Science Report – January 7th

Science: Geology

EVA #6 was by far the most exhausting of our first 7 sols, but it was definitely worth it (more details in the EVA report). Our excursion into our little “Noctis Labyrinthus”, which we named “Boilermaker Canyon”, brought us into a quite different geological setting than the Morrison formation around the hab. The region is deeply eroded by Muddy creek and its seasonal tributaries, and forms deep canyons and high-walled mesas. The lowest strata belong to the Entrada Sandstone, dating to the middle Jurassic (180-159 million years ago). The location was slightly further away from the Sundance Sea, therefore it is characterized by an impressive sequence of thin layers of sandstone, at times interrupted by mudstone collars. Green colored layers are indicative of wet conditions that occurred in swampy, stagnant environment (reducing environment). The predominant feature that distinguishes this formation to the far Northeast of the habitat is the presence of layers of finely grained salts, indicators of a shift from wet to dry conditions, in which shallow water produced evaporites. In addition, the whole thickness of the formation is crossed by a large number of clastic dikes, most of which constituted by evaporites.
The EVA crew collected samples of the salts and the sandstone both on the way down and at the bottom of the canyon.
Though the route is rough, I hope many geologists will take advantage of the opportunity to study this breathtaking region, which was to date unexplored by any MDRS crew.

Cesare Guariniello
Crew Geologist – Boilers2Mars
Mars Desert Research Station

Science Report – January 5th

Science: Geology

EVA #5 revisited the location to the East of Greenstone Rd, in search of the elusive hematite-coated “blueberries”. Unfortunately, though spectra showed traces of hematite mixed with clay, no spherules were located. Nonetheless, the long EVA was satisfactory since it went through a variety of terrains, including stream beds, dunes, and various layers of sandstone and conglomerate formations. On the way back, the crew stopped at the Kissing Camel Ridge, where -among the sandstone and mudstone layers of the Morrison formation- the crew found boulders collapsed from the Dakota sandstone and conglomerates that top the Morrison formation.

Cesare Guariniello, PhD


Science Report – January 4th

Science: Geology

EVA #4 brought our crew to the Northwest of the habitat, in a region called “Yellow Moon”. The whole region sits between the top member of the Morrison formation (Brushy Basin) and the bottom of Mancos shale, and it is heavily weathered, with soft clay soil. The predominant geological feature of this region is the presence of salts, especially gypsum, from the region of Glistening Seas, through Beige Moon and Grey Moon, all the way to Yellow Moon. Besides samples of crystals, we collected some sandstones with traces of salts.
The different accretion of gypsum crystals, most often occurring in thin layers, and rarely in romboid shape, suggests different water and evaporation processes. The samples will be analyzed in the laboratory, since the short EVA time was just enough for in-situ selection and collection. The area presents outstanding views of the whole region, as described in the EVA report.

Thank you

Science Report – January 3rd

Imagine that you are planning an expensive trip to a remote, amazing location that you always dreamed about. A couple of days before your trip, already with your enthusiasm through the roof, you pack your bags with clothing, some electronics and a few treats. Then, you call the agency to discuss the final details, and they tell you that you will be able to drive your vehicle there, and you are welcome to sleep in it. The location is so remote that they do not have any building available for you. In addition, they cannot provide any water. Ah, and there is no gas station anywhere near.

You think a little bit, and realize that this means that you will have to carry with you all the water you need to stay there, and all the gas you need to come back. Furthermore, if you want to sleep in anything better than your car or a tent, you will need to bring with you all the materials to build a better habitat. Obviously, this solution is going to be very expensive because your car will not be enough to transport all of that: you will need a large truck, or maybe multiple vehicles.

However, you have always been quite brilliant, and you think of a possible solution that will allow you to still take your trip, at the cost of a little extra effort: you could figure out if there are water sources at your destination, maybe with the help of your friends who know some geology and some chemistry. Likewise, you decide that you might modify your car and make it capable of using some fuel that you will be able to find or produce at your destination. And if you could also find some building material, then you would need to carry only a few extra tools, but your car would still be enough to reach that breathtaking place!!! The beauty of this place, and the awe you will feel once you are there, are totally worth the work required to make the trip feasible.

This is exactly what all of the people involved in the effort of Mars exploration are doing. It is called ISRU, which stands for In-Situ Resource Utilization. It means that we will not carry everything we need with us, but we will study our destination, figure out what we can find or produce there, and how to do it. The geology research performed by crew 186 is supporting the study of potentially useful materials for ISRU on Mars. In particular, the crew is studying minerals that have been detected on Mars and that are used on Earth for construction and other applications (kaolinite, gypsum), in addition to materials that have geological interest (hematite spherules, sulfates) and occur in the same location. This is suggesting what ISRU materials could be find in regions of potential interest for human landing on Mars, and it will guide the choice of tools for collection of such materials.

The Geology report on Sol 1 described the goal of the geology project of crew 186 in technical details. Future reports will combine technical results and descriptions with other non-technical explanations (similar to this report) of the reasons for the research we do towards our common objective, so stay tuned!!!

Cesare Guariniello, PhD


Geology Report – January 2nd

Crew 186 Geology Report 02JAN2018

The plan of today’s EVA included the two locations that were not visited yesterday: the area East of Greenstone Rd and the area between Robert’s Rock Garden and Zubrin’s Head, both in the Morrison formation. During the drive outbound, the crew geologist gave a short introduction to the other EVA members, who had not participated in the first EVA.
The crew spent a long time in the field, and the geologist was able to select, analyze, and collect various samples of clays in different strata of the Morrison formation. The search for hematite spherules was only partially successful, with two potential candidates found in the second site. The geologist also recorded temperature of the samples, for later analysis of thermal inertia of the material. The problem with the portable spectrometer is currently being addressed by personnel at Purdue.


Cesare Guariniello, PhD

Science Report – January 1st

Science: Geology.

The goal of the geologic project of Crew 186 is testing the use of remote sensing to identify suitable minerals for In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) and to analyze their physical properties for collection and use. Thus, several geology EVAs are scheduled, focusing on materials that are found on locations of geological interest on Mars.
The plan of today’s EVA included three locations, all within the Saltwash and Brushy Basin members of the Morrison formation, South and Southwest of the habitat: the area between URC South Site and Kissing Camel Ridge, the area between Robert’s Rock Garden and Zubrin’s Head, and the area East of Greenstone Rd. The crew geologist gave a short brief to the rest of the crew (a more in depth introduction to the geology of the area is scheduled for tomorrow), and instructed them on the type of samples to be collected during the EVA: different types of clays in the first two locations, and hematite inclusions (spherules, or “blueberries”) in the third one.

Due to delays in the first phases of simulation, the EVA started later than planned, and was consequently cut short. The EVA crew members reached only the first location, and upon directions by the geologist found appropriate samples. The samples were photographed and analyzed with the TREK portable spectrometer. Temperature of the samples was not recorded, due to the reduced duration of the EVA. The samples collected today were a chlorite sandstone, illite/hematite soil, a montmorillonite mudstone, and a clays conglomerate. Once back from the EVA, we reviewed the spectra of the samples, comparing them visually with the USGS library spectra; however, it was not possible to download the data from the portable spectrometer to a laptop, due to a software error which has not been yet been solved. We will work on the connection problem tomorrow, or failing that, all the analysis can be performed after we return to Earth.


Science Report – November 25th

Crew 183 Science/Astronomy Report

Due to a misunderstanding with Mission Command, I thought that there were two telescopes/observatories, one being currently available for use on the station. It occurs to me now that there is only one observatory, the one that is currently offline.

Refusing to allow my role as crew astronomer to go to waste, I have decided to limit my observations to DSLR astrophotography. I plan on using the view from near the Musk Observatory as a vantage point to improve my astrophotography.

Testing began today on the bicycle-electricity-generator, with promising results. Provided an excellent exercise though.

There are some samples acquired from previous EVAs that I am keen on analyzing in the lab tomorrow, some of which with our 3D scanning system.

Otherwise, today has been rather uneventful as far as science experiments go. Largely focused our time on the midday EVA and producing new designs for the humanitarian 3D printing system.

All the best,

Toluwa Fayemi
Science/Astronomy Officer

Science Report – November 24th

Today we took an extended EVA to survey the area. Tomorrow we will perform and EVA in an attempt to acquire 3D scans on specific, marked, specimen in the area as well as attempting to fly our drone over the Martian landscape.

The rest of today was dedicated to designing 3D models for the humanitarian 3D printing experiment. I have completed the designs for the Doctors Without Borders laptop stand and have redesigned the previous Suction Canister project. Both will be printing overnight with results expected immediately afterwards.
The portion of tomorrow thatI I do not use for our EVA will hopefully be used familiarizing myself with the Solar Observation equipment.
I’m excited for our first day of full sim.

Science Report – November 17th

Science Report
Camila Castillo
17 Novermber 2017

The research project about the effect of Streptomyces spp. strain could not be finished properly. The first problem was related with the lack of medium needed for finishing this project. Nutrient broth and Nutrient agar were the ones I worked with, so there are better results with these. I decided to buy these elements via Internet, but I had to wait a week. After that week, there was little time to start the project. I decided to start working right away, but sadly, the medium ended up contaminated. I will need to check if the transportation of the strain was done properly, though. It would seem that that was the main problem. Maybe it couldn’t resist as much as I expected. Microbiology projects tend to have these kind of problems, though. As a beginner in the microbiological world, maybe I still need to learn some more about microbiology techniques to work an entire project in just two weeks! I will be taking with me some soil samples to Peru. I hope that the enviroment provided by my lab at Lima will help me to finish this project.
Despite the kind of failure of my main project, I managed to learn some things about martian agriculture. First of all, the soil isn’t as simple as I expected. It hardens and it prevents the water to filter through it. It has little to non-organic matter. Somehow I thought that my mere strain could help with these problems, but I realized that this is a problem I will need to adress if I want to finish this (which I will). I tried to search for a technique that didn’t involved mixing two types of soil, but both didn’t work. It seems that in the end I will have to do the mixing.
However, I also managed to do some projects besides my main one. I tried to see the effects of the dishwater on the seeds we had, and I managed to do a nice diagram about some samples and their growth in a couple of days. I also decided to describe the microbes in different plant soils we managed to collect on the EVAs. I’ve been amazed by the shape and forms I managed to get on my plates. I will try to take some of these samples to Lima and process them, to know exactly which microbes are in there.

Science Report – November 15th

Science Report
Camila Castillo
15 Novermber 2017

Hi, Kay!
Hope everything is ok on planet Earth! Peru is playing the football match that could lead us to the World Championship and I can’t really hide how excited I am!
Now, to the important stuff, like the science!
Things in the lab are well. I have confirmed that I can work in a sterilized place and there is no danger whenever I am trying to do my bacteria cultivation, so, thanks to the arrivement of the broth (Thanks, Shannon!) I could start doing some essays on the soil and plants we collected on the vegetative area. My goal would be to have an initial characterization of the microbes living here. I found that interesting.
I have some freaky results I would have to analize later at planet Earth refering to my plants growing in dishwater. I find it surprising that one of the highest concentrations of soapy water could actually be an enviroment for some plants to grow. How are this plants different from the normal plants? Could we use this kind of dilutions to recycle water at Martian habitats? It could be interesting for the future to analize this. I just started that as some side project and now I am asking myself some questions. This is really strange.
As for other projects, my main project will have to wait for a bit more. It seems that the strain I brought has been contaminated. That’s my own mistake, though. Streptomyces can be a pain to work with. So I will have to go back to Peru with some soil to analyze at my lab. I already talked with Shannon about this possibility.
Two crewmembers were working with plants and we noticed how the soil, that has the properties of clay (I could make a cat with that), might be restricting the plant to grow as it dries. We will have to somehow adress this problem whenever we work with the same soil in the future. As for now, I have tried some solutions for this problem.
Geology testings on the soil samples continue to be done at the lab. And we are trying to do the same characterization for the plant soil samples we have.
I will be attaching some photos today.