Mars Desert Research Station
Crew 290 – Project MADMEN
Jan 7th – Jan 20th, 2024
Commander and Health and Safety Officer: Madelyn Hoying
Executive Officer and Health and Safety Officer: Rebecca McCallin
Crew Scientist: Anja Sheppard
Green Hab Officer: Benjamin Kazimer
Crew Engineer: Anna Tretiakova
Crew Journalist: Wing Lam (Nicole) Chan
Title: Project MADMEN
Author(s): Madelyn Hoying and Rebecca McCallin, with full-crew participation
Objectives: Our mission objective is to identify and characterize microbial life via metabolic assays based on the sulfur cycle.
Summary: Soil samples have been collected from 8 field sites with diverse geologic profiles that indicate potential for microbial activity. Measurements in the field include salinity, temperature, and ATP readings at surface level, 3-inch depth, and 6-inch depth at each site. Starting on EVA 07, pH measurements are also conducted in the field at surface and 6-inch depth. In the Science Dome, these samples are diluted and incubated in our novel microfluidic device to promote microbial growth for detection, then flushed after 24 hours to investigate through microscopy, with our first set of samples showing growth. pH measurements are taken of the soil samples in a dilution with various salts found on Mars that could also promote metabolic activity of extremophiles. The crew targeted evaluation of at least 6 sample sites, and met this target.
EVAs: 6 (EVA 04, 06, 07, 08, 09, 11). One field site (EVA 04) was collected from a member of the Curtis foundation, where gypsum and sandstone were prominent under a smectite bed indicating a depositional environment with water followed by a period of dry climate. EVA 06 resulted in 2 field sites: one from a valley between two Brushy Basin members with evidence of anhydrite, to contrast with another collection site in a dried riverbed with conglomerate oyster reefs. EVA 07 saw sample collection in alternating siltstone and mudstone bands with gypsum deposits, with field pH measurements introduced into the procedure. EVAs 08-11 expanded the geologic diversity of our sample sites.
Title: Evaluating Psychosocial Impacts of Mars Mission Architectures
Author: Madelyn Hoying
Objectives: This project seeks to compare psychosocial interactions among crew and emergency response capabilities between Mars mission architectures. Results from this single-site architecture test will be compared to previous dual-site architecture experiments developed and tested by MIT.
Summary: As noted in the mid-mission report, the on-site investigator does not read questionnaire results while participating in the analog mission; as such, a “current status” check can only show the number of completed surveys. All participants have been submitting daily surveys, with one participant having missed one survey.
EVAs: None (although EVA inputs from other projects are valuable to the study).
Title: Ground Penetrating Radar for Martian Rovers
Author: Anja Sheppard, PhD Candidate in Robotics at the University of Michigan Field Robotics Group (PI: Katie Skinner)
Summary: This project is aimed at characterizing novel uses of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) for Martian applications. GPR is a sensor often used for understanding subsurface features, such as water deposits and geologic formations. There is currently a radar sensor on the Perseverance rover on Mars. However, very little work combines GPR with other sensor modalities, such as stereoscopic cameras. This research project utilized a custom data collection robotic platform titled REMI (Robotic Explorer for Martian Imagery) to explore various terrains and geologic sites in the MDRS area with a suite of sensors. Over the course of the field expedition, REMI collected about a terabyte of camera, GPR, positional data at a total of 48 sites. This data will be further processed by the University of Michigan Field Robotics Group for training machine learning models after the expedition is complete.
Despite a challenging shipping experience from Michigan to Utah, the robotic platform REMI performed well in the field. Only one EVA had an unrecoverable issue. Any minor issues with the platform were solvable in the field with EVA suits and gloves on. REMI was also transportable in the MDRS rovers, which enlarged the data collection radius considerably. One challenge was the reduced battery life of the robot and its sensors due to the cold weather. In terms of diversity of collection sites, REMI was able to meet its data collection targets.
EVAs: 8 (03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 11).