Mid-Mission Research Report – December 16th

[category science-report]

Mars Desert Research Station
Mid-Mission Research Report

Crew 288 – Phobos
Dec 9th, 2023 – Dec 23rd, 2023

Crew Members:
Commander and Crew Astronomer: Dr. Cesare Guariniello
Executive Officer: Riley McGlasson
Crew Geologist: Hunter Vannier
Crew Engineer: Jesus Adrian Meza Galvan
Health and Safety Officer: Jilian Welshoff
Green Hab Officer: Ryan DeAngelis
Crew Journalist: Lipi Roy

Crew Projects:

Title: Noninvasive search for water
Author(s): Riley McGlasson
Objectives: Assess near-surface moisture in the top 10 cm of material
Current status: GPR observations were taken during EVAs 3 and 6. During EVA 3 two 3D GPR grids were taken at the turnoff to Watney Road (WR). One of these was a smaller 15’x15’ grid with 3’ spacing above the dry stream bed, which we used to train the rest of the EVA crew in how to conduct GPR surveys. The second WR grid (WR02) was 36’x36’ with 3’ spacing. WR02 encompassed the dry stream bed and adjacent sandy material. Six total 2D transects were also taken at three sample sites at Kissing Camel Ridge. Unfortunately, there was an error with the radar’s survey wheel, so none of these observations are usable. After EVA 3, this error was fixed and more data was able to be collected during EVA 6. During EVA 6 one 100’ x 100’ 3D grid was taken with 10’ spacing just NW of Compass Rock. An additional 2D transect was taken across ~300’ of sandy material in the same region. We confirmed that the survey wheel error was fixed, and initial analysis of the 2D transect produces reasonable velocity values for a damp sandy material. The 3D grid will be analyzed in the coming days.
EVAs: EVA 3 to Watney Road and Kissing Camel Ridge and EVA 6 to Compass Rock

Title: Refining orbital data with In-Situ analysis
Author(s): Hunter Vannier
Objectives: Obtain and determine origin of volcanic rocks in southern field area. Compare grain size predictions from orbital data to in situ analysis. Assess effectiveness of boulder sampling at base of Kissing Camel Ridge in reconstructing its lithology.
Current status: We have obtained spectra and samples of multiple volcanic units (basaltic, andesitic) transported fluvially to the Barainca Butte area and identified a very high concentration of volcanic rocks in that area. Now the samples need to be further characterized (phenocryst populations) and tied to volcanic units in the closest proximity to MDRS, and spectra needs to be obtained for each sample. Boulder and grain size analyses were conducted during two EVAs to the Kissing Camel Ridge, which have been compared to orbital estimates. Some grain-size estimates were accurate, but as expected, subtleties in the orbital data were not appreciated until on foot. The effectiveness of sampling boulders at base was variable, and boulders representing more variability were not observed in orbital data. Additional samples of paleosols were obtained near the base of Kissing Camel W to provide further point of comparison to orbital data.
Spectra and samples have also been obtained within GPR grids to complement the radar data set with spectral and geologic characterization of the top ~5 cm of unique units.
EVAs: Three EVAs have been performed: one to Barainca Butte (volcanic samples), and two to Kissing Camel (boulder, fluvial, paleosol samples)

Title: Remote sensing for ISRU
Author(s): Cesare Guariniello
Objectives: Demonstrate the use of instrumentation for structural analysis of potential locations for building on Mars
Current status: Since multiple spectra and samples have been collected in past missions, this year I am focusing on the search for kaolinite or other non-swelling clays. The largest abundance of these materials has been reported on Skyline Ledge, therefore some samples have been collected from the scree slopes of Barainca Butte and of Skyline Rim. Spectra will be collected at a later time. Another location that will be explored is the Northwestern Region (Brahe Highway to Sea of Shells).
EVAs: Samples for this project specifically collected in two EVAs: Barainca Butte (scree slope from Barainca) and Skyline Rim (material from the upper layers, Mancos Shale)

Title: Semiconductor processing
Author(s): Jesus Meza-Galvan
Objectives: Feasibility study to establish procedures for semi-conductor manufacturing at the station.
Current status: A plan of execution has been established. The project will have two main experiments. The first experiment will determine if oxide growth is possible in one of the lab ovens. Oven #1 has been identified as the best candidate for the experiment. Two sets of silicon samples will be baked at maximum temperature for a total of 8 hours. One set of samples will be baked in the atmosphere, while the second set of samples will be baked in a high moisture environment. To raise the moisture in the oven, a large pan of water will be placed on the bottom rack and will be replenished as needed. For each experimental run, a section of silicon will be broken off after 2 hours, 4 hours, and 8 hours of growth. The oxide thickness will be measured out of sim at Purdue. For the second experiment, a set of silicon samples with a photo-sensitive polymer (photoresist) has been prepared prior to coming to MDRS. A small photolithography set-up is being prepared to expose a microscope calibration pattern onto the photoresist layer. The success of the procedure will be determined by measuring the dimensions of the test pattern against a microscope.

Title: Reducing stress in isolated environment
Author(s): Lipi Roy, Ryan DeAngelis, Jilian Welshoff
Description: IRB approval not yet received

Title: Astrophotography with the MDRS WF and Solar Observatory outreach
Author(s): Cesare Guariniello
Objectives: Produce high-quality photos of deep sky objects and train the crew to the use of solar observatory.
Current status:
Astrophotography: MDRS-WF produced high-quality photos of M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), Barnard 33 (Horsehead Nebula) and some photos of smaller galaxy with quality that could be improved in postprocessing. WCS data are necessary to align images from the MLC-ROS16 telescope.
Solar Observatory: visual observations on Wednesday with the Crew Engineer and the Journalist. Troubleshot the telescope and the observatory. Following days spent on EVA, with return after suitable time for solar observation.

Title: Station monitoring
Author(s): Jesus Meza Galvan and Jilian Welshoff (proposed by Nathan Bitner – MDRS 289)
Objectives: The goal of this project is to study what campus information is most useful to analog astronauts during missions, as well as how this information is leveraged for day-to-day mission planning.
Current status: The sensor payload is being constructed. Temperature, humidity, VOC, CO2, and dust particle sensors have been integrated with raspberry-pi and battery package. The sensors are being coded by Purdue mission support who will remotely collect environmental data.

Title: Samples transportation with drones
Author(s): Cesare Guariniello
Objectives: Test the use of drones for transportation of samples and instruments
Current status: The transportation has been tested before the mission. During the mission, on Sol 0, the drone automatic homing system did not work. The commander will train a crew member to fly the drone, so as to be able to perform the experiment with one pilot commanding the drone from the habitat to the Hab Ridge, and the other pilot flying the drone back.
EVAs: Exploratory EVA to Hab Ridge.

Title: Chez Phobos
Author(s): Lipi Roy (et al.)
Objectives: Creating new recipes with shelf-stable food at MDRS
Current status: Three new recipes were tried with the shelf-stable food: fried rice with a twist of parmesan, Indian chickpea curry, and potato parathas. Fried rice included rice, freeze dried onions, eggs, bell peppers, oil, soy sauce and a range of spices. Chickpea curry included chickpeas, tomato powder, freeze dried onions, and a range of Indian spices. Potato parathas were a definite hit with the crew, especially as I served them after they came back from a long walking EVA yesterday. They were made by stuffing a mashed potato mixture (with spices) into whole wheat dough balls. They were then flattened and fried in minimal oil. Though leaning towards more calories, the frying adds to the taste of the potato stuffing inside the dough.
Problems faced – The potato parathas, though really liked by everyone, were very difficult to prepare with freeze-dried mashed potatoes. This was because water needed to be added to them and the extra moisture made it very difficult to roll the dough. I had to leave the rolling pin alone and start doing it by hand.
What next? – I will be trying out new recipes and adding on to the list!

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