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After another successful launch of Blue Origin this weekend marked the third civilian ride on the spacecraft owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the work on Earth to advance science in space continues.

A program called Pangea, organized by the European Space Agency, gives astronauts real-world lessons in geology for their out-of-this-world missions in the future. 

“Today, we’re trained basically to perform the same activities in space if it’s either on board of the International Space Station or in the future on the lunar surface, regardless of what our background is,” said astronaut Andreas Mogensen.

The Pangea program is three weeks of intensive learning. In each location, astronauts and space scientists take classes and use virtual reality, followed by field trips to find out what they might also find elsewhere on Earth. 

“So likely, we would land near, for example, a crater or perhaps a lava outflow channel, or if it’s on Mars, perhaps what we believe to be an ancient riverbed or lakebed where there potentially could have been flowing water in the past,” Mogensen said.

For those space enthusiasts on the ground, watching the weekend launch in West Texas could hopefully renew a spirit of exploration, where science in space can advance science on Earth. 

“Got to sit out here and watch something that I’ll never see again and hadn’t seen before,” said space enthusiast Kenny Sligery.