Between 06- 14 December 2014 the Italian Mars Society has conducted simulation of a Mars exploration mission in Madonna di Campiglio, Trento, Italy in the framework of the ERAS program.

Mission aims

The European MaRs Analogue Station for Advanced Technologies Integration (ERAS) is a program spearheaded by the Italian Mars Society (IMS) which main goal is to provide an effective test bed for field operation studies in preparation for manned missions to Mars.

Preliminarily to its construction, IMS has started the development of an immersive Virtual Reality (VR) simulation of the ERAS Station (V-ERAS). The major advantage of such virtualization is that it will be possible to undertake training sessions with a crew that can interact with its future environment before the actual station is built. This way a more effective design of the station and associated missions and a strong reduction of costs could be obtained. The main objective of this activity will be the achievement of adequate fidelity simulations and validation of the data obtained during the training sessions so that they can be used for the design of the station itself.

V-ERAS-14 was designed to be:

  • an opportunity to review the ERAS Habitat Design
  • a platform for the establishment of the knowledge, methods, and standards for the design of an integrated, autonomous, crew health management system.
  • a platform for Scientific missions planning / Crew training
  • serving as a strong outreach opportunity


For the first V-ERAS Crew rotation we have looked for an astronomical observatory which would have available a suitable room (minimum 12 sqm) and accommodations for the Crew and Mission Support Team. Very kindly, the Dolomites Astronomical Observatory / Carlo Magno Hotel in Madonna di Campiglio, Trento, has made itself available to sponsor and host the first V-ERAS rotation.

Technical Description

The V-ERAS infrastructure is composed by 4 virtual stations, each of them based on the following key elements:

  • Immersive virtual simulations running on top of the Blender Game Engine (BGE) and supporting a 3D virtual reality headset (Oculus Rift)
  • Full body and hand gesture tracking via a Kinect device
  • Integration of an omnidirectional treadmill

The 4 stations are linked via a dedicated multiplayer support able to synchronize the events happening in the four simulation nodes. The Mumble voice chat software is used to insure the overall voice communication infrastructure.

More technical information on V-ERAS can be found on the dedicated Project Description.

Mission Science Agenda

The table below report a short summary of science activities performed during V-ERAS-14

HABITAT  ERAS Habitat Design Review. For this first rotation, the ERAS habitat design will still be in a prototyping stage. The Crew feedback has been instrumental for the definition of a more refined design.
V-ERAS STATION Feedback on current V-ERAS station design
COMMUNICATION Audio and video communication setup and test
HEALTH MON Crew health monitoring
TELEMEDICINE Simulated telemedical support session
ATV DESIGN Virtual Reality based design of an ATV vehicle
SIM / EVA Simulation Scenarios / EVA missions.
REDUCED GRAVITY Experimentation has been made on simulating Martian reduced gravity environments via extensions of the Motivity omnidirectional treadmill
ANALOG SPACE SUIT A set of technical tests aiming at assessing the use of an analog space suit during the virtual simulation.

A more detailed description of the mission and its outcomes can be found on the V-ERAS-14 Mission Report.


Further reports on the V-ERAS-14 mission can be found here: