Testing spacesuits beneath the Earth's surface

The Eisriesenwelt—the "World of the Ice Giants"—is an Austrian cave that stays cold enough year-round to freeze any water that gets into it. As a result, the cave is full of massive ice formations. On April 28th, it was also full of people like physicist Daniel Schildhammer (seen above) who came to the cave to test out a wide array of space technologies, from protective suits to roving robots. It's all part of an international effort to prepare for a mission to Mars. Caves on Mars are likely place where bacteria and other forms of microbial life might be hiding out—the temperatures stay steady underground and the cave would protect those microbes from cosmic rays. Below: Another scientist tests out a rover meant to scale cliffs.

Images: REUTERS/Lisi Niesner


  1. Really cool pictures. I like how the ice takes forms similar to the stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone. Seeing Herr Schildhammer in a spacesuit in that cave is fun. I know it’s from a scientific test, but I’ve been conditioned to perceive as a still from a TV show or movie.
    Are they going to test this in other places? Mars has some crazy wind speeds and the katabatic winds coming off the plateau in Antarctica is probably the closest we have to that.

      1.  Yes, me too, I immediately thought of Tintin. He contended with caves and an ice sheet.

  2. I thought the “World of the Ice Giants” was home to the arch-enemies of Asgard.

  3. If he turns on the reactor to melt the ice, will Australia become inhabitable like Mars?

  4. The idea of robotic cave exploration is kind of fascinating to me.  I’m wondering why there isn’t more of it done?  It’s a great learning/development experience for this kind of forward-looking need, but at the same time allows for a lot of risk-free exploration beyond what most (or all) humans are capable of.   Imagine experiencing the mystery and awe of cave exploration via remote vehicle?

  5. I was there last October, this Cave is open to the public for walking tours (walking up the mountain to reach the cave and bypassing the gondola is also an option).

    Great experience, consider it if you are ever in the Saltzburg region.

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