In Oman desert, European venture sets sights on Mars Feb 09, 2018 0 88 12345 AFPDhofar, OmanWould-be astronauts in aluminium-coated suits venture out in rovers from a sprawling camp in Oman's barren desert: a simulation by a European venture aiming to one day help humans survive on Mars.Behind a barbed wire fence protected by soldiers from the Gulf sultanate, researchers in prefab facilities work away on experiments that include trying to grow vegetables in inhospitable terrain chosen for its resemblance to the red planet.Run by the Austrian Space Forum, a mainly volunteer collective, with the backing of the Omani government, the AMADEE-18 Mars Analog Mission has brought together researchers, inventors, space professionals and enthusiasts.For decades the realm of science fiction, sending a manned mission to Mars is now the stated -- albeit still distant -- goal of the US government and entrepreneurs.On Tuesday US billionaire Elon Musk launched the world's most powerful rocket -- the SpaceX Falcon Heavy towards an orbit near Mars.In this remote corner of the Arabian Peninsula's Dhofar desert, the European-led project may be far less flashy -- but it is still looking to answer major questions."Once we go to Mars, and stay on Mars, we will have to use the resources we find on Mars because we cannot bring everything from Earth,"forum president Alexander Soucek said."So we have to use the things we find there: first of all to sustain life there, to sustain missions there, and then in the longer run maybe also for other things."The Austrian Space Forum does not have a rocket like Musk, but its members many with day jobs at traditional space agencies or private companies -- share the entrepreneur's drive to be innovative.In the increasingly crowded field of space exploration, Soucek says the project is carving out a special niche with its Mars simulations."We get sponsors from private industry. We collect money, partnerships, invite people to join forces,"he said.Volunteer researcher Joao Lousada was struggling into a pressure-simulating exoskeleton suit with the help of three technicians.Weighing more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds), it is custom-built to simulate the constricted movement astronauts would feel on Mars -- and takes a gruelling hours-long process just to put on.Like the other volunteers he watched the Falcon Heavy launch with awe, but he said there were serious issues about the commercialisation of space."You can't claim the moon, you can't claim asteroids so mining comes into a bit of a legal loophole,"Lousada said."But... I think it's a very interesting idea. I think definitely we should look into using resources from asteroids that are not available on Earth or are less frequent on Earth."Once suited up, Lousada and fellow researcher Kartik Kumar mounted rovers and rode off under the blazing sun to complete their set of experiments in the desert.Returning before dusk, Kumar an expert on space debris reflected on the role and responsibility of space voyagers. Pages 12 POST A COMMENT RELATED ARTICLES Palestinians jam Gaza border temporarily opened by Egypt Feb 09, 2018 0 145 Suicide attack kills one in Iraq's Ramadi city Feb 09, 2018 0 66 Russia to boost Sudan military, says President Bashir Feb 09, 2018 0 79 Sudan seizes three newspapers for covering protests Khartoum: Sudanese security agents seized the entire print-runs of three newspapers on Thursday after they covered food price protests in Khartoum and other towns, their editors said. Opposition groups have .. Israel does not want escalation over border wall, US to Lebanon Reuters BEIRUT/JERUSALEM A US envoy has assured Lebanon that Israel does not seek an escalation between the countries following a surge in hostile rhetoric, Lebanese and Israeli officials said on Thursday. The .. Israel SC upholds conviction for Palestinian teen's murder Jerusalem: Israel's supreme court on Thursday rejected an appeal by three members of a Jewish gang convicted of kidnapping, beating and burning alive a Palestinian teenager in 2014. The decision upholds life .. Libyan commander wanted by ICC freed after protests Reuters BENGHAZI A Libyan commander wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over a series of summary executions was released on Thursday, a day after handing himself in to military authorities in eastern .. Human smugglers in Libya have links to security services: UN Reuters UNITED NATIONS Most armed groups involved in human smuggling and trafficking in Libya have links to the country's official security institutions, sanctions experts said in a confidential report to a UN ..