Mission Summary – January 19th

Mars Desert Research Station

End-of-Mission Report

Crew 290 – Project MADMEN

Jan 7th – Jan 20th, 2024

Crew Members:

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

Crew Projects:

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).

Mission Summary – January 19th

Crew 290 Mission Summary
19 Jan 2024
Crew Members:
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

Mission Plan:

Project MADMEN (Martian Analysis and Detection of Microbial Environments) is an analog-based proof-of-concept adaptation of Project ALIEN, an exploration class mission concept to discover life on the surface of Mars and to study adaptation of microorganisms to the Martian environment as proposed to the 2020 NASA RASC-AL Challenge. Project ALIEN consists of a two-part plan to study the ability of microbes to adapt to the harsh conditions of the Martian surface, while simultaneously conducting a search for Martian life.

Proposed experiments for Project MADMEN, the two-week analog-based adaptation of Project ALIEN, primarily consist of conducting on-site field tests of geological samples aimed towards searching for life on Martian surface. To do this, a series of extravehicular activities (EVAs) were conducted to collect soil samples and test (while on the EVA at the sampling site) for evidence of potential signs of life. Field testing focused on detection of bacterial energy metabolism based on sulfur cycle, carbon cycle, and ATP synthesis. The entire Crew 290 team will work on Project MADMEN’s scientific goals.

Additional Crew 290 studies include psychosocial investigations and the use of ground penetrating radar. The psychosocial investigation seeks to compare 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. The ground penetrating rover study, run by the University of Michigan, 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.

Crew Activities:
Sol 1 and 2 saw the first three EVAs, with training completed and initiation of REMI data collection by the end of sol 2. After some initial hiccups with the pH meter, the crew settled into the science and field operations associated with conducting Project MADMEN at MDRS. Field procedures flowed smoothly and Science Dome analysis established signs of microbial life, much to the excitement of the crew. The crew had plenty of fun too! Sol 3 introduced call signs for Melon (Madelyn), Chopper (Rebecca), Freebee (Anja), Funk (Ben), Roots (Anna), and PODO (Nicole). We spent time sewing on mission patches, playing games, doing gymnastics training, and exploring plenty of teambuilding activities. Stargazing in the observatory was a consistent favorite, and late-night team bonding forged strong friendships that will last well beyond the end of mission.

Mission Summary – January 5th

Mars Desert Research Station
Mission Summary

Crew 289 – Deimos
Dec 25th, 2023 – Jan 6th, 2023

Crew Members:
Commander: Adriana Brown
Executive Officer and Crew Journalist: Sara Paule
Crew Geologist: Eshaana Aurora
Crew Engineer: Nathan Bitner
Health and Safety Officer and Crew Astronomer: Gabriel Skowronek
Green Hab Officer and Crew Biologist: Riya Raj
Crew Scientist: Aditya Arjun Anibha
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Crew 289 is thankful for the critical support of the following individuals associated with the Mars Society and Management of MDRS: President of the Mars Society, Dr. Robert Zubrin, who endorsed Purdue Crew 288 and 289 serving at MDRS this season; MDRS Director Sergii Yakimov, who assisted us in-situ, trained us, and answered our many, many questions; Director of Observatories Peter Detterline, who assisted our crew astronomer with imaging, analysis, and guidance all throughout preparation and mission; Scott Davis at the NorCal Mars Society for his assistance with troubleshooting EVA suits during mission; Mars Society Executive Director James Burk; Director of Media and Public Relations Michael Stoltz; MDRS IT Coordinator Bernard Dubb; and Senior Director of Analog Research Dr. Shannon Rupert. Additionally, we could not have done this without the support of our institutions – Purdue University and the University of Michigan. We wish in particular to thank Dr. Kshitij Mall and Purdue Mission Support staff, all of the faculty who supported us in our research and crew selection; and our home departments. Additionally, we could not serve at MDRS without financial support so our deepest gratitude goes to our external and internal sponsors, who made our participation financially possible. We are additionally thankful to the previous Purdue crews whose legacy has paved the way for our participation at MDRS and also our friends and families who loved us enough to willingly accept minimal contact with us throughout the winter holidays.

Mission description and outcome:
MDRS Crew 289 “Deimos”, twin of mission 288 “Phobos”, is the seventh all-Purdue crew at MDRS. Crew 289 was a diverse crew; it comprised undergraduate, Master’s, and PhD students. The students represented the departments of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Civil Engineering, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Mechanical Engineering, Astronomy and Physics, Communications, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Aeronautics and Aerospace Engineering. The crew completed eleven EVAs during their rotation at MDRS and made successful progress on all research objectives. The crew maintained a high fidelity simulation by practices such as relying on the Martian stores of food, restricting communications to set windows, and formulating a water budget and conserving the resource for strictly necessary activities. Interpersonally, the crew strengthened their relationships and camaraderie, as evidenced by the call signs developed during the mission, collection of quotable moments, and many cheerful evenings spent on the upper deck.

Summary of Extravehicular Activities (EVA):
After being trained in the use of rovers and in the safety protocols for EVA, the crew had eleven excursions during rotation 289, two of which being the traditional short EVAs to Marble Ritual. The remaining EVAs were long excursions, where the crew greatly maximized time usage, especially the time spent walking and performing field activities, LiDAR scanning, and robotic/drone image capture and maneuverability tests which was on average 85.18% of the total EVA time. The EVAs reached areas in the Tununk Shale (Hab Ridge), Morrison Formation (mostly along Cow Dung Rd), Dakota Sandstone (Candor Chasma), and looked into the Jurassic Strata (White Rock Canyon). The EVA served multiple research projects and was used to train crew members who were inexperienced in geologic field work, remote communication and LiDAR scanning.

Table 1. Summary of EVA, indicating Sol of execution, total duration and distance covered, time and distance spent walking and performing activities, and time percentage spent on site and walking.

Map 1. Satellite map of the EVAs performed by MDRS 289 crew and of the Station points where samples were collected

Summary of GreenHab Activities
The GreenHab is the best part of the entire MDRS campus. It was a place for me to provide the best care to all the adorable little plants. When I first came in, I noticed that Crew 289’s GHO did a fantastic job in setting the foundation for most of the veggie plants such as the carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes. My work in the GreenHab ensures proper growth for the plants that are now within their intermediate growth stage. The broccoli and radishes were replanted into a larger pot since they will be growing deeper roots. The carrots were replanted with small doses of the organic and MiracleGro fertilizer to allow the roots to set in place. The new planted spinach, onion, and mint should also be sprouting their little seeds soon. To keep the humidity at a proper level, adding cling wrap helps. Just ensure that air is still coming in to avoid mold and fungus. Composting the produce waste like orange peels, leftover dehydrated food, and old leaves are a good way to keep up with recycling and they act as a natural fertilizer for the plants. It is kept in a separate pot for now. The journey of the GreenHab ended with rearranging the gloves, tools, and plants. An updated inventory list of the veggies that are already planted is taped on the static tank to ensure that unnecessary plants are not added. Finally, to make the greenhouse more colorful, consider adding some flowers.

Science Summary
Our crew of 7 worked on a total of 11 projects during our time at MDRS. EVA-related research included geological-based paleoclimate investigations; LiDAR scanning of local terrain by hand, extended monopod, and also by drone; and locomotion testing of the Electronic LeapFrog (E.L.F), a transformable origami robot with and without drone assist. The remaining 8 projects were completed within the habitat and included remote sensing, dust monitoring, air quality monitoring, astronomical investigations, human factors research examining skills usage, review of past crew reports, and two agricultural based projects – one on understanding agrivoltaics and the other examining the effects of stress on plant growth. Crew 289 is pleased with our research progress – each member made substantial progress on their projects during the mission. The breadth of projects spanned multiple engineering specialties, such as aerospace, electrical, biological, mechanical, computer, and civil as well as the fields of communications, psychology, geology, agriculture, and astronomy.

Crew Projects:

Project 1
Title: Remote Station Monitoring
Author: Nathan Bitner
Description, activities, and results: The goal of this project is to provide MDRS crew and mission control with air quality data and airlock statuses from the MDRS station. Through work conducted by Purdue crews 288 and 289, two air quality modules have been created that successfully send information to an adafruit dashboard. This dashboard can then be accessed remotely by those with the account information. The software for these boards, and all the others to be deployed, is on the GitHub page https://github.com/bitNathan/MDRS_monitoring_overlay/tree/main made for this project. More technical details and documentation can also be found there.
Each module uses a Raspberry Pi Pico W board to send data to the dashboard and control the connected sensors. Each board currently measures temperature, CO2, VOC, ozone, and PM2.5 particles using separate sensors that were purchased before the mission. The Raspberry Pi then automatically uploads a snapshot of this data to the dashboard hourly.
Shipping delays and technical difficulties prevented full deployment of some air quality sensors during this rotation, and other difficulties with the board themselves prevented full deployment over our intended timeline. Our idea to use battery packs made from AA batteries connected together works, but it is labor intensive to make these packs and they provide, at best, power for only two weeks of operational use. In the future, switching to power via wall fixture or rechargeable batteries that can be routinely rotated would provide a permanent solution. In addition, an unknown connection error appeared roughly halfway through crew 289’s rotation which prevented long term testing.
In the future, Purdue plans on continuing this project to complete what was started by these two crews including full air quality and airlock status deployment in addition to adding monitoring for EVA suit charges, water level detection, and online crew logs and schedules. All of these are possible using equipment already at the station, aside from wire, LEDs, resistors, casing, and long-term battery solutions.

Figure 1. Adafruit dashboard consisting of air quality data collected from MDRS habitat. Top) The main dashboard screen shown here is highly configurable, but for testing it contains just one plot of all the air quality data from one sensor module. This can be expanded to include other rooms as well as other information. Bottom) The adafruit website refers to a stream of data as a feed. In this image we can see the feeds from our first prototype air quality module grouped together by the location that they are intended to monitor.

Project 2
Title: Recording Dust Levels in the HAB
Author(s): Gabriel Skowronek
Description, activities, and results: The objective of this project involved qualitatively tracking the amount of dust that settles down on surfaces throughout the Habitat. Several sites were chosen throughout the Hab, including both the upper and lower deck. In the lower deck, the top shelf of the comms station and the black cabinet underneath the first aid station were of interest. In the upper deck, the comms station surface and the top of the kitchen cabinets were chosen. Samples of dust were collected by swabbing the surfaces with a moistened cotton swab and subsequently observed using a handheld magnifier. Initially, the surfaces were thoroughly cleaned with wet wipes to obtain a clean baseline to track further dust accumulation over time. Swabbing was then conducted every 2-3 days, with observations like number of particulates, relative size and color being recorded in journal entries. Furthermore, amounts of dust were compared between other locations swabbed the same day. Based on these relative amounts, it was fairly clear that there is a noticeably larger amount of dust particulate buildup in the lower deck of the hab, with the top of the comms station having the most dust particles than any other area. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of the observed dust was composed of fine, dark fibers of unknown origin. There were also few light colored particles present in swabbing samples (presumably dirt from outside). There was also a white sheet of paper that was left untouched on the lowest shelf near the stairwell of the Hab, which served as a good background to easily spot the total amount of dust that accumulated over a two week period. Because it was not swabbed or otherwise disturbed until Jan. 05, it served as a good comparison with the other areas of the lower deck. The type and amount of dust present on the white paper was similar to the other swabbed areas of the lower deck at the end of the rotation.

Project 3
Title: Astronomy on Mars
Author(s): Gabriel Skowronek
Description, activities, and results: This project involved two distinct objectives: 1) Determining the period of variation of the Cepheid variable star, SW Tauri and 2) capturing impressive images of deep sky objects for outreach purposes. For the first mentioned project, the RCOS-16 remote telescope was used to take one or two 20-second exposures of SW Tauri each night (with weather permitting). Furthermore, since it was of no interest to process these images in color, only the visual filter was used. To determine the magnitudes, the program AfterGlow was used because of its simplified process. The alternative but more rigorous process in AstroImageJ was not used because of the steeper learning curve which was difficult to tackle with the time constraints and limited internet access for troubleshooting. To obtain more accurate measurements of intensities, the process in AstroImageJ will be implemented post-MDRS. The final step will include plotting the intensity measurements against time to determine the period of variation. Preliminarily, the period seems to be approximately 48 hours, which matches expectations. The second objective aimed to capture color images of M1 (Crab Nebula) and M42 (Orion Nebula). An image of M1 was taken on the MDRS-WF, with RGBLH filters being used with exposures of 75 sec, 150 sec, 300 sec, 150 sec and 300 sec, respectively. This proved to produce an overexposed image so an updated imaging request was sent with smaller exposure times. Due to technical difficulties with the MDRS-WF, this image was not able to be retaken. Similarly, M42 was also not able to be imaged. It is expected that once the difficulties with the MDRS-WF are addressed, the images will be taken and processed remotely.
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Figure 2. (A): An image taken using the RCOS-16, with emphasis shown on the variable star, SW Tauri, and the comparison star with well documented and stable intensity. (B): A processed image of M1 (Crab Nebula) taken using the MDRS-WF.

Project 4
Title: Comparison of Self-selection Traits versus Skill Utilization by Mars Colonists
Author(s): Sara Paule
Description, Activities, and Results: The intention of this project was to examine the skills (e.g., flexibility, leadership, communication, problem-solving, domestic skills, etc.) most used by “colonists” in their day-to-day activities at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) versus their ratings of importance pre- and post-mission. The pre-mission survey was collected via Qualtrics, as will be the post-mission survey, which will be distributed to everyone the week after the mission ends.
During the mission, the crew completed daily surveys from Sol 1 (December 25, 2023) and will complete their final survey today, Sol 12 (January 5, 2024). These were completed at the end of the mission day as planned and converted to digital format the following day.
Data will be analyzed post-mission after completion of the post-mission survey. As of this moment, I can note that there is wide variability among “colonists” in their daily skill usage responses. However, a few kills are more uniformly used. Excepting Sol 12 data, this includes Q2 knowledge – to learn and contribute valuable knowledge (M = 7.2, SD = 1.5), Q13 prioritization – determining task order based upon multiple completion criteria (M = 7.8, SD = 1.5), and Q17 problem-solving – to identify an issue and alternatives for addressing said issue (M = 7.6, SD = 1.5). Most skills were used semi-regularly with the exception of Q6 risk – to take risks and chances (M = 4.0, SD = 1.5).
This is a very small sample size so the research would benefit from additional participants. Future research might include a question about whether or not the individual participated in an EVA that day to ascertain if there is a difference in skill usage for days when on EVA versus remaining at the Habitat.

Project 5
Title: Establishing Best Practices in Mission Reporting from Prior Crew Reports
Author(s): Sara Paule
Description, Activities, and Results: Objectives were to examine past reports to begin to establish best practices by gaining an understanding of common content within prior reports, Specific aims included: 1) establish the average word length of the various report styles, 2) examine whether crew members are most often referenced by surname/family name, given name, or both, and 3) determine common subject matters within reports, such as references to meals, sleep, showering, etc.
Pre-mission all the reports for the past calendar year were downloaded from the MDRS Reports webpage. A sample from each mission of the last year uploaded to the reports repository for both the Journalist Report and Sol Summaries were randomly selected for analysis from the reporting repository. Additionally, random samples of the Journalist Report and Sol Summaries were pulled from the emails of the prior crew (288) that were received pre-mission. In total, 15 crews were identified during that time period and 14 Journalist and 12 Sol reports were acquired using the aforementioned methods.
Word length and character length have been calculated for each.
Length in words: Journalist Report (M = 322, SD = 112) and Sol Summary (M = 377, SD = 259).
Length in characters: Journalist Report (M = 2180, SD = 661) and Sol Summary (M = 2184, SD = 1474).
There was comparable word length and character length though greater variability in the Sol Summary than the Journalist Report.
When it comes to referring to personnel, there is no consistency in reference style. Roles are included only about half the time. Referring to astronauts by first name only is the most common (6 occurrences in each report style), which is higher than surname/family name only (2 occurrences in the Journalist Reports and only 1 in the Sol Summaries) or full names (2 per Journalist and 3 per Sol).
On topicality, references to crew scientific endeavors are by far the most common in both (12 of 14 in the Journalist Reports and 9 of 12 in Sol Summaries). Meals are the second most mentioned topic in each (10 of 14 in the Journalist Reports and 6 of 12 in Sol Summaries) but the Sol Summaries mention relaxation activities as often as meals (6 times out of 12). Those serving as journalists are more likely to discuss ethereal matters, for instance discussing the beauty of the landscape (5 mentions versus 1) or feelings about the experience (8 versus 3 mentions) than those writing the more practically focused Sol Summaries.
A more thorough examination could be conducted by reviewing additional samples from within the same year and/or extending inclusion beyond the past calendar year. Additional report types remain to be analyzed.

Project 6
Title: Martian analog paleotemperature reconstruction
Author(s): Adriana Brown
Description, Activities, and Results: With the onset of cutting-edge geochemistry, the temperature and dynamics of ancient water systems can be determined better than ever before. Performing analysis on carbonates will be essential to understanding climate history on Mars due to their power to record water temperature and isotopic composition – abiotic factors that determine essential biological controls, such as oxygenation and environmental habitability. This project collected sediment and Gryphaea samples from the Tununk Shale to study the coastline of the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway during the Turonian stage. The samples collected will provide information about the temperature of the seaway during the time the Gryphaea lived using carbonate clumped isotopes, where the carbonate is sourced from the bivalves and, if needed for higher resolution, foraminifera in the sediment samples. Carbonate clumped isotopes measure the frequency of “heavy” isotopes of oxygen and carbon to be bonded together within the carbonate ion – a temperature-dependent process. These paleotemperature results will be integrated into my wider thesis research which aims to reconstruct latitudinal temperature gradients of the Western Interior Seaway – an important control on climate sensitivity.
The objectives of this project were to (1) sample a measured section of sediments up the side of Hab Ridge, (2) identify the percent of carbonate present in sediments, (3) collect Pycnodonte fossils from the Tununk shale near Hab Ridge for carbonate clumped isotope analysis, (4) identify bentonite presence and frequency within the Tununk Shale, and (5) catalog and prepare gryphaea samples for drilling. 90 Gryphaea fossils have been collected from two sites on Hab Ridge and one site from the upper strata of White Rock Canyon. The first Hab Ridge fossil collection site was characterized by a medium to coarse grained quartz-rich sand, containing chert, sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone pebbles. Site one also contained many calcite crystalline structures within the loosely-consolidated sands. The oysters found at this location exhibited recrystallization of calcite and large amounts of sand cemented onto the fossils. Site two was described as a very fine grained, approximately 12 cm thick silt deposit which was black, gray, and dark purple in color. The fossils were smaller than site one and better preserved with no evidence of sand cement. Some streaks of white to light yellow sediment were found throughout site two, interpreted as bentonite material. The collection site at White Rock Canyon occurred along both sides of Cow Dung Road, and were found embedded in the surficial layer of sediment. The Gryphaea at this site were the largest of all collected and the best preserved, with original color and well-defined growth plates intact. The nature of this deposit, i.e. whether these samples were collected in-place or after being transported, will need to be further examined based on the stratigraphy of that area. Additionally, several bentonite “swarm” locations have been noted, with beds documented at Barrainca Butte and sampled at Hab Ridge. These locations will be compared to other published bentonite data so that the age of the samples collected can be constrained.
In the Science Dome, all samples were cleaned, labeled with a sample ID, and cataloged, thereby ready to return to Earth for geochemical analysis at the University of Michigan’s Stable Isotope Facility. 93 1.0 mL sediment samples from two measured sections of Hab Ridge were documented, representing over 150 ft of strata. The sediment samples were labeled and cataloged according to stratigraphic height and site of section. The carbonate percent weight experiment utilized select samples from these sections and the sediment matrix which the Gryphaea were collected from. The sediments were weighed, then dissolved in 0.1 M HCl., and then weighed again. Based on the results from this experiment, it was found that the clay-rich, darkly colored silt that was present at the base of a Hab Ridge section and from the second site of fossil collection had the greatest percent carbonate at 48.37%. The first Hab Ridge fossil yielded a carbonate weight percent of 16.08%. A sediment sample interpreted as a bentonite yielded a 29.24% carbonate weight percent.

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Figure 3. (A): Gryphaea fossil specimen collected from White Rock Canyon. (B): Riya, Adriana, and Gabe collecting sediment samples at Hab Ridge.

Project 7
Title: Mars Exploration by Origami Robot and Drone Scouting or Transportation
Author(s): Aditya Arjun Anibha
Description, activities, and results: Objectives of this study were to apply the concept of transformable origami robots that can exhibit multiple types of locomotion and test their ability to supplement Martian exploration. Investigating the feasibility of transporting the robot using drone and scouting locations of interest prior to exploration was also conducted.
During EVA 3 to Pooh’s Corner, the drone was tested for its carrying capacity within stability limits using a cardboard box container carrying rocks with a suspended transparent fishing line harness to avoid sensor interference and to keep the payload at safer proximity than taping it onto the drone. It was able to carry up to 350 grams before wobbling due to swinging or when directly underneath the drone’s height sensor. The drone would therefore be better used to support the robot rather than carry it due to weight limits.
During EVA 7 to Cowboy Corner, the robot was tested for its ability to traverse mild rocky, uneven and sloped terrain with varied distributions of rocks between 1 cm to 3 cm in diameter. It successfully traveled at a speed of 0.3 m/s for 8 meters in its closed wheel configuration and 57 meters in its open wheel configuration, while supported by a tugging string to lighten its weight to simulate Martian conditions. It climbed three mounds with slope angles varying up to a maximum of 20 degrees.
During EVA 8 to Candor Chasma, the robot traversed two hills of distances 13 meters and 32 meters respectively over mixed rocky and sandy terrain with highly uneven characteristics with the maximum slope angle up to 45 degrees.
Across EVAs and in the Hab, the robot was tested using peristaltic motion with its transformable and controlled origami body as well as jumping about 5 cm allowing it to overcome small obstacles and travel in complex terrain unsuitable for wheels. The robot’s total scale-measured mass on Earth is about 1.5 kg. Its effective scale-measured mass reduced to around 0.9 kg when vertically tugged or supported, which is higher than its expected scale-measured mass on Mars of 0.6 kg. Therefore, we can determine that it would operate freely without the need for a tug-assist on Mars and is an effective method of exploration for uneven terrain that wheeled vehicles cannot traverse safely.

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Figure 4. A transformable origami robot with multiple modes of locomotion undergoing tests at a hill near Cowboy Corner, traversing a rocky mound in its open-wheel climbing configuration.

Project 8
Title: Miniaturized Martian Agrivoltaics
Author(s): Eshaana Aurora
Description, activities, and results: Objectives of this project were to 1) comprehensively test the impact of solar and artificial irradiation on crop yields within an enclosed, module-like environment and 2) to understand the feasibility of a miniaturized agrivoltaic farm within the MDRS Greenhab.
The mini farm was successfully assembled in a discreet corner of the Greenhab. Low humidity in the Greenhab was addressed with a makeshift solution—cling wrap placed on top of pots secured by rubber bands with a few open spots for ventilation. Once the saplings had sprouted, the cling wrap was removed, allowing the plants to breathe with higher frequency watering rounds. Notably, the results highlighted that the fully shaded Kale began sprouting around Sol 6, while Bermuda grass seedlings emerged during Sol 9. The findings also underscored that the most robust seed growth occurred in the fully and partially shaded regions, exhibiting more shoots compared to the non-shaded ones, which displayed lower performance as indicated in Figure X.
Following successful troubleshooting and error management, the Arduino and sensors, including temperature, IV Tracer, and solar irradiation sensors, were fully operational for the last few Sols. Each technical issue encountered was meticulously documented, and the datasets were uploaded to a Google Folder. The only dataset that proved elusive was the tracking of shadow depth across a specific Sol, owing to camera problems and cloudy weather at the culmination of our mission.
Importantly, the results indicate the potential advantages of an integrated Agriculture and Photovoltaic (AV) greenhouse module system over separate configurations. The presence of panels and shade not only influenced the microclimate of the plants but also demonstrated the capability to protect plants from the harsh solar radiation on Mars. This underscores the feasibility of an AV system, making it a crucial consideration for optimizing Martian colonization efforts. As we look towards the future of extraterrestrial habitation, the integration of agricultural and solar technologies emerges as a strategic imperative for sustaining life on Mars.

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Figure 5. Mini Agrivoltaic Farm with the three different shaded sections- Full shade [FS] (bottom left), Partial shade [PS] (middle left) with 45° angled panels to limit sunlight, and No shade [NS] (top left). Kale was planted on the left row of the mini farm and C4 Bermuda grass was planted on the right. The fully shaded plants performed far better than the non shaded ones further fortifying the feasibility of mini AV farms on space greenhouse modules.

Project 9
Title: Image Scanning of MDRS Campus and Surrounding Terrain
Author(s): Riya Raj
Description, activities, and results: Goals for this project were to evaluate the LiDAR, Photo, Room, and 360 Scan modes on IOS Polycam. Obtaining proper visual structures of surrounding terrain is important for expansion and development. For the mission, my project utilized Polycam on IOS to help get terrain structures of the MDRS Campus and nearby areas. Since MDRS is a growing program, we should also look into things that will help with further research! For example, our recent crew EVAs were helpful in identifying large terrain and flat terrain that could potentially be used for solar farming or other habitats. My album includes 500+ scans of the MDRS campus, flat plains, and major structures of Hab Ridge, Kissing Camel, Candor Chasma, etc. This lets us know what exists and what things could be improved for development. Most scans showcase layering, formations, and structure of the terrain. LiDAR also helps with hazard assessments to scan what large rocks could pose a threat in areas of frequent visitors. Within the field of Civil Engineering, such scanning can also help the Earth and people. We can experiment on solutions that can help preserve our beautiful planet while creating the best living places for people/wildlife to thrive!

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Figure 6. Left Figure: MDRS Campus, Middle Figure: Terrain Scan of Hab Ridge, Right Figure: White Rock Canyon Elevated Structure

Project 10

Title: Oxidative Stress Simulation with Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) in Kale Seed Hydroponics
Author: Riya Raj
Description, activities, and results: This project aimed to simulate the effects of UV radiation on plants to research more into sustainability and bioregenerative methods.
Hydroponics is a good example of controlled agricultural practices that can help increase plant growth rates and health. During my time at MDRS, I have been using 12-hour intervals with a control vs. variable experiment. The variable experiment includes the addition of H2O2 with the hydroponics module to compare the plant roots and leaves. Supporting data and conclusions will come from:
1) Image scans of the roots/leaves
2) Monitoring the water pH/temp, surrounding temp/humidity
3) Plant cell structure comparisons with microscope views.
Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) can induce oxidative stress in cells through its role as a reactive oxygen species (ROS). Reactive oxygen species are highly reactive molecules that contain oxygen and include species such as superoxide radicals (O2•−), hydroxyl radicals (•OH), and hydrogen peroxide itself. These species can cause damage to various cellular components, including lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids.
Here’s how hydrogen peroxide can induce oxidative stress:
Formation of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS): When hydrogen peroxide is present in cells, it can undergo reactions to generate other more reactive ROS, such as hydroxyl radicals. This often occurs in the presence of metal ions like iron or copper, which can participate in Fenton and Haber-Weiss reactions. These reactions involve the conversion of hydrogen peroxide to hydroxyl radicals, which are particularly potent oxidizing agents.
H2O2 + Fe2+ → •OH + OH- + Fe3+
Oxidation of Biomolecules: Once generated, ROS can react with and oxidize various cellular components. For example:
Lipid Peroxidation: ROS can attack and damage lipid membranes, leading to lipid peroxidation. This process produces lipid radicals that can initiate a chain reaction, damaging the cell membrane.
Protein Oxidation: ROS can oxidize amino acid residues in proteins, altering their structure and function. This can lead to the loss of enzymatic activity or changes in protein structure.
DNA Damage: ROS can cause damage to the DNA structure, leading to mutations and potentially cell death.
Activation of Stress Signaling Pathways: The presence of hydrogen peroxide and other ROS can activate cellular signaling pathways involved in stress responses. Plants, for example, have evolved signaling pathways that respond to oxidative stress by activating various defense mechanisms.
Cellular Dysfunction: The cumulative effects of ROS-induced damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA can lead to cellular dysfunction and, in severe cases, cell death.
While hydrogen peroxide is a natural byproduct of various cellular processes and can serve as a signaling molecule at low concentrations, an excessive accumulation of hydrogen peroxide and other ROS can tip the balance towards oxidative stress. Researchers often use hydrogen peroxide to induce oxidative stress in laboratory experiments to study the cellular responses to such stress and gain insights into the mechanisms of oxidative damage and defense.
Radiation can cause oxidative stress in plants through the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). When plants are exposed to ionizing radiation, such as gamma rays or X-rays, it can lead to the formation of free radicals and other reactive molecules. These reactive species can then participate in redox reactions, inducing oxidative stress in plant cells.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) play important roles in plant biology, and their interactions are crucial for various physiological processes. While ROS can include a variety of free radicals and reactive molecules, hydrogen peroxide is a type of ROS that is particularly relevant in signaling pathways and stress responses in plants.
The results from the scans, photos comparisons, and microscopic views shows that the oxidative stress on the kale plants caused significant leaf and root damage. The hydrogen peroxide caused the kale roots to have short and static growths. They were not continuous and strong compared to the normal H2O roots. The leaves were also bigger in size in the normal experiment, while the hydrogen peroxide caused browning of some of the leaves. Within the microscopic views, the root structure of the normal water experiment showed more rigidity with the xylem and phloem stems.

Project 11
Title: Indoor Air Quality
Author: Riya Raj
Description, activities, and results: The objective for this project was to utilize EPA Indoor Air Quality Standards to build particle and gas sensors.
The importance of air quality is imperative for life support systems here on Earth, ISS, and future life support systems maybe on the Moon or Mars. Maintaining good indoor air quality is crucial for promoting a healthy, comfortable, and productive indoor environment, as well as preventing potential long-term health effects associated with exposure to indoor pollutants. An excess of compounds or particles in the air could cause dizziness, nausea, respiratory diseases, and many other dangerous health issues. There are many countries suffering from the impact of climate change. Learning to properly ventilate areas and keep the air clean will not only keep us healthy, but also improve health on the Earth.
Particulate Matter (PM) includes a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some of the particles are too small to be seen with the naked eye and using an electron microscope would be helpful. These “fine” particles could be smaller than 2.5 micrometers and the “inhalable coarse” particles can be smaller than 10 micrometers. Other particles can be large enough to see such as dirt, soot, dust, and smoke.
PM can come from many sources that seem normal to us in our daily lives such as, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide chemical emissions from power plants, industries, and automobiles. The primary particles can be emitted from smokestacks, fires, unpaved roads, fields, and construction sites. The EPA is helpful in creating regulations for the number of particles based on indoor air pollution. Complications of PM include:
Health: It can cause many issues based on the particle size that infiltrates your lungs and it even enters your bloodstream. Most of this can contribute to common respiratory lung diseases and even lung cancer.
Environmental Damage: The particles can eventually settle in the water or on the ground after being carried in the wind over long distances. The water sources can become acidic, soil nutrients can slowly deplete, crops/forest can become sensitive, eventually harming the wildlife.
Visible Impairment: If the particle stays within the atmosphere, it can create haze especially in many parts of an industrial country.
Aesthetic Damage: Most buildings weather away over time due to water or wind, the particle pollution can also stain.
Hypercapnia (hypercarbia) occurs when too much carbon dioxide enters a person’s bloodstream. This can occur when more than 5,000 ppm of CO2 poses a health risk including high chronic levels related to inflammation, reduction in cognitive abilities, kidney calcification, oxidative stress, etc. The minimum amount should be as low as 1,000 ppm and it could be a factor to consider with room occupancy and building ventilation rates.
Regulating carbon dioxide levels in the International Space Station is imperative since microgravity can cause the air to circulate around a person’s face. Our gravity on Earth helps redirect our breath upward when exhaling. Within the microgravity environment, there is a lack of convective buoyancy that results in an environment that becomes diffusion-limited. More research should be explored within this area to help our astronauts work better in long duration space missions!
Sensors were built, but due to delivery issues, concrete data was not collected. The proper data will be collected upon returning to Purdue.

Mission Summary – December 22nd

Mars Desert Research Station
Mission Summary

Crew 288 – Phobos
Dec 9th, 2023 – Dec 23rd, 2023

Crew Members:
Commander and Crew Astronomer: Dr. Cesare Guariniello
Executive Officer: Riley McGlasson
Crew Geologist: Hunter Vannier
Crew Engineer: Jesus Adrian Meza Galvan
Health and Safety Officer: Jilian Welshoff
Green Hab Officer: Ryan DeAngelis
Crew Journalist: Lipi Roy
The entire Crew of MDRS 288 would like to express their gratitude to the many people who made this mission possible: our deepest thanks to Dr. Robert Zubrin, President of the Mars Society; Sergii Iakymov, MDRS Director, who assisted us in-situ and helped us troubleshooting the little problems we encountered; Dr. Shannon Rupert, who provided research advice and valuable support remotely; James Burk, Executive Director; Peter Detterline, Director of Observatories, who trained and assisted our Crew Astronomer before and during the mission; Michael Stoltz, The Mars Society Liaison, Media and Public Relations; Bernard Dubb, MDRS IT coordinator; Dr. Kshitij Mall and the Purdue Mission Support staff; the Purdue faculty who greatly helped us in the selection process of Crews 288 and 288 (Phobos and Deimos); all the departments and people at Purdue University and the external sponsors who supported this mission; and all the unnamed people who work behind the scene to make this effort possible, and who gave us a chance to be an active part of the effort towards human exploration of Mars.

Mission description and outcome:
MDRS 288 “Phobos”, twin of mission 289 “Deimos”, is the sixth all-Purdue crew at MDRS. The mission was characterized by very high research quality –despite one project having to be cancelled due to delay in approval by the IRB– and extremely good performance both from a professional and a personal perspective. The diverse crew, including three women and four men, representing four countries and various departments at Purdue, and comprised of undergraduate students, Master’s students, PhD candidates, and professional staff, accurately represented Purdue’s honored tradition in the field of space exploration.
Crew 288 performed various research tasks, with a strong geological focus evident in the many EVAs covering all areas of MDRS and in the amount and quality of samples and scientific data collected. Engineering experiment, astronomical observations, and other research projects concerned with Mars exploration and the operations of astronauts on planetary surfaces were also successfully conducted.
The crew is planning to continue working on the data collected during this mission, to support the twin mission “Deimos”, and to participate in various outreach events, in order to spread awareness about MDRS missions and to foster awareness and passion for space exploration.
A group of people standing in front of a white building Description automatically generated
Figure 1. MDRS 288 Crew posing in front of the habitat. Left to right: GreenHab Officer Ryan DeAngelis, Commander and Crew Astronomer Cesare Guariniello, Health and Safety Officer Jilian Welshoff, Crew Geologist Hunter Vannier, Executive Officer (and Crew Pirate) Riley McGlasson, Crew Journalist Lipi Roy, and Crew Engineer Jesus Meza Galvan

As commander, I am personally extremely proud of this crew, which was capable to keep the highest level of fidelity and realism, without losing sight of the importance of light moments. After passing a rigorous two-phase internal selection process at Purdue, the crew followed training and bonding activities with passion and commitment. At MDRS, the crew properly followed safety and research protocols, performed as a tight group, and found an appropriate mix of research activities and personal time. Every crew member has been attentive to other people’s needs, respectful of differences, conscious of own and others’ goals and shortcomings, flexible and willing to learn and improve. The pace kept throughout the mission was a solid mix of long, fruitful, and professionally conducted EVAs, work in the laboratory and in the RAM, and slower-tempo personal and communal time in the habitat.

Summary of Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA)
After being trained in the use of rovers and in the safety protocols for EVA, the crew had ten excursions during rotation 288, two of which being the traditional short EVAs to Marble Ritual. The remaining EVAs were long excursion, where the crew greatly maximized time usage, especially the time spent walking and performing field activities, which was in average 92% of the total EVA time. The EVAs reached areas in the Mancos Shale (Skyline Rim), Morrison Formation (mostly along Cow Dung Rd), Dakota Sandstone (Candor Chasma), and looked into the Somerville Formation (Somerville Overlook). The EVA served multiple research projects and were used to train crew members who were unexperienced in geologic field work.

Table 1. Summary of EVA, indicating Sol of execution, total duration and distance covered, time and distance spent walking and performing activities, and time percentage spent in activities outside driving.


Figure 2. Satellite map of the EVAs performed by MDRS 288 crew and of the Station points where samples were collected

Summary of GreenHab Activities
Crew GreenHab Officer: Ryan DeAngelis
The GreenHab is in excellent condition. A lot of things have just been growing and maturing this rotation, with a few exceptions with various herbs and kale. A few of the cucumbers struggled a bit at the midpoint of the mission, exhibiting slowed growth and scarring on the stalks. This, however, was identified as growth marks perhaps exacerbated by slightly too much fertilizer. They are healthy and growing a lot as of the end of this mission. The tomato plants, planted by Crew 287, were caged and trimmed, and we even observed some small green tomatoes growing. In addition to harvesting fresh herbs daily for use in meals, we were able to create several small salads of arugula, kale, and lettuce. We planted more peas, mint, rosemary, carrots, and fennel for hopeful harvest and enjoyment by Crew 289. Overall, the GreenHab provided plenty of herbs and spices, as well as a fantastic place to de-stress for many crew members.

Science Summary
We had 9 separate projects that covered a range of topics. Some of them were EVA-related, while others were conducted at MDRS campus. One project was not conducted because IRB approval was not received in time. Overall, each project uniquely highlighted each crewmember’s strength and expertise, and expanded scientific, engineering, and human factor knowledge to support crewed exploration of Mars.

Research Projects:

Title: Noninvasive search for water
Author: Riley McGlasson
Description, activities, and results: GPR observations were taken at Watney Road, Compass Rock, Brahe Highway, and Hab Ridge. During EVA 3 two 3D GPR grids were taken at the turnoff to Watney Road (WR). One of these was a smaller 15’x15’ grid with 3’ spacing above the dry stream bed, which we used to train the rest of the EVA crew in how to conduct GPR surveys. The second WR grid (WR02) was 36’x36’ with 3’ spacing. WR02 encompassed the dry stream bed and adjacent sandy material. Six total 2D transects were also taken at three sample sites at Kissing Camel Ridge. Unfortunately, there was an error with the radar’s survey wheel, so none of these observations are usable. After EVA 3, this error was fixed, and more data was able to be collected during the remaining 3 GPR EVAs. During these, 100’ x 100’ 3D grids were taken with 10’ spacing at the survey sites, along with an additional 2D transect was taken across ~300’ of material in the same region for quicker analysis. We confirmed that the survey wheel error was fixed, and initial analysis of the 2D transect of the Compass Rock site produces reasonable velocity values for a damp sandy material. The 3D grids will be analyzed back on Earth and compared with spectroscopy data taken at the same sites.


Title: Refining orbital data with in-situ analysis
Author(s): Hunter Vannier
Description, activities, and results: Objectives of this study were to compare grain size predictions from orbital data to in situ observations, assess effectiveness of boulder sampling at the base of Kissing Camel Ridge in obtaining representative samples of upper units, and obtain and determine origin of volcanic rocks in the south.
Conducted EVAs to Barainca Butte, Kissing Camel Ridge and Hab Ridge to achieve these objectives. Boulder and grain size analyses were conducted during two EVAs to the Kissing Camel Ridge, which have been compared to orbital estimates. Some grain-size estimates were accurate, but subtleties in the orbital data were not appreciated until on foot, (ex. disproportionate darkening of orbital images from small cobbles). When sampling boulders at base at Kissing Camel and Hab Ridge, the top stratigraphic unit often dominated and other lithologies were not present (most converted to soil). Overall, sampling boulders was useful in obtaining samples from layers otherwise unreachable, but picking sites with less vs. more diversity of boulders was not accurately predicted.
We obtained spectra and samples of at least three igneous units (basaltic andesite, andesite, diorite) transported fluvially to the Barainca Butte area from both Henry Mountains and Capitol Reef. Near Barainca we identified a very high concentration of volcanic rocks in that area that were generally absent in regions north of Zubrin’s head. The fluvial pathway from source to MDRS is still not understood.
Spectra and samples have also been obtained within GPR grids to complement the radar data set with spectral and geologic characterization of the top ~5 cm of unique units within each grid. Preliminary spectral analysis of a site atop Hab Ridge within grey soil devoid of plants yielded a surface crust that appeared like significantly hydrated clay, yet the subsurface that yielded the majority of material appeared to have little hydration. There was also diversity in forms and depths of gypsum, some of which showed signs of oxidation. Not only does this compliment the science goals of radar, but is an important consideration when evaluating hydration of soils at depth for in-situ resource utilization.

Figure 4. (A): Obtaining spectrum of large rounded vesicular basaltic boulder. Red arrows points to abundant igneous rocks in the vicinity, Barainca Butte in the background. (B): Sampling station containing igneous rocks with multiple lithologies.

Title: Remote sensing for ISRU
Author(s): Cesare Guariniello
Description, activities, and results: The goal of this project is to test the use of remote sensing performed in various locations to support advanced In-Situ Resource Utilization. In particular, assessment of mineralogy via remote sensing will provide information about material abundance. Laboratory study of thermal inertia and its correlation with bulk size (sandy vs. rocky) will add one more variable to the study. Thermal Inertia is correlated to particle size and cohesiveness of the material, which in turn suggests the most appropriate tools to effectively collect the material for processing. Water content is assessed via the analysis of the depth of absorption bands in the spectra. This year’s focus has been on consolidated clay rocks. Samples have been collected for this project in the vicinity of Barainca Butte, at the foot of Skyline Rim, and along Galileo Road between Compass Rock and Somerville Overlook. These samples will be subject to experiments related to water content.

Title: Semiconductor processing
Author(s): Jesus Meza-Galvan
Description, activities, and results: The project was focused on the feasibility of basic semi-conductor manufacturing at the station. Two main experiments were conducted to explore silicon-oxide growth, and photolithography. The goal of the first experiment was to determine if oxide growth is possible in one of the lab ovens. A set of silicon samples were placed inside Oven #1 as shown in Figure 5a. A graduated flask with 1 liter of water was placed inside the oven just beneath the samples to maintain a high moisture environment. The samples were then annealed at a maximum oven temperature of 250 °C for a total of 2 hours, 4 hours, and 8 hours. Quantitative analysis of the oxide films will be performed using ellipsometry at Purdue. Qualitatively, there is no visual distinction between the samples indicating little to no oxide was formed. This is as expected given the temperature of the oven was lower than the typical growth temperature of silicon-dioxide in the range of 400 – 800 °C. In order to reliably grow oxide at the station, the oven temperatures must be increased. For the second experiment, a set of silicon samples with a photo-sensitive polymer (photoresist) was prepared prior to coming to MDRS. The laminar flow hood was outfitted to perform UV-exposure of photoresist as shown in Figure 5b. A Dremel stand was used as a makeshift photo-aligner to hold a handheld UV lamp at a constant distance away from the sample and perform controlled UV exposures of the resist as shown in figure 5c. A set of samples with varying exposure time, and varying working distance were made. Qualitatively, the experiment produced several good exposures of a microscope calibration pattern onto the photoresist layer. The success of the procedure will be determined quantitatively by measuring the dimensions of the samples produced against a calibrated microscope at Purdue.


Figure 5. Semiconductor Processing at MDRS. a) Silicon-oxide growth experiment in Oven #1. b) Photolithography set up inside laminar flow hood. c) Photolithography exposure.

Title: Reducing stress in isolated environment
Author(s): Lipi Roy, Ryan DeAngelis, Jilian Welshoff
Description, activities, and results: The crew consulted some of the sensors brought to MDRS for this project. However, formal research was not conducted, and test surveys were not administered, because IRB approval was not received in time for the mission.

Title: Astrophotography with the MDRS WF and Solar Observatory outreach
Author(s): Cesare Guariniello
Description, activities, and results:
Solar Observatory: visual observations on one day with the Crew Engineer and the Journalist. Various small problems with the telescope (modified Home Station, and some components left out of place by previous crews) were solved. The observatory bottom shutter also had to be troubleshot. All days not spent on EVA were at least partly cloudy during the day, thus preventing further solar observations.
Astrophotography: MDRS-WF was used to produce high-quality photos of M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), Barnard 33 (Horsehead Nebula), Leo Triplet, M42 (Orion Nebula), M1 (Crab Nebula) and some photos of smaller galaxy with quality that could be improved in postprocessing. Further WCS data are necessary to align images from the MLC-ROS16 telescope.

Title: Station monitoring
Author(s): Jesus Meza Galvan and Jilian Welshoff (proposed by Nathan Bitner – MDRS 289)
Description, activities, and results: The goal of this project is to study what information is most useful to analog astronauts during missions, as well as how this information is leveraged for day-to-day mission planning. A prototype of the sensor payload was completed which integrates temperature, humidity, VOC, CO2, and dust particle sensors with a raspberry-pi and battery package. The sensors have been coded by Purdue mission support who will remotely collect environmental data. Crew 289 will continue the project and create additional sensor payloads to place one monitoring station in each of the MSRS modules, as well as sensors on the air locks to determine if they are closed.

Title: Samples transportation with drones
Author(s): Cesare Guariniello
Description, activities, and results: In past missions at MDRS, drones have been used to prospect potential areas of geological interest. This conceptual project had the goal to prove the feasibility and usefulness of using a drone to transport payloads from the station to astronauts in EVA and vice versa. The capability of the drone to carry small payloads while maintaining maneuverability and safety was successfully tested before the mission. During the mission, part of the EVA to Skyline Rim (EVA #5) was spent in surveying the Hab Ridge for suitable locations for this experiment. Later, two crew members were trained in drone piloting, so as to be able to operate the small drone under the supervision of a crew member who holds a drone pilot license. During EVA #9, the drone was launched from the station with a small rock sample and a message onboard. Both items were received by the EVA astronauts, that successfully used the drone to return a rock sample to the station. The drone was then sent back with a food sample (representative of potential use of a drone to provide tools or support to astronauts on EVA), used by the EVA crew to record footage of the GPR experiment, before being flown back once more to the station.

Title: Chez Phobos
Author(s): Lipi Roy (et al.)
Objectives: Creating new recipes with shelf-stable food at MDRS
Description and Results: Crew 288 members proved that it was quite possible to create healthy, tasty recipes from shelf-stable food items at MDRS habitat. Many new recipes were successfully implemented and very much appreciated by the MDRS members. Riley’s Hab-burger, Ryan’s Pad-Thai and carrot cake, Cesare’s Italian pizza and baked ziti, Jilian’s Mujadara, Hunter’s spam fried rice and tuna-tomato pasta, Jesus’s Spanish rice, and my chickpea curry, kidney beans curry, and potato parathas; all created with minimal outside ingredients! For example, our ‘meal of the mission’ – spam fried rice was prepared using rice, dehydrated eggs, spam, dehydrated onions, dehydrated tomatoes, soy sauce, chilli peppers, salt, garlic powder, black pepper; all available in the hab!


Mission Summary – November 24th


Nov 12–24, 2023

Roger Gilbertson – Commander
Donald Jacques – XO, Engineer
Liz Cole – HSO, Journalist
Guillaume Gégo – Scientist
Scott Beibin – Artist
Hugo Saugier – Documentary
Our diverse, creative and dedicated crew carried out a broad range of science, technology, and art projects including:

• Bacterial growth experiment helpful for creating closed-loop life support systems
• An extended range EVA using the MASH (Mobile Analog Space Habitat) vehicle
• Technology demonstrations collecting and studying some in situ resources
• LiDAR scanning of campus structures and local geological features
• Simulation and comparison of music as it would sound on Mars and Earth
• Metal casting and component fabrication
• Extensive videography of all aspects of habitat and EVA operations
• Daily media updates
• Daily monitoring of the environmental and life systems aboard the MASH
• Hosted two NY Times photojournalists for four nights who remained fully “in sim” with us

PROJECT 1: CO2 Fixation by Purple Bacteria for Space Food Production – Gégo

Purple bacteria Rhodospirillum rubrum were grown inside low-cost bag photobioreactors to assess the possibility of mass-production in altered gravity. This can provide CO2 absorption and production of important nutritional supplements for humans on Earth and Mars.

OD measurements between SOL 3 and 5. Growth is visible and follows known trends. Similar experiments will be performed at the University of Mons to confirm these results.

After nine days of steady growth it reached a stationary phase, indicating they had reached their peak. Samples were collected regularly, and are being returned to Belgium for analysis.

PROJECT 2: Performing Extended Extra-Vehicular Activities Using a Mobile Analog Space Habitat – Jacques

MASH EVA 11 excursion on Sol 11 lasted three-hours. We drove the vehicle south to Kissing Camel Ridge and parked. Liz and Guilliame exited and walked acquired drone footage of interesting cliff formations. Hugo and Don recorded the MASH at rest and driving.

An unexpected engine warning light led to a spacesuited excursion to successfully service the engine, while remaining fully in-sim.

PROJECT 3: Creating High Resolution Interactive Digital Assets of MDRS and Local Geological Sites Using 3D Scanning techniques – Beibin

I conducted four successful LiDAR scanning EVAs on geological features and MDRS campus buildings. With each excursion, various technical and procedural problems were identified, and solutions were implemented. This gave increasingly improved results with each EVA.


PROJECT 4: Producing Functional Artifacts Using Local Clay Resources and a 3D Extrusion Printer – Beibin

On EVA 4 we gathered clay near the Science Dome, but given time constraints and limited water resources, no further processing of the clay was performed. The samples will be taken to my lab in Philadelphia to process and create test 3D extrusions.

PROJECT 5: Using Local Gypsum Resources to Produce Molds for Metal Casting — Gilbertson

Since learning that previous missions had processed local gypsum into plaster, I used commercially prepared material in order to focus on casting. One mold pair produced four castings (one had structural problems and was melted and recast). The final pieces were trimmed and assembled into a tensegrity icosahedron using six elastic bands to suspended them without touching.

Left: Final cast parts and bands. Right: Assembled tensegrity icosahedron.

PROJECT 6: Mars Academy – A Documentary Film About ESA Scientist Claude Chipaux and the Past, Present and Future of Mars Life Sciences – Saugier

Filming an analog reality is quite a challenge when you’re making a documentary, but from the number of situations it generated on a daily basis, from EVAs to group discussions, brainstorming sessions and so on, I can say I’m bringing back some interesting footage in my suitcase. The other crew members were really available and willing to participate in the project, always keeping an eye on what they could bring to the table, which was really appreciated as a filmmaker. Even though I was busy almost every day, I also tried to help the others as much as I could.

As for the more technical aspects, I found it hard to handle all the shots by myself, but with good quality equipment and a few points learned in the field, it became somehow doable. The hardest things were the sound and shooting in the sun with the reflections from the helmet (but I found the suit in itself wasn’t that big of a deal). However, I always prefer challenge to comfort, so I was very excited to look for tricks to adapt my camera rig to the conditions. Being totally immersed in a mission, in addition to being a great human adventure, was the right approach, in my opinion, to get the most relevant footage of an MDRS analog mission.

Beyond these personal considerations, and as the grandson of one of the founders of the MELiSSA project, I was particularly fascinated by the works of Guillaume Gégo and Donald Jacques on life support systems. The way they think about how to supply not only space expeditions, but also multiple potential locations on Earth, has something that makes you dream of beautiful future explorations on the one hand, and stay connected to our immediate and urgent realities on the other. Not only did I find their works very relevant, despite their very different schools and ways of thinking, but they are exactly the kind of people I needed in the project to make a narrative connection between my grandfather’s story and analog missions.

Thanks to this stay here at MDRS, I’m happy to say that I somehow lived my grandfather’s dream: to experience Martian life, even if it was simulated, because I think that setting the context is enough to give you the first hint of what some real Martian sensations could be.

PROJECT 7: Simulating Acoustics of Mars for an Outdoor Martian Music Performance – Beibin

Using data published in Nature [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-04679-0] and from NASA [https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/participate/sounds] I collaborated with audio engineer John Knott to create a digital audio filter that accurately simulates how sound travels on Mars.

I conducted three Ptelepathetique performance. The first at night inside the Science Dome. Then a “sunrise” set north of the Observatory Dome, and then a “sunset” show east of the dome.

Each presented a musical audio comparison demonstrating the differences between sounds we would hear on Earth versus on Mars with its thinner, colder atmosphere.


Scott performs as listeners at the dome enclosure enjoy audio as we might hear it on Mars.

PROJECT 8: Documenting the MDRS Mission 286 Adventure in Words and Images – Cole

I recorded interviews with Guillaume and Scott regarding their experiments and creations. We arranged for two live conversations, one with Mars Society Belgium, then one with Journal des Enfants a children’s publication to inspire future astronauts and scientists. The MS Belgium event led to an interview with science publication Athena.

We provided visiting NY Times photojournalists with captions for their images, and very much enjoyed their five day / four night visit.

PROJECT 9: Evaluating Performance of Biological Life Support Components Installed within the Mobile Analog Space Habitat – Jacques

Upon arrival and docking at MDRS, the MASH mini-farm was populated by by two (2) operating PhotoBioreactors with Spirulina culture; approximately 55 blue tilapia, twelve (12) quail, 100 meal worms, 100 red wiggler worms, a garden, and marsh. By the end of the first week, I noted challenges in that I had added too many quail at once, and the consequences were the loss of 65 tilapia, and an overabundance of guano and odors. Despite this, each of the components functioned as designed, even though overloaded. I have much to correct as I look forward to growing the system, and improving its functionality and resilience.


Don services the MASH vehicle while remaining fully in-sim.

We enjoyed a challenging, diverse, multifaceted, and ultimately extremely memorable, rewarding and enriching experience at MDRS. On to Mars!

Mission Summary – November 15th

Crew 286 Sol 03 Summary Report 15-NOV-2023
Sol: 03
Summary Title: “Can You Hear Me Now? Over.”
Author’s name: Roger Gilbertson
Mission Status: Nominal
Sol Activity Summary: Early in the morning the science lab started the bacterial growth experiment, having the tools, bio samples, and the hydrogen gas produced on Sol 1, which serves as an electron source for the organism growth.
In the morning, text messages were exchanged with the New York Times photographers who have recently arrived on Mars from Earth, and who are expected to join us at our Habitat about 9 AM tomorrow.
After breakfast the entire team gathered to review videos of the radio training session which were recorded on Sol 0. Extensive notes were made, and additional discussion of communications protocols, astronaut and diver hand signals, were provided by team members having experience with proper, efficient radio techniques as used by military and police. We outlined possible scenarios for a variety of nominal (green), off-nominal (yellow or “issue”), and emergency (red or “problem") situations, and reviewed preferred vocabulary and grammar.
After lunch, the crew continued the radio practice by reading aloud simple scripts for various scenarios. We focused on maximizing clarity through proper technique, simplicity of messaging, and use of correct terminology. We then separated into groups, with CapCom inside, and the EVA Team by the observatory dome. Using live radios the teams improvised a variety of “issue” and “problem” scenarios, with crew members alternating positions as EVA team members, EVA leaders, CapCom, and Missions Support.
In the late afternoon, the first bacterial samples were taken, and more hydrogen was produced.
Look Ahead Plan: We plan to meet the visiting photographers in the morning of Sol 4, and welcome them at the rear airlock. After moving them in, we will provide orientation for their stay, including airlock and tunnel protocols, restroom use, then let them settle in. In the afternoon we propose an engineering EVA to 1) wash the exterior windows using a squeegee attached to a long pole in order to improve visibility, and 2) collect local clay samples, and 3) photograph a memorial image of a recently deceased Mars Society member.
We will suggest that the visitors photograph the EVA from inside the habitat and tunnels, and capture activities inside the Science Dome and RAM. On Sol 5, we plan to train them on EVA protocols in the morning, then take them on a short EVA to Marble Ritual in the afternoon.
Anomalies in work: none
Weather: nominal
Crew Physical Status: nominal
EVA: none today, request for EVA 4 submitted for tomorrow
Reports to be filed: Sol Summary, Journalist report, Photos, Operations report, Green Hab report, EVA 4 Request.
Support Requested: longest paint pole available to be attached to our window cleaning squeegee for EVA 4.

Mission Summary – November 10th

Commander David Mateus
Executive Officer and Astronomer Luis Diaz
Health and Safety Officer Andrea De La Torre
Crew Engineer Tomas Burroni
Green Hab Officer Andres Reina
Crew Journalist Marina Busqueras

The mission at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) was led by Commander David Mateus with a team of experts including Executive Officer and Astronomer Luis Díaz, Health and Safety Officer Andrea De La Torre, Crew Engineer Tomás Burroni, Green Hab Officer Andrés Reina, and Crew Journalist Marina Buqueras, embodied a significant stride in demonstrating global cooperation in space exploration. The crew, of Hispanic descent from various Latin American countries and Spain, aimed to enhance the inclusivity in space missions, motivating underrepresented communities to engage in STEM fields.
The projects tackled during the mission were diverse, ranging from engineering and safety protocols to sociological studies:
Early Fault Detection in Power Generator Systems: Addressing the critical need for uninterrupted power supply, the mission focused on preventive and predictive maintenance of the power generation system. A sensor kit was developed and installed on the station’s propane power generator to monitor vibrations and predict potential failures. Despite minor software issues, the successful deployment of the sensor kit during an EVA and subsequent data collection provided valuable insights into the generator’s performance, paving the way for the integration of such predictive maintenance systems in future missions.

Drone-Aided Martian Geolocation through Image Recognition: With the absence of a global navigation system on Mars, the mission explored the use of drone-captured images and image recognition algorithms to pinpoint the crew’s location relative to the base. The software, developed in Python with OpenCV, underwent successful trials using satellite imagery to test the algorithm’s robustness across various Martian terrains.

Drone Search and Rescue: The mission demonstrated using drones to search for crew members and navigate Martian terrain, ensuring safety and effective rescue operations. The trials confirmed that drones could provide alternative routes and communicate with the base in emergencies, possibly with both manual and automatic control modes.

Building materials for future Mars civilizations: The characteristics of the MDRS soil are suitable for creating construction materials using simple and readily available ingredients. The combination of simulated Martian dust, starch, and water has proven to produce a robust material with properties akin to conventional concrete. This innovative approach can simplify and reduce the cost of future space missions, paving the way for infrastructure construction on the red planet.

Methodology for the Characterization of the Social Implications of Confinement and Isolation: Drawing on the sociological and anthropological theories of Durkheim and Foucault, the mission studied the social dynamics within the crew. By identifying patterns of group cohesion and the sacred-profane dichotomy, the research provided a framework for understanding social structures in long-term space travel.

Techniques for Increasing the Signal-Noise Ratio in Processing Deep Space Images: Addressing the challenges in capturing deep space objects, the mission proposed methods to enhance the signal-to-noise ratio in astrophotography. The successful application of these techniques on a range of celestial bodies demonstrated their potential to improve deep-space imagery.

Generation of 3D Maps and Orthomosaics of Explored Canyons: Drones were used to optimize navigation during EVAs to create 3D models and maps of Martian canyons. The resulting data enhanced the safety and efficiency of future EVAs by providing detailed geographic information and identifying optimal access routes.

Each project represented a critical aspect of the mission, contributing to its overall success. The power system fault detection initiative established a foundation for future maintenance protocols, while the drone-aided geolocation and search and rescue operations enhanced the crew’s safety protocols. The sociological study provided insights into the potential organization of human groups in extraplanetary environments, which is essential for the long-term success of space missions. The advancements in astrophotography and 3D mapping served immediate operational needs and equipped future missions with refined methodologies and technologies.

In summary, the mission at MDRS served as a multifaceted endeavor that pushed the boundaries of current space exploration capabilities. It brought together technical innovation and social science to address the challenges of long-term space habitation. The projects undertaken during the mission have laid a solid foundation for future research and development in the field of astronautics, ensuring that subsequent missions to Mars and beyond are safer, more efficient, and inclusive.

Mid-mission Research Report – November 4th

Project 1: The sensor kit was successfully placed in the generator during an EVA. This allowed the engineer to evaluate their fine motor skills while wearing the full EVA suit. Since then, the sensors have been collecting data every night, which so far has been used mainly for debugging the data collection and analysis scripts.

Project 2: The script to recognize the drone image within the larger satellite image is currently in progress, and tests using real data have already started. The real data comes from two EVAs of the Candor Chasma. Having data from two EVAs provide different light conditions on the images to test the robustness of the algorithms. In the next few days the crew will collect more datasets from different areas in order to finish fine tuning the algorithm.

Project 3: A drone will be used for search and rescue, along with specific signs of communication (indications), tomorrow on an EVA in el Dorado Canyon

Project 4: The 3D mapping project using drones and the generation of digital pathways based on them is operating effectively and was successfully tested during EVA 3 and 4.

Project 5: nothing to report

Project 6: For the Mars construction materials project, We have been working with various soil samples collected from strategic locations in the area. Initially, rice-based starch was prepared within the ScienceDome and later combined with the three sieved soil samples to produce three concrete bricks with distinct properties. The three brick units were crafted through the amalgamation of 100 grams of soil and 6 grams of starch, followed by a 4-hour baking process to enhance their structural strength. Subsequently, strength tests will be conducted on the three Martian concrete pieces

Project 7: The Deep Space Observatory project is proving to be successful, capturing various objects daily and testing proposed processing methods to emulate different palettes that typically include the oxygen 3 band, which the observatory’s telescope doesn’t encompass. It aims to test processes that increase the signal-to-noise ratio. The solar observation project commenced today, experimenting with processing methods to extract the halo around solar flares from the chromosphere

Final Mission Summary – Crew 282 – Martian Biology III

Mars Desert Research Station Crew 282 – Martian Biology III – Final Report
Survey Locations for Crew 282. Map Data: ESRI via QGIS
Crew 282 – Martian Biology III, was the latest iteration of the Mars Society’s Martian Biology program, a special project conceived of by Dr. Shannon Rupert, the Society’s Senior Director of Analog Research.  From June 4-10, 2023,  the crew, consisting of botanist Paul Sokoloff, entomologist Jacopo Razzauti, and historian Jordan Bimm, sampled vascular plants, mosses, lichens, and insects at sites spanning three counties in the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) exploration area, while collecting information critical to our historical understanding of Martian analog research. Joined by MDRS Assistant Director Sergii Iakymov, this non-simulation crew surveyed sites at near the station (the Fremont River, Muddy Creek, and “Cowboy Corner), as well as locations further afield – at Salt Wash, and for the first time in the Martian Biology program,
the biomes of the Henry Mountains.
Botany – Paul Sokoloff
Desert paintbrush (Castilleja angustifolia) in the Henry Mountains.
Over the course of four collecting days, Crew 282 collected 126 vascular plant, moss, and lichen specimens from 12 localities around MDRS. These specimens voucher the biodiversity of the area; the flattened plants and preserved flora we have gathered provide physical proof that each species was found growing at a particular place and time. A complete set of these specimens will be deposited in the National Herbarium of Canada (CAN) at the Canadian Museum of Nature, and a duplicate set will be deposited at the Utah Valley University Herbarium.  Once these specimens are identified down to the species level (or, in certain cases, to subspecies or variety), these biodiversity data will be combined with the 22 new species records collected by Martian Biology II (Crew 243) as we draft a forthcoming floristic manuscript for the station.
As this year marked the Martian Biology program’s first foray into the Henry Mountains, we intensely botanized the three sites we stopped at in this range, documenting taxa in Juniper scrubland, Pine forests, and alpine scree. These biomes are markedly different from the deserts immediately surrounding MDRS. The gravelly verges on the approach to the Henrys were brightened by sprays of Boreal Sweetvetch (Hedysarum boreale) and Utah Penstemon (Penstemon utahensis). Lower elevations and sheltered sites were dominated by numerous tree species like Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa), Pinyon Pine (Pinus sp.), Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii), and Utah Serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis). The herbaceous understory of these elevated forests featured Alpine/Arctic taxa like Cinquefoils (Potentilla sp.), and Fairy Candelabra (Androsace septentrionalis) as well as numerous species of Sedge (Carex sp.) and Milkvetch (Astragalus sp.).
While previous Martian Biology crews have intensely collected the desert regions surrounding the station, Crew 282 was still able to document new taxa for the station.  These include Iodine Bush (Allenrolfea occidentalis) at Salt Wash and Muddy Creek, Nakedstem Sunray (Enceliopsis nudicaulis) at Salt Wash and “Hab Ridge” above MDRS, and several species of grass (Poaceae) and Milkvetch (Astragalus sp.) awaiting final identification in the lab.
Entomology – Jacopo Razzauti
Culiseta incidens from the Henry Mountains.
The ecological survey of mosquito species conducted near the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) involved two main methods of collection: direct collection of mosquitoes at all life stages and the deployment of a novel mosquito trap design.
In the direct collection method, mosquitoes at different life stages, including larvae, pupae, and adults, were collected on-site using nets and aspirators. These specimens were then taken back to the station, where they were prepared and cataloged for identification. In cases where larvae and pupae were collected, they were reared in the Science Dome at MDRS, and the adults were cataloged after they emerged.
The second method involved the deployment of a custom-made mosquito trap at various sites, specifically at Salt Wash and near Hanksville on the banks of the Fremont River. This trap was designed to attract gravid female mosquitoes using geosmin, a compound found in the peel of beetroot that serves as an oviposition attractant for various mosquito species. The trap does not require energy, CO2, or dry ice to attract mosquitoes, making it well-suited for trapping mosquitoes in the desert. Beetroot juice-containing traps were left at the sites for 2-3 days before collecting the water.
The combination of these two collection methods allowed for the cataloging of various mosquito species. The survey demonstrated that mosquitoes in the MDRS vicinity can adapt to a wide range of habitats, including the alpine forests of the Henry Mountains and the dry desert areas surrounding the research station.
Despite the challenging conditions in the desert, mosquitoes have evolved to exploit any available resources to survive in southeast Utah. Larvae were found in water tanks used for cattle, drying ponds, and slowly running streams. Interestingly, the majority of mosquitoes were collected near human settlements, indicating their anthropophilic nature in this region. This suggests that mosquitoes in the area rely on human presence for their blood meals, as well as access to sporadic water sources for development.
Astrobiology in Action – Jordan Bimm
Jordan studying lichens in the Science Dome.
I joined Crew 282 as a historian of science studying simulations of Martian Biology. “Astrobiology in Action” is a study conducted at MDRS to support my current research project Putting Mars in a Jar. This book-length monograph examines scientific attempts to mimic Mars on Earth, from tiny laboratory experiments in the 1950s to vast human-scaled analog sites, like MDRS and FMARS. I designed the study with the idea that, in addition to normal archival research, immersing myself in present-day astrobiology and analog research culture would greatly enhance my thinking and writing on the topic. To structure this approach, I decided to use a sociological method called participant observation in which a researcher joins the types of people they study (in my case biologists interested in space science) in performing their day-to-day research activities to understand how they perceive the world, their work, and its meaning. This study was conducted as a member of Crew 243 (“Martian Biology II”, June 2022) and continued now on Crew 282. It has provided me with practical working knowledge about remote field science and analog research as well as a chance to reflect on how scientists draw parallels between Earth and Mars in the context of biology and ecology. On both missions I worked with Paul Sokoloff to increase my understanding of lichen biology, one of his areas of expertise, at each of our field sites and in the Science Dome. This .directly informs my historical research because in the 1950s the scientific consensus about life on Mars was that it was likely to be lichens, which can tolerate low pressure and low temperature environments. This ongoing study has deepened my understanding of field ecology and analogs of Mars and its possible biology. I hope to continue this participant observation work on future Martian Biology missions as the program progresses.
Looking ahead, we see enormous potential in the Martian Biology program to continue documenting the biodiversity of the deserts surrounding MDRS and at sites of interest to the Mars Society across southeast Utah.  With each crew, we continue to document species that inform us about the state of the site as a Martian planetary analog and as a unique ecosystem on Earth.  We look forward to expanding this program to include taxonomic groups not yet surveyed at MDRS, and to apply the techniques and lessons learned at the station to other analog sites, such as the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station in Devon Island, Nunavut.

Mission Summary – May 26th

Crew 281 Mission Summary
Date: 05/26/2023
As the final MDRS Crew of the season, Team Pegasus (Crew 281) finished the season strong:
doing 13 EVAs, running the Ham Radio for 6 days including the first Morse code contact, kept
the GreenHab operational, conducted 4 geotechnical surveys of the area, 19 drone payload tests
and other experiments. The five person team successfully maintained the Hab and conducted
operations for all 12 sols of the mission. Here is the team:
● Megan Kane: Commander and GreenHab Officer
● Ritupriya (Ritu) Patil: Executive Officer
● Rachel Jones: Health Safety Officer
● Ana Pires: Crew Scientist
● KC Shasteen: Crew Engineer
The 12 Sol mission was packed with research, testing and operational tasks. The team did take
the time to enjoy the mission and time together with good food from the three cooks: KC, Megan
and Ritu.

Mars Desert Research Station Facilities:

The team utilized most of the facilities over the course of the mission.

The Science Dome was home to several experiments. In the grow tent, 75 Cacao (Chocolate) seeds of 2 varieties were sprouted. Started on Sol 1, by Sol 12 the cotyledons had begun to emerge. The workspace was used to test and prepare the equipment for the geotechnical surveys and examine the samples. Additionally, the team supported maintaining the algae experiment from Crew 261. Lastly, Team Pegasus recorded several STEM educational videos there.

In the GreenHab, the commander and crew engineer worked to keep the plants alive late into the increasing heat. Both having experience with greenhouses and vertical farms, they worked to decrease the rising temperatures and increase the humidity for the plants. This was met with limited success due to availability of materials. The watering test conducted by the commander went well.

The Repair and Maintenance (RAM) module was used to support many activities including drone flights, geotechnical device repair, and the radio setup. Additionally, the tools available were used in the Hab, Science Dome, GreenHab, and on EVA. Several days into the mission the RAM shopvac took up residence in the Hab due to the Hab Shopvac being inoperable.

In the Hab, a multitude of activities occurred. Downstairs the team prepared for EVAs and set up the Radio. The HSO is also a HAM radio operator (KO4HLC) she has made more than 50 contacts and completed the first known Morse Code contact from MDRS. She is currently working on updating the guidance for future radio operators. Upstairs was communal space. Here the team planned EVAs, filed reports and made delicious food.

Research updates

The team prepared multiple research projects to conduct over the course of the mission. See a summary of each in the sections below.

Geological-Geotechnical Surveys

The crew scientist proposed a series of geotechnical surveys to improve understanding of the geology near the Mars Desert Research Station and test the use of standard equipment in an analog environment. Over the course of 4 EVAs, 950 measurements were taken by the 2 geotechnical devices used to conduct the surveys. These measurements combined with samples taken for analysis and the aerial footage from the drone provides an extensive amount of information about the areas surveyed. There is a paper already under development related to the surveys during the mission.

Rock Sampling device test

The Pegasus Scoop was designed and built as a component for a larger robotic system. The crew scientist brought the scoop from Portugal for testing in a realistic environment. The scoop successfully performed its function. It will later be incorporated into a larger system.

Drone Payload testing

The drone brought by the executive officer was used for aerial footage and to conduct payload delivery tests while on EVA and to an EVA deploying from the Astronomy dome. Wind conditions limited the amount of testing completed. A total of 19 test flights were conducted with 17 being completed. The remaining 2 flights had to be aborted due to wind conditions mid-flight.

Passive watering tests


The passive watering system brought by the commander consisted of terracotta spikes with 500 mL plastic water bottles. On Sol 1 the 10 spikes were deployed into planters deep enough to utilize the spikes. The spikes were refilled when the bottles went dry, the spikes never went dry. This provided constant water flow directly to the plant’s roots. The remaining planters were assessed for their watering needs and watered as required. The total amount of watering done via both methods was collected.

Luxury crop sprouting test – Cacao

There were three cacao (chocolate) pods of different varieties of cacao brought to MDRS. They included 2 varieties of Trinitario (Red and Yellow) and Jaca a variant of Forastero. The seeds and seedlings require heat and humidity to sprout. On Sol 1 the three pods were opened, the seeds cleaned and set out for germination in trays on moist paper towels. On Sol 3 the seeds were rinsed and transferred to fresh paper towels. On Sol 5 the individual pots were prepared and the seeds showing signs of germination were planted. On Sol 10 multiple seeds showed signs they would be sprouting their cotyledons shortly. The first cotyledons were visible on Sol 12. Seeds were watered every day and the temperature and humidity monitored.

In Conclusion

The 12 Sol mission was a success from a research and outreach perspective. Team Pegasus looks forward to working together in the future and continuing the research started here.

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