Crew 281 Mission Summary
As the final MDRS Crew of the season, Team Pegasus (Crew 281) finished the season strong:
doing 13 EVAs, running the Ham Radio for 6 days including the first Morse code contact, kept
the GreenHab operational, conducted 4 geotechnical surveys of the area, 19 drone payload tests
and other experiments. The five person team successfully maintained the Hab and conducted
operations for all 12 sols of the mission. Here is the team:
● Megan Kane: Commander and GreenHab Officer
● Ritupriya (Ritu) Patil: Executive Officer
● Rachel Jones: Health Safety Officer
● Ana Pires: Crew Scientist
● KC Shasteen: Crew Engineer
The 12 Sol mission was packed with research, testing and operational tasks. The team did take
the time to enjoy the mission and time together with good food from the three cooks: KC, Megan
Mars Desert Research Station Facilities:
The team utilized most of the facilities over the course of the mission.
The Science Dome was home to several experiments. In the grow tent, 75 Cacao (Chocolate) seeds of 2 varieties were sprouted. Started on Sol 1, by Sol 12 the cotyledons had begun to emerge. The workspace was used to test and prepare the equipment for the geotechnical surveys and examine the samples. Additionally, the team supported maintaining the algae experiment from Crew 261. Lastly, Team Pegasus recorded several STEM educational videos there.
In the GreenHab, the commander and crew engineer worked to keep the plants alive late into the increasing heat. Both having experience with greenhouses and vertical farms, they worked to decrease the rising temperatures and increase the humidity for the plants. This was met with limited success due to availability of materials. The watering test conducted by the commander went well.
The Repair and Maintenance (RAM) module was used to support many activities including drone flights, geotechnical device repair, and the radio setup. Additionally, the tools available were used in the Hab, Science Dome, GreenHab, and on EVA. Several days into the mission the RAM shopvac took up residence in the Hab due to the Hab Shopvac being inoperable.
In the Hab, a multitude of activities occurred. Downstairs the team prepared for EVAs and set up the Radio. The HSO is also a HAM radio operator (KO4HLC) she has made more than 50 contacts and completed the first known Morse Code contact from MDRS. She is currently working on updating the guidance for future radio operators. Upstairs was communal space. Here the team planned EVAs, filed reports and made delicious food.
The team prepared multiple research projects to conduct over the course of the mission. See a summary of each in the sections below.
The crew scientist proposed a series of geotechnical surveys to improve understanding of the geology near the Mars Desert Research Station and test the use of standard equipment in an analog environment. Over the course of 4 EVAs, 950 measurements were taken by the 2 geotechnical devices used to conduct the surveys. These measurements combined with samples taken for analysis and the aerial footage from the drone provides an extensive amount of information about the areas surveyed. There is a paper already under development related to the surveys during the mission.
Rock Sampling device test
The Pegasus Scoop was designed and built as a component for a larger robotic system. The crew scientist brought the scoop from Portugal for testing in a realistic environment. The scoop successfully performed its function. It will later be incorporated into a larger system.
Drone Payload testing
The drone brought by the executive officer was used for aerial footage and to conduct payload delivery tests while on EVA and to an EVA deploying from the Astronomy dome. Wind conditions limited the amount of testing completed. A total of 19 test flights were conducted with 17 being completed. The remaining 2 flights had to be aborted due to wind conditions mid-flight.
Passive watering tests
The passive watering system brought by the commander consisted of terracotta spikes with 500 mL plastic water bottles. On Sol 1 the 10 spikes were deployed into planters deep enough to utilize the spikes. The spikes were refilled when the bottles went dry, the spikes never went dry. This provided constant water flow directly to the plant’s roots. The remaining planters were assessed for their watering needs and watered as required. The total amount of watering done via both methods was collected.
Luxury crop sprouting test – Cacao
There were three cacao (chocolate) pods of different varieties of cacao brought to MDRS. They included 2 varieties of Trinitario (Red and Yellow) and Jaca a variant of Forastero. The seeds and seedlings require heat and humidity to sprout. On Sol 1 the three pods were opened, the seeds cleaned and set out for germination in trays on moist paper towels. On Sol 3 the seeds were rinsed and transferred to fresh paper towels. On Sol 5 the individual pots were prepared and the seeds showing signs of germination were planted. On Sol 10 multiple seeds showed signs they would be sprouting their cotyledons shortly. The first cotyledons were visible on Sol 12. Seeds were watered every day and the temperature and humidity monitored.
The 12 Sol mission was a success from a research and outreach perspective. Team Pegasus looks forward to working together in the future and continuing the research started here.