MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION

Astronomy Report – February 16th

ASTRONOMY REPORT
SOL 3


NAME:  Mouadh Bouayad           CREW: 175
DATE: 02/15/2017

SKY CONDITIONS: clear.

WIND CONDITIONS: no wind

OBSERVATION START TIME: 10:30 pm

OBSERVATION END TIME: 11:00 pm

SUMMARY: I went to the observatory tonight, but the battery of the rotation motor was not charged enough. So it worked for few minutes and then stopped. I hope tonight it’ll be fully charged, and we’ll do observations (I plan first on observing Mars and Venus).

OBJECTS VIEWED: few stars naked eye again.

PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED: The battery was still not charged enough.

Astronomy Report – February 15th

Crew 175 Astronomy Report 15Feb2017

ASTRONOMY REPORT
SOL 3
NAME:  Mouadh Bouayad   CREW: 175
DATE: 02/15/2017
SKY CONDITIONS: clear.
WIND CONDITIONS: no wind
OBSERVATION START TIME: 9:30 pm
OBSERVATION END TIME: 10:00 pm
SUMMARY: I replaced the battery, and only one of them lighted the LED. However, yesterday evening, there wasn’t enough charge to rotate the dome. We could hear a little noise while pushing the button, but nothing happened. We thus decided to leave it there, and to retry it today, and rotate the dome in order get more sunlight on the solar panel.
I returned to the observatory today at 4:15pm and TADAAAAH! It finally worked! I oriented the observatory north-west, for it to receive sunlight. I plan to make a long observation tonight! We could observe Mars and Venus if we go soon enough, and take some pictures of Orion nebulae. I hope we’ll be able to have great pictures!!

OBJECTS VIEWED: few stars naked eye.
PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED: The battery was still not working, but it works now.

Science Report – February 15th

Crew 175 Science Report 15Feb2017

Science report Sol 3

Experiment : AR Glasses
Person filling in the report : Louis Maller

Today I continued working on the AR glasses, the issue with the screencast was solved, and I continued exploring the functionalities of the glasses, and inspiring myself from the needs around the Hab (engineering check for example), I am imagining more potential uses for the glasses. The realization might be an issue, but hopes are good. It’s interesting work, but I wish I had been able to do it earlier, which wasn’t possible since the glasses were in France and I was in Russia.

Science Report – February 14th

Science report SOL 2

Experiment : Seismometer
Person filling in the report : Mouadh Bouayad

I alone have been to the Science Dome today, at 4 :30 pm. It was real quick, as the commander, Arthur, asked me to be back at 5 :00pm. I brought a box with me, in order to put the instruments in it, and see if we can move it, already settled, during an EVA. I figured out that the battery is too heavy to put it in the box. I think we will move it independently from the other instruments, and we will plug the wires to it afterwards, in situ. The other instruments fit well in the box.

In order to protect the battery, particularly from the rain, I plan to use an emergency blanket to wrap the battery. I’ll leave a hole for the power wire to go through. We also would like to put a sign on the measurements site, in order to warn tourists not to touch the instruments. This would very unlikely happen, but let us be wary.

Experiment : Optinvent connected glasses
Person filling in the report : Louis Maller

I have been working with Mouadh on the Optinvent connected glasses. We are working on connecting the glasses to the computer screen using the dedicated application (Vysor), with mitigated success. We also installed the Tasker app and took some pictures with the integrated camera. We are also trying to find a technical solution in order to have visibility outdoors (looking into a strong light the screen is barely visible).
We are hoping to solve all these basic issues by tomorrow in order to be able to start the more complex and interesting tasks.

Experiment : Balloon
Person filling in the report : Simon Bouria

Concrete work on the solar balloon started today. With another member of the crew this morning, I built the platform of the balloon (made of cardboard boxes). The balloon can handle a two kilograms weight and has to support one or two GoPro cameras and the Arduino system. During the afternoon, I made the Java code of the Arduino to get the temperature, the pressure and the time. A few tests proved that the system is now functional. The solar balloon can now be taken for an EVA. We still have to take pictures and videos of the balloon, build a radio relay and prepare how and when we will use the balloon according to the weather. We still don’t know how high the balloon will go and how we are going to tether it. A complete protocol remains to be done to have a really efficient EVA. We also wondered if the second balloon will be built during an EVA or in the science dome.

Astronomy Report – February 14th

ASTRONOMY REPORT
SOL 1

NAME:  Mouadh Bouayad           CREW: 175
DATE: 02/14/2017

SKY CONDITIONS: pretty clear, even with few clouds here and there.

WIND CONDITIONS: no wind

OBSERVATION START TIME: 10:30 pm

OBSERVATION END TIME: 11:30 pm

SUMMARY: We managed to observe few objects in the sky. Unfortunately, I don’t know who’s the last one that used the observatory, but he or she forgot to turn of the switch back off, so the battery was drained of power. Therefore, we could open the observatory, but we couldn’t turn it right or left. We could however observe the moon, and Jupiter for few minutes. I hope that I will be able take some picture tomorrow.

OBJECTS VIEWED: Moon, Jupiter

PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED: One of the batteries was dead so we couldn’t observe what we wanted.

Science Report – February 4th

Science Report:
Prepared by: Mamatha Maheshwarappa
Sol: 06
Earth Date: 02.04.2017
Title: Characterizing the transference of human commensal bacteria and developing zoning methodology for planetary protection
Project Advisor: Dr Lewis Dartnell, Professor of Science Communication, University of Westminster
Purpose: This research aims at using metagenomic analyses to assess the degree to which human-associated (commensal) bacteria could potentially contaminate Mars during a crewed mission to the surface. This will involve swabbing of interior surfaces within the MDRS habitat to characterize the commensal biota likely to be present in a crewed Mars mission, and collection of environmental soil samples from outside the MDRS airlock door and at increasing distances from the habitat (including a presumably uncontaminated site) in order to characterize transference of human commensal bacteria into the environment.
About the project: The internal samples (swab kits) are scheduled towards the end of the mission (but before anything has been cleaned or wiped down), so that the moist swabs with sampled bacteria spend as little time as possible before coming back to Earth for further analysis. As the external samples had no restrictions, it was scheduled on 4th Feb 2017.
With these soil samples, we are looking to see if human commensurate bacteria have escaped out of the MDRS habitat and into the surrounding area. Soil samples were taken (i.e. 3x Falcon tubes full of soil) immediately outside the airlock door, and then 1m, 2m, 5m and 10m from the airlock door. We are yet to collect at least a couple of samples from a location away from the MDRS that has not been visited before on previous missions as we need a ‘pristine’ sample of the desert soil that hopefully has not been contaminated with human commensurate bacteria escaping from the MDRS.
Equipment used:
⦁ 15 Falcon™ 50mL Conical Tubes (5 locations x 3 samples at each location)
⦁ Powder free Latex Examination Gloves
⦁ 70% Ethanol bottle
⦁ Personal Navigator

Protocol:
⦁ Squirt a small amount of 70% ethanol from the bottle and then rub it around the hands after putting on the gloves. Wait a few seconds for it to evaporate off.
⦁ Open one of the 50ml Falcon tubes and scoop up surface soil at the sampling location. Soil was collected at the surface across a wider area than digging a single hole really deep. Took total of three (3) 50ml Falcon tubes full of soil at each location, so that we get triplicate samples.
⦁ The indelible pen was used to label the outside of each Falcon tube with the sample number – e.g. 1a, 1b, 1c from the first site, 2a, 2b, 2c from the second location, etc.
⦁ The sample numbers and the location where they came from were noted and photos were taken for future reference. Also, the precise GPS coordinates were noted using personal navigator.
⦁ The collected soil samples were stored in the fridge.

Science Report – January 25th

Sol 10 Science Report – 3d printing project

25/01/17

3D Printing the groundbase for martian exploration
Crew Engineer

Needless to say that the first expedition to Mars will be difficult. It
will be even more difficult, not to say impossible, if nothing is prepared
in advance. The first crew won’t be able to book a hotel on Mars if that
hotel doesn’t even exist in the first place. They won’t be able to enjoy a
nice cup of tea and walk in T-shirt inside a habitat if that habitat hasn’t
been even built in the first place. My point here is that we need to
manufacture a few manned-infrastructures in advance and make sure these
maintain pressure conditions similar to those we can find on Earth while
providing reasonable thermal and radiation shielding.

Hopefully, with the 3d printing technologies currently available or in
development, the first habitats may be printed directly on Mars using
nothing else but INSITU resources and robots that would 3d-print and
assemble blocks together to design complex infrastructures.

The concept proposed and currently being studied at MDRS, is to manufacture
elementary blocks that can also contain water within their structure. The
water can be used not only for daily usage, but, can also provide extra
radiation shielding.

The first week at MDRS, we encountered several issues with the 3D printer
which didn’t allow us to print bricks but we managed to print 4 bricks over
the last days. Every brick takes 17h on average, and prints the outer shell
of the brick using PLA filament (plastic). For future studies, laser
sintering technology is suggested to simulate a real application on the
Martian soil. With the crew geologist Roy Naor, once the brick is printed,
we evaluate different types of soil that can be used within the brick to
strengthen it. Future tests are planned for the incoming days, and these
include, building a small infrastructure on an EVA, in order to prepare for
the next iteration of the concept.

The objective of this project is to give a first level of analysis so as to
lay down a first proof of concept.

Science Report – January 22nd

Sol 7 Science Report

GreenHab officer Rick Blake

One study being conducted by this crew rotation is designed by Israeli high school students. It involves investigating the differing ground colours on the hills around the MDRS and reporting our findings back to the students. Rather than a strict scientific aim, this experiment was mostly proposed to get students interested in STEM careers. The students don’t have any prior geological knowledge and it is hoped that by doing this experiment we will inspire their imagination and thirst to learn science. Our geologist, Roy, already knows the geological setting and history of the area to be tested, so any data generated will be purely for the students to interpret.
For this experiment, a transect up a hill was conducted during an EVA by our crew geologist, Roy, and myself. Samples were taken of the regolith and underlying rock at every change of colour on the ground. These samples were labelled and brought back to the Science Dome for further analysis. The samples were inspected for their general colour, reaction to acid, and, under a microscope; grain size, grain roundness, and any other interesting features. This data was recorded and will be relayed back to the students to interpret. Small sections of the samples will also be returned to the Davidson Institute for Science Education, Weizmann Institute, Israel for the students to further analyse.
For reference, it is known that the stratigraphy is part of the Brushy Basin member of the Morrison Formation, and it was formed in the late Jurassic in a fluvial lacustrine environment. The top of the stratigraphy is capped by Cretaceous geology, which ended up being the last sample collected on the transect.
The data recorded is as follows:

Science Report – January 18th

“Chemical and isotopic fingerprints of MDRS carbonates” – A quick review
By Roy Naor
Crew Geologist – crew 173
An ongoing study is being conducted in the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, aimed at understanding the chemical and isotopic fingerprint of carbonate forming environments on Mars. The research is active in three different areas: Mars in situ observations, lab simulations and comparisons to analogue environments. The MDRS environment is analogous to, for example, a specific type of arid environment that we hypothesise about in our isotopic fractionation models. Therefore, it is important to compare the chemical and isotopic fingerprints of carbonates at MDRS with those anticipated in such an arid environment. This way future studies of Martian geology, for instance by the Mars 2020 rover, will be able to better determine the environment in which the samples were originally formed. In addition, the previous studies on the MDRS environment have laid a number of constraints, which thus make MDRS a very good candidate analogue site to study.
The potential of extraterrestrial life on Mars is well connected to the history, and distribution of water and carbon on the planet. Carbonate minerals are seen as powerful tools with which to explore these fundamental relationships, as they are intimately tied to both the water and the inorganic carbon cycle. Some local deposits of carbonates have been discovered on the surface of Mars and in meteorites. The wide ranging set of observations of carbonate minerals, provided by a series of robotic missions to Mars, not only defined new constraints on the history of Martian climate, but also opened unique windows into primordial Martian aqueous environments. While questions about habitability remain unanswered at this time, we are obtaining more and more information about the environments in which water has existed on the Martian surface. The research frontier is to focus the resolution on the variability of the different mineral forming environments, rather than try to see Mars as a one uniform environment (Niles et al., 2012).
Though it is one of several sampling sites, the MDRS site is a very good one, because there are many constraints inputted by previous intensive MDRS research. The area around MDRS holds several potential types of carbonate forming environments representing varied conditions. Some are newly formed as part of the topsoil under the present conditions. Some are from older formations, representing different conditions relevant to the period when it precipitated as concretion or as a shale component.
The carbonate prospecting field work is focused on locating and sampling carbonate minerals in the topsoil and exhumed formation in the vicinity of MDRS. The procedure is being conducted as follows:
1) A preliminary prospecting work to locate potential sampling sites has been done by reading through previous studies and analyze geological maps of the area. preliminary pinpointing of potential sites leaned on previous work and geological mapping of the area, focusing on carbonate bearing sediments and potential present carbonate forming environment around MDRS.
2) On site locating and verifying carbonates and carbonate bearing assemblage by simple field analysis using HCl 5%.
3) Collecting verified assemblage or suspected outcrop and bringing it back to MDRS, with the intention to retrieve them full to further analysis (making the sampling very rigorous and somewhat analogues to real extraterrestrial field work).
The sampling is carried out using a geological hammer to break small pieces to feet inside the tubes and a garden trowel for soil samples. a meticulous procedure is being conducted to document the samples:
– Marking each sample bag with the date, time, serial number, name of site/outcrop, GPS coordinates.
– Document all of the above procedures by detailed description of the sampled outcrop using a hardcopy waterproof notebook and by taking pictures of the local environment/outcrop (to scale), the sampling area (to scale), the sampled material (to scale) and the sampling procedure.
– Put all of the samples into one box filled with styrofoam mold to protect them during the transport back to Israel, where they will be analyzed extensively at the Weizmann Institute of Science for the carbonates’ chemical and isotopic fingerprint. the samples will go under the procedure of:
– Crystal separation
– Mineral/chemical identification (XRD, EDS, CL)
– Textural analysis (SEM, micro-CT)
– Isotopic analysis (SIMS)
The processed data will be used as an input and as a testing method for the under development model.
The results will be added to our datasets with the intention of publishing them in academic journals.
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Further Reading:
Niles, P.B., Catling, D.C., Berger, G., Chassefière, E., Ehlmann, B.L., Michalski, J.R., Morris, R., Ruff, S.W., Sutter, B. (2012) Geochemistry of Carbonates on Mars: Implications for Climate History and Nature of Aqueous Environments. Space Sci Rev. DOI 10.1007/s11214-012-9940-y

Science Report – January 13th

“Quantifying patterns of diversity of halophiles at planetary analog site while simulating a human mission to Mars” – A quick recap

 

By Anushree Srivastava

Crew Biologist – Mars 160 Twin Desert-Arctic Analog Mission

Executive Officer and Crew Biologist – Crew 172

 

Recording the pattern of diversity of halophiles in the Mars analog environment of Utah Desert has been one of the prominent goals of Mars 160 mission. I was supposed to carry forward this objective using standardized microbial detection and identification methods as a Crew Biologist of both Mars160 mission and Crew 172. I performed field and lab work as Mars-based Astronaut-scientist living at the Mars Desert Research Station. All samples were collected in full simulation suit from different experimental sites chosen by our Mars160 Crew Geologist Dr Jonathan Clarke. Our research was conducted in collaboration with Earth-based remote science team Dr Kathy Bywaters of NASA Ames Research Centre via asynchronous communication. This work was important for comparison of science return.

My primary objective was to simulate the exact process of collection of soil samples and ancient gypsum deposits as how it is supposed to be done in the real Mars mission. Mars Desert Research Station has its laboratory, equipped with standard facilities required to perform basic microbiological experiments. Therefore, as Mars-based Astronaut-scientist, I was supposed to collect the sample and take them back to our laboratory to process them.

I performed the extraction of microorganisms from soil samples and then plating on nutrient agar. The idea behind extraction and plating was to observe the colonies growing at the particular concentration of sodium chloride (salt).  My intention was to keep increasing the salt concentration to retrieve the rare ‘extreme’ halophiles for further molecular analysis. My samples included soil from the region of salt efflorescence and sulphur precipitation from different experimental sites. As well as, I plated halophiles from ancient gypsum samples that I collected during multiple extra-vehicular activities with Dr Clarke.

We have observed an interesting feature in the agar plates colonized by halophilic microorganisms at high salt concentration. We have found salt crystallization in some of those plates. According to Dr Rebecca Merica, an Earth-based microbiologist, media with high salt concentration is drying up and causing crystallization. These crystals could be halite. For me, the most fascinating idea is that the media which is crystalizing via evaporation has been colonized by halophilic microorganisms. So, they may have been buried inside those crystals during crystallization. Now, it will be interesting to record the time of crystallization and the prolonged duration of the entombment of halophiles.  This study could be significant to assess the long-term survivability of halophiles buried inside evaporite crystals. This process is an important replication/simulation of the natural process of evaporation of sea water, crystallization of salt, and entombment of halophiles.

Ancient terrestrial evaporite deposits, brine, or salt precipitation are excellent analogs of astrobiological exploration of Mars. Scientists have proposed the presence of sulphate and chloride-bearing deposits on Mars (Vaniman et al., 2004; Gendrin et al., 2005; Langevin et al., 2005; Osterloo et al., 2008). Furthermore, perchlorate has been detected on Mars at a concentration ~0.5 % wt by Phoenix lander (Hecht et al., 2009). Interestingly, it has been shown that salty-water (brine) can occur on Mars due to mineral deliquescence (Davila 2010; Chevrier 2009; Zorzano 2009; Mölmann 2008, 2010; Fisher et al 2014) and any trapped liquid water (fluid-inclusions) in these salt deposits may potentially harbour either active or dormant microbial ecosystem on Mars.

The first phase of the Mars 160 mission and Crew 172 is over now. So, the unaccomplished science goals/experiments will be carried forward to the second phase of Mars160 mission, which is going to be conducted at FMARS in the Canadian Arctic in summer 2017. Furthermore, I intend to process the samples of gypsum deposits of Jurassic period (175-200 million years old) “back on Earth” in a highly specialized laboratory environment with Mars160 Earth-based scientists.

 

Figure 1a: Anushree working in the MDRS laboratory.

Figure 1b: Anushree observing microbial colonies on plates. (Image credit: Nicholas McCay – Crew Journalist – Crew 172)

 

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Further Reading:

Chevrier, V.F., Hanley, J., and Altheide, T.S. (2009) Stability of perchlorate hydrates and theirliquid solutions at the Phoenix landing site, Mars. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, doi:10.1029/2009 GL037497.

Davila, Alfonso F., et al. “Hygroscopic salts and the potential for life on Mars.” Astrobiology 10.6 (2010): 617-628.

Fischer, E., Martínez, G. M., Elliott, H. M., & Rennó, N. O. (2014). Experimental evidence for the formation of liquid saline water on Mars. Geophysical research letters, 41(13), 4456-4462

Gendrin, A., Mangold, N., Bibring, J.-P., Langevin, Y., Gondet, B., Poulet, F., Bonello, G., Quantin, C., Mustard, J., Arvidson, R., LeMoue´ lic, S., 2005. Sulfates in Martian layered terrains: the OMEGA/Mars Express view. Science 307, 1587–1591.

Langevin, Y., Poulet, F., Bibring, J.-P., Gondet, B., 2005. Sulfates in the North Polar region of Mars detected by OMEGA/Mars Express. Science 307, 1584–1586.

Möhlmann, D.T. (2008) Are nanometric films of liquid undercooled interfacial water biorelevant? Cryobiology 58:256–261.

Möhlmann, D.T. (2010) The three types of liquid water on the surface of present Mars. Int. J. Astrobiology 9:45–49.

Osterloo, M.M., Hamilton, V.E., Bandfield, J.L., Glotch, J.L., Baldridge, A.M., Christensen, P.R., Tornabene, L.L., and Anderson, F.S. (2008) Chloride-bearing materials in the southern highlands of Mars. Science 319:1651–1654.

Vaniman, D.T., Bish, D.L., Chimera, S.J., Fialips, C.I., Carey, J.W., Feldman, W.C., 2004. Magnesium sulfate salts and the history of water on Mars. Nature 431, 663–665.

Zorzano, M.P.,Mateo-Martı´, E., PrietoBallesteros,O.,Osuna, S., and and Renno N. (2009) Stability of liquid saline water on present day Mars. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, doi:10.1029/2009GL040315

science report Jan 13th
Figure 1a