MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION

Journalist Report – January 31st

Journalist Report
Sol-02
Reported by: Arpan Vasanth
Stars are magical, it has a power to attract, helps us to rethink and reimagine. It also imbibes in us a passion to reach out for it, they are the most influencing objects helping one develop a quest for space exploration. The Team Planeteers (MDRS Crew 174) consists of a special blend of individuals who have been influenced at a very young age.
Our crew commander Mamatha shares that she was fascinated by our solar system and the never ending universe. She credits her high school teacher largely for all the information provided by taking a step away from the usual syllabus. She adds that her zeal to become an astronaut led her to purse further studies in space domain. Mamatha also shares her undergraduate experience of building the first Indian Pico Satellite (STUDSAT – STUDent SATellite), the challenges faced and the determination of the complete team to make it fly in a limited time slot. She now works for lunar path and mars pathfinder mission by taking the game to a whole new level! Way out of Lower Earth Orbit (LEO), where STUDSAT was placed. She believes Mars analog mission will help her to develop key field tactics required for future manned missions.
A book on our solar system with a cover page of space shuttle launch caught our executive officer Saroj’s interest in space during his grade six, During his schooling he would collect the articles on space missions which he has preserved it till date. Having gained enormous knowledge about mission plans during Project STUDSAT-2, he is now working on nuclear fusion propulsion technology for deep space inter-planetary missions. He believes in not just designing but also flying in one, hence he feels MDRS would be a perfect platform to get a glimpse of his childhood and future aspirations to eventually land on Mars one day.
To be able to colonize on MARS it is important to have a good understanding of the Martian atmosphere and geology. This brings to our next crew geologist Sai Arun, who says his biggest inspiration to get into the MDRS mission is, India’s first women astronaut Kalpana Chawla and expresses his desire to follow similar path. He adds that the citizen science radio astronomy group played an important role as well and wish to pursue research in Planetary science.
Coming to crew biologist of our team, Sneha’s (also lead chef of our mission !) journey, regular visits to planetariums and other space museums triggered the interest in her. The opportunity she got to work as a team member in Project STUDSAT paved the way for her to pursue her childhood interest. The passion she has for space leads her to work on research related to space communication. When approached with the opportunity to work on a Mars analog mission, the idea of living an astronaut life excited her. She adds that she is here to push her boundaries, live the astronaut life to the fullest and try her level best to support the mission and learn how to make the red planet a place to live for future humans.
Last but not the least about myself, I am fascinated with deep space missions and MDRS pushes the envelop in developing the skills required for such missions. After having worked in STUDSAT, I feel this is an excellent opportunity to reunite with old team mates and recreate the old magic!
Now coming back to life at Mars! The weather has been excellent ever since we landed here and it perfectly replicates the summer of Mars with temperature hovering around -10degree C to +5 degree C. Crew members Saroj and Sneha carried out their first EVA today. The goal was to collect different samples of Martian soil for greenhab experiment, both returned to the hab safely. Arun is lost with the Martian map trying to figure out key areas for his research. He is also planning for a night photo shoot session shortly! We are planning to wind up the day with botany experiments.

EVA Report – January 31st

EVA Report:
SOL: 02
Earth Date: 01/31/2017
Person filling out the report: Saroj Kumar
Crew members involved in the EVA: Saroj Kumar, Sneha Velayudhan
EVA leader: Sneha Velayudhan
Begin: 11.42 am
End: 02.00 pm
Type of EVA: Walking + Driving (Phobos)
Purpose: Mars soil sample collection for GreenHab experiments
UTM Coordinates: 1. Northing : 4251500  Easting :  519050

2. Northing: 4250250 Eastinhg: 518200
Summary: Today’s EVA was primarily dedicated for the Mars soil sample collection to test the growth of fenugreek plants. The secondary objective was to take pictures for the outreach activity. We visited the first coordinate location and took three different soil samples in different varieties consisting red, white and clay color soil. At the second coordinate location, two soil samples were collected from the old river bed. Life support system and radio communication were working perfectly fine for both the crews.

Final Mission Summary – Crew 173

Mars Desert Research Station End of Mission Summary

Crew 173 – Team PRIMA

 

Team PRIMA:

Commander/Astrobiologist: Michaela Musilova (Slovakia)

Executive Officer: Arnau Pons Lorente (Spain)

Engineer/ Astronomer: Idriss Sisaid (France/Morocco)

GreenHab Officer/Astrobiologist: Richard Blake (Australia)

Crew Artist/Journalist: Niamh Shaw (Ireland)

Crew Health & Safety Officer/Geologist: Roy Naor (Israel)

Team PRIMA is made up of highly qualified scientists, engineers, artists and leadership experts from all over the world. We all first met during the International Space University (ISU)’s Space Studies Program. The crew was successful in undertaking a wide range of research projects and outreach activities at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) during their mission there, detailed below. One of the keys to the smooth running of the mission and projects were great group dynamics, and the multicultural atmosphere the crew nurtured. Amongst other things, we regularly organized “culture nights”, in ISU’s spirit, during which the different international traditions and cuisines of the crew members were presented. Another thing, which bonded the whole crew, was our passion for reaching out to the public and inspiring others to pursue their dreams, just like the crew is doing. They believe this mission alone helped raise the awareness about the importance of the space sector in all of the crew members’ countries.

 

Research conducted at MDRS:

  • 3D printing of bricks through In Situ Resource Utilization

The aim of this project was to develop and test 3d printed blocks, which can be used to build multifunctional buildings on Mars. The shape of the blocks was optimized to withstand different types of heavy loads, contain water (for daily use by astronauts) and to provide extra-radiation shielding for the astronauts. Furthermore, the idea was to use in situ resources to make the blocks, therefore minimizing the amount of material that would need to be transported to Mars.

The first week at MDRS, we encountered several issues with the 3D printer present here (including the cold temperatures at night for example),  which didn’t allow us to print bricks but we managed to print 5 bricks over the last few days (Figure 1). Every brick took 17h on average to print. The outer shell of the brick was printed using PLA filament (plastic). For future studies, we suggest laser sintering technology to simulate 3D printing using Martian soil. The printed blocks are, however, a great success as the interlocking system was fully functional. With the crew geologist Roy Naor we evaluated the different types of soil that can be used within the brick to strengthen it. Filling the blocks with appropriate soil was also successful and the process was fairly easy (less than 1min per block). We then built a small structure at MDRS during an EVA, in order to prepare for the next iteration of the proof of concept.

Figure 1: the first 3D printed brick on “Mars”

 

  • GreenHab related projects

The work in the GreenHab during this has mission comprised of three main experiments:

 

  1. Temperature

The temperature fluctuation was measured across the day, from a range of locations: inside the GreenHab, inside on the ground floor of the main Hab, outside, and, inside the grow tent (which was initially located within the GreenHab). The results are presented in Figure 2.

Due to the extremely high temperatures in the growth tent (50◦C ~120◦F), the grow tent was moved to the lower level of the main Hab. With the grow tent inside the main Hab, its temperature hardly fluctuated at all (Figure 3). With ~65% humidity, it now represents an ideal seed germination area. The GreenHab still gets quite hot during the day, getting to ~40◦C (~105◦F), but with no wind and regular watering, the plants thrive. Similarly, with a working heater, the night- time temperatures now only get as low as ~17◦C (~63◦F), which is a perfectly adequate temperature to keep edible plants happy.

Figure 2: Sol 1 temperatures

Figure 3: Sol 7 temperatures

 

  1. Growth

This involved two similar experiments designed by universities in the Czech Republic, and brought by the crew commander, Michaela Musilova. The first was a corn experiment, designed by researchers at the Masaryk University, to be used as a base line for a future experiment testing the effects of heavy metals on the growth of corn (Figure 4). The experiment at the MDRS involved measuring the height of corn seedlings each day as well as recording the number of leaves each plant had. Figure 4 shows the growth of the corn seedlings after only a few days of being in the grow tent.

 

The second experiment saw six different crops sown in pots with seed densities ranging from 1 to 12 seeds per 4 cm2. Some seedlings have already sprouted but it is still too early to gather meaningful results. This experiment is to be followed up by researchers at Mendel University.
Both projects are to be continued by future crews at MDRS – we will leave them appropriate instructions for this. Hopefully, in this way, we will be able to engage multiple crews in this international project.

Figure 4: Corn growing experiments

 

 

  1. Soil

This experiment was borne of the need for more soil to grow plants in. Samples of soil were collected from geological locations in the surroundings of MDRS. These samples were tested for their pH, as well as salinity. With kitchen and garden scraps forming compost, this could improve the regolith to the point it could be used to grow more crops in the future. Hopefully, this could reduce dependence on outside sources to bring in more potting mix, and more fully recreate a Martian simulation. Unfortunately, the instruments to measure pH and salinity at the MDRS were insufficient for this, and thus this experiment warrants further investigation.

 

 

  • Chemical and isotopic fingerprints of MDRS carbonates

 

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. The carbonate analysis work at MDRS concentrated on locating and sampling carbonate minerals in the topsoil and exhumed formations in the Martian-like environment. After an initial study of the geology of the area, carbonates were sampled and tested on site, using HCl 5% to test for a reaction of the rocks with the acid. The verified assemblages were then brought back to MDRS for further testing. The sampling was performed in a very rigorous way, documented meticulously, while keeping the work analogous to what extraterrestrial field work would be like one day.

 

The samples will be sent for analysis of the carbonates’ chemical and isotopic fingerprint at the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel) (including crystal separation, mineral/chemical identification (XRD, EDS, CL), textural analysis (SEM, micro-CT), isotopic analysis (SIMS)). The results will be added to their datasets with the intention of publishing them in academic journals.

 

 

  • Art-Outreach project

 

The aim of this project was to capture the public’s interest in Mars, MDRS and Space:

  • by telling the real-time human story of our mission pre-, during- and post-mission,
  • to inspire the younger generation to pursue STEAM education and realize that everyone can play a part in the exploration of space
  • to raise awareness of the importance of analog missions, specifically MDRS and the opportunity for non-Space agency individuals to play their part in Human Space Exploration.

 

We believe that we accomplished these aims: together we documented our entire experience here at MDRS using audio, video, timelapse, 360 cameras and photography. We began by making videos pre-mission to reflect the time and effort in preparation for our mission. During mission, we captured every EVA in photography and video and conducted time lapse videos of our experiments, and daily life during our mission. We will continue to record our experience post-mission to capture further reflections about our experience at MDRS. During our mission, we shared a summary of our daily activities on social media and on blogposts in our native countries using this content. We also created short 90 second tutorial videos for school children to inspire them to consider careers in STEM, especially in the space industry, to be posted to our YouTube channel post-mission.  We also worked with a number of companies, research institutions and journalists/media organizations around the world. Awareness of Mars and MDRS has most definitely been achieved, and we all return home to requests for further interviews and requests from schools to speak about our experience here.

 

  • Israeli outreach & educational projects

 

One of our outreach projects involved a challenge for high school students in Israel to design a set of small experiments for the team to conduct under simulation. They were: 1) Detecting variances in rock type near MDRS (involving sampling and examining the geological characteristics of each of the formations present here); 2) Testing the strength of the 3D printed bricks as a function of the different rock material they will be filled with (thus testing the variance in their strength properties ); and testing the effect of repetitive EVAs on the time it takes the crew to prepare for it (timing and documenting the process of putting EVA equipment on). All crew members took part in this research lead by Roy Naor. The projects yielded interesting results. For instance, there was a great improvement in the EVA preparation time (decreasing from 30 minutes to 15 minutes throughout the mission). This projects already got a lot of media coverage and the results be published in the Israeli media after the mission.

 

  • “Mission to Mars” competition and research project:

Michaela Musilova organized a competition for high school and university students in Slovakia called Mission to Mars (Misia Mars), together with Slovenske Elektrarne. The aim of the competition was to motivate young people to design an experiment worthy of being taken and performed on Mars, whether real or simulated at MDRS. Students from all over Slovakia participated in the competition in 2016. The winning experiment has been brought to MDRS with Crew 173 (Figure 5). It is focused on enhancing the speed and yield of spinach growth under simulated Martian conditions. Michaela communicated regularly with her students in Slovakia, who remotely advised her on how to perform it. The experiment was very successful, as the spinach grew much faster than the spinach grown in the GreenHab. It also yielded enough leaves to treat the crew to a mini spinach salad on their last evening at MDRS. All the follow-up analyses will be performed in the students’ school in Detva, Slovakia. As per the other outreach activities, this project attracted a lot of attention from the media and was followed by many schools throughout Slovakia.

Figure 5: Mission to Mars experiment at MDRS

 

  • Space food or food for extreme conditions

A practical way of eating is the key to long-term expeditions in extreme conditions on Earth and in future long-duration missions in space. Food will have to be compact (for easy transportation), full of the most important nutrients (for maintaining good crew health and performance), but also diverse for all the different human senses. Hence, a project focusing on food for extreme conditions (nicknamed “space food”) has been prepared by the Slovak Organization for Space Activities (SOSA) and several Slovak research institutes and companies. The aim of the work at MDRS was to monitor the changes in the quality of the space food products and their nutritional content, rather than to test the products on the crew. In particular, the effects of the different extreme conditions (e.g. varying temperatures) on the food were studied for health and safety reasons. The project went very well and most of the products managed to survive the simulated Martian conditions. Further analyses will be performed at the Slovak institutes upon the return of the products to Slovakia, with the aim of publishing the data in academic publications. Future plans include using the data in the food industry, and preparing products for athletes and even the military, even one day for the space sector.

Crew Photos – January 27th

Outside HAB January 27th 2017 Michaela on EVA with SOSA(Credit RIck Blake)
Outside HAB January27th 2017 Idriss on EVA(Credit NIamh Shaw)
Outside HAB January 27th 2017 Rick on EVA(Credit Michaela Musilova)
Outside HAB January 27th 2017 Niamh on EVA(Credit Niamh Shaw)
Outside HAB January 27th 2017 Interesting geological formation(Creit Rick Blake)
Outside HAB January 27th 2017 Michaela and Rick on EVA(Credit Rick Blake)
Outside HAB January 27th 2017 Michaela on EVA(Credit Rick Blake)
Outside HAB January 27th 2017 Rick on EVA near Hab(Credit Michaela Musilova)

EVA Report – January 27th

EVA report:

SOL: 12

Earth date: 27/01/2017

Person filling out the report: Michaela Musilova

Crew members involved in the EVA: Niahm Shaw, Idriss Sisaid and Michaela Musilova

EVA leader: Michaela Musilova

Begin: 09:30 am

End: 1:00 pm

Type of EVA: Walking+ 2 ATVs

Purpose: Outreach activities around the Hab and last sampling of hypoliths.

UTM Coordinates: Northing : 4249100  Easting :  518000 Zone : 12 S

Summary: Outreach activities (with photos and videos) around MDRS and further hypolith sampling by the Kissing Camels ridge.

Sol Summary – January 27th

MDRS Sol Summary Report for Sol 12
Crew Journalist & Artist Niamh Shaw

Summary Title
The curse of the Gigabyte Hobgoblin

Mission Status:
We are all doing well, our experiments are now complete and we are
finishing off our remaining out-reach activities as part of our mission.

Sol Activity Summary:
Action! So many movies were made today it was hard to keep up with all the
activity. And the weather couldn’t have been better for shooting. But first
we took a call from The Sunday Times newspaper for an interview. We thought
it was going to be a brief 20 minutes group call and ended up being over 90
minutes in duration. What can I say? We wowed him with stories of our
mission. Here’s a brief sum-mary of the outreach and art activities
happening around here today: Niamh was shooting her art pro-ject in the
communal areas, Roy was filming his outreach movies in the Science Dome,
Idriss was using the EVA to make an outreach movie and Rick pulled himself
in many directions to assist every-one in their needs. Roy then made a
‘walk and talk’ outreach movie about MDRS and our life here. Michaela and
Rick went out on a second EVA of the day to collect one last set of
hypolith samples. Michaela then spent some time in the Science Dome
analyzing her samples and working on her scien-fitic projects. Lastly Roy
and Idriss finally built their wall with 3d printed bricks, and filmed
their suc-cessful proof of concept. We took over 600 photographs today and
made approx 10 movies. All content for us to bring back to our home
countries and share our adventure with everyone. On the home stretch now….

Look Ahead Plan:
We have to finish some minor outreach stuff in the morning, give the Hab a
good clean for Crew 174 and head out on one last EVA as a crew together.
Then its one last group picture and then we look forward to welcoming the
new crew to MDRS.

Anomalies in work:
The gigabyte goblin continues to strike, we will never know who or what was
eating all that data.

Weather:
A perfectly wonderful day on Mars today. Warm, the sun shone and dry all
day.

Crew Physical Status:
All crew are alll doing well. Still laughing.

EVA:
A short EVA in the morning for Niamh and Idriss for outreach activities and
then in the afternoon Michaela and Rick went on EVA to collect hypolith
samples.

Reports to be filed:
sol 12 summary
Eva report
Eva request
commander’s report
Operations report

Commanders Report – January 27th

Commander’s report Sol 12

 

Vangelis. The 1492: Conquest of Paradise theme. That is what is going through my head now and has been all day. All week. All mission actually. It all started with Idriss, our crew engineer, playing the song at the start of our mission many sols ago. Then one by one each crew member has been humming the song while working, cooking, in the shower, in the toilet… Basically all the time. Today Roy, our crew geologist, hummed it a number of time into our walkie talkies during his EVA and now my crew are all listening to it while preparing for dinner. This fairly powerful and inspirational music gets to us not just because it’s catchy, but because it resonates within us. It awakens the explorers, the adventurers, the scientists and visionaries in our souls. It symbolises what has united us all in going to Mars in the first place. The music’s power fuels our desires and makes us feel invincible in reaching our dreams.

 

While I hear my crew singing the song together by the dinner table, it also fills me sorrow and nostalgia. How many more times will be sing the song together? How many more times will we share the “cancer” juice over dinner? How many more times will we start all of our walkie talkie calls with “Bla bla bla, this is Roy” and end them with “over”? I cannot even imagine now not hearing the loud pump go off while I pour water into the kettle to make tea. I will probably spend the next few weeks being paranoid about using the wifi and will turn all my devices on airplane more when it is not time to communicate with Mission Support.

 

I will definitely not miss praying to the “toilet god”, as we call it, each time we want to flush the toilet, just so that we do not have another toilet-clogging problem. It will be very refreshing to take a shower more than once a week and I cannot wait to bite into a juicy apple. I will also enjoy not checking on the crew all the time and trying to solve the mystery of the Gigabyte Hobgoblin, who has been eating Gigabytes and Gigabytes of our data. My body has been craving a good run and exercise out in the nature. Not to mention my family, friends and colleagues, who have been writing to me almost desperately, barely getting a message from me all the way from Mars.

 

Nevertheless, none of these things would make me want to leave Mars any sooner or at all to be honest. I have become a Martian and so has my whole crew. We have adapted to our life here and it will be painful for all of us to prepare for the journey back to Earth. We will miss working together, sharing stories, cultural nights, music to hum together and silly walkie talkie conversations. We have all caught some sort of Martian sickness: from regularly making strange animal noises, obsessive-compulsive cooking or cleaning, and simply laughing our heads off all the time. I have not cried from laughter so often, perhaps ever in my life. Our strange way of life may seem crazy to the aliens observing us here or our fellow Earthlings back home. However, for us our laughter has been our source of energy, our medicine and the key to our successful mission here on Mars.

 

We will be Martians forever in our hearts and the bonds we have created here will remain with us for the rest of our lives. Our experience here will be the fuel for our passions, just like the Vangelis song. We have made the conquest of Mars. Now it is time to achieve the rest of our dreams.

 

Ad Astra!

Michaela Musilova

Mars Crew 173 Commander

 

Crew Photos – January 26th

Outside HAB January 26th 2017 Collecting samples on EVA (Credit Niamh Shaw)

 

Outside HAB January 26th 2017 View of the Butte on EVA

 

Outside HAB January 26th 2017 Roy doing field work on EVA (Credit Niamh Shaw)

 

Outside HAB January 26th 2017 Roy collecting data (Credit Niamh Shaw)

 

Outside HAB January 26th 2017 On EVA with Michaela roy and Niamh (Credit Niamh Shaw)

 

Outside HAB January 26th 2017 Niamh on EVA (Credit Michaela Musilova)

 

Outside HAB January 26th 2017 Michaela conducting field work on EVA (Credit Niamh Shaw)

 

Outside Hab January 26th 2017 Canyon view on EVA (Credit Niamh Shaw)

 

Outside HAB Janaury 26th 2017 Michaela collecting samples (Credit Niamh Shaw)

 

January 26th 2017 Celebrating Australia Day in the HAB with Rick hosting Australia Culture Night (Niamhs taking the pic but shes there in spirit)

Sol Summary – January 26th

MDRS Sol Summary Report for Sol 11
Crew geologist Roy Naor
Summary Title
Whenever you climb higher and higher on Mars, there always be another summit to conquer
Mission Status:
The unstoppable team PRIMA kept on in full steam to achieve their goal, the mission is coming to an end and they are focusing on wrapping up what needs to be shipped back to earth and make their final 3D printing proof of concept.
Sol Activity Summary:
A unique day it was as the three expeditioners, took the DESERT RAT, fully mounted to drive up the stairs of Tharsis Rise to the west, this time aiming higher than ever before, to the foot of Olympus Mons. The day started with them getting dirty in the muddy Martian regolith, working on switching tire of the DESERT RAT. Stories will be told generations to come, but the essence of it all will be summarised exclusively at the lower part of this paper.
The crew Engineer took his final battle against the worst 3D printer the world had ever seen. One final brick was produced and now it’s all about building that Great Wall of Mars.
In the GreenHab, the officer continued with his altruistic actions to secure fresh food for the next crew. Now we’re all getting together for dinner celebrating the Earthling holiday of the standalone continent next to New Zealand in Earth southern hemisphere.
Look Ahead Plan:
It all goes down to wrapping up what needs to be taken back to Earth and make good preparation for pleasant welcome to our successors, crew Planeteers.One last EVA will be performed to collect any remaining necessary samples. The 3D printing project will arrive to its Grand finale tomorrow with building the first 3D printed wall on Mars.
Anomalies in work:
Other than skipping lunch for ascending the foots of Olympus Mons, no major anomalies were introduced.
Weather:
 It was a lovely day on Mars, no sand storms or solar eruption and radiative wind. Nothing but the extreme cold air was interfering in getting the mission done.
Crew Physical Status:
The crew is at its best, getting a good night sleep and good exercise simultaneously.
EVA:
The great commander took her private geologist and artist to front “the tallest of them all” in search of little green Martians in the plato sandstone. The commander found a variety of samples she was looking for, while the geologist found special carbonates he has been looking throughout the whole expedition, one that evaporates related and known as Caliche. The artist was at her best, documenting the vangardian achievement and using her little Lotti friend to outreach the Earthling followers with the best of scientific field work.
Reports to be filed:
sol 11 summary
Eva report
Eva request
Journalist’s report
Operations report
Support Requested:
 Water resupply and water pump leak fixing

Journalist Report – January 26th

Another busy day here at MDRS for Crew 173. While Idriss continued to work on his 3D printed bricks, Richard beavered away in the GreenHab as well as baking biscuits, bread and preparing dinner for tonight. Its Australia day and he’s hosting our ultimate Culture night. He already served us ‘Vege-mite’ for breakfast this morning, so who knows whats up for dinner. By the way, for the uninitiated, ‘Vegemite’ is a sandwich spread made from yeast extract. Its a savoury spread and the flavour is hard to describe, except to say that you usually either love it or hate it. Personally I love it, but not so much for Roy! He hadn’t tried it before, and assuming that since the spread was brown it was some sort of sweet-tasting chocolate spread. Hmmm. It took his taste buds a few seconds to catch up & once they did, his face said it all!
I joined Michaela and Roy on a geo-biological EVA to the Butte. It was our longest EVA but certainly worth it. The views of the basin and surrounding environs around MDRS were absolutely stunning. I think I took about 600 pictures! Not enough- I could have taken a thousand more!
And now the sun has gone down and Sol 11 is almost over. Just one more full day here on our own before we are joined by Crew 174.  Its starting to feel like we’re not going to get everything done. I’m sure the next couple of days will be special for us all as we spend our last few hours here together. What a buzz!
by Niamh Shaw
Crew Journalist & Artist.