Crew 260 Mission Summary November 4th

Crew 260 Mission Summary Report 04 Nov 2021
Crew member experience highlights:

As I reach the end of my third sim with Spaceward Bound Utah, I find myself reflecting on the impact of this program. There is no doubt the teachers who participate in Spaceward Bound Utah benefit heavily from their time at MDRS. These crew members arrive with excitement and enthusiasm and leave carrying an even greater passion for their life’s work along with a wealth of resources. SWB Utah teachers continue to collaborate long after their time at MDRS comes to a close, providing a valuable support system for each other. Through promotion of the SWB Utah program, alumni also serve as ambassadors whose enthusiasm, innovative integration of the Mars analog experience, and curricular modifications spread beyond the walls of their own classrooms to inspire and encourage other teachers who are not members of the program. And the biggest beneficiaries of the SWB Utah program are the students – those who are or will be in SWB Utah teachers’ classrooms, those who will be in the classrooms who receive outreach support from SWB Utah, and those who will have the opportunity to participate in a Mars analog experience. Without a doubt, the positive impact of Spaceward Bound Utah will have a ripple effect as more and more teachers, students, and community members are directly or tangentially exposed to the program.

-Jen Carver-Hunter, Mountain View Elementary School

I am in awe of the MDRS and appreciate the opportunity to participate in Spaceward Bound Utah. I especially enjoyed getting to know the other teachers and scientists. This has been one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. Living and exploring as an astronaut was something that I never dreamed I would experience.

-Théo Anderson, Canyon Elementary School

The Utah desert is always a magical place. Experiencing Utah’s Colorado Plateau at MDRS has been a one-of-a-kind experience. I arrived on Sunday excited to meet new science teachers and eager to experience Mars. This week has moved quickly, and I take away great experiences and memories. Perhaps my favorite part of being on Mars was exploring the rock formations and collecting rock samples. Wearing the space suits was the most challenging part of the sim. The suits require a multistep process to put on, and once astronauts suit up, the mobility and visibility changes. Driving the rover while suited up involved some maneuvering, but every rover expedition was exciting and fun. Cooking and eating with the crew was another enjoyable part of the experience. The crew engaged in insightful and interesting conversations. We collaborated with one another, offered suggestions, and provided insight about different subjects. This week at MDRS has been memorable. I plan on sharing my learning and experiences with my students. Thanks, MDRS!

-Adela Genoves, Kearns High School

This has been a phenomenal experience. I have long dreamt of being an astronaut, and this experience helped me to fulfill that dream in the best way possible, only the fun parts! I cannot wait to share my experiences on this ultimate adventure with my family and my students, and hopefully that will ignite the spark in someone else!

-David Joy, Wahlquist Jr High School

The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me as a Utah educator. Living in close quarters with new teammates, experiencing EVAs, astrobiology, and learning about the geologic Martian landscapes are highlights of the mission for me.

I believe the motto “Sim, Science, Education” is fitting for the mission. We experienced the Sim, learned a lot of science, and had a roundtable to incorporate our findings in our classrooms on Earth.

For anyone considering the value of this experience: Do it! Don’t think, just fill out the application.

For administrators: Send your teachers at whatever level they teach.

For the Mars Society: Thank you! I could not experience this in any other location, and I appreciate the facility, the landscape, and the fabulous director (Shannon) and assistant director (Atilla) currently at the facility.

-Tracy Davidson, InTech Collegiate Academy

Phenomenal is the best word to explain my experience here at MDRS! I was blown away by the commitment and knowledge of Shannon, Atila, and our Commander Jen. I have learned more about astrogeology and space in general than I could ever learn inside of a classroom. Learning by doing instead of direct instruction is the best approach for education and that’s definitely how they do it down here. Now my students will be able to not only see the many different rocks that I collected near MDRS, but touch! And if they pay their cards right, they’re even able to lick a dinosaur bone.


Sim Science Education

-Katie Miller, Maple Grove Middle School

Since I got accepted to be a part of the MDRS program I have been very excited, but I don’t think I quite knew what to expect. My expectations were not disappointed! The whole experience was to simulate what it might be like for some of the first teams to live on Mars. It was fascinating to go into the Sim and live life as if we were on the red planet. If we wouldn’t be able to do it on Mars then we couldn’t do it in the Sim. This especially meant that we couldn’t go outside to do an EVA without our space suits. That was one of the most interesting parts of my whole time here and something I will always remember! I loved learning about the geology of Mars and how this area is a true Martian analog. But more than anything my time here on “Mars” will help me to be a better teacher in the classroom. Having real life experiences like this to bring back to my students makes science more relevant for them. Also, the activities we did I can use and adapt to my lessons as well. I am so glad I got to have my experience on Mars! J

-Brandon Barth, Independence High School

Crew 260 Journalist Report for November 4th

Journalist Report by Brandon Barth


Today we ended our simulation and after breakfast we landed back on Earth to the sound of Shannon’s three dogs. After breakfast we went back out to the science Dome and had a lesson on biosignatures (signs of life). These signatures don’t have to be directly life itself but things life leaves behind (like footprints or poop-coprolites-or worm burrows). So, we looked at a lot of different examples of biosignatures and then identified them. I learned that a rising theory is that Desert varnish, which I was always taught was like sunburnt rock, is actually a biosignature, and that bacteria that are trying to survive in the desert will pull manganese out of the air and cover themselves with it like a protective coating to protect themselves from UV radiation. This hardens into the varnish but it takes thousands of years. They are doing lots of studies with it and Atila wants to do research if Lichen and Desert varnish compete, cooperate, or even know the other exists in nature?

After that we were able to go outside on about a mile hike. Along the way we picked up more rock samples and practiced identifying pieces and Shannon showed us some amazing dinosaur bones that have been discovered in the rocks of the Jurassic time period. One was a huge leg bone standing straight up about up to my waist! Truly amazing. But it was nice to have freedom outside and the weather has just been gorgeous up here. We’ve gotten so lucky since it is already November! But the air was just so fresh and crisp that even at noon it still felt like fresh morning air. We all loved it! On the way back from the hike we talked star trek and Star Wars and I loved that too! 

We then decided that for lunch we would go into town (Hanksville) to the burger place called Stan’s Burger Shak (that they kept talking about) as a whole group. And along the way there we stopped at the Rockin’ Riddle Rock Shop run by a super nice lady named Kathy. I decided to buy a large piece of Coprolite, A desert Rose, A beautiful piece of Quartz Crystal, some Rose quartz, 3 beautiful smooth white stones called Chalcedony for the kids (said to bring peace and joy) and 3 small pieces of a cool stone called Kyanite (from Brazil) for the kids too. The quartz pieces and desert rose are for my wife! The poop is for me haha! But it was a lot of fun looking at all that lady’s samples. She had some petrified pine cones that were very small and going for $150 a piece! But they were awesome!

After the Rock shop is when we got lunch at Stan’s and it did remind me of another restaurant called Stan’s when I was in college. Just a good greasy burger and a big ol’ shake (I got peach cobbler, very good!). Another member of the Crew paid for all of us to eat since they felt so bad about having to sleep on the couch on the main level and not being able to go on the EVA’s and making us work more. We said it was no problem and they didn’t have to do it but they insisted. We were all very grateful.

Getting back to the HAB we made our final plan for the day which started with launching our rockets we built yesterday. We all had our rockets ready to go so after setting up the launch pad, positioning baby Yoda in the perfect spot, the countdown began! Tracy launched her rocket first and it was a perfect take off and her parachute deployed. The wind was blowing a little bit so her rocket blew over the ridge but it was easy to retrieve it. Everyone else went in sequence but only a total of 3 rockets had their parachute deploy. David’s rocket did a perfect nose dive into the soft sediment in the hill by the Hab, but Shannon told him not to retrieve it since she didn’t want more erosion on that hill. So, it will be a reminder to others of the dangers of space travel. Those that were able to retrieve their rockets were able to do a second launch and we all had a lot of fun! We got a bunch of group pictures to round out the event.

Before the sun went down, we got permission to go out and explore one more time. Five of us went out in three rovers and went south down the road until we passed the rock called the squirrel where we turned off the main road and drove west on a quest to find what we affectionately call “purple galaxy rock.” We were all very successful and all of us found our own pieces plus some for those that stayed behind. We stayed out for about an hour until the gnats started getting us and then headed back for the Hab.

Upon arriving back at the Hab we all moved our cars back in front of the building, loaded up our rocks that we all had collected and then made cleaning assignments. Let the cleaning begin! We all worked very hard and effectively and are all ready to go to finish off the final little things in the morning. We ended the night by talking out our biosignature lesson ideas from what we learned earlier and then typing up our summaries of our experience here on Mars, and what a great experience it was! 

Crew 260 Sol Summary for November 4th

Crew 260 Sol Summary Report 04-11-2021

Sol: 3

Summary Title: The end of sim

Author’s name: Jen Carver-Hunter

Mission Status: Nominal

Sol Activity Summary: After eating our last breakfast in sim, we returned to Earth for a final lesson with Dr Rupert and Atila about biosignatures. Following our lesson, we went out into the “field” to the east of the Hab to look for biosignatures. We specifically focused on finding desert varnish and lichen. After returning to the Hab, we took a group field trip into town to visit Kathy at the rock shop, and enjoyed burgers and shakes at Stan’s. Returning to the Hab for our last afternoon together was bittersweet. We donned flight suits one last time to launch rockets. Then several members of the crew returned to road 1101 to search for the elusive purple galaxy rock. Upon their return, we began our end of mission duties – cleaning and writing reports.

Look Ahead Plan: Finish cleaning and check out

Anomalies in work: No anomalies

Weather: Sunny, warm, and pleasant

Crew Physical Status: All good

EVA: No official EVA

Reports to be filed: Operations report, Journalist report, end of mission summary

Support Requested: none at this time

Journalist Report – November 3rd

Journalist Report 3 Nov 2021
By Brandon Barth

MDRS Crew 260 Sol 2 (11/3/21):
We all started the day with breakfast about 7:45 of cereal and powdered milk and coffee. After that we learned that we got permission to all go on an EVA this morning so everyone got suited up. With that said, it is important that there always has to be at least 2 crewmembers back at the HAB. Since Theo (Tay-oh) has to stay behind (due to a knee issue) we were planning on Atila and Shannon being there with her to cover the base. As Jen, Brandon, Katie, David, Tracy, and Adela were all driving away in the rovers, we got a call from the HAB saying that Atila was going to have to leave to get a COVID-19 test to get ready for his family trip. Commander Jen knew about this, but what she didn’t realize was that Shannon was not officially part of the crew and so didn’t count as someone staying behind with Theo. This was just a simple miscommunication, but we wanted to make sure we followed protocol as best as possible. So, we had to send one group back to stay with Theo while Jen, Brandon, Adela, and Tracy continued on to their two stops. They went to the moons area first and found some great gypsum samples and Gryphaea (devil’s toenail) all over the place. After spending some time there, they went to another stop called the Camel (not kissing camels) to look for some sandstone and blueberry samples. They found lots of sandstone but no blueberries. They then went back to the HAB and switched with the other two crewmembers who were sent back out. They jumped in the rovers with Jen again and Jed did a back-to-back EVA. Having two back-to-back EVAs like that, Jen said she would need to write that up in her report later. The first group then went back in and after some down time got the warm bread out of the bread maker and got lunch ready: Loaded mashed potatoes as part of the original plan!

After two hours, the second group got back from a successful EVA about 1pm and they actually found sandstone blueberries! The first group was not able to find any so it was great that the second group found a lot. Jen had a long day having to do two EVA’s but she did awesome as well. And at least there were no rover issues this time around.

Lunch took a while to make but it was worth it! Instead of doing mashed potatoes we ended up making Explorer pie…our own Martian version of shepherd’s pie. We didn’t have mashed potatoes so we used freeze dried potato slices with peas, corn, sausage, and ground beef (all freeze dried) and a bunch of seasoning. The wait was worth it and it was delicious! We also loved all the colors, especially the bright green peas. Not a lot of green on Mars!

After a relaxing and very pleasant lunch we all went to the science dome to clean up our rocks and do some more rock identification. It was very fun to see everyone’s samples of rocks and help each other identify what everything was. We got the rocks all cleaned up and put into little baggies and labeled them.

The next activity was to build our model rockets. The only hiccups we had with those was trouble getting some of the items glued down in the right place. The glue we had was meant for PVC pipe and so didn’t work well with some of the paper components we had to glue. But we figured it out and got all of our rockets built, decorated, named, and prepped for launch tomorrow when we are done with the Sim.

While doing the rockets in the science dome we saw a caravan of cars and vans drive by on the main road in front of the HAB. This was a little disappointing as we were still in Sim and it kind of ruined the effect. Even more strange is that they were using walkie talkies as well and happened to pick the same channel we use for outside EVAs and we could hear their conversations. It turns out it was a photography workshop who wanted to do the class out here. Shannon was able to talk with them since they didn’t have a permit to be out there doing the class and they were using our channel. Luckily, they admitted to not having a permit and apologized, but hopefully this kind of thing won’t continually happen in the future (especially after Shannon’s article that just got posted on Besides that though, Shannon said the sets, props, and people were really cool!

Katie and Jen then got dinner prepped for us while the rest of us did some other work and did some cleaning. The dinner was absolutely fantastic! They used homemade tortillas to make a wonderful vegetarian enchilada. There’s no way to accurately describe it other than it was fantastic. I thought the explorer’s pie was good and then this was even better. After dinner was reports, cleaning, chores, and wind down time. It was such a great day on Mars!

Sol Summary #2 – November 3rd

Crew 260 Sol Summary Report 03-11-2021

Sol: 2

Summary Title: I found my thrill…

Author’s name: Jen Carver-Hunter

Mission Status: Nominal

Sol Activity Summary: The morning started with an EVA to collect the final geologic samples needed for our science objectives. We realized that our EVA (as planned) would leave the Hab manned with only one crew member, so David and Katie were chosen to remain at the Hab, but would be given the opportunity to complete their science objectives on a second EVA. EVA team 1 drove north on Cow Dung Rd, and easily maneuvered onto Brahe Hwy. After a short drive, we stopped to collect our geologic samples, and were thrilled to discover an entire hill covered with gryphaea. After collecting sufficient samples, we returned to rovers and headed back toward the Hab, stopping at a previously unexplored area between Brahe Hwy and Cowboy Corner. There we looked for “blueberries,” but were unsuccessful in meeting that objective. EVA team 1 returned to the Hab as planned at 1100. Once team 1 returned to the Hab, EVA team 2 prepared to leave. EVA team 2 followed the same route as team 1, but were more successful in finding “blueberries” in the previously unexplored area. EVA team 2 returned to the Hab with plenty of samples at 12:30. After a delicious lunch of “Explorer’s pie,” the crew continued sorting, categorizing, and labeling their geologic samples. Then, they built rockets!

Look Ahead Plan: Biosignature lesson with Dr Rupert, Biosignature fieldwork (out of sim), rocket launch (out of sim)

Anomalies in work: No anomalies

Weather: Sunny, warm, and pleasant

Crew Physical Status: All crew are healthy and strong. The injured knee has not gotten any worse, and the injured crew member continues to support the remaining crew as much as physically possible.

EVA: Geologic sample collection

Reports to be filed: Operations report, Journalist report

Support Requested: none at this time

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