10 Danish projects are getting ready for a trip to space with Andreas Mogensen

Andreas Mogensen at the space conference held in March, during which his next trip to space was announced. Illustration: Thomas Djursing

In 2015, Andreas Mogensen became the first Dane to go into space. Back then, he spent 10 days on the International Space Station (ISS).

The plan is now for him to leave again in 2023, this time for a full six months. On this occasion, Danish companies and researchers have had the opportunity to apply to have their projects included in the mission.

During the space mission, there is time set aside for the astronauts to work on national projects, and 10 winning projects that the Danish astronaut will take with him to the ISS have now been announced.

The projects that will get the opportunity to accompany Andreasen Mogensen in space have been selected in collaboration between the European Space Agency and the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science, according to a number of criteria. The applicants had to be able to finance the project themselves, there had to be a realistic schedule to get the project ready for the space mission, and the project had to promote Denmark’s national space strategy.

Half of the chosen projects concern the health of astronauts in space. Two of the projects will look at, among other things, astronauts’ sleep, while two other projects will look at whether virtual reality can be used to improve astronauts’ physical and mental health. Studies into and improvements to astronauts’ health are particularly important if we want to send astronauts on longer space missions in the future.

All the projects that have been approved have now been assigned staff from the European Space Agency who will help the project reach the finish line. According to Cecilie Tornøe, special adviser at the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Research, it is expected that all the projects will be ready to join Andreas Mogensen on board in 2023. The projects are now in the process of obtaining the necessary medical and safety approvals. Here are the 10 approved projects:

1) Quality sleep in space

This earpiece is a tiny EEG measuring device that can measure astronauts’ brain activity Illustration: Lars Kruse, Aarhus Universitet

Astronauts have difficulty getting quality sleep in space. According to the Sleep In Orbit project, we will now find out exactly what the astronauts’ brain activity looks like while they sleep. In order to study it more closely, Andreas Mogensen will be sent up with an ear-EEG device, which was developed by researchers from Aarhus University. EEG measurements are used to measure brain activity and are usually done with the help of electrodes placed around the whole cranium. But this ear-EEG can be placed in the ear like an earplug and provide EEG measurements from here.

You can read more about the project here: Andreas Mogensen will be working while asleep in space.

2) Natural light

Quality sleep is important for future space travel, especially when astronauts have to go on longer trips. This is also reflected in the fact that two of the 10 projects that have been selected are focused on sleep.
The company SAGA Space Architects has designed an LED panel that simulates natural daylight. Andreas Mogensen will take it with him on his trip to space to see if it can improve astronauts’ sleep.

3) Health

Poor sleep is not the only health problem that can arise in space. Andreas Mogensen will therefore wear a health monitoring system during the space mission, developed by the Danish Aerospace Company. The system will monitor a number of health parameters during his journey. If the system works well, it could make space travel safer for astronauts in the future, and it could also be used in extreme environments on Earth.

4) A bike ride on Earth

Exercise is important for the health of astronauts on long space missions. However, a cramped space without gravity is far from the most practical or motivating environment for physical training.
Specially developed exercise bikes are used as training equipment, but now virtual reality will be used to improve the experience. While the astronauts are cycling, they can use VR glasses to get the feeling of a taking a bike ride on Earth.
The Danish Aerospace Company is responsible for the project. The goal is to improve the astronauts’ experience with physical exercise.

5) A break in VR

Virtual reality should not only help improve the astronauts’ physical health, but also their mental health. The constant and prolonged confinement on the space station can be a challenge.
On this space mission, DTU Space will investigate if regular experiences in virtual reality can help improve the astronauts’ mental health while in space.

6) Lightning

The last time Andreas Mogensen was in space, one of the projects he worked on was the THOR mission led by DTU.
The mission entailed filming thunderstorms from space, resulting in fascinating videos. In the videos, one can see large flashes of lightning, but they do not tell us much about what actually happens during a lightning strike. Lightning spreads so quickly that ordinary cameras cannot capture the process.
This time, DTU will give Andreas Mogensen a camera that can capture 100,000 frames per second. It might give us a more accurate picture of what happens during a lightning strike.

Watch the thunderstorm video that Andreas Mogensen filmed on his last space mission here:

7) Earthshine

Light from Earth shines faintly on the Moon. This earthshine will be observed by DMI by taking pictures of the Moon during the space mission.
Pictures of the Moon can be clearer when taken from space, where Earth’s atmosphere does not scatter the light. Therefore, DMI hopes that they can get clear images of earthshine on the Moon and use it to learn more about Earth.
Observations of earthshine on the Moon can, for example, be used to see how much energy radiates from Earth’s atmosphere.

See DMI’s description of the project here: Andreas Mogensen can help climate researchers.

8) Pure water

Aquaporin and Danish Aerospace Company are collaborating on a project in which two water filtration membranes will go to space with Andreas Mogensen.
Both membranes will convert the ISS’s wastewater into clean water, which is an important resource on longer space missions. It is therefore necessary to test how the two membranes function in an environment without gravity.

9) 3D printing in space

During the spring of 2023, before Andreas Mogensen goes into space, a 3D printer will be sent up to the space station. DTU has designed a special print that they would like the 3D printer to print.
This 3D printer can print metal, and DTU’s design is designed to test the variation in thermal expansion in the 3D printed metal parts.
If 3D printing is to be used in future space travel, this could be important knowledge.

10) Teaching in space

The last project will benefit the Danish school children. A small Lego robot is going up into space with Andreas Mogensen. The Lego robot will be equipped with sensors and moving parts that school children can control from Earth. The school children themselves can help decide which data and experiments the robot is to carry out and thus get a realistic experience of space travel.

Read more about the project here: SpaceTech denMACH to bring stem learning to schools from the international space station.

Read more about the projects on the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Research’s website.