MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION

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

Sol Summary – January 18th

MDRS Sol Summary Report for Sol 3
“The beauty and hidden treachery of Mars”
Mission Status:
We’re overcoming the various challenges Mars is throwing at us and we’re still roaring with laughter. In summary: another fine day on Mars with Crew 173 – Team PRIMA.
Sol Activity Summary:
If there’s a lesson that we’ve learned today, it’s that most things work in a yin and yang kind of system on Mars. Each time we rejoiced that something got fixed/is working again, then something else came along and spoilt our joy. Our euphoria of having the toilet problems fixed got replaced by water pump leakage problems in previous days. Today, instead, aliens decided to steal some of our sources of power and gas. While the electricity was restored (under clearly some kind of peace treaty), the aliens are still entertaining themselves by cutting us off from our heat source. Currently, we’re huddling together to keep warm as the night is coming. In a similar way, my students’ spinach is growing extremely well under their experimental conditions, but Idriss, our crew engineer, is still trying his best to fix the 3D printer. That is not all, the beauty and hidden treachery of Mars is found in every element of our life here. Like it’s trying to trick us into thinking we can live here peacefully and then it hits us from a new unexpected direction. For instance, when we were about to exit the airlock, we got hypnotized by the beautiful landscape. We were so distracted by it, that we didn’t notice an alien come and open the hatch. Luckily, we were all suited up, so there were no casualties, but it was a close one… And then came the exploratory and thrilling EVA. Mars fooled us again. We left under the naïve illusion that the weather is great, the roads should be good and thus we should be able to drive these greater distances in good time. Ha. Little did we know what was ahead of us…(described below). Nevertheless, we showed Mars yet again that it can’t get rid of us that easily. We are here to stay and help colonize it in the future. Take that Mars!
Look Ahead Plan:
Apart our ambitious colonisation of Mars plans, we are planning on doing at least one EVA  tomorrow (weather permitting): one to go a bit of biological sampling in the surroundings of MDRS (ideally endoliths for myself) and another to retrieve the ATVs, which had to be left “sacrificed” today, so that we could return to our Hab safely before sunset. Activities in the Hab will include starting a couple of new experiments in the GreenHab, continuing with existing projects (for example Niamh’s artistic and outreach videos, my Slovak students’ project and 3D printing) and time-permitting attending to some of my projects in the Science Dome.
Anomalies in work:
The 3D printer stopped working and Idriss is still troubleshooting it. We are all also suffering from our helmets fogging up all the time, which makes driving on ATVs and walking on any kind of uneven terrain extremely difficult and even dangerous.
Weather:
Today the weather was very delightful again: sunny and very warm. We are very grateful for that, as our adventurous EVA described below would have not been possible under any other conditions.
Crew Physical Status:
All crew members are doing fine. One of them is still recovering from a cold.
EVA:
The original plan for the EVA was to go prospecting the carbonates in the Dakota sandstone and lower Mancos shale East of the Hab, all the way up to Skyline Rim (Northing : 4251500  Easting: 515000 Zone : 12 S) using ATVs there and back. However, the road called Copernicus highway ended up being in a very bad condition. It was worse than a rollercoaster ride. Even out of simulation I wouldn’t have wanted to drive on it. We were nevertheless on Mars and had to do as the Martians do, so we proceeded with great caution to get to our desired geological samples. With fogged up space helmets and heavy life support units, this ended up taking nearly three times as long as we initially anticipated. Thus, Roy and I had to improvise. The long story short is that we drove all the way to the cliff edges above MDRS, parked the ATVs there for the night and had to hike down to MDRS to make it back safely before sunset. This was also much trickier than anticipated, as the faulty helmets and general space gear made it quite a thrilling hike. We are tough earthling cookies, so we made it all right and showed Mars again who’s boss. We were actually very successful with retrieving some good carbonates and endolith samples during our exhilarating quest, so we had more than just a good story to tell at the end of the day 
Dr Michaela Musilová

EVA Report – January 18th

EVA Report:
SOL: 3
Date: 18/01/2017
Person filling out the report: Roy Naor
Crew members involved in the EVA: Roy Naor, Michaela Musilova
EVA leader: Michaela Musilova
Begin: 01:00pm
End: 04:41 pm
Type of EVA: ATV 300, ATV 350+Walking
Purpose: Carbonate prospecting and sampling in Dakota sandstone and Mancos shale
UTM Coordinates: Northing : 4251500  Easting :  515000 Zone : 12 S
Summary: The road named Copernicus highway, which crosses the Dakota formation plane, is a very bad road. Hence, it took us much more time to get there than originally planned. In the end, we realized we wouldn’t be able to get back to the Hab on time before sunset, so we parked the two ATVs right at the Repeater Point, north to Radio ridge and got down back to the Hab by foot.
However, we were quite successful with retrieving some good carbonates and endolith samples from the regolith of dakota formation and a bolder of ferron sandstone which fell to the foot of Skyline Rim.

Journalist’s Report – January 18th

Inspiration everywhere
By Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist Crew 173
The day goes very fast here at MDRS.  I have this imagined schedule in my head at the top of the day, thinking that there will be ample time to get it all in, plus time to relax, chill out with the crew and rest  up after dinner. Yeah, that hasn’t happened!  And I’m sure its true for all MDRS crews.  You want to do so much to maximise your experience here, aware that the mission and this opportunity will be over before you know it. I want to do my own work, AND work with all the crew on each of their separate projects, plus capture the stunning landscape while on EVA. Today I followed Rick around, as he planted some new seeds in the GreenHAB but I also wanted to join Michaela and Roy on their geological EVA. Ahh! So much choice but so little time!! I’m falling in to bed at the end of the day, with my head full of new ideas on top of the schedule I had in place before getting here. We’re only a few days in to our mission and I know already that I’m not going to get everything covered.
But its the best feeling ever. A sign that I’m in the perfect creative headspace, inspired by everything and everyone around me. I’m going to be exhausted leaving here. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Lets do this!
Slán go foill
CREW 173
SIGNING OFF
by Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist

GreenHab Report – January 17th

GreenHab Report
Sol 2
17/01/17
Richard Blake
GreenHab Status:
Still too cold at night to leave plants in there, the seedlings I have growing are moved in there in the morning (~9am) and brought back to the Hab in the afternoon (~5pm). Currently have spinach, lettuce, onions, (pop)corn?, carrots, radishes, and beans growing amongst other things.
GreenHab Update:
Received some more seeds, will start to plant some in the coming days, namely tomatoes, beans and coriander.
Requests:
– I want to move the grow tent from the GreenHab to the lower level of the main Hab, it gets too hot in the sun to be used.
– Any instructions on setting up the hydroponics equipment?
– GreenHab heater should theoretically be fixed this week (crosses fingers).
– For Patrick – Am I correct in assuming the popcorn growing was from the popcorn in the kitchen? If so, that is hilarious (the almonds didn’t work out so well).
Photos of repotted plants in GreenHab attached
I know what chard is now.

Crew Photos – January 17th

Outside HAB January 17th 2017 Returning home for the evening.

 

Outside HAB January 17th 2017 MDRS facility.

 

Outside HAB January 17th 2016 Rick Roy and Idriss beging their EVA.

 

Northing 4251500 Easting 519000 Zone 12s January 17th 2017 Roy on EVA.

 

Northing 4251500 Easting 519000 Zone 12s January 17th 2017 Idriss assists Roy on his geological field trip.

 

Main HAB Airlock January 17th 2017 France and Israel Crew 173.

 

Hab January 16th 2017 Roys Culture Night.

 

Hab January 16th 2017 Israeli night in the Hab.

Sol Summary – January 17th

MDRS Sol Summary Report for sol 2
The report was written by Idriss Sisaid
Chasing the carbonates with ATVs and solving basic problems.
Mission Status:  (How are things going?)
Things are getting better (things always get better once the toilets are unclogged). The sun has kept on shining today and dried up the soil. This enabled us to get on our all terrain vehicles (ATVs) and discover the area. The 3d Printer has however had a few problems as the cartridges were faulted.
Sol Activity Summary: (What did you learn/do today?)
We learnt how to use the ATVs with style and how to speak properly on the walkie talkie, mumbling before speaking which doesn’t lead to calling ones own name repeatedly until the end of times. Three crewmembers went out on an EVA to find some carbonates for a geology project. On our way we learnt new ways of cleaning the helmet when it gets too blury (like cleaning it with a brush hold in place with the teeth or by its own home-grown brush also known as a beard) in order to see correctly. The crewmembers successfully collected some samples for further analysis. The 3d printed blocks project had still a few problems and couldn’t get further prints as some hardware elements were of bad quality (the cartridge, the nozzles, and in fact, the whole 3d printer) which led us to unmount the cartdriges and use a different printing system. Growing food on Mars is slow but we are getting there! New seeds arrived today from a new supply and we will be able to grow more plants.
Look Ahead Plan: (How are you going to follow up?  What’s the plan for tomorrow?)
We look forward to finally printing a few blocks so that we can begin our first tests. We also plan to start analysing some samples collected during our EVA and we hope to be able to find more samples.
Anomalies in work:  (Any problems?)
Latest update of the evening: the toilets are again clogged and, therefore, so are our emotions. We do hope to find an alternative solution and not bring up again discussions on alternative and efficient solutions for delivering and getting rid of solid packages in a confined environment.
Weather:
Today was very sunny and dried most of the soil around the hab. Clear skies but still low temperatures (~0-5°C)
Crew Physical Status:
As the saying goes, laughing is good for one’s health, and we laughed a lot! We started the day very healthy until the toilet told us to cry again.
EVA: (where did you go?)
We took 3 ATVs and went to a small canyon about 5 miles east from the Hab where we sampled some rocks for a geological analysis.
Support Requested:
·        We need better cartdriges for the 3D printer. We would like some functionning ones for the next ressuply.
·        We are still looking forward the Internet token.

Journalist Report – January 17th

This report was filed by Niamh Shaw 
We decided on Sol 0, that since we are an international crew, we should take turns hosting a culture night/meal every other night to represent the different nations in our crew, during our time at MDRS. And first up was Roy, our HSO and geologist, who is from a Kibbutz in Israel. We have to thank him for this great idea too,  and all the people from his home country, because they sent him suggestions of food he could prepare for us.
And so last night we had our first Culture night. Donning his national flag proudly in the communal area, Roy took us to Israel for the evening, preparing a delicious meal of mixed beans, potato, and garlic, followed by his national snack of Bamba which we dipped in peanut butter, nutella, honey or maple syrup (yum!). Next up was a cup of the velvety turkish coffee (which has quite a caffeine kick to it) and lastly we all played a card game ‘Memory Game Kibbutz’, a series of cards with handprinted scenes of different aspects of kibbutz living. Each card is duplicated and  turned down and the aim of the game is to find a matching pair. In addition to the fun of struggling to remember the location of a pair, Roy explained the relevance of the image to the his community.
It was a great night and a reminder again of how lucky we are to be here. In addition to simulating the Martian landscape, we also have the privilege of experiencing working with international teams, a key aspect of all human space exploration (and reaping the benefits of learning about new cultures on planet Earth).
I’m up next for Culture night at MDRS. I have an Irish meal in mind (sort of) and am preparing some Irish-themed activities for the evening. But the pressures on. Cos Roy aced it. Yikes!
Slån go foill
CREW 173
SIGNING OFF

EVA Report – January 17th

EVA Report:

SOL: 2

Date: 17/01/2017

Person filling out the report: Roy Naor

Crew members involved in the EVA: Roy Naor, Richard Blake, Idriss sissaid

EVA leader: Roy Naor

Begin: 02:00pm

End: 04:38 pm

Type of EVA: Phobos, ATV 300, ATV 350+Walking

Purpose: Carbonate prospecting and sampling in the salt wash member and Sumervile Formation

UTM Coordinates: Northing : 4251500  Easting :  519000 Zone : 12 S     

Summary: We recommend having more detailed topografic maps 1:50,000 scale or lower in order to do proper geological/biological work. It is very weird to work without a map.We will try to make do with the ones that we were given for now.
I looked for concreations but found only cemented sand stones.
We walked the Candor Chasma from the main road to the sharp river bend after Tree Gate.

EVA Report – January 16th

EVA Report
SOL: 1
Date: 16/01/2017
Person filling out the report: Roy Naor
Crew members involved in the EVA: Roy Naor, Michaela Musilova, Niamh Shaw
EVA leader: Michaela Musilova
Begin: 02:00pm
End: 04:40pm
Type of EVA: Walking
Purpose: exploring the vicinity of the hab and sample carbonate minerals
UTM Coordinates: Northing : 4251400  Easting :  518900 Zone : 12 S
Summary: We learned a lot about how EVA works in terms of communication and physiology.
We sampled 4 different sandstone outcrops in the Brushy basin member of Morisson formation for its carbonates cements and concritions, and one sample of eroded sandstone (regolith) for our ISRU 3d printing project.