Final Mission Report
Crew 274 (ARG-1M)
Crew Commander: Sarah “Ceres” Guthrie (USA)
Habitat Structure Specialist: Bill “Titan” O’Hara (USA)
Crew Engineer: Alexis “Kepler” Lojek (USA)
Crew Astronomer: Salina “Nova” Pena (USA)
Heliophysics: Noah “Phoenix” Loy (USA)
Crew Journalist: Tony “Iron Man” DiBernardo (USA)
Green Hab Officer: Tyler “Houston” Hines (USA)
Health and Safety Officer: Nicholas “XMan” Pender (USA)
MDRS Crew 274 is composed of eight members from a pioneering academic analog research group (ARG) from the American Public University System (APUS) under the designation ARG-1M. The APUS Analog Research Group (AARG) leads space study undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students in multidisciplinary scientific research investigations in analogous space environments. This crew aims to examine extra-vehicular (EVA) activity logistics, EVA contingency methodologies, mindfulness and focused breathing, cosmic seed studies, solar and variable star observations, and terrestrial spaceflight habitat efficiency.
Evaluating Contingency EVAs and Rescue Techniques for Planetary Surface Missions
Sarah E. Guthrie (“Ceres”), Commander
This study was aimed to understand and test an astronaut’s capability (mobility) to perform contingency extravehicular activities (EVA) of incapacitated astronauts during surface activities. The National Aeronautical and Space Administration’s Artemis program currently is evaluating the requirements for proper suit interface and methods for dealing with a surface contingency. This project looked to determine best practices for safe field extraction methods utilizing a medical sled and engineered assistive contingency rescue vest. It was developed through personal experiences gained by combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan while serving in the United States Air Force. Its goal was to test various techniques and methodologies through analog tours to understand rescue pitfalls which may develop successful EVA contingency rescue protocols for safer surface activities. While attending the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), Crew 274 exercised this study in the Gateway of Candor, simulating a fallen and incapacitated astronaut that could not be rescued by a rover. The astronaut, known as “KURT”, was used as a research tool for the crew to mimic this part of the study. While in the ravine, the crew carried out various rescue methods in combination with the assistance of the vest and medical sled for single and two-member rescues. The vest was engineered with multiple handles and hoist points to provide rescuers with options for different carrying positions, while being mindful of the limitations of wearing a pressurized space suit with a personal life support system. Once KURT was safely extracted from the fall point, crew members deployed the medical sled to return KURT to the safety of the rover. The rigorous test challenged the crew members and put into perspective the difficulty of performing such an act, even in full gravity. Analogs provide a setting to test these methods and devices under safer conditions. Understanding the unique challenges of human spaceflight activities and their inherit risks, allows analog researchers the opportunity to develop risk mitigation techniques which can save the lives of future astronauts.
Case Study of the MDRS Design as a Planetary Surface Habitat
William “Titan” O’Hara, Habitat Specialist
This case study contributes to a body of data that will be used to support future lunar habitat development at Blue Origin as well as part of a doctoral thesis on requirements for habitation on other extreme planetary surface environments. From the point of view of a crew member living within MDRS, this study evaluated a detailed review of the Musk Solar Observatory, Science Dome, Green Habitat, Repair Assembly Module (RAM), Habitat module (crew quarters) and connecting tunnels. In each case sketches were drawn with a detailed questionnaire built to systematically review each habitable space. The data collected captures characteristics such as layout, use-of-space, activity volume allocations, traffic flow, outfitting and stowage volumes. This review discovered the MDRS is a robust habitat with a formidable amount of volume and capability for research and crew comfort. The Science Dome provides an impressive amount of flexible workspace capable of accommodating several crew members working simultaneously. The Green Habitat is a large greenhouse adequate volume for plants and space to tend to them. The RAM is a well laid-out and well-outfitted workshop with ample amount of workspace. The Habitat module provides a comfortable living space for eight crewmembers with an exciting amount of flex space in the lower level. The layout of these spaces, and the tunnels connecting them, provides ease of traffic flow through the busy sols.
Stress Measurement and Potential Stress Mitigation Technique in Analog Astronaut Environments
Alexis “Kepler” Lojek, Crew Engineer
This study was a culmination of observations conducted across multiple analogs with three separate techniques for potential mitigation of stress, combined with a noninvasive, digital measurement of stress using a Garmin Vivosmart 4©, which measures stress levels based upon heart rate variability. The root of this study was formulated on the investigator’s depth of experience with the United States Navy Seals and the benefits of stress reduction methodologies in austere environments. For this observation, the first five sols of the mission no focused breathing was conducted, and stress levels were recorded using the Garmin© through heart rate variability. The focused breathing portion of the project began on the 6th day, the crew members were given instructional guidance on proper “focused breathing” before the initial session and then each time there after until the last day of the mission. The research’s hypothesis was to mitigate analog astronaut members’ stress with purposeful focused breathing sessions and ultimately reduce overall stress throughout mission. These techniques will be compared to the other two focused breathing observations conducted on previous analogs. At this time there are no preliminary findings on the reduction of stress for analog crew members as this study will continue its observations after they return home.
Generating Multi-bandpass Light Curve (LC) Data on HADS Variable Star V0799 AUR
Salina “Nova” Peña, Crew Astronomer
This research aimed to examine the fluctuating brightness of a High Amplitude Delta Scuti (HADS) Variable Star in the constellation Auriga, comparing the light curve with standard Scuti stars. During the mission, examination of the HADS Variable Star V0799 AUR was performed utilizing the MDRS-14 Robotic Telescope throughout 14 sols. Each night, the MDRS-14 telescope was attempted for use for three hours to observe HADS Variable Star V0799 AUR. The observations comprised of 30-second optical exposures using the BVRcIc filter set. One filter was used each iteration of observation night for a total of 2 nights (12 hours) of data per filter. Observations began each night, starting around 7:00 PM; the star was 30֯ – 40֯ above the horizon during observation. The Moon was in the waxing phase during the observations, with a separation of approximately 25֯-15֯ during the observing period. The darks and flats were provided (corresponding to each filter used) from the MDRS image library and was supported for imaging. This was then used to calibrate the images and gather data altogether. Conclusions from this project were challenging to obtain due to bad weather and the MDRS-14 telescope had technical issues. Because of these issues, MDRS provided access to an alternate MLC RCOS16 telescope to collect more images. However, the telescope experienced extreme weather conditions that impeded the collection of photos. From the four sols gathered (two sols on and off the mission), those images were calibrated, and there was a slight fluctuation in the variability of the HADS Variable Star V0799 AUR (See chart below). The continuation of this research will be done outside the facility to obtain sufficient data.
Observing Heliophysics Phenomena
Noah “Phoenix” Loy, Heliophysics
Throughout Crew 274’s mission, Astronomers Loy and Pena observed a broad scope of detailed heliophysics phenomena. This data will be collaborated with the United States Air Force 557th Space Weather Wing and United States Space Force’s Space Domain Awareness Delta to support further space weather awareness. This research will also support Space Forces Combat Development Team risk mitigation plans for orbital assets. Bulk data sets were collected on solar dark spots, solar chromosphere convection cells, granules, solar prominences, and magnetic spheres visualized by solar vortexes A total of two large prominences were observed wrapping around solar magnetic fields, just before coronal mass ejections were registered by NOAA blasting away. 24 large solar prominences and 44 solar dark spots were observed in total. These observations are beneficial in the analysis of solar cycle 25, implications of space weather on orbital assets, space operation plans needed to safeguard these assets, and the benefits heliophysics expertise on-site at Martian Habitats. In addition to these observations, 520,000 images were captured in total, with 90,000 images of solar spots and prominences were stacked, measured, and analyzed thus far.
Media Collection and Public Outreach
Anthony “Iron Man” DiBernardo Crew Journalist
Crew Journalist DiBernardo’s goal for ARG-1M was to increase public outreach through media collection and edited productions published each day. These publications include daily video logs published to our Youtube channel in real time as well as experiment spotlight videos and a full-length documentary which will be edited and published after the mission ends. Additionally, all the footage collected during the mission will be utilized and repurposed to create educational content teaching the general public about analog astronauts and habitats, APUS, MDRS, and human spaceflight in general. Footage collected from all aspects of the mission including the supply cache experiment, observing and maintaining the solar observatory and GreenHab, rescuing K.U.R.T. from the field, analyzing HADS variable star images, measuring and reviewing the functionality of the Habitat, conducting the daily, group focused breathing exercises, and individual interviews with each crew member as well as hours of EVA footage of the astronauts hiking in the local terrain. Additionally, the simulation was paused on Sol 8 to conduct 11 live broadcast events with family, friends, elementary and middle school classrooms, SpaceX employees, a Civil Air Patrol, and a public broadcast. We welcomed over 300 participants over all 11 broadcasts and answered over 60 questions, having the entire crew on camera for over seven hours throughout the day.
Germination Study of Long-Duration Space-Exposed Seeds in Simulated Martian Regolith
Tyler “Houston” Hines, GreenHab Officer
This research focused on studying the initial germination effects of long-duration space-exposed tomato seeds flown aboard the Earth-orbiting Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) from 1984-1990 in a combined Martian regolith simulant to provide further understanding of the durability of high-nutrient seeds after extended exposure to the space environment. A secondary study related to nutrient-rich microgreen germination in similar Martian simulant regolith was also conducted with the intention to provide a broader scope of useful data on the applications of growing microgreens on future crewed Martian missions. Following initial setup of both experiments on Sol 1, general maintenance and observational data of each seed set, including the growth tent environmental information and related information was recorded multiple times per sol, in addition to consistent nutrient-rich watering to further support the germination process. Beginning on Sol 3, the first evidence of germination was noted in the cress and broccoli microgreen set, with only the cress continuing to flourish considerably until harvest on Sol 9. Overall, while the highest rate of successful germination was shown in the cress microgreen set, the remaining broccoli, beets, and arugula showed evidence of notable yet lesser rates of germination, thereby providing a broader scope of understanding in microgreen germination in simulated Martian regolith and related studies. With regard to the primary LDEF seed sets, three pre-selected packets were officially opened and planted separately from the microgreens ranging from four to five seeds per cell to maximize growth opportunities. Similar to the secondary experiment, each LDEF seed set was given constant watering of nutrient-rich solutions, maintained and documented. In a major breakthrough, official evidence of germination was noted on Sol 9, marking a significant advancement in the understanding of the durability and sustainable germination capabilities of crops and plants in future Martian gardens. Additionally, only this particular seed continued to flourish throughout the remainder of mission operations. As an added surprise, it was discovered upon the conclusion of the mission that several other seeds also germinated, with some germinating significantly more than the first on Sol 6. though the culminative obtained data of all seed sets progress provided an adequate foundation of understanding for future studies.
Supply Cache Use for Extension of Human Exploration on Mars
Nicholas “Xman” Pender, Health and Safety Officer
The goal of this study was to demonstrate the use of a supply caches to extend human exploration on the Moon and Mars. The short-term goal was to identify solutions that will make supply cache use feasible and relevant to analog EVA research while the long-term goal is to gain a better understanding of constraints in the Lunar and Martian EVA environment and how supply cache concepts can improve the safety of these missions. The research concept was developed over the technical expertise and concepts adapted by the experiences gained by the principal investigator’s service in United States Air Force as a logistics technician. Research at MDRS was carried out over five phases. The first phase identified a baseline distance and pace of travel while in MDRS spacesuits. It also tested the ability to consume water and gel packs in spacesuit gear. The second phase proved the ability to deploy a supply cache in the field. The third phase was used to ensure the supply cache was reliable for future EVAs. The fourth phase comprised of a 3-hour hike to demonstrate the use of a supply cache in an emergency scenario. This was a demonstration of a sustainment exercise, proving the concept that supply caches can be resupplied in an analog environment. The fifth phase demonstrated the ability to redeploy caches to new locations. In the case of this mission, the cache was redeployed back to the MDRS habitat. The following temperature readings proved the cache was effective at maintaining warm temperatures throughout the frigid evenings. Future research will look to scale up this proven concept.
Crew 274 closes this mission as the first analog mission to attend the Mars Desert Research Station on behalf of American Public University and American Military University and quite possibly, the first for an online institution. A sincere gratitude to the many supporters which have made this mission possible for the last two years. We want to personally thank the American Public University Grant Office, the Center for Space Studies, APUS Analog Research Group and faculty Advisor, Dr. Kristen Miller, Flight Director Terry Trevino, and the unwavering love and support from our families, friends, colleagues, and mentors. Finally, we thank the Mars Society and the Mission Support Team at the Mars Desert Research Station for the opportunity to conduct our many research projects which we hope will lead humanity to Mars and beyond.