Final Mission Summary – Crew 245

Crew 245 Mission Summary


Crew 245 of the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), Team Patamars, began organizing in the fall of 2019. We are comprised of a group of young professionals and, although none of us had embarked on an analog astronaut mission before, we had an ambition to come to MDRS together. Shortly thereafter, we were accepted for an early 2021 rotation, designed a series of preliminary research studies, and created operational protocols to enhance the fidelity of our analog experience. Through the uncertainty of the global pandemic, we remained hopeful that we would be able to safely conduct our intended mission. When MDRS management informed us that our mission would be possible, the team kicked into overdrive, excited to make this an incredible first analog astronaut experience for each one of us. The mission that we have since embarked upon has exceeded our expectations and has inspired us to continue as an analog crew on future missions.

Figure 1. Crew 245 Standing in Front of Hab. From Left to Right: Crew Botanist Julio Hernandez, Crew Engineer Shravan Hariharan, Executive Officer (XO) Shayna Hume, Commander Dylan Dickstein, Health and Safety Officer (HSO) Alex Coultrup, and Crew Scientist Olivia Ettlin

The crew was pulled from Commander Dickstein’s network including the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program and his university connections. Together, the team is a well-rounded group of individuals with good intentions, level personalities, and a particularly broad set of technical skills and experiences. Commander Dylan Dickstein is in his final year at UCLA and imminently defending his dissertation on electron emission effects in hypersonics. Executive Officer (XO) Shayna Hume, is a third-year Ph.D. pre-candidate researching Martian Entry, Descent, and Landing at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Crew Scientist Olivia Ettlin is a recent UCLA graduate with a B.S. in Molecular Cell & Developmental Biology and now works for California State Parks in the Natural Resources Department. Crew Botanist Julio Hernandez is a Ph.D. candidate about to defend his dissertation on Structural Health Monitoring at Purdue University. Crew Engineer Shravan Hariharan recently completed his B.S. in Aerospace Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and shall begin his graduate studies this fall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he will research Martian In-Situ Resource Utilization. The sixth member of the crew is Health and Safety Officer (HSO) Alex Coultrup who recently completed her M.S. in Spaceflight Human Factors at the Florida Institute of Technology and finished the Commercial Space Studies graduate program at the International Space University. Coultrup currently works in commercial partnerships and strategic development on the Outpost program at Nanoracks. Although only a few of us had formally met, we bonded quickly over our mutual desire to invest in careers as analog astronauts and our dream of human space exploration.

The following research studies and additional projects comprise our endeavors during our time at the station:

Research Studies

[1] Our soil analysis study was born from a desire to gain a more in-depth understanding of astrobiology, an area Executive Officer Hume had investigated previously during her internship at NASA Goddard. To demonstrate field analysis of a novel environment Hume and Crew Scientist Ettlin devised a protocol to 1) return to sites where past MDRS researchers had already sampled extensively, 2) take multiple samples at these sites, and 3) seek disparate geologic formation locations for ongoing sampling activities. This was a preliminary investigation, intended to educate the researchers on the specific techniques required to effectively collect soil samples on Mars. Its secondary purpose was to analyze the genomic content of those samples and isolate the evidence of bacteria and other extremophiles living in different geologic formations. Upon exiting simulation, the samples will be sent to a commercial lab for genomic analysis. For that reason, results will be forthcoming.

Figure 2. XO Shayna Hume (Left) and Commander Dylan Dickstein (Right) Collect Soil Samples

[2] Human space exploration (and settlement) of Mars is an enormous technical challenge since all equipment and necessities for life (e.g., oxygen, food, water) must be transported from Earth to Mars. One technical challenge impeding a permanent human presence on Mars is establishing sustainable agricultural practices. In this preliminary investigation we explored the feasibility of using different soil media composed of terrestrial soil and Martian regolith. Because importing terrestrial soil to Mars may be prohibitively expensive, Crew Botanist Hernandez devised a protocol that would use local Martian regolith in an optimized proportion as to maximize the total agricultural capacity for the minimal cost and weight. This investigation found that pure Martian regolith is a notably poor growth medium with poor water retention quality and a high susceptibility for compaction. In general, the trend showed that the soil mixtures with the greatest percentages of Earth soil served as the healthiest growth medium for plants. This did not come as a surprise, but the results of this investigation provided significant insights into improving the experimental design for future investigations.

[3] Interest in farming practices was a common theme for our research. To further explore the feasibility of Martian farming, Crew Scientist Ettlin devised an experiment to test growth additives in a compact hydroponics system suitable for use in a Mars habitat. The ultimate goal of the experiment was to determine if the addition of a single variable alone would be sufficient to significantly improve the growth rates and productivity of vegetable plants for consumption on Mars. Considering the results from the three growth variables (concentrated compost biproducts, fungus-enriched fertilizer, and earthworm castings) it has become clear that any of these additives were better than un-supplemented water. It is worth noting that this botanical experiment was impacted by the short time frame of this mission, and a statistically significant difference between the variables could not be determined and therefore no single variable was deemed superior. However, Ettlin was able to provide proof of concept and give strong evidence for the feasibility of hydroponic gardening on Mars as a way to farm without a high resource demand.

Figure 3. HSO Alex Coultrup (Left) and Commander Dylan Dickstein (Right) Analyzing Data in the Science Dome

[4] On future Mars missions, where several engineering and scientific operations will require exiting the Habitat and donning an EVA suit, astronaut dexterity will greatly influence the scope of what can be accomplished and the time to complete such tasks. Crew Engineer Hariharan sought to test the effects of different glove materials, thicknesses, and number of layers (mimicking the different pressurization levels and materials of current EVA gloves) on astronaut grip strength and fine motor skills, using quantitative dexterity measurements such as a Purdue Pegboard Test. Through this study, he determined that rather than the thickness of a glove itself, the driver behind fine motor skills is the amount of free space within a glove; the more securely a glove fits to the astronauts’ fingers, the greater direct control and precision the user has. In addition, a rough or “sticky” glove texture can increase dexterity by as much as 10% compared to a smooth baseline, even if the gloves are equally fitted. This study will be built upon during future analog missions, through the use of prototype EVA gloves as well as the addition of qualitative tests on EVA, with relevant IRBs in place.

Figure 4. Commander Dylan Dickstein (Left), Crew Scientist Olivia Ettlin (Middle), and HSO Alex Coultrup (Right) Returning to the Hab After a Successful EVA

[5] In the case of an emergency event on Mars such as a dust storm, radiation exposure, or injured crew member, rapidly locating an adequate shelter will be essential. This study was an exercise for crew members, designed by Hariharan, to locate potential shelters at sites of scientific interest and identify relative landmarks by which the shelter could be located by future crews (as relative navigation requires no instrumentation and satellite signal). In addition, the team qualitatively assessed each shelter in six categories to determine its potential functionality and allow future crews to prioritize shelter transit if needed. The figures of merit were as follows: ease of access by foot, by vehicle, and by incapacitated crew member, size of shelter, physical protection from wind/dust, and ease of visual identification. On subsequent EVAs, other crew members then attempted to identify these shelters using relative navigation and assess them using the same criteria. It was found that precise bearings to nearby landmarks and qualitative descriptions of the shelter itself aided most in shelter location. In addition, shelters that were assessed as higher in quality were typically large, easily accessible by vehicle/foot, and covered on at least three sides.

Additional Projects

[1] Executive Officer Hume is interested in the implementation of planetary protection protocols. We implemented preliminary measures such as keeping a “cleanroom” environment in the spacesuit room, sanitization of all tools or equipment prior to use on EVA, and careful handling of soil samples during analysis.

[2] Health and Safety Officer Coultrup brought educational projects from two different STEM education nonprofits. The first was the Space Farmer DreamKit by DreamUp which is used in K-12 classrooms to educate students about the differences in plant maturation in Earth’s gravity compared to the microgravity environment. Coultrup modified the classroom version of this experiment by incorporating the same growth media and variables used by Crew Botanist Hernandez and Crew Scientist Ettlin in their projects (replica Martian regolith, earthworm castings, concentrated compost byproducts, and a fungus-enriched fertilizer as mentioned previously). The second was a hardware demonstration for a middle school classroom sponsored by the One More Orbit Foundation (OMOF). OMOF students learned about the limitations of astronaut dexterity imposed by EVA suits and designed simple styluses to aid in the use of tablet devices in the field. The crew tried out these styluses and provided feedback to the students and will debrief the students after the mission on the outcomes of Crew Engineer Hariharan’s dexterity research.

[3] Coultrup was interested in learning how various types of personal rituals (e.g., athletic, interpersonal, spiritual, etc.) practiced by the crew might impact their experience as analog astronauts. She engaged in a series of structured conversations with the five other members of the team to learn about the personal rituals they practiced before the mission, which rituals they anticipated modifying or bringing with them into the mission, reviewing how accurate their predictions were, and understanding how the daily routine of the analog mission either inhibited or nurtured their ability to follow through on their plans.

Creative Ventures

[1] The crew recorded footage throughout the mission and is currently organizing it into a documentary-style video that is intended to be uploaded and shared online. Commander Dickstein has professional photography and videography experience and used his keen eye for storytelling and aesthetics to create a one-of-a-kind video capturing this crew’s experience. The documentary highlights the mission in an incredibly positive light and showcases MDRS as an excellent resource for researchers and aspiring astronauts alike.

[2] Throughout the mission, Hume worked on a series of essays/blog posts about the first-time experience of being an analog astronaut and field scientist. Several of these were posted online on her personal website ( via the team’s social media ground support (Elizabeth Balga) during the simulation, and a few more posts will be published immediately following the end of mission. The team has also made a point to catalogue the group’s experience via the team’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter (all @redplanetpeople). These accounts shall be used long after the end of this mission to continue to highlight this incredible learning opportunity and illustrate to others the value of MDRS and the Mars Society overall.

This mission has been far more than the sum of its parts. There was a synergistic element to the experience for all of us. As first-time analog astronauts, we did not fully know what to expect, and approached the experience with open minds. After all, we were here to learn, and staying malleable is essential for aspiring astronauts and professionals in any field. We are all in agreement that this experience has exceeded expectations and transformed us from six near-strangers with a common purpose, into a high-functioning crew with robust collaboration and cooperation skills to boot. We are dedicated not only to thoroughly documenting our experiences as we enter the world of analog missions, but also to sharing this experience with others who may follow in our footsteps. With this in mind, our most important lessons learned are as follows:

  1. Space is a vacuum without people in it
    • Human space exploration is a team effort through and through. Each individual plays a role in setting an example for others and maintaining a positive environment.
  2. The new “right stuff” is a deemphasis of daredevilish pursuits and an elevation of team culture
    • Human spaceflight is always a risky endeavor, but on long duration missions, team players with diverse backgrounds are more valuable than individuals with nerves of steel.
  3. Simulation fidelity is key
    • Living as an astronaut on Mars takes dedication from all members of a crew. The team can either use this opportunity at MDRS to live like a Martian, or a team can choose to bend the rules. The former group will be on Mars for two weeks and the latter will be visiting a research facility in Hanksville, Utah.

This crew has a strong interest in continuing to work together. The team plans to use the preliminary studies from this analog mission as an entry point for even more rigorous studies, and to stick together as a crew for analog missions in the future.

Figure 5. Crew 245 in the Science Dome. From Left to Right: Top Row – Crew Engineer Shravan Hariharan, XO Shayna Hume, and Crew Botanist Julio Hernandez; Bottom Row – Crew Scientist Olivia Ettlin, Commander Dylan Dickstein, and HSO Alex Coultrup.


This mission would not have been possible without the following organizations, institutions, and indivuals:

First, we want to thank our employers, UCLA, CU Boulder, California State Parks, Purdue University, Nanoracks LLC, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for allowing us to take time off to pursue this incredible opportunity. These include our advisors and managers from our respective organizations: Distinguished Professor Nasr Ghoniem, Dr. Jay McMahon, Dr. Danielle LeFer, Dr. Tyler Tallman, Jeff Manber, and Dan Coatta.

We also extend specific gratitude to Dr. Allie Anderson for lending us tools from CU Boulder, Dr. Andrew Aldrin and Jim Christensen of the Aldrin Space Institute and ShareSpace Foundation for their support of our research, Lauren Milord of DreamUp, and Jannicke Mikkelsen and Phillip Lewis of the One More Orbit Foundation for the opportunity to impact K-12 students’ access to STEM education.

We also received many generous donations of equipment for this mission. Molekule Air Purification provided air purifiers which added a level of confidence in this pandemic environment. Other supplies were donated by GSI Outdoors, the UCLA Store, and Grant Coultrup. Finally, we received the financial support of 38 private donors to fund our research and mission costs.

None of our social media presence during the mission would have been possible without the attention and support of our Ground Support, Elizabeth Balga, a friend, talented engineer, and fellow aspiring astronaut.

Finally, it is with glowing hearts that we recognize the Mars Society, Dr. Robert Zubrin, Dr. Shannon Rupert, and Atila Meszaros for their ongoing work through the years and the preparations they made to bring in our team as the first crew back to MDRS since the onset of the pandemic. Team Patamars (MDRS Crew 245) looks forward to what is next in this budding relationship. No looking back now. To Mars and beyond we must go!

Mission Summary – Crew 223

Mission Summary – Crew 223

Our mission could be summed up in one word: adaptability. During those two weeks, we had to adapt to a whole different planet. The way we fed ourselves was different, our daily routines changed, the landscapes we saw were completely foreign. We had spent the entire year preparing for this mission with the previous crew (Crew 222), but it still was very different from all our expectations. We have learned a lot about how to live on Mars, science and friendship. We have learned how to evolve in an environment that we did not know and was sometimes dangerous. We got used to the Hab and this incredible station that we discovered on our first day.

Team members: (From top to bottom) Clément Plagne (Journalist), Aurélien Mure (Commander), Luc Fortin (Engineer), Blandine Gorce (Health and Safety Officer), Florian Delpech (Astronomer), Valentin Bellemin-Laponnaz (GreenHab Officer) and Marion Lebrun (Crew scientist)

We are a crew of students coming from ISAE-SUPAERO, an engineering school in France, and we prepared this mission with the second crew of our school, the Crew 222.

Food and plantations:

Food is a key aspect of Martian life and not only because it is a bare necessity for humankind. It has an important influence on human physical and psychological health. During the two weeks we spent in the MDRS, we exploited at best the production that could be harvested from the GreenHab. And it gave us a huge improvement on our daily habits:

  • Since most of Martian food is dry, having to harvest some fresh herbs and vegetables was a relief for most of us. It was essential to be able to gather some lettuce for a fresh salad or some zucchini flowers for an original meal. Having a place to grow crops is essential to the good mood of the crew and the well-being of their digestive system.
  • The GreenHab is the secret garden of our station, it looks like no other place. Supervised by our GreenHab Officer, we were able to grow crops such as wild rocket, spinach, cucumbers, sweet pepper, radishes, tomatoes, swiss chard… We also had an experiment testing the influence of music on plants. In fact, if we need a lot of crops to grow with few resources on Mars, it is essential to enhance the growth rate of the plants. Valentin experimented on radish to see if some precise noise sequence would enhance the production of proteins inside the plant.
  • We also tested a new type of plantation. Thanks to the Aerospring tower, we tested a vertical plantation and grew lettuce into foam. It allows to cultivate out of soil with a circular system of water and it is all lightened by LEDs. It was efficient to grow lettuce, but it is hard to quantify its efficiency because our two weeks mission was too short to see a significant different.

Daily routine and protocol:

Martian life is sequenced by strict protocol that must be the best for the health of the astronauts and the procedures of the experiences.

  • Our daily routine started with sports, then EVAs according to the weather and in the afternoon, we had a lot of time for experiments in the science dome or in the Hab. Having a day timed precisely helped us to get used to this different lifestyle. The protocols for EVAS are timed due to the depressurization and pressurization and because of the danger of going out on Mars.
  • On Mars resources are limited. We had to be aware of every kind of resource we were using and how we were using it. We changed the way we used water, not consuming it for showers or dish washing. Water is used daily but more than ever it must be preserved because it is limited and so hard to get on Mars. We preserved it so well that we only used only 7 Liters per person and per day. Aurélien and Benjamin, the commander of the crew 222 worked together to simplify the way we count water and give a visual signification of water use.

Human factors and teamwork experience:

Living as a crew is not always easy, but it is a key point for the success of the mission. During the two weeks, we learned a lot about each other, about cohesion and about communication.

  • Marion held two different experiments on communication. The first one consisted to test our communication in a foreign language by building LEGOs. And the second one consisted in testing our communication in situation of stress.
  • We worked a lot on team building through relaxation and positive psychology. It helped calm the stress of the crew members when they were having a hard time. It also helped understanding the dynamic of the Crew. We had a functional yoga program to get rid of the cramps after the EVAs. The conclusion on this experiment is that creating a safe space where everyone feels good helps a lot the efficiency of the mission.

Necessity on Mars and future exploration:

Although it is very exciting to go and explore Mars, this is the most dangerous part of going on another planet. You can become very aware of the danger and the fragility of your own life, when being in a suit in the middle of a desert with no communication.

  • During EVAs, we realized that having a functional life support was essential, so Aurélien and Luc spend a lot of time making sure that our life support would be functioning under any circumstances. They also worked our own life support that was supposed to be tested during the mission. Unfortunately, it was still a bit unsafe to test it, even after two weeks of improvements. We also tested the efficiency of communication in these dangerous situations. In fact, after an EVA where one of the Crew members had lost her earplug, we created a protocol only using sign language. We were able to test its efficiency during two EVAs and concluded on the necessity of having a coded language in case of emergency.
  • During our exploration, we realized that the shapes of Mars can be anything but what was expected so it is essential to understand the environment around the station. We had to experience working on a better understanding of our environment. The LOAC is a system that measure the particles in the air in order to better understand the climate. And the MegaARES measures the electrical field on the ground. The results will be analyzed by the the laboratory Laboraton and the scientist Jean-Baptiste Renard back in France.
  • Last but not least, discovering the universe on Mars is perspective that gives a new exploration point of view. Studying the sky would be useful for further space exploration to be able to observe the sun and be aware of any solar storm. Florian was able to observe the sun and searched for supernovas during the nights. He was able to make all the observations and he will analyze the results back at ISAE-SUPAERO with Eishi, the Astronomer of the Crew 222.

As a conclusion, I would say that we grew up and realized that no matter where you are in the galaxy, it feels good to have a place one can call home.

Final Mission Summary – Crew 222

Authors : Auzou Benjamin, Bochard Marie, Bourdeaud Nicolas, Kim Eishi, Prudhomme Valentin, Roiron Bleuenn, Sedbon Nina

The mission 222 is the sixth mission of ISAE-SUPAERO students in the MDRS. This mission is combined with the crew 223, also composed of students from ISAE-SUPAERO. Indeed, the two crews share the science, and prepared these missions together.


I. General Summary

As students, this mission has for us a pedagogic dimension. The preparation of those two weeks has been intense for one whole year and taught us to work as a group, to make decisions, but also to manage an association and a budget. Then here in the MDRS we learned to lead experiments on a very specific field, with the constraints that come with it. Furthermore, we evolved with six other people during two weeks and learned a lot on ourselves and on the others.

As a matter of fact, our crew was marked by a good cohesive spirit. During this mission we shared a lot of moments together, in the Hab and on EVAs. We talked a lot and shared our feelings during those moments. For example, at the end of each day, we had a moment called the “Word of the day”, where each crew member chooses a word to describe his/her day and explains it to the others. It was interesting to see that everyone had a different perception of the same sol.

After those two weeks, each of us has found answers to his own objectives of the mission, and as a crew we also tackled the group objectives, from a scientific and a human point of view.

The crew transition with crew 223 is ready, and we look forward to exploiting the results of all the experiments we deployed here.

Moreover, in 2021 a new crew of students from ISAE-SUPAERO will come here to continue the work we are doing for now six years in our association, the Club MARS of ISAE-SUPAERO. The strength of our crews is the cohesion, as we are preparing this mission together, and the fact that year after year we have a database of experiments and we share the experience as the veterans of the previous missions.


II. Science Status

During the past two weeks a lot of projects have started in the MDRS. We wanted to work on different aspects of a future sedentary life on Mars.


Martian food

Concerning plants and food we started several experiments that will continue with the second crew of ISAE-SUPAERO (Crew 223).

We grew Spirullina which would enable future humans on Mars to eat very nutritive algae. Today the Spirulina is growing in the aquarium and we hope that the next crew will taste it (it grew about 0,5 cm at the top of the aquarium). We also started the Aerospring moss garden. This garden can be placed in different environments and different temperatures. We are currently observing the development of roots (herbs and vegetables) in the garden with a highly controlled amount of ater (max 75L of water in the garden with every nutriments inside). Besides, we also wanted to compare this vertical garden with the same seeds in gelatin. At this moment we can’t observe any change inside gelatin but we can’t make any conclusion yet.


Martian environment

When we first arrived in the station we noticed the heavy and bulky equipment a human has to put on itself before going outside. That is why we wanted to test the Backpack combined with the LCVG for an EVA. Unfortunately we did not have time to test this outside the RAM because it was not sufficiently efficient and we did not want to take the risk to go outside with a dysfunctional equipment. At this moment everything should be working well and the next crew will be able to test it during an EVA.

We also put two experiments in place, taking measurements continuously during the day. The LOAC is sorting the air particules present in the air of the Utah Desert surrounding the MDRS. The results will be analyzed after the mission, by the researcher responsible for this experiment. The MegaAres is studying the electromagnetic field of Earth (before Mars …). It will be very interesting to measure the difference between day and night and depending on the hour of the day.


Martian house

We know that water is an essential ressource here on Earth and moreover on Mars. That is why we put in place a water consumption device in the HAB in order to know where the water is used to live on Mars. Today every cables are plugged and the next crew will be able to know precisely how they use their daily water.


A Human Civilization on Mars

The Human Factors experiments went very well. It was a special moment, every day for 13 days. Everybody participated willingly, it helped the crew be more bonded. We can’t disclose the purpose of the experiments now because the members of Crew 223 will undertake the same experiments.



III. Astronomy projects

Both astronomy projects have progressed with several gigabytes of raw data gathered and expected to be processed back at my school (ISAE-SUPAERO). Regarding the supernovae research project, nearly half of the target galaxies has already been imaged twice as part of the weekly observations, with the other half pending the run of the MDRS-14 telescope in the coming days. The astrophotography project has yielded beautiful images of the select deep sky objects. A couple of targets could not be imaged as planned because they were not visible for long enough after sunset. I am still looking forward to keeping on with both projects after the mission, in close collaboration with the Crew 223 Astronomer Florian Delpech and the astronomy club of ISAE-SUPAERO. I hope the raw data collected during the mission will be a valuable resource for scientific and training purposes.


Mission Summary – Crew 220

Mission Summary Crew 220

MDRS & MAU “Station-to-Station” MARS MEDICS Mission


The first Mars Academy USA and Mars Desert Research Station MAU-MDRS “Station-to-Station” Mars Medics Analog Astronaut Training Missions was successfully conducted at the Mars Desert Research Station, in Hanksville, Utah. A trans-disciplinary team of analog astronauts, medical professionals and researchers will live and work together at MAU and MDRS stations and will conduct various “station-to-station” interactivities, test novel technologies and develop countermeasures and mitigation protocols and new medical capabilities that will enable humans to survive in austere, remote, Isolated and Confinement Environments (I.C.E) in Space and help improve life on Earth.


  1. TEST A “STATION-TO-STATION” MODEL PARADIGM. Training professionals in the fields of space medicine, aerospace, explorers, innovators, developers, artists, academics, scientists, and researchers in analogue astronautics to support future long-duration space missions, planetary surface explorations and spin-off benefits to improve life on Earth.
    Testing and development of countermeasures and mitigation strategies to address the
    myriad of human factors and behavioral challenges for crews and/or astronauts living in
    austere, extreme I.C.E. (Isolated and Confinement Environments) in Space or in remote
    regions on Earth.
    Improve state-of-the-art in healthcare delivery and medical access for remote, austere populations and astronauts. Create and develop new “gold standards” in Standard Operational Procedures (SOP) and protocols for I.C.E. scenarios to transform and Space Medicine, Disaster and Extreme Medicine.
  4. DEVELOPMENT “JUST-IN-TIME” MEDICAL TRAINING: developing and testing interactive, fully immersive just-in-time” tele-mentoring medically-focused training in I.C.E, integrating exponential technologies, eg, spatial computing, VRAR Training Simulations, robotics and innovative technologies.


John Hanacek MA – Crew Commander / ARMR Officer

Shawna Pandya MD – Crew Commander

Susan Ip-Jewell MD – AI / Astrowellness Officer

Johannes Svensøy MD – Executive & Crew Medical Officer

Connie Delisle PhD – Health, Safety & Operations Officer

Morgan Kainu BA – Crew Geologist / Journalist

Jasleen Josan MSc – Crew Engineer / Scientist

Matt Wise – Executive & Operations & Safety Officer

Alyx Skywalker BSc – Crew Engineer

Marufa Akhter Bhuiyan MSc – Crew Scientist

Lee Roberts MSc – Crew Geologist / Engineer

Grace Graham – MAU Training Intern


Commander Shawna Pandya, MD. – Callsign “Night Owl”

The MAU 001-MDRS 220 mission rep resented the first-ever “station-to-station” mission at the Mars Desert Research Station, and I feel honored and privileged to have served as a co-Commander during this historical mission. With it came a lot of firsts and learning lessons. I appreciated the opportunity to lead my crews with “military” and “consensus” governance models, although I must admit that in truth, there is a great degree of overlap between the models. No military commander can simply order their men into the line of fire – the team must agree to do so, which in and of itself is a form of consensus. As such, I did not notice any great degree of difficulty moving between the two governance models. This was also partially helped by the fact that the MAU Station crew, which operated on a consensus model, was always relatively small (2-3 crew including the Commander), therefore, it was very easy to build a consensus. Co-commanding was also a novel experience, and I enjoyed evolving with, growing with and learning from my co-Commander. Morning and night-time briefings helped us develop a shared mental model of our daily plans, and one lesson I learned was that it is best to err on the side of repeated-briefings to ensure the build-up of a shared mental model for both crew and commanders.

With regards to mission planning, in aviation, we talk about “staying ahead of the aircraft,” and the same is probably true of missions. This mission was task-saturated in nearly all categories – medical, arts and wellness, science and logistics – and in the future, I would work with my science and Executive officers to list all our “nice to have” versus “need to have” objectives well ahead of the mission itself, prioritize accordingly, and draft a mission schedule 2 to 4 weeks ahead of time. This crew in particular was good at stepping up and cleaning, cooking and doing dishes as needed, and made my job very easy, regardless of the station. One is not always so lucky, and future Commanders may need to plan to assign these tasks.

As the mission went on, the crew learned to work as a well-oiled machine, particularly when in small groups, and it is my observation that small groups tend to be productive groups. Spending more time at each station, developing more days with station-specific programming, and observing the station-specific culture that develops would be interesting, both to see how each station develops through the course of the mission, and also to observe how different-sized groups worked together.

I particularly enjoyed teaching, demonstrating and drilling the medical protocols during this mission, and would continue to emphasize this education and its application to EVA in future missions.

As I told my crew today, I learned and grew from my interactions with each and every single one of them, and while this may be the end of one adventure, from the bonds and friendships formed here, it is merely the beginning of the next.

Commander John Hanacek, MA – Callsign “Hummer”

What is power? I have studied this question academically, and now on Mars I have experienced a new level of immediacy and directness to this question. Personal power was the deep running theme of this mission for me. I was forced by circumstance to claim my personal power and my mandate as a leader in the face of strong personalities. I came here prepared to let go of my programming and tap into the inner permission to love myself enough to let go of doubts, fears and limitations – and to fully accept the leader within myself to emerge though this experience.

Establishing power was a running theme both on an operational level as well as metaphysical. I began my commander rotation at the Mars Academy USA (MAU) station, and I felt forced to quickly become comfortable with the freezing Martian nights in the austere habitat without consistent electrical power and just some small propane heaters as we worked to establish electrical systems for the MAU station. At the same time, I was establishing my power as a commander and leader.

The two stations operated on different governance models, MAU on consensus and MDRS in a more traditional hierarchical way. This became a source of growth for me, as I found myself feeling out in the cold when interacting with the MDRS commander, having to constantly ask for briefs and finding myself being talked over and what I felt as subtle undermining in the first few days. I have come to realize that it was a gift –begging me to step into my own personal power and speak for myself. In addressing these challenges directly with my Co- Command during Sol 11-12, I felt I better understood how to manage using Command and Control without being overbearing.  My MAU station mandate was immediately more comfortable as it fit my personality – facilitating consensus and creating time and space for decisions to emerge from the crew.

The first week went by in a strange kind of fast eternity where every night was a new challenge, and emotions often ran raw as I refused to back down, and embraced being my authentic self in always vocalizing concerns and truths, even when it did prove unpopular. Before I switched stations to command MDRS, I first took a three-day trip back to San Francisco, CA, Earth to work on a business project. This was surreal to say the least. I found that the Earth looked different and yet I recognized it more clearly. I reflected on how the station-to-station scenario seemed a smaller microcosm of what goes on every day on Earth: power shifting, jostling for authority and negotiation of sovereignty.

When I returned to MDRS I found myself able to interpret the command hierarchy style of leadership and within it, to communicate with authority not domination. I felt that also shifted my relationship with the MAU Commander – we synergistically seemed to reach an equitable distribution of power, authority and sovereignty. The commander who had acted in my place changed the paradigm and brought an entirely new level of operational order and mental transparency to authentical daily plans and intentions. I enlisted her as my XO and we continued a trend of what I see as the golden age of the station-to-station mission, where clear communication, visible plans and balanced power and empathy reigned.

In all, I enjoyed my time at MDRS and MAU – even when it hurt. I feel transformed from my time on Mars, and I feel like this full crew and the stations themselves will always be in my heart. I found my power here on Mars -my ability to stand tall on shifting ground and feel safe – to give orders, to take criticism and to grow with a crew made up of very different personalities. More than the exploration of Mars, this mission was an exploration of myself and the nature of power. I feel I now have been gifted with a secret to share as my final words – within me is the entirety of the all one and also the specificity of a unique authenticity I refer to as myself. The ability to accept both the light and the dark equally yet choose which one I want to express. I accept my shadow as I shine my light. I remember that everyone is me and I am everyone, and I accept that I have preferences and specifics. The ultimate power is in choice itself, in meeting all happenings and interactions with full awareness and complete memory. What will I express as I embrace the complete unity of myself? How will I be with myself in my many faces? The choice is mine if I make it so, and that is where power truly lives.

Commander Connie Delisle, PhD. – Callsign “Coyote”

Space and time have always been a fascination. Prior to MDRS, that meant introspection and personal discovery of boundaries to set and borders to let go. In in Mars flow of time I feel it’s bigger than that – and non-random. Rather, an intricate design to clear the inner space and for all to share insights as a collective wisdom for those going back to Earth or headed for other far away planets and galaxies.  This first ever-Station-to-Station mission has answered some questions but ultimately more so challenged my theories and conviction. It was a completely unexpected honor to serve as MDRS Commander for Sol 8-11, leading me to affirm that even on Mars my true calling is of service and support to leadership. As Commander, the following three insights are offered: First, self-monitoring and day-to-day crew checks for wellness, adjustments to operational tempo and re-alignment with Mission Objectives requires extreme and ongoing vigilance. Second, Mars is a team sport. I found that delegation and follow up worked equally well on Mars and it does on Earth; the main difference is in the cycle times being very short. Third, crew diversity and culture are powerful. In seeing and feeling through other’s perspective, then patience and understanding transformed hurt to healing.  On a personal note, it was entirely freeing that Crewmate and Astrological Researcher Marufa Akhter Bhuiyan validated for me, the realness of living in imaginary time- something I’ve been doing on Earth without knowing what it meant. Even though current time was short as MDRS Commander, teachings and reflections from MAU and MDRS Crew along with MDRS Director and her team will live on through time immortal.

Morgan Kainu – Callsign “Grass Snake”

This mission was a complete success with respect to teamwork and spiritual growth together and has paved the path for future endeavors together. I would be happy to do a future mission or research with any one of the crew in the future.

Matt Wise – Callsign “Fox”

This was a unique opportunity to practice innovation and group problem-solving in an isolated environment.

Johannes Nordsteien Svensøy  M.D., M.Sc.EMDM -Callsign “Raven”

This was an opportunity to solve real-life challenges in a simulation, which is critical if you are going to push the boundaries in austere environments and extreme medicine.

Project Reports

Johannes Svensøy MD callsign “Raven”

Butterfly iQ Ultrasound tele-guidance, Butterfly Network.

The Butterfly iQ was brought onboard the current mission with much appreciated help and guidance from the Butterfly Network. The Butterfly iQ is a revolutionary handheld Ultrasound System integrating the most commonly used probes in medical ultrasound imaging into only one probe. The device is operated from small-screen devices such as mobile phones or tablets, making this the perfect tool for ICE (Isolated, Confined and Extreme) environments such as this MAU-MDRS Mission. The Butterfly was integrated into teaching and training of both medical and non-medical personnel, particularly into trauma scenarios in the field. The objectives of the training were device familiarization, and to get a hands-on idea of POCUS (point-of-care ultrasound) and FAST (Fast Assessment for Sonography for Trauma) protocols. The Butterfly Ultrasound was also used during simulation for assessment of an injured astronaut after evacuation and decompression into the station. The Butterfly Ultrasound and the program is easy to operate, and with the tele-guidance tool, a medical expert can guide, analyze, and explain the findings to the operator. This project was met with an overwhelmingly positive response from both medically and non-medically trained personnel, and all were able to appreciate its use case for future missions and simulations. My recommendation is to further integrate the Butterfly and its multiple capabilities into more simulations in future missions. Appreciation and thanks to Butterfly Network for the possibility to test this tool in austere environments such as here on Mars.

John Hanacek MA

Virtual Reality and Spatial Computing Demos

Objectives: Give the crew access to cutting edge Virtual Reality (VR) and Spatial Computing/ Mixed Reality headset technologies.

What was done: Brought an Oculus Quest VR headset and a Magic Leap Spatial Computing headset, both loaded with applications.

Did not achieve objectives, only one member of the crew experienced just one device.

Needed to schedule dedicated time for the activity, yet this mission had so many activities that it often got bumped due to other projects taking immediate precedence as being more mission relevant.

Future plans are to once again bring the devices, yet firmly establish a time window of at least an hour to demonstrate them. Next time I will need to get into the schedule much earlier and stay persistent that it is mission relevant to have the crew experience these next generation technologies.

AvatarMEDIC HoloTRIAGE ™ Application Testing

Objectives: Conduct user testing on the newly developed prototype HoloTRIAGE mobile phone AR application for multi victim trauma scenario training. Develop survey for said testing.

What was done: Brought application loaded on a mobile phone, had any interested participants sign MNDA with AvatarMEDIC company

Achieve Objectives? Partially. Did not find time to conduct any tests but we develop a survey which can be used for subsequent tests.

Why not achieve? Application was only completed within the last four Sols of the Mission, not leaving adequate time to slot in a testing time period into the already crowded schedule.

Future plans are to test the application on Earth and further refine the application and the survey methods. Additionally, utilizing the training from this MDRS/MAU mission to inform additional curriculum modules for the application and enhance the quality of the training.

Susan Ip-Jewell MD. Callsign “Chinthe”

Teleanesthesia “Vapojet” Simulation Training

For pre-simulation training, telepresence was proposed to train the crew members in basics surgical interventions such as Debridement and Suturing using simulation tissues. During the sim, the crew learnt and conducted the teleanesthesia protocols using the 3D Printed VAPOJET TM

Mars Governance Models

Designing future strategies for implementing a form of governance model in isolated and remote groups to include ethics, rules and regulations. What infrastructure model is needed to ensure optimum health, wellbeing, increase productivity and collaboration for crews.

The implementation of two different governance models for each station was an interesting experiment for the crew teams. The MAU station adopted the consensus model and MDRS station adopted the “military hierarchical” model. Both crew teams experienced the two models with positive outcomes and was able to live and work together and quickly adapting to the station environments and the limitations and restrictions imposed during the mission.


Paper foldable microscope was assembled by crew and used to detect microorganisms and potential bacteria and contamination in the soil samples collected during the geological EVAs.

Meals for Mars Project – PI: Sian Proctor PhD

The Elements  meals used freeze-dried “meals”  specifically designed for long duration spaceflight missions for astronauts and crews in austere I.C.E was implemented in the mission for several days with selected crew participants.

Matt Wise Callsign “Fox”

Station to Station Data Link

Objective- Create a wireless data link between MDRS habitat and MAU station

We emplaced mesh network access points between MAU and MDRS to create a station to station localized network for sharing files and operational data.  Lack of solar panels and batteries forced us to run power cables to each access point, however the data was relayed very effectively via wireless signal.

Result- The concept was proven, but full point to point connectivity failed due to insufficient access points to span the distance between stations.

Future- In the future having more access points for the mesh network will alleviate connectivity gaps.  I’ve designed a one-piece wireless repeater which solves this issue.  Teams will be able to deploy a modular mesh network to effectively expand station connectivity

Mars’-bucha Bacterial Production Study

Digestive health and, more specifically, the gut bacteria biome are critical considerations for long-term habitation off world.  Complex solutions requiring resource intensive production will be less than optimal from both a transport and operation standpoint.  Kombucha can be easily produced and requires only tea, sugar, and water.  The bacterial culture is extremely resilient and not only reusable but self-replicating after only 7-14 days in ideal conditions.  Producing such a beverage is both healthy and has a positive effect on morale.  While a number of sugar sources are available this study assumes sugar cane grown in the greenhab as well as various types of tea which will also provide excellent oxygen production and a good cellulose fiber source for production of other materials.  The bacterial culture can be easily transported from earth or carefully isolated in the hab.

In our study we began with a 3 gram sample of isolated bacteria, mixed with 1 gallon of brewed tea and sugar, and allowed to propagate in a warm, dark container.  After 8 days the bacteria colony had formed a thin layer in the liquid.  These bacteria consumed most of the sugar and caffeine in the liquid and reproduced large quantities of beneficial bacteria.  75% of the liquid was drained from the container, bottled, and mixed with approximately 2oz of sweetened fruit, tea, and/or spices depending on the taste of each crewmember.  After 3 days of second fermentation the carbon dioxide expelled by the bacteria consuming sugar gave the beverage a slight carbonated kick and the color had changed to deep reds and golds depending on the ingredients added.  They were also delicious!  The remaining liquid was enriched with sugar and left to sustain the bacteria colony until we’re ready to produce the next batch of Kombucha.  As of this writing a second bacterial layer has formed from the original colony.  This layer could be separated and used to begin an entirely new container of Kombucha.

The health benefits of Kombucha are far reaching, as is the simple enjoyment of a tasty beverage.  Additionally, the fermentation process produces CO2 which would be beneficial to plants growing in the green hab. The greenhab, in turn, is a warm environment, a perfect location from producing Kombucha.  Production is non-resource intensive and the yield is high. This is a perfect option for a Mars habitat.


Objective- Use the Golden Bubble medevac device in an analog Martian environment and successfully deploy, load, and transport a mock-casualty to higher medical care.

The Golden Bubble is a pressurized emergency medevac device comprised of a backboard, inflatable transparent membrane, and life-support systems. The Golden Bubble is designed to be used in emergencies to provide a pressurized, clean-air environment during a medical emergency.  The casualty is strapped onto the backboard and then the membrane is inflated around them creating a protective bubble.  Access points along each side allow first responders to assess and stabilize the victim without exposing them to toxic or low-pressure, low-oxygen environments.  The inside pressure is regulated to a specific atmosphere and excess C02, fumes, dust, and other contaminates are vented to the outside.  The purpose of this device is to extend the Golden Hour and give first responders more time to move a casualty to higher care.

In this case we used the Golden Bubble as a medical scenario training aid.  A mannequin was used as a mock-casualty and was subsequently put inside the Golden Bubble, assessed for injuries, and transported by foot, then by rover, to the nearest airlock for higher medical care.

Result- The test was highly successful, and the Golden Bubble performed better than expected in many ways.  It was relatively easy for any individual crewmember to carry and deploy.  A longer version will, however, need to be constructed for patients taller than 72” and improved air tank capacity will be necessary for a production version.

Future Plans- Going forward I will continue to improve the functionality and ergonomics (particularly for patients wearing EVA suits) of this design and create a more streamlined and functional production version.

Shawna Pandya MD. Callsign “Night Owl”


The ISANSYS Lifetouch 20g sensors, blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter were deployed on this machine to see how they would fare in an ICE environment. The sensors are capable of measuring heart rate, respiration rate, heart rate variability, one-lead EKG and accelerometry. When paired with the other two devices via Bluetooth, the system is capable of measuring blood pressure and pulse oximetry as well. In this mission, 4 patches were deployed on 4 crew members (2 male, 2 female), as a test of both longevity over a 2 week mission, and as a test of hardiness, as all 4 crew members spent one week at the MDRS Hab, and one week in the MAU Station, in tents in a winter desert environment. The Lifetouch Patches have been previously deployed in parajumper and military field exercises, the Cleveland Clinic, in Antarctica with the NASA Johnson Space Center Exploration Medical Capability team in drysuits, underwater in wetsuits, and in parabolic flight. In this demonstration, the patches were both used to collect biometrics, as well as make notes of how the patches reacted when used continuously over a two-week mission, with intermittent battery replacement as needed, as well as with continuous exposure in the cold desert environment. Subjectively it seemed that sensor battery life diminished in the tent environment. There were some issues with QR code reading, initially with pairing the blood pressure cuff to the ISANSYS tablet, and later on with the pairing of the tablet to the LifeTouch patches. These eventually resolved, but from previous experience, it seemed like the patches required a new session to be started every time a session was transferred, rather than transferring back to a previous user. Of note, the tablet’s ability to read QR codes seemed to behave better once the tablet was connected to the Internet. By the end of the mission, most batteries had failed, and sessions were either intentionally ended after catching up on all data, or ended prematurely with batteries dying, resulting in the loss of some data. Early on in the mission, the ISANSYS/Stark team confirmed that they were able to view uploaded data on the secure server. This ultimately represented a successful demonstration of the Lifetouch system in an extreme environment. In the future, to minimize data loss, it may make sense to schedule “maintenance” Bluetooth catch-up sessions at 3-4 day intervals. With future deployments of the Lifetouch Patch, it may be interesting to have the subjects keep a journal of particularly notable physical, physiological or emotionally events, and later correlate those events to sensor readings. As a final point, the timestamp on the table is 2 hours ahead, and this was not corrected so as to not interfere with the tablet settings.

EVA Biometrics Study

The EVA biometrics study looked at crew wellness parameters pre and post-EVA. Parameters measured include blood pressure, heart rate, pulse oximetry, weight, and questions assessing hydration status and subjective notes pre-EVA, and questions regarding subjective assessment of physical exertion, mental exertion and emotional distress. The study succeeded in acquiring some data points, but there is room for improvement as to how the study is conducted in the future. Firstly, the vital sign measuring equipment was only available at MDRS station, hence only EVA teams leaving from MDRS station could be consistently assessed. In addition, given the large size of the crew, the number of times a single individual was assessed was limited, usually ranging between 0 to 3 times over the course of the entire mission. Lastly, there were moments, when, either due to time constraints or simply forgetting, that pre or both pre- and post- data point collection was missed, limiting the value of the results. Future studies would do well to regularly collect pre- and post- EVA data. From the data points collected, however, most crew members seemed well-hydrated pre-EVA, no crew members lost weight from dehydration based on the data, and no vital signs were grossly abnormal.

Psychological Resilience in ICE Environments Study

The psychological resilience in ICE environments study was conducted in partnership with Dr. Nathan Smith of the University of Manchester, and this study was initiated in partnership with NASA as an evaluation of psychological resilience of astronauts, and later expanded to adults on expeditions of >10 days in other expedition and isolated and confinement environments. The study consists of both pre and post-mission surveys, as well as twice daily mission diaries. There were difficulties with obtaining data due to the initial state of emergency at the start of the mission, and accessing the digital surveys, which put those partaking in data behind from the outset. In addition, the study data may be affected by the highly dynamic nature of crew members moving in and out of “quarantine,” affecting the data. Ultimately, because of the limited internet, nearly all surveys were completed in retrospect, also possibly affecting the data. These notations will be made when the final data is sent back to the primary investigator. If incorporating this study into future missions, it would make sense both print paper copies ahead of time, so as not to be hindered by technology lapses, and also to schedule time pre, post and in-mission to ensure that data is captured daily.

MAU Ambassadors Program

The MAU Ambassadors Program was started during the second week of the MAU Command under Commander Pandya, with one Officer from MDRS coming to spend a night and part of the next day with the MAU crew to foster cross-station professional competencies, relationships and cultural exchanges. During its initial run, 3 MDRS officers, including the MDRS Journalist, Engineer and GreenHab Officer spent one night each at the MAU station, and all expressed positive sentiments about their stay, commenting on either the view from MAU station, the time spent with the MAU crew and/or discussing mission logistics. All in all, this initial trial run of the program was promising, and may be worth incorporating into future missions.


Mars Academy USA (MAU) is the 21st Century Academy “offering experiential learning with exponential technologies”. MAU is creating a new paradigm in learning using exponential technologies, simulation-based learning, and edutainment. MAU is an organization with a mission to train the Next-Gen Analog Astronauts, Visionaries, Innovators, Scientists, Explorers, and Astroprenuers. Since 2016, MAU has been developing, testing, and implementing a “Portable Integrated Turn-key Analog Astronautics Simulation Training SystemTM” and creating a unique “Let’s get S.T.E.A.M.E.D”TM (Science, Technologies, Engineering, Art, Maths, Exponential, Digital VRAR) workshops and programs focusing on exponential technologies, such as, teleanesthesia-telesurgery, VRAR, solar powered 3D Printing, HoloTRIAGE, and Gamification. The company offers their unique “space-focused edutainment” programs to academia, commercial and corporate markets, and general public. The mission of the organization is to Educate, Empower, Entertain, Engage, and Expand an international, global “voice” in support of human space explorations, technological innovations to enable future settlement on off-world planets, Mars or Moon, with focus in spin-off benefits for improving life on Earth. MAU unique portable basecamp comprised of various size “pods” with connecting tunnels which allows for multiple configuration design to adapt and suit the surrounding environments and number of crew participants. The basecamp can be easily assembled and disassembled for quick removal after the mission.


Mars Academy USA (MAU) is a series of Analog Astronaut Simulation Training missions focusing on space medicine, biomedical and biotechnology innovations. Mission crews enter fully “in-person” immersive simulations living and working together in a transdisciplinary, multicultural analog Mars environment in MAU’s mobile, modular Mars Basecamps. The missions are specifically focused on innovations for explorations in space medicine, astro-wellness, space food production and nutrition. The crews will test, develop and innovate ways to support future human explorations and settlement on Mars and Moon. The crews will test design and integrate exponential technologies, such as, VRAR, 3D printing, and even genetic tools.



Mission Summary – Crew 219

ARES Mars Desert Research Station Mission Summary

ARES MDRS Scientific Research and Engineering Testing

Astrobiological Research and Education Society (ARES)


Mission Overview:

            The exploration of Mars has a myriad of physical and technical challenges that will demand the greatest ingenuity and moxie ever displayed by human explorers. To meet these challenges, STEM professionals use Mars Analogs like the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) to evaluate their procedures and technologies in a setting where challenges occur in real time. This provides feedback that permits space agencies to conduct safe and effective missions to Mars.

The Astrobiological Research and Education Society (ARES) was established to unite astrobiology scholars in the search for life and the study of Earth-born organisms that leave Earth. ARES engages in Mars analog studies for two justifications: to define the methods that which might detect life on Mars and to study biological sustainability techniques that facilitate long-duration habitation. Crew 219 came to MDRS with a variety of scientific and engineering-related challenges to expand on this work.


Crew Member Names and Roles:

Commander: David Masaitis

Executive Officer: Nathan Hadland

Lead Science Officer: Hannah Blackburn

Health and Safety Officer: Keith Crisman

GreenHab Officer: Cynthia Montanez

Astronomer: Robinson Raphael

Geologist: Abdul Elnajdi

Engineer: Alejandro Perez



MDRS Crew 219 is supported by international partners including Florida Tech, Ball State University, Compass Equipment LLC, and Anker. We would also like to thank The Mars Society for providing three Scholarships to our IESL Crew 205 Veterans for this year’s visit. Outreach programs are ongoing using the following networks: ARES, Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity, and the Student Astronomical Society. We would like to thank several people: Dr. Andrew Palmer for his guidance, our outreach coordinator David Merced, Dr. Daniel Batcheldor, Dr. Sam Durrance, Dr. Saida Caballero, David Handy, MDRS Crew 205 (IESL), and you too!


Overview of Research

EVA Operations:

Crew 219 executed eighteen Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVAs), serving five of our seven projects. These projects collected data and we will begin post-mission analysis after our return. EVA’s consisted of geologic sampling for both mineralogical analysis and biological viability. We implemented Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which are available as separate appendices.  After each EVA, biometrics data were collected for evaluation by the HSO.


Biometrics and Neurobehavioral Research Pertaining to Cardiovascular Health during EVAs

This was a two-series data collection taken concurrently: Series I focused on collection of biological metrics and Series II focused on collection of neurobehavioral metrics on varying schedules. Data collection for this research is nearly complete.  It should be noted that some metrics were skipped or eliminated at the discretion of the HSO:

  • Respiratory Rate (B4)
  • Modified DAN OSNE (N3)
  • Lower Extremity Measurements (B2)

Data collected was compiled in individual folders and broken down by Average (AVG) of individual metrics minus the Preliminary Collected Individual Metrics, Minimum Value (MIN), Maximum Value (MAX), Variation between MIN and MAX, and Variation from AVG and Preliminary Collected Individual Metrics.  The latter values were recorded on a master spreadsheet to compare crew metrics by averaging each and deriving the deviation from the average for each crewmember at each metric.  These will be combined with EVA data (time, duration, difficulty) and Sleep Logs to determine if the variations in and between crew members for each EVA were indicative of correlation between EVA and cardiovascular health decrement due to the high stress (physical and neurological) of long duration EVAs.

Further research would utilize in-situ recording devices during EVA, allowing for persistent data collection.  One could then derive EVA duration and cardiovascular workload within simulated environments such as MDRS and extend into real-world off-planet science.


UAV Transport and Deployment

The objective of this project was to flight test a specialized quad-rotor UAV developed at Florida Tech. This preliminary phase of development is focused on the transportation, assembly, and deployment in a field environment. While later phases will focus on the more specialized performance aspects of the UAV, this mission sought to evaluate challenges involved in transport, deployment, and flight testing.

The UAV was assembled, and its camera assembly tested. During initial power-on, motors 1 and 2 tested successfully, but motors 3 and 4 failed to turn. Computerized diagnostics reflected the presence of the failing motors, so it was determined that further testing should be postponed in favor of fault isolation.

Fault isolation continued through the duration of the mission and revealed mechanical and electrical quality control issues that were not apparent when the UAV was collapsed into transport configuration. Due to a thorough investigation by the Engineer and his documentation of discovered issues, the UAV’s design team will have an evaluated list of repairs and improvements to make before it returns with next year’s mission.


Dust Mitigation for Optical Mirrors

Many telescopes rely on the detection of light after being reflected by mirrors. Environmental dust on these mirrors can cause obstructions or distortions of captured imagery. Removing it without damaging the mirror is time consuming. In this project, we tested known cleaning methods for optical mirrors in a Mars-like environment. We brought two 135 mm mirrors and a mount which were set up outside the Hab for 4 Sols. This served as a baseline for the effects of weather on an open optical mount. The mirrors were brought inside and given several days to remain undisturbed. Dust was introduced to the mirrors manually and 4 cleaning methods were tested. These methods are listed from most to least effective:

  • Contact method (no cleaning solution): Optical brushes and cotton fiber swab
  • Contact method (non-alcoholic): Lens tissue with optical screen cleaner (altura)
  • Contact method (alcoholic): Cotton swabs and balls with rubbing alcohol
  • Non-contact method: Blower

Methods were evaluated for time, simplicity, and effectiveness. Overall, the optical mirror brush proved the simplest and most effective for dust mitigation on Mars.


Astrophotography of Celestial Bodies

Using the MDRS-14 telescope, we observed celestial bodies to investigate the effect of various filters. Calibration and stacking of images was performed with AstroImageJ. Procedures were implemented to account for weather and atmospheric distortion. These methods include choosing the best fits file for each filter prior to calibrating and stacking as well as repeating observations for celestial bodies. The Discovery object observations planned were scrapped due to weather.

Observations conducted at MDRS included:

  • M32
  • NGC 7318
  • NGC 1068
  • Little Dumbbell Nebula
  • Whirlpool Galaxy
  • M40
  • NGC 4258

Celestial bodies observed had two images generated: one composed of the Johnson-Cousins filter set (B, V, R) and the other composed of a generic filter set (Generic R, Generic V, Generic B). In addition to filters used, the noticeable differences in both images depended on the size and brightness of the object. An example is provided:

                Whirlpool Galaxy (Color Image and Generic Color Image)

Using a set of generic filters alters the appearance of a celestial body from its color as the filters are not a single color. Generic filters made images brighter as opposed to the Johnson-Cousin set, but generic images tend to skew the quality of the image. Future work will test a wider range of celestial bodies with distinct characteristics and a wider variety of filters.


Remediation of Mars Regolith

This investigation consisted of regolith samples inoculated by cyanobacteria to examine mineralogical changes through primary and auto-succession. The intent was to take biologically inert regolith and transform it into substrate for food production. Regolith characteristics of interest were clumping, wettability, and chemical and textural changes. Four samples of regolith were collected during EVA missions. The cyanobacteria used in this study was Anabaena cylindrica.

Daily measurements of cellular density were taken to measure population variations. Initial density was 1.78 x 105 cells/mL, an order of magnitude less than laboratory cellular density values. There was a significant change in algal color during transportation, which indicated a decrease in chlorophyll a and cell death. Low cell count and color change likely occurred due to lack of light and low temperature exposure. Cellular revitalization would have exceeded mission duration, so initial counts were taken and regolith samples were immediately inoculated. Three groups for each regolith sample were tested:

9 mL of regolith, 3 mL of media, and 1 mL of A. cylindrica

9 mL of regolith and 1 mL of A. cylindrica

9 mL of regolith (control)

After four days, no viable A. cylindrica were viewed in the samples. A. cylindrica did not survive the inoculation process, due to low initial cell count and continued exposure to temperatures below 15°C.

Upon completion of the Mars analog mission, follow up assessments will be made by using Electron Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) to identify changes in the regolith. We investigated the properties of the regolith as compared to controls to observe the effects of A. cylindrica. Though this study did not result in an observable growth or decay in cyanobacteria population, we were able to investigate the regolith’s clumping, texture, and dryness. Further analysis will be completed back at Florida Tech.


Chemical and Mineralogical Composition of the MDRS Site

This research used collected samples from the MDRS region to determine chemical and mineralogical compositions of regolith using X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) and X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analysis. Through small samples of regolith, we can infer the mineralogy, composition, and grade of the surrounding region.

The following steps have been completed for Crew 219’s mission:

  • Collected samples at 13 sites in the greater MDRS region and marked with GPS points.
  • Dried in an oven at 100 C0 and cleaned of impurities and plant roots. The samples were then sifted to two different sizes: 60m and 5m.
  • The samples were placed in special containers for shipment.
  • Run XRD and XRF analysis. This will take place in the geochemistry labs at Florida Tech and Ball State University.
  • Generation of a GIS map of the mineralogical composition of the site for future crews to use.


Protocols for the Discovery of Life on Mars

Crewed expeditions to Mars will need methods to identify and characterize extraterrestrial biology. Given the persistence of water on Mars, it is possible that life has or may exist on the surface. Our research focused on three categories of samples collected:

  • Known sources of microbial life (i.e. standing water, lichen, etc.)
  • Fossilized invertebrates (i.e. gryphea) as a proxy for extinct life
  • Random samples

Samples were photographed and collected for further study using fractal analysis, a possible method in the identification of extraterrestrial life. Previous work has demonstrated that fractals are an indicator of life on a microscopic and macroscopic scale. Using fractal patterns instead of chemical signatures allows us to identify non-standard biology on other planets. We took macroscopic and microscopic images of the types of samples listed above. Using FrAn, a Python program, we will analyze images for their fractal dimension or “D” value (Azua-Bustos and Vega-Martinez 2013).  This analysis will be performed upon return.

Future work will use images taken by our UAV and processed in FrAn. Using a UAV to identify areas with a greater “D” value can prioritize EVA sites as potential habitats, allowing astronauts to focus on the most promising locations.


Recommended Standard Operating Procedures and Inventories

Crew 219 tested procedures and checklists developed by Crew 205 (IESL), designed to improve crew efficacy. These procedures focused on improved performance for EVAs, tasks for Crew Engineers, HSOs, and team leaders. These task sheets were printed and laminated prior to rotation and will be handed to the assistant director upon completion of the mission. They will also be available digitally as a collection of appendices.


Recommended Update to Pre-Mission HSO Checklist Rationale

Crew 219’s HSO used his extensive safety and human-factors background to make a pointed re-evaluation of the HSO Pre-Mission Checklist, as included in the mission appendices.  The rationale behind these suggestions are based on efficiency and ergonomics of safety systems inspection and inventories, and bolster risk analysis and mitigation.



Crew 218 Final Mission Summary

Mars Desert Research Station

Mission Summary

Crew 218 – The Next Giant Leap

Dec 21st, 2019 – Jan 4th, 2020


Crew Members:

Commander and Crew Astronomer: Dr. Cesare Guariniello

Crew Geologist: Pat Pesa

Crew Scientist and GreenHab Officer: Dr. Jonathan Buzan

Health and Safety Officer and GreenHab Officer: Shefali Rana

Crew Engineer: Luz Maria “Luz Ma” Agudelo Urrego

Crew Journalist: Benjamin “Ben” Durkee



The entire Crew of MDRS 218 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; Dr. Shannon Rupert, MDRS Director and Program Manager, who kept an eye on us and was our hero from 1500 miles away; Atila Meszaros and David Mateus, Assistant Directors, who managed and supported our mission in-situ, and helped us troubleshooting the little problems we encountered; Dr. Peter Detterline, Director of Observatories, who trained and assisted our Crew Astronomer before and during the mission; David Murray, GreenHab Team Lead; Michael Stoltz, The Mars Society Liaison, Media and Public Relations; Scott Davis, responsible for Spacesuits; the Mission Support CapCom who served during our rotation: Abhishek Soni, Bernard Dubb, Andrew Foster, Jeremy Sieker, Michelle Espinoza, Simran Mardhani; Purdue MARS, which initiated the crew selection for this mission; Denys Bulikhov, who was selected as commander and, even when he had to drop because of external reasons, gave me valid and very appreciated support; all the departments and people at Purdue University 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 218 “The Next Giant Leap” is the third all-Purdue crew at MDRS. This mission encountered different challenges than my previous two experiences, with snow and cold keeping the crew indoors for the first 5 sols and making EVAs much more difficult. The logistics of mission preparation were also different, with two crewmembers being unable to participate to preliminary meetings in person. However, the crew reacted very positively to the adversities, creating strong bonds and always giving each other support in every aspect of the mission. Despite the difficulties, all crewmembers performed to very high standards and provided good work on their research projects, as well as support to projects of the other crewmembers. The morale was always high and is visible throughout our mission pictures, up to the very last day. Even challenges like frozen pipes who forced us to use an alternative pump and carry water upstairs in a chain of pots and containers was experienced like a bonding activity. The research described below touched many aspects of human exploration of Mars, including analysis of outdoor features such as underground structure, weather, and radio emissions, and studies of human factors and the importance of environmental and operational comfort. The crew was also involved in astronomy and outreach through social media, and one of their sol was filmed to be featured in inspirational videos.

Figure 1. MDRS 218 Crew posing in front of the habitat with a Purdue flag. Left to right: Health and Safety Officer and GreenHab Officer Shefali Rana, Commander and Crew Astronomer Cesare Guariniello, Crew Journalist Ben Durkee, Crew Scientist and GreenHab Officer Jonathan Buzan, Crew Geologist Pat Pesa, and Crew Engineer Luz Ma Agudelo Urrego

As commander, I am extremely proud of this crew, which faced adversities with flexibility and patience, and was capable to keep the highest level of fidelity and realism. The crew properly followed safety and research protocols, performed as a tight group, and found an appropriate mix of research activities and personal time, especially when the weather conditions forced us to review some of our goals. The pace kept throughout the mission was also challenging, ranging from slow days in the beginning, where our research activities were limited by the lack of EVAs which were necessary for many of our projects, to days with double EVAs, where the crew performed at very high level of quality and effort. As described in the rest of this summary, the crew collected useful and interesting data during their time at MDRS and has plans for use of the data after the completion of the mission, as well as ideas for laying foundations for further collaboration of Purdue crews with the MDRS program.


Summary of Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA)

After being trained in the use of rovers and in the safety protocols for EVA, the crew had twelve excursions during rotation 218, two of which being traditional short EVA to Marble Ritual, and the others being mainly along Cow Dung Rd because of the situation of the roads when covered in snow. Therefore, the EVAs were in areas in the Morrison Formation and Dakota Sandstone. The EVA served seven research projects: seismometric analysis of subsurface, radio measurements, collection of geological samples, autonomy for crew EVA, analysis of biometrics, meteorological observation and evaluation of EMU suits. The crew optimized the time on the field, limiting the driving time to less than 15-30% of the entire EVA duration.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Total
Sol 2 2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Duration (h:mm) 0:56 0:49 1:16 1:12 2:44 2:04 2:01 2:02 0:36 1:18 1:49 2:07 18:54
Distance (miles) 1.0 1.0 1.0 2.8 7.4 4.0 4.2 5.9 0.2 1.0 5.3 6.0 39.8
% not driving 89% 88% 100% 69% 74% 87% 83% 86% 100% 75% 81% 72%

Table 1. Summary of EVA, indicating Sol of execution, duration, distance covered, and time percentage spent in the field

Figure 2. Three-dimensional view of the EVAs performed by MDRS 218 crew


Summary of GreenHab Activities

Crew GreenHab Officer: Dr. Jonathan R. Buzan

The state of the GreenHab is in excellent condition. Snow peas have struggled during rotation, and the strawberries were eaten by a Martian Field Rodent (caught and released). However, the tomato plants, and cucumber have grown considerably, and the cucumber has flowered. We had nearly daily harvests, regular rosemary bread (until we ran out of flour), spices for sauces and curries, and a large salad for 8 people on December 25th. The GreenHab was multi-functional, providing not only food, but a sense of calm and peace in a small habitat building surrounded by a sea of red and snow-white landscape. Overall, the GreenHab was a great place to learn about taking care of multiple plants and is an excellent opportunity to harvest fresh vegetables.


Science Summary

We had 12 separate projects that covered a range of topics. The vast majority were EVA related and were not started until after the first week due to weather related EVA cancellations. The major indoor project evaluated the temperature in a single stateroom for stressful conditions. The EVA projects measured spatial satellite radio strength, rock sampling of surface and seismic mapping of subsurface stratigraphy, real-time measurements of human bio-physiology, EVA suit stressors, field maintenance, decision making, and weather observations. Overall, each project uniquely highlighted each crewmember’s strengths, and brought light to necessity of bringing humans to the surface of Mars for both scientific and engineering related research.


Research Projects:

Title: Decision Making in support of autonomy for crew EVAs

Author(s): Cesare Guariniello

Description, activities, and results: Continuing a research project started last year, during EVAs events have been suggested to the crew, which had to decide how to act following disruptions or injuries, loss of communication, or environmental difficulties. The crew had to decide whether to continue the EVA, modify the primary objective, proceed to secondary objective, or abort the excursion based on safety of the crew, current status of the mission, achieved partial goals, and potential further acquisition of data. Due to the weather conditions, most EVAs had similar destinations, length, and objectives, therefore only a couple of scenarios have been analyzed. While most situations have an obvious “right answer”, such as major injuries, some of the grey areas are more difficult. Even a small disruption when three astronauts are in EVA with two rovers might require two of them to separate from the third one, which can cause safety issues.

Title: Mars surface weather

Author(s): Jonathan Buzan

Description, activities, and results: Martian weather observation and prediction are crucial components for evaluating evolving EVA conditions and overall mission safety for a human crew on the surface of the planet. This project took regular measurements during EVAs. 1) Dr. Jonathan Buzan trained crew members in three critical observations for Martian weather prediction: 1) Observe visibility in the four cardinal directions, determining viewing distance; 2) Vertical observations of cloud cover, type, cloud deck height, and visibility; 3) In-situ temperature, humidity, luminosity, and wind measurements were taken. All of these observations become the baseline for the development of weather station instrumentation, and eventually, localized weather predictions. Most notable aspect of field operations was that the weather changed regularly and quickly, which highlights the importance of trained EVA observations and prediction of weather on Mars.

Title: Subsurface structure on Mars

Author(s): Pat Pesa

Description, activities, and results: The goal of the project was to demonstrate the use of instrumentation for structural analysis of potential locations for building on Mars. Several sites in the MDRS area were chosen based on having different stratigraphic layers and were analyzed using seismometric measurements to determine shallow subsurface rock structure. In-situ procedure was setting out a line of geophones to record data after small impacts gathering information on how vibration waves travel through the sub-surface. After the mission concludes the data will be further analyzed at Purdue with professor Dr. Doug Schmidtt. Applications of this data will be better understanding of non-invasive structural testing of Martian surface for building and development for a sustained human presence.

Figure 3. Commander Cesare Guariniello and Crew Journalist Ben Durkee stand on the side of the seismometric sensors, while Crew Geologist Pat Pesa is ready to hit a metal plate with a hammer to generate seismic waves for his experiment of structural analysis of subsurface.

Title: Detecting radio signal strength

Author(s): Ben Durkee

Description, activities, and results: Radiological data was collected on the band of 436 MHz to 438 MHz. Surveys were done in various areas, including directly around the Hab, Cow Dung Rd, Galileo Rd, Kissing Camel Ridge, near White Moon, and more. Preliminary data processing has occurred, and more work is necessary to create the final heatmap of radio signal strength around MDRS

Title: EVA workload analysis

Author(s): Shefali Rana

Description, activities, and results: Feedback was collected from crew for long and short duration EVAs. Variation in score was observed for the exploratory EVAs conducted over a shorter distance versus ones for longer duration where heavier equipment was used for conducting the experiment. Different indicators will be analyzed to identify areas of larger discomfort.

Title: EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) ergonomic assessment

Author(s): Shefali Rana

Description, activities, and results: EMU comfort parameters were scored by the crew for the two suits. There was a difference in score of comfort and ease of egress/ ingress between the two suits (light exploration suit and heavy two-piece suits). Scores also varied among the crew for what concerns ergonomics and ease of use.

Figure 4. Crew Engineer Luz Ma Agudelo is taking weather observations, while commander Cesare Guariniello points towards North. The ease of donning and using EVA suits was evaluated by the crew after each EVA

Title: Environmental Stresses over MDRS habitat and Crew Members and projection over Martian Terrain Author(s): LuzMa Agudelo

Description, activities, and results: Intending to understand the environmental conditions over Mars Terrain and design habitat structures and instruments that increase the human physical and mental capability, weather observations were performed, and data was collected over the MDRS terrain during Extra-Vehicular Activity (project no. 2). Data was also collected inside the habitat regarding temperature, humidity, wind, and radiation. Preliminary results on the crew engineer bedroom showed the nighttime temperatures with the door close surpassing the threshold of 26.6°C, considered the lower limit for human thermal heat stress, and a nighttime temperature average of 17°C with the door open.

Title: Messier and other space objects for outreach

Author(s): Cesare Guariniello

Description, activities, and results: The rotation saw only two days of clear skies. I managed to perform one day of Solar observations at the Elon Musk observatory, where the Sun did not show any spot or prominence, and one night where M42 (Orion Nebula) and M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) were observed and imaged in the robotic observatory. More observations have been submitted and will be processed after the end of the mission.

Title: Reliability and maintenance

Author(s): Shefali Rana

Description, activities, and results: Reliability of both the habitat structure and the EVA equipment is essential for safety. All equipment has to be installed, maintained and repaired on Mars by the crew and they have to be self-sufficient. For example, the habitat had a failure of the water pump pumping up the water to the tank for daily use. Repair procedure was initiated by crew Engineer. In this project, we simulated failure modes / malfunction of radio and rover during EVAs. Response of affected crew member and adherence / success of repair procedure was studied. This will be used to suggest operational protocols for failure scenarios.

Title: Medical readings in preparation for future crew-wide project

Author(s): Cesare Guariniello

Description, activities, and results: Crew commander wore a Zephyr sensor to monitor heart rate, breathing rate, body temperature, and level of activity 24/7 for three days during the mission. Data will be downloaded and analyzed after the mission, to evaluate areas and times of intense effort, and level of comfort and rest at night. The research project, in collaboration with prof. Barrett Caldwell at Purdue, will be extended to full crews in the future.

Title: Collection of clay and shale samples

Author(s): Cesare Guariniello

Description, activities, and results: Six samples have been collected for study in laboratory at Purdue. The samples will be evaluated for water content and geotechnical properties. Snow coverage did not allow for further collection.

Title: Media and outreach

Author(s): Ben Durkee

Description, activities, and results: @PurdueMDRS on Facebook & Instagram have been updated with pictures and progress updates every other sol. The posts and pictures are unique from each other and from the journalist reports and photos to make sure the audience is not receiving repeat content from all media. Video of Christmas celebrations needs final editing touches before being uploaded once back in regions of more reliable wi-fi.

Figure 5. Crew 218 spent both Christmas and New Year’s Day at MDRS. Many Earthlings sent Christmas cards to the crew, upon request of the commander. The crew is thankful to the people who sent their thoughts and wishes.

Mars Desert Research Station Crew 218 “The Next Giant Leap”

Final Mission Summary – Crew 216

Crew 216 – Team A.R.E.S.







Crew Commander: Marc Levesque (United States)

Executive Officer/Crew Engineer: Mike Lawson (United States)

Health and Safety Officer: Andrew Kennedy (United States)

Crew Researcher: Rich Whittle (United Kingdom)

Crew Astronomer/GreenHab Officer: Michael Ho (Singapore)

Crew Journalist/Artist-in-Residence: Evgenia Alexandrova (Russia)


MDRS Crew 216 was an international crew whose projects and interests are reflected in their chosen name: Arts Research Education and Science.  This was the initial experience for all crew members at MDRS, and their first priority was for personal safety and that of fellow crew members.  Second was to maintain MDRS facilities, vehicles, and equipment in a safe and operable condition.  Finally, crew members focused on completing their planned projects while living in a Martian analog environment.  Below is a summary of projects, their status, and other activities at mission conclusion.


In-situ Fluorescent Mineral Prospecting in a Martian Environment – Mike Lawson

Martian colonists will have to exploit local resources to survive and thrive on Mars.  UV searches can identify possible sources of rare-earth ores, radioactive ores and other useful minerals, such as industrial gemstones for cutting, polishing and abrasive processes.

Traditional rock sampling, either by chipping rock faces or cone and quartering (alluvial gravel) would net only small samples (kilogram or smaller scale).  A large scale survey would take many EVAs.  An in-situ UV search of a rock-face or a gravel deposit can rapidly scan many tons of material in a matter of minutes.  If a target “lights up,” it could then be sampled for further analysis in the Hab.


For this project, a portable 6 watt Analytikea Model UVL-48 ultraviolet light source in shortwave UV mode was utilized.  Two key terrain types were favored for the UV survey:  rock faces in cliffs or canyons and alluvial gravel deposits.  The former present an opportunity to rapidly scan multiple layers of rock and identify target-rich epochs in the Martian geologic history.  The alluvial deposit survey capitalizes on Martian erosive forces self-selecting out “harder” materials of interest (in Mohs scale context), such as industrial gemstones.  Four target areas were planned to be selected based on imagery reconnaissance, two rock faces, and two alluvial deposits.  Target priority was to be for ease of access to minimize travel risk during the EVAs.


To reduce the risk factor, only two EVAs were conducted for this project.  A morning EVA identified a safe travel route and potential survey site at Robert’s Rock Garden.  That evening, a second EVA was undertaken in partial sim (flight suits only) with permission of the Mission Director for safer nighttime operation.


Project status: Samples collected in the field were analyzed in the Science Dome, and a paper detailing the results of the UV survey will be written and submitted to the Mars Society after the completion of the mission.


Documentary Film – Evgenia Alexandrova

This project was to capture footage for a one-hour film in the style of a “poetic documentary.”  It was not to be a pure factual coverage of the crew’s MDRS experience with a linear narration.  Rather, questions to be explored included:  What is behind our dream for space?  What are we trying to learn through learning about space? Our future?  Or actually is it about our past, and are we looking for understanding about where we come from and where do we belong?


The first years of Mars colonization will hardly be easy for humans: confined space, dehydrated food, heavy spacesuits, no green color of nature, and missing home.  There will be not much intimacy, but there may be solitude.  Still we are driven by some dream, instinct, or curiosity to explore beyond.  One aspect of the film is to capture the evolution of the emotional state of the crew members.


Filming was undertaken every day during working hours, meals, spare time, and evenings, as one could never predict when something interesting was going to happen.  Several EVAs also captured the landscape and activities of team members.  Those who agreed to be filmed during an EVA were equipped with a small microphone inside their spacesuit.  Additionally, each crew member participated in a 40-minutes interview, and release forms were obtained from all crew members who were filmed.


Project status: All desired film footage was captured. 


Human Performance & Analog Mission Evaluation of Environmental Stressors via Behavioral Health Scales – Rich Whittle

Mars analog astronauts undergo a rigorous selection and training process to ensure crew cohesion and mission success.  However, even the healthiest, strongest individuals may face psychological challenges due to various stressors in extreme or abnormal environments. Examples of these stressors include isolation, confinement, close living quarters, monotony of food, delayed communication with ground control, time pressure, scientific or engineering failures, sleep difficulties, fatigue, etc.  In our effort to further human space exploration in a safe and effective way, we must thoroughly understand and protect the psychological and physiological well-being of crew, before, during, and after the space analog mission.


This project aimed to study crew member behavioral traits, including anxiety and depression levels, before, during, and after the mission using standard questionnaires at several intervals. This would allow us to better understand psychological well-being in response to known and unknown environmental stressors. This project further aimed to study the correlation between crew anxiety and depression levels and the possibility of a “third quarter phenomena” (TQP), whereby the first quarter of the mission may be characterized by crew excitement or anxiety, the second quarter by boredom and depression, and the third quarter by increased emotional outbursts. An addition to the study was to examine basic physiological changes in subjects over the course of the short duration analog mission to explore transient changes.


Five surveys were administered at Sol 1, 5, 10, and mission conclusion prior to departure from MDRS.  These surveys included PANAS (Positive and Negative Affect Schedule), POMS (Profile of Mood States), Sleep Quality Survey, ICE-Q (Isolated and Confined Environments Questionnaire), and PsychScale.


All crew members were contacted prior to mission to receive information and confirm if they would agree to participate.  Once on station, all crew members signed a form detailing the process of the research, any risks, and their consent to participate.  Note: This research was not for clinical findings, but for research only, with the research approved by the Texas A & M University Office of Research and Compliance.


Project status:  As of this summary, three-quarters of the surveys were collected, with the final one to be collected prior to departure.  The surveys will then be analyzed once they have returned to Texas A & M University.  


Mars Society and MDRS Educational Materials – Michael Ho

This project was to gather material to spread awareness of The Mars Society objectives and the Mars Desert Research Station by developing materials for a public presentation.  Activities included filming crew member self-introductions; recording the experience of maintaining physical and mental well-being living in a confined space with strangers for 14 days; an introduction to the physical structure and utilities of MDRS; a description of meals, water and energy resources, and waste conservation practices at MDRS; EVA procedures; and capturing drone video footage of MDRS, surrounding desert features, and EVAs on rovers.  Each crew member signed a written consent to be filmed for this project.  Additionally, taking pictures and observing celestial objects through telescopes in the Musk Observatory was undertaken in the role of Crew Astronomer, as was maintaining the GreenHab as the GreenHab Officer.


Project status: All desired material was gathered. Crew Astronomer and GreenHab Officer duties completed.


In-situ Resource Utilization for Medical Applications – Rich Whittle and Andrew Kennedy

This was a continuation of a Crew 215 project to collect gypsum samples to produce Plaster of Paris for application in medical interventions stemming from splinting to preliminary dental impressions.  This project required EVAs to collect and return materials from the field.  Three different ratios of water-to-gypsum were tested to conduct strength tests on the samples.


Project status: Using the best ratio of two parts gypsum to one part water, a plaster splint was created as proof of concept.


MDRS Communications – Marc Levesque

The current MDRS radio communication system of GMRS (UHF) handheld radios with an output of 2 watts limits how far EVA teams can communicate with the Hab.  A system utilizing VHF frequencies would greatly expand the range of radio communications.  Such a system would include handheld radios with 5 watt output and a solar-powered repeater with antenna located at an optimal site.  The design of this system would be a test bed for similar systems that could be deployed on Mars.


Viewshed analyses of various high points around the MDRS using geographic information system (GIS) software were undertaken, followed by EVAs to confirm the effectiveness and accessibility of these sites.  From these, it was determined that the summit of the North Ridge provided the widest radio coverage for those areas potentially explored by MDRS crews.  During an EVA, a team found an excellent site on the summit for a repeater location with direct line of sight to the Hab and confirmed the potential wide area radio coverage.  The team also mapped an accessible route, so that a future EVA (or non-sim work party) could carry the necessary components to the repeater site for installation.

An additional communications project attempted an amateur radio contact with the International Space Station (ISS) when its orbit passed directly over the MDRS.  This utilized a mobile radio in the Crew Commander’s personal vehicle set up in cross-band mode to allow the contact attempt to be accomplished from inside the Hab via a handheld radio.  The project required two short EVAs to set up and turn off the vehicle’s radio.  Crew members Levesque (W5MTS) and Lawson (KN4WOK), FCC licensed amateur radio operators, undertook the contact attempt.


Project status:  An optimal radio repeater site was identified for an expanded communications system.  If such a system is desired by The Mars Society, further research could be undertaken to determine the most suitable components for the repeater and handheld radios.  Should the project be implemented, The Mars Society would obtain an FCC license for VHF/UHF commercial frequencies that is available for non-profit and educational organizations and would provide the MDRS with its own unique frequencies. 


Contact with ISS was not made, most likely due to no astronaut operating the onboard amateur radio at the time the ISS was passing MDRS overhead.


Media visit

A production crew from Al Roker Entertainment spent a mid-mission sol with our crew to film one episode of a planned six-part science series to be aired in 2020.  During their visit, they filmed the area around the MDRS and its facilities inside and out, interviewed the crew as a group and a few individually, and filmed an EVA.  Our crew accommodated their requests in good spirits while maintaining sim.


Crew Commander Supplemental Note:

The selection of Crew 216 composition is to be commended, as the team worked extremely well together.  All members adapted in good form to conditions at MDRS and went above and beyond to complete station tasks and support other crew member’s projects, tasks, and activities.  As Crew Commander, I could not have asked for a better complement of bright, talented, creative, and enthusiastic individuals.  Given the steep learning curve that all members, including the Crew Commander, faced in their initial experience with station operations and protocols, I feel all performed exceptionally during the MDRS mission and are to be commended for their efforts.


Submitted by: Marc Levesque

Crew 216 Commander

06 December 2019

Summary Report – November 14th

Crew 215 Sol Summary Report 14-NOV-2019
Sol: 4
Summary Title: Making Progress
Author’s name: Andrew Wheeler
Mission Status: Active
Sol Activity Summary: After ascertaining that Curiosity rover was operational (it was) our approved EVA for this Sol saw us returning to the micrometeorite sample grid in the stream wash at MM5 (518462E 4248949N). There, Guy, Larissa and Steve collected 30 samples before returning to the hab for lunch. 40% of the plots have now been sampled. During this time, gypsum samples collected from the White Moon location (517724E 4254500N) were begun to be cleaned and weighed in preparation for experimentation. This continued through the afternoon where samples from the micrometeorite grid were added to those being processed and packaged. Despite a rehearsal, construction in the hab caused a postponement of the disabled Marstronaut evacuation during the evening engineering EVA and, consequently, a ‘picnic’ dinner was held in the Green Hab.
Look Ahead Plan: Planning an EVA to MM5 (518462E 4248949N) to resume collection of micrometeorite samples and a demonstration of returning a disabled astronaut into the hab during the afternoon engineering EVA that had been postponed from the previous sol. See EVA requests. Continue monitoring of psycho-social stressors.
Anomalies in work: N/A.
Weather: Marginally below freezing overnight, light winds, clouded over during the day.
Crew Physical Status: Healthy
EVA: Micrometeorite sampling EVA. See EVA report
Reports to be file: Sol Summary Report, Operations Report, Science Report, GreenHab Report, EVA Request, EVA Report, Journalist Report, Daily Photos.
Support Requested: N/A

Summary Report – November 05th


Summary Title: Collecting Gypsum & Seeding Mars
Author’s name: Guy Murphy
Mission Status: Active.
Sol Activity Summary: A new phase of EVA research commenced today with Andrew Wheeler locating gypsum deposits and collecting samples with Dianne. Seeds were planted in the Greenhab for the first time this season. Three cooked meals were prepared. Salmon was fish of the day. Sandy cooked the first loaf of bread in the Hab bread machine.
Look Ahead Plan: The remaining EVA’s this week will focus on completing micrometeorite collection. Andrew Wheeler will process the gypsum samples collected today in the science dome and Dianne will continue with her food waste study.
Anomalies in work: Micrometeorite study was compromised by at least one bipedal life form intruding within the study area and compacting the undisturbed study surfaces.
Weather: Another clear sunny day on Mars.
Crew Physical Status: Crew continue to be in excellent health.
EVA: See EVA report.
Reports to be filed: Sol Summary, EVA Report, Journalists Report, Science Report, Operations Reports, Greenhab Report, Photos.
Support Requested: None at present.

Crew 213 Mission Summary 24-May-2019

Crew 213 Mission Summary 24-May-2019

This course was our largest and most extensive iteration of our combined medicine and engineering education program. It went extremely well. Our crew enjoyed the simulations and clearly learned a lot about medicine and engineering as it relates to spaceflight.We continue to be grateful to the Mars Society for the opportunity to use this facility and all the resources it offers in our educational efforts. The major challenges we encountered were unpredictability with weather and managing a larger than normal number of students. The media team was an asset to our course and assisted us with arranging lighting and effects for our simulations.

As has been typical of our missions the daily EVA scenarios were handled safely and effectively and the emergency simulations were coupled with debriefs to ensure effective transfer of each learning objective. The feedback received from the crew both informally and through our own feedback process indicated a high level of enjoyment, respect for the facility, the course, and the challenges of a mission to Mars.

Our experience teaching doctors in previous versions of this course have lead us to a robust didactic, simulation, and discussion based curriculum. The landscape and the difficulties of living in the habitat are well known to us so there were few additional surprises. However, the weather was uncommonly rainy which forced us to amend our day to day operations on a near continuous basis. In the future, we will plan for back up activities to keep students engaged even when the weather precludes outside activities.

As this is the third time we’ve incorporated research projects into our curriculum, it has become a relatively routine part of our instruction. The crew was very receptive as were outside parties and we are looking forward to expanding this work in future missions. Our research is primarily focused on habitability, rapid iterative design, and feedback from task saturated personnel. We hope to present this at future meetings and continue to solicit more projects that can benefit from our unique population of medical professionals. Our projects for this year included a training and testing session of just in time training for ultrasound guided nerve blocks.

As always the realism of the EVA landscape is the most impressive feature of the MDRS site. The habitat facilities, EVA suits, and food supplies are well suited to the experience, however we have noticed a need for maintenance in both the habitat and space suits. Thank you for the continued opportunity to work with you on this project, we look forward to our continued collaboration.

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