent on top of the iced Lac des Vaux with french explorer Alban Michon. This survival camp was accompanied with ice diving by day and night, one of the best way to simulate low-gravity environments on Earth.

Asclepios III[edit | edit source]

Facility and equipment[edit | edit source]

Overview of the equipment available in the base. Subsections below are provided if you want to use them, or just write them in a paragraph

Scientific facilities[edit | edit source]

The Asclepios program doesn't have permanent lab facilities. EPFL provides access to laboratories all year long to prepare for the mission in-situ during the summer.

Technical systems[edit | edit source]

Power, water, ventilation and other technical systems is adapted with respect to the mission's locations' requirements and thus changes from one campaign to the next.

EVA systems and environment[edit | edit source]

To be updated by Veronica and Loic?

Missions[edit | edit source]

Mission specifications
Mission Crew Start date Duration (days)
Asclepios I Genesis Crew: Eleonore Poli (Switzerland),
Sebasthian Ogalde Castro (Chile),
Willem Suter (Switzerland),
Manuela Raimbault (France),
Sophie Lismore (UK),
Julien Corsin (France)
Back-ups: Aubin Antonsanti, Christian Cardinaux, Marcellin Feasson
12 July 2021 8
Asclepios II Atlas Crew: Felix von Horstig (Germany),

Elena López-Contreras (Spain), Katie Mulry (USA), Somaya Bennani (Morocco), Tatiana Lopez (Chile), Joshua Bernard-Cooper (UK), Back-ups: Roman Pohorsky (CHE), Zaria Serfontein(IRL/ ZAF), Julia Pürstl(AUT)

Asclepios III Aegle Crew: Luke Cullen (UK),

Rebecca Blum (USA) Samuel Darmon (Switzerland), Pietro Innocenzi (Italy), Baptiste Rubino-Moyner (France), Max von Horstig (Germany), Back-ups: Rocio Valera-Falle (ESP), Núria Moreira (PRT), Palak Patel (USA), Marion Dugué (FRA)

14.July 2023 14

Typical mission profile[edit | edit source]

The goal of the Asclepios programs is to give the possibility to students to imagine what the return to the Moon could look like. So each mission is a blank page created based on the lessons learned of the previous campaigns. Not only a lunar base is designed but also a Mission Control Center for operations using software and procedures evolving each year. A Flight Plan is carefully derived and followed throughout the mission.

Specifications[edit | edit source]

Recruitment process[edit | edit source]

  • Analog astronauts: directly inspired by ESA’s selection program, the recruitment process for Asclepios I consisted in 4 distinct phases.
    • The first part was designed to filter candidates in a time and quality efficient manner considering an important number of applications (194). This consisted in a screening of CVs and cover letters to obtain desired qualities for the project. 77 candidates were selected through this filtering process.
    • Following was the second phase, a selection based on English proficiency and personality guessing. Personality being a crucial factor in collaboration and adaptability for crew members from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Choosing from a list of meticulously thought through questions, candidates had to record themselves answering them. Personality was mostly deciphered through the help of psychologists from the UKAM (United Kingdom Analogue Missions) team.
    • As a third phase, with 35 remaining candidates, Asclepios proceeded by imposing a standard technical test designed using assessment questions used by ESA. Cognitive capabilities as well as logic, decision making, technical knowledge was tested. With high results overall, an average of 65%, the 14 best candidates were selected for the final phase.
    • Finally, the remaining applicants were subject to various physical interviews as well as team exercises to understand if healthy group dynamics could be created among the candidates. These interviews were conducted by Swiss Astronaut Claude Nicollier, a renowned psychiatrist, Nicolas Belleux, and the Asclepios team. This helped assess which candidates were better fit for certain roles as well as understanding if natural teams were formed as the final 14 were excellent choices for the mission’s criteria. Eight analog astronauts were selected to compose the Genesis crew for the Asclepios I mission. The team consisted of six crew members (crew commander, two health officers, payload engineer, base engineer, and communication specialist) and two backups who were then to become the mission’s CAPCOMs (Earth communicator in the MCC).
  • Scientific projects: Science being one of the main objectives of the Asclepios program, many scientific projects take place during each Asclepios mission. Some are student projects aiming at preparing the mission, others are experiments or technologies lent by researchers to be tested during the mission. Three different methods were used to select these projects.
    • The first one consisted in partnering with EPFL laboratories and professors to offer a variety of semester- long projects to EPFL students. In this case, twenty students were supervised by EPFL professors during the semester, and their project became an integral part of their studies.
    • The second method of selection was an online hackathon organized by the Asclepios I team, one year before the first mission, on the theme of lunar exploration. Eighty students had 48 hours to work in teams on a subject of their choice within four research topics: innovative rover solutions, anti-space-dust system, biometric monitoring to improve astronauts' condition, and external container for hazardous samples. At the end of the 48 hours, they had to propose and present a technology idea or design that addressed the specific challenge they chose to work on for a lunar installation. They were mentored by Asclepios members to ensure that the results were as relevant to Asclepios and space exploration as intended. The winning team was granted the opportunity to develop their idea within Asclepios and test it during the first mission.
    • Finally, the third selection of experiments was through a call for projects that was launched in September 2020 to enable researchers, students, or companies to test their prototype or protocol during Asclepios I. The call was communicated to many different actors (companies, universities, associations, laboratories, start-ups) to target a wide range of potential ideas. Thirteen applications were received, studied by the Asclepios team, and nine of them were selected. For every experiment and every Principal Investigator (PI) to be ready in time for the mission, many criteria had to be met such as equipment, ethical authorizations, astronauts training, precise SOPs. In the end, several experiments could not be ready in time for the milestones of Asclepios I, mainly because of the ethical permissions they needed to participate. Nine experiments were conducted during the mission, which will be described in the Mission Overview section.

Project design[edit | edit source]

The Asclepios missions are designed using the standards of Systems Engineering. The team defends the management process, scientific objectives and base designs to its team of mentors and partners during design reviews before performing the field tests. The objectives being to train students and get as close as possible to the realities of space missions, there are constant improvements on the professionalism of the project.

An all-students team worked hard during the whole Asclepios I project to organize the mission, divided in four Work Packages, each led by a manager and supervised by the two co-leaders:

  • Science: taking care of the collaboration with Principal Investigators and managing students doing semester projects. It was divided into three subgroups (Operations, Systems and Life Aboard) each led by a team manager.
  • Logistics: handling and controlling the progress of the mission including the design of the moon base, the equipment management, the definition of Standard Operating Procedures and Flight Plan.
  • Communication: oversees media relations, social networks, and website.
  • Astronauts: selecting and training the analog astronauts for the mission, and insuring their well- being and safety, with the support of a medical officer and nutritionist.

System Engineering tools such as stakeholder networks, risk management, design reviews and decision- making tools were used to guarantee a good progression of the project. The organization of the project changes each year, based on the lessons learned of the previous mission. Asclepios IV is currently in preparation for the summer 2024.