Journalist Report – February 4th

MDRS Crew 188 Journalist Report 04FEB2018

Crew 188 Science’s the Shit Out of MDRS

SOL-7 Author’s name: Julia DeMarines

The theme for this report is Science. It is the third report in a short series responding to the MDRS “Safety, Simulation, and Science” priority of operations.


In the wise words of Mark Watney in The Martian, “in the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option. I’m going to science the shit out of this,” and that’s exactly what crew 188 plans to do during our residence at the Mars Desert Research Station. Collectively, we have brought over $30,000 worth of research equipment in hopes to advance scientific knowledge. MDRS provides a unique space in which scientific research can be conducted as if a crew of explorers were carrying out experiments on Mars. Crew 188 offers a diversity of backgrounds and expertise that, collectively, would support groundbreaking discoveries, and innovations, if we were truly on Mars, and aim to tackle the big questions.

These big questions we will be tackling include: how a crew will maintain the health and performance of astronauts living and working in isolated conditions such as on Mars and overcome difficulties; what an optimum extra vehicular activity (EVA) suit and glove design would be for ensuring protection and functionality for its user in extreme conditions; mitigation of dust contamination from EVA’s; optimum crop production with minimal resources in reduced gravity situations; experimental and immersive astronautical performance following a journey that transcends through Earth’s atmosphere and beyond; a 360º camera will capture performance astronautics to give observers a complete and immersive perspective of living on Mars; collection of micrometeorites to add to a worldwide database aiming to yield clues to the solar system’s formation; and last but not least, using in situ chlorophyll detectors to detect signs of life as if on a Mars rover. For a more information please find a more detailed description of our research plans below, and in the meantime, stay tuned for scientific updates!

Summary of Research Experiments

1. Increasing Spaceflight Analogue Mission Fidelity by Standardization of Extravehicular Activity Metrics Tracking and Analysis 
Spaceflight analogues include human simulations that attempt to match as many variables of a real mission as possible, but here on Earth and at a fraction of the cost. Each analogue has unique environmental and human performance testing conditions, but they all have limitations. The goal of this Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) Spacesuit Utilization of Innovative Technology Laboratory (S.U.I.T. Lab) research is to improve simulation fidelity through Extravehicular Activity (EVA) data collection, analysis, and feedback, which will help humanity prepare for destinations such as the Moon or Mars. The investigation of human performance data with respect to workload expenditure will help identify energy limitations, thus training explorers to maximize their potential.

2. Remote Video Capture Analysis of Spacesuits for Spaceflight Analogue Expeditions
The Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) Spacesuit Utilization of Innovative Technology Laboratory (S.U.I.T. Lab) is designing protocols for the recording of analytical videos for analogue spacesuit performance. This approach derives how to communicate effective instructions to a remote crew, and then analyze simulated spacesuit performance. The protocol development has future applications for distant diagnosis of spacesuits, for example a crew on Mars may need expert technicians on Earth to troubleshoot range of motion (ROM) limitations. Key results and recommendations will be presented in this paper aiming to help advance analogue expeditions and missions to the Moon and Mars.

3. Dust Abrasion and Operations Investigation of Thermal Micrometeoroid Garment (TMG) Gloves 
Dust on planetary bodies in a known problem for equipment and astronaut health, as the extreme abrasiveness can cut through the layers of a spacesuit. Dust particles present health risks to astronauts and exposure must be mitigated before sending crews to Mars and beyond. One of the most intricate parts of a spacesuit is the glove. The gloves must have an extremely high range of dexterity to enable astronauts to complete their tasks correctly and efficiently. Wear and tear on the gloves will be recorded and analyzed after the completion of the MDRS analogue mission.

4. Martian Dust Filter Tests
As humans venture further into space more issues correlated to space travel are being discovered. While the perils of dust particles may not be widely recognized, it is one of the major issues astronauts will face on the surface of the Moon and Mars. Dust particles present a problem for both astronaut health and equipment. Dust particles cling to spacesuits, which upon ingress would begin circulating throughout the spacecraft or habitat. An astronaut’s health is compromised by the dust particle’s potential to stick to the lungs and cause respiratory illnesses. Data collected from this research will further facilitate the mitigation of astronaut’s exposure to dust particles on the surface of celestial bodies.

5. In-situ testing of VEGGIE prototype plant growth hardware: Orbital Aquifer System for VEGGIE (OASYS)
We will bring a GreenHab experiment to test a new prototype vegetation system, invented by NASA KSC scientists, for watering plants in reduced gravity environments. Salad bar style lettuce is an ideal vegetable for this demonstration as it is quick to grow and easy to germinate from seeds. The purpose of this research project is to further test candidate crops that need to be performed through an analog study prior to being grown aboard ISS.

6. Performing Astronautics
Dr. Sarah Jane Pell’s MDRS research forms part of an Australia Council Fellowship project titled Performing Astronautics. Performing Astronautics explores the bodily practice of navigation beyond Earth’s atmosphere as an Experimental and Emerging Art. Explored in parallel phases combining: 1) instrumental/speculative and 2) operational/performative experimentation and exploration through participation in space analogue training and human spaceflight mission simulations.

7. Bending Horizons 360 
“Bending Horizons 360” is supported by Monash Immersive Visualisation Platform [MIVP] with the provision of the Insta360 Pro Camera. The aim is two-fold: firstly to support collaborations with fellow crew researching EVA spacesuit validation [in partnership with
Final Frontier Design FFD], environmental interactions, science and engineering engagement, human factors and performance research. Secondly, to produce speculative fiction short films, new 3D artifacts and novel expressions of video data to capture the range of human-environmental interactions on the Mars Analogue environment supporting a future collaborative partnership between Dr. Sarah Jane Pell and A/Prof David Barnes.

8. Potential Human Activities to Improve Quality of Life on Mars
This research project is looking for how the quality of life can improve during Mars simulation as a case study. Currently quantitative data shows that the human activity should be regulated. However, because of long-time requirement for Mars habitat mission, identifying how astronauts’ quality of life can improve during Mars mission need to develop is very important to maintain mission efficiency and space activity as well. This research project is primary looking for what available human activity can improve the quality of life during Mars habitat mission in the future.

9. Project Stardust
This collaborative meteorological investigation of micrometeorite samples collected from field sites all over the world now includes samples taken from MDRS. These types of analyses on Earth help us understand how the solar system was formed as we venture out to explore it.

10. In-situ Chlorophyll Detection
“Are we alone?” is a fundamental human question that is shared by humanity. The answer may be right around the corner or perhaps never come but we will never get closer to that answer if we don’t search for life. Researchers from NASA and Robotics Everywhere LLC ( have collaborated on a handheld Chlorophyll detector that can be operated in the field, indoors, and hopefully, underneath a rover using Chl-florescence.

11. Mars-to-Mars Hangout: Connecting Mars Basecamps Across the Red Planet
The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah, will gain communication and opportunity benefits during its two-week mission period by live video connecting with the AMADEE-18 analogue simulation simultaneously running a Mars research mission, located in Dhofar Region, Oman.