AKG augments Austrian Mars simulations

Microphones and headsets from AKG are the hardware of choice for the astronaut field teams and mission control crews currently partaking in the Austrian Space Forum’s (OeWF) Mars simulations.

OeWF, a group of aerospace specialists that works to build connections between the space industry and the public, conducts technical workshops and conferences, and helps certify analogue astronauts for Mars simulations. Analogue astronauts are individuals who meet specific physical fitness and scientific education criteria, trained by the OeWF for field explorations.

In order to gather the knowledge needed to prepare for human explorations on Mars, the OeWF ventures to Mars-like habitats, such as the Canadian Arctic and the American Southwest. In these environments, the OeWF has held long-duration simulated field explorations, during which analogue astronauts outfitted in full space suits practice communicating with mission control under many of the same constraints they would face on the red planet.

The analogue astronauts use AKG GHS1 headsets to communicate with the base station, while the mission control centre uses AKG HSC271 headsets for international communications and C1000 S microphones for video production. Gernot Groemer, president of the Austrian Space Forum, said the AKG headsets and microphones were chosen for their sound quality and ability to stand up to the rigorous demands of space simulations.

“After a while in a simulated space environment, headsets may become uncomfortable inside the suits or a microphone piece might break off,” Groemer said. “We’d have another five or six hours of a simulation ahead of us with faulty equipment we couldn’t fix. We needed something better.”

Groemer and his team chose a variety of AKG products with the intent to “use, abuse and overuse them” to ensure they could hold up to the rigours of space flight. “Every piece of technology has a breaking point,” Groemer added. “It’s our responsibility to find those points and see what hardware will serve astronauts best when it’s time for a real mission.”

Groemer said the AKG products provided a variety of benefits to both the field teams and the mission control crew. The headsets are ergonomic and accommodate many different head sizes, while the headphones have a soft cushion. The microphones allow for remote muting, and signal quality was at a level where all instructions from mission control were accurately reproduced in the astronauts’ headsets. Groemer said that the sound quality from the AKG headsets is exceptional, enabling doctors to assess an astronaut’s breathing rates over the noise of ventilation.

“We put a premium on communication when we’re in the field,” Groemer concluded. “It’s the lifeline between the field crews and the mission support centre. If something goes awry, we can still survive as long as our teams can communicate. It’s as important as the air we breathe.”