Science Report – January 11th

Science Report 11 Jan 2019

Crew 202 – Martian Makers

Submitted by EXO Denys Bulikhov

1. Stress levels and decision making during Extravehicular Activity (EVA) by Denys Bulikhov.

Description:Extravehicular activity is an extremely demanding task, physically and psychologically. EVA exposes astronauts to significant physiological stress. Multiple studies have shown that human decision making is strongly influenced by stress. It has been demonstrated that stress changes participant’s attitude towards risk which in case of EVA may lead to dangerous consequences. This particular study is designed to investigate the possible influence of physiological stress experienced by participants during simulated planetary EVA on their decision-making. Different conditions of stress will be simulated (no EVA, regular EVA, some level of stress after EVA). The amount of stress will be evaluated through a procedure approved by Purdue’s Institutional Review Board, involving collection of saliva and appropriate measurements.

Results:All planned data was collected for this experiment. Crew cortisol levels and decision-making patterns were collected in calm conditions, after the EVA’s, and after the Cold Pressor test. Data has multi-directional character (no clearly visible patterns), but it is too early to identify if research questions were answered. The full analysis will be performed during the Spring semester at Purdue University.

2. Radiological mapping of MDRS and surrounding area by Denys Bulikhov.

Description:While Earth is protected from radiation by the thick atmosphere, Mars is much more susceptible to high-energy radiation from space. If astronauts have to spend extended periods of time outside the protection of caves and lava tubes, it is important to know areas with lower concentration of radiations. While the levels measured at MDRS will be relatively low, this project will show techniques to map radiation on Mars.

Two different Geiger counters will be used to measure the amount of ambient radiation at different heights in the areas surrounding the habitat. Some of the measurement will be taken by instrument mounted on a lightweight drone.

Results:Due to the extreme cold weather during the first week, electronic Geiger counter failed to work along with multiple batteries. Measurements with drone were not performed since only the electronic Geiger counter was small enough to be installed on the drone. Radiation readings were collected with analogue Geiger counter and manually recorded along with coordinates of the measurements’ locations. This proved to be very difficult in the spacesuit wearing thick gloves.

Ambient radiation readings were collected in 32 different points around MDRS. The levels were between the lowest 10 uR/h (point 3 around Cactus rd) and the highest 30 uR/h (point 3 around Kissing Camels Ridge). One location between Lith canyon and Dinosaur Quarry had a high reading of 127 uR/h (dark spot on the stone wall, which most likely were fossilized remains), however it wasn’t an ambient radiation but emition of specific material/mineral. The final result of this research will be a map of MDRS and surrounding area with specific points and associated ambient radiation levels.

3. Study of microbial ecosystem in microgreens by Jake Qiu.

Description: The human microbiome encompasses many types of microbial organisms within different taxa groups. The human microbiome encompasses many types of genus including Firmicutes and Bacteroides as well as known microbial pathogens – even in healthy individuals. In long-term space travel, it is common practice to sterilize all equipment and consumables. Unfortunately, there are still sources of microbial contamination due to us – humans require synergistic relationships with microbial lifeforms to maintain good states of health. Thus, when we travel outside of Earth, not everything is sterilized and there are still essential plants that will need to be grown for essential nutrients. In the ecological environment of the rhizosphere – the roots of the microgreens; there are many different microbes that can be harmful to the growth of the plants. There is a need for further investigation on how the human microbiome can impact the rhizosphere of microgreens. I propose to investigate how human-associated microbes can impact the phenotypic properties of the microgreens as well if it harbors any potential pathogens that is a concern for long-term Mars colonization.

Daikon Radish microgreens was used as the candidate organism due to their essential vitamins and fast harvest date. Vitamins are crucial in human biology and required for long-term planetary exploration. Unfortunately, they have a quick degradation rate in comparison to other nutrients in shelf-stable products. Growing microgreens in space and planetary colonization provides an answer to these essential nutrients, thus I am using Daikon Radish microgreens which was chosen as the candidate organism to test how human associated microbes impacts the rhizosphere of microgreens.

Results:Three conditions will be tested: grey water, soil, and control. Grey water will be extracted from the kitchen water, toilet water, and dirty dishes. Soil condition will be extracted from the soil in pots of radishes in the greenhouse. Control will be boiled water. Each condition will be used to inoculate the Throughout growth, each day will be sampled with a swab to obtain microbes and will then be fixed with 4% paraformaldehyde. On harvest date, daikon radish microgreens will be characterized with an analog scale and graduated cylinder to obtain fresh weight and fresh volume. Shoot length and leaf size will be determined by ruler.

All extracted microbial swabs will be processed back at Purdue University to obtain community structure of all conditions throughout growth. Bacterial DNA will be extracted from swabs through genomic DNA extraction kits. Amplicon sequencing will be performed on either the hypervariable region V4-V5 of the 16s rRNA gene or full-length 16s rRNA gene. Genomic sequencing will be analyzed either by Nextgen sequencing or nanopore sequencer. Sequence analysis can be determined by QIIME to understand the community structure of the rhizosphere.

4. Composting and recycling waste on Mars by Kasey Hilton.

Description:The purpose of this project was to log and analyze the waste produced at the Mars Desert Research Station. Due to the restricted amount of storage available during space travel and limited resources in a Martian habitat, reducing and reusing as much waste as possible is vital. Analyzing and sorting the trash allows for the creation of a compost pile. A compost pile would not only provide a way for waste to be reused that would otherwise take up space but would also provide plants with nutrients needed to grow and would introduce microorganisms into the environment. For a healthy compost, a 1:25 ratio of nitrogen rich to carbon rich waste is needed. A log of human waste was also collected as a secondary resource in case trash alone could not create the proper ratio of nitrogen to carbon rich waste. This was achieved by each of the crew members tallying what kind of waste they produced in the bathroom. Finally, the trash from the campus was separated into compostable and non-compostable. The compostable waste was then sorted into carbon rich and nitrogen rich and the non-compostable was sorted in to recyclable and non-recyclable.

Results:Although all the final numbers for how much waste was produced have not been calculated yet, it was obvious that the station’s trash did not produce enough carbon waste to create a healthy compost. Human waste would have to be added in order to create a proper ratio of nitrogen and carbon rich compounds. It was originally hypothesized that there would not be enough nitrogen rich waste, but in the end there was actually a large excess of nitrogen rich waste. Outside of paper towels and wipes there was a lack of carbon rich waste. Carbon rich waste is typically things like wood chips and leaves, and since those things aren’t found on Mars, it would have to be made up for with other kinds of waste.

5. Classroom outreach via asynchronous Q&A by Alexandra Dukes.

The original mission plan for outreach included three projects: Question and Answer Classroom Outreach, Age Focused Research Descriptions, and a Mars Cooking Demonstration.

The Question and Answer Classroom Outreach was intended to be a focused interaction between selected schools in California and Nevada in which the crew would answer questions via video sent by students. This project evolved into a new outreach initiative called “Crew 202 20 Questions”. These videos capture crew members in their working environment and picks their brain about their role at MDRS, their research, and their general thoughts on space exploration. We believe these videos could be used in classrooms as a way to engage students in different aspects of space exploration including chemistry, geology, biology, and psychology. This could also be used as a tool for general public outreach to give insight into MDRS and why everyone should be excited about the future of human space exploration!

The Age Focused Research Descriptions were intended to be descriptions of key research projects described for three different age groups: K-3, 6-8, and 9-12. The last two weeks were spent observing the crew during their research projects and gathering as much information as possible. The plan going forward is to create the three descriptions for one research project a month up to five research projects (one per crew member excluding the journalist). These descriptions will be delivered to each crew member and be used to facilitate outreach.

The Mars Cooking Demonstration was intended to be a Food Network style video on how to cook on Mars aimed toward general public outreach. This idea has evolved to become a picture by picture recipe guide on how to cook biscuits and gravy out of the dehydrated Mars ingredients. The pictures will be taken on Sol 14 and a “Mars recipe” will be posted online in the next few months. We believe this will be a great way to shed light on what it is like to live on a Mars simulation and give future Martians a few tips on how to make their dehydrated food dust, not only edible, but delicious!

6. Analysis of mineralogy and regime of sand dunes and fluvial processes by Ellen Czaplinski.

Description: Features found in the MDRS study area, such as paleo channels and dunes, provide opportunities to access exposures that detail their depositional environment and the role that water played in their formation. Further, studying inverted channels and dunes near MDRS contributes to our understanding of the sedimentation processes that shaped these features, providing an Earth analogue to ones found on Mars. These characteristics are suitable to support the important task of determining efficient spectroscopic techniques for in situ sample analysis to prepare for future crewed missions to Mars. Spectral information of samples around the MDRS are useful in comparing this area to Mars. Smectites like montmorillonite and nontronite are common around the habitat and are two of the most common clay minerals found on Mars. Studying clay minerals is relevant in that the identification of specific clay minerals can offer information such as the geochemistry of the primary rocks. Analyzing these types of clays in the IR is important, since IR spectroscopy techniques have the ability to differentiate 1:1 versus 2:1 silicate-layer type clays, as well as different chemical compositions of clays (montmorillonite versus nontronite).

Results: In total, Crew 202performed 12 EVAs during our two week stay, 10 of which geologicalsamples were collected and returned. EVA destinations included Kissing Camel Ridge W, Greenstone Rd, Hab Ridge, Marble Ritual, Stream Bed Connector, Galileo Rd 1104/Cactus Rd 1104, Beige Moon, Gray Moon, Glistening Seas, and Lith Canyon. The geological samples were organized based on their EVA number, collection location, and initial observations. Using the TREK portable spectrometer, we have taken spectral measurements of all samples. After the mission, we will then characterize the minerals present in the samples.

Some EVAs did not allow us to take the TREK with us (e.g. The Moons/Glistening Seas/Stream Bed Connector since the ATVs were our mode of travel). In these cases, we were only able to take spectra in the lab, therefore not able to compare in situ spectra to laboratory spectra. While there are no extensive dune fields present near MDRS, many of our EVA destinations included areas where enough sand was present to form ripples and cross-bedded sandstones. These samples were collected at several locations (Greenstone Rd, Kissing Camel Ridge W, Cactus Rd 1104, and Lith Canyon). Other features of interest on our EVAs included large rock falls of
Cretaceous boulders that originally rested atop the hills (e.g. Kissing Camel Ridge).

These boulders were also found at the base of hills on Cactus Rd, Stream Bed Connector, and Lith Canyon. At every location of the Cretaceous-aged boulders, we used a rock hammer to chip off a piece of the boulder and noticed a mineral faint green in color that formed a thin line adjacent to the sandstone layer. It is no surprise that many of our samples included clays, sandstones, and mudstones, as these are some of the most common geologic samples around MDRS. We also collected many samples of smooth, dark rocks and mixtures of clay minerals that appear to be altered (possibly due to heat).