They’re not going to Mars, but for scientists and students who will spend days to weeks in an enclosed facility near Mitzpe Ramon built to simulate the red planet, it will be the next best thing.In February, the first-of-its-kind Israeli facility will be completed.The project’s founding team is headed by Dr. Hillel Rubinstein of the D-MARS Project, a post-doctoral student from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, under the guidance of BGU’s vice president and the dean of research and development, Prof. Dan Blumberg.The D-MARS project is a unique Israeli initiative to establish an international simulation center for planetary research whose goal is to promote space research in particular and science and technology research in general. This is done by creating a template and infrastructure to be used for academic research purposes, for developing technology in the industry and as a methodological tool for various educational programs.For these simulations, the analog research structure called Habitat is being planned as part of a course in the architecture faculty of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, which deals with the design and construction of space environments.It will bring together students from aeronautics, mechanics, architecture, computer science and more.Designed and inspired by the work of space agencies abroad, Habitat will house six to eight people at a time who will perform imaging tasks for several days to weeks and will form the cornerstone of the future imaging facility. Initial details of the project and the facility were revealed during the current Israel Space Week.The various simulations performed at the facility will simulate space missions performed on Mars, and the “astronauts” will wear spacesuits when they venture outside. Their routine will be managed according to the procedure for a real mission.Mitzpe Ramon is unique in that its conditions are relatively close to the conditions prevailing on Mars – in terms of soil structure, geology, aridity, appearance and isolation. The environment provides a combination of elements for space simulations that are difficult to find in other parts of the world.“The temperature on Mars ranges from 35 degrees Celsius to -140 degrees Celsius, and the various gravity and atmospheric conditions are one-third of that on Earth,” Rubinstein said.“It’s impossible to exist without supporting structures on Mars, as there is high radiation exposure.Astronauts that go to Mars will move on the surface of the planet in suits that will have all the life support systems and carry out studies on the ground, which requires equipment allowing for fine motion and motor movements.”Space simulations are a highly developed field in the global space industry and are used to train future astronauts and make space accessible to the public.There are a small number of such centers abroad that are owned by space agencies, industrial companies and educational institutions. The establishment of such a center in Israel will place it at the forefront of space research, according to BGU. The first D-Mars team will be carried out by the team members in cooperation with the Austrian Space Forum, a national body with more than 20 countries participating.In April, the final project of the Young Astronaut Training School, a year-and-a-half-long student program funded by the Israel Space Agency and the ICA Foundation, will be completed with the aim of studying core topics and acquiring tools for space exploration.