Mission Plan – January 8th

Mars Desert Research Station

Mission Plan

Crew 290 – Project MADMEN

Jan 7th – Jan 20th, 2024

Crew Members:

Commander and Health and Safety Officer: Madelyn Hoying

Executive Officer and Health and Safety Officer: Rebecca McCallin

Crew Scientist: Anja Sheppard

Green Hab Officer: Benjamin Kazimer

Crew Engineer: Anna Tretiakova

Crew Journalist: Wing Lam (Nicole) Chan

Mission Plan:

Project MADMEN is an analog-based proof-of-concept adaptation of Project ALIEN, an exploration class mission concept to discover life on the surface of Mars and to study adaptation of microorganisms to the Martian environment as proposed to the 2020 NASA RASC-AL Challenge. Project ALIEN consists of a two-part plan to study the ability of microbes to adapt to the harsh conditions of the Martian surface, while simultaneously conducting a search for Martian life.

Proposed experiments for Project MADMEN, the two-week analog-based adaptation of Project ALIEN, primarily consist of conducting on-site field tests of geological samples aimed towards searching for life on Martian surface. To do this, a series of extravehicular activities (EVAs) are planned to collect soil samples and test (while on the EVA at the sampling site) for evidence of potential signs of life. Field testing will focus on detection of bacterial energy metabolism based on sulfur cycle, carbon cycle, and ATP synthesis. The entire Crew 290 team will work on Project MADMEN’s scientific goals. Additional Crew 290 studies include psychosocial investigations and the use of ground penetrating radar.

Crew Projects:

Title: Project MADMEN

Author(s): Madelyn Hoying and Rebecca McCallin, with full-crew participation

Objectives: Our mission objective is to identify and characterize microbial life via metabolic assays based on the sulfur cycle.

Description: Soil samples from EVAs will be run through a series of metabolic assays starting in the field and continuing upon return into the habitat. Testing will focus on detection of bacterial energy metabolism based on sulfur cycle, interactions with high salt concentrations, and ATP synthesis. Samples will also be diluted and flushed through a novel microfluidic device to proliferate microbes and concurrently run metabolic assays.

Rationale: Given the highly salt concentrated and sulfur rich surface of Mars, it is assumed that microbes living in the regolith will have adapted to living in such conditions. Metabolic byproducts can be used not only as an indicator of productivity but also as a source of detection. We developed metabolic assays that would induce activity in microbes living in regolith conditions comparable to Mars. Using fluctuations in pH to monitor reduction/oxidation reactions, we will be able to detect the presence of a metabolically active organism and simultaneously characterize it. We have also developed a device to proliferate collected microbes with low contamination risk to crew members performing assessments, preventing potentially adverse interactions.

EVAs: A minimum of 4 EVAs are required, with more targeted.

Title: Evaluating Psychosocial Impacts of Mars Mission Architectures

Author: Madelyn Hoying

Objectives: This project seeks to compare psychosocial interactions among crew and emergency response capabilities between Mars mission architectures. Results from this single-site architecture test will be compared to previous dual-site architecture experiments developed and tested by MIT.

Description: Daily questionnaires will be completed by the crew in analog and compared to a pre-analog baseline questionnaire. These are based on the Ecological Momentary Assessment, a well-established contemporary method for psychosocial research that focuses on the lived moment-by-moment experience of study participants within naturalistic contexts.

Rationale: As commercial high-capacity launch vehicles become available, large-scale space missions present exciting new options for surface exploration. These are notably different from the current 4–7-person mission designs, and as such necessitate testing variations in crew dynamics, governance, emergency response, and unique psychosocial aspects associated with different mission architectures.

EVAs: None (although EVA inputs from other projects are valuable to the study).

Title: Ground Penetrating Radar for Martian Rovers

Author: Anja Sheppard

Objectives: This project is focused on collecting Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and stereoscopic camera imagery data in a Martian analog environment. Post-analog data processing will focus on using this data for machine learning applications.

Description: With our custom Clearpath Husky data collection platform, we will simulate data collection of a Martian rover to determine alternative use cases for camera and radar data. We have already verified our platform in a non-Martian environment.

Rationale: The RIMFAX GPR sensor on the Perseverance rover has demonstrated a science case for using radar on the surface of Mars, primarily targeted at the search for water. GPR reveals a lot of information about surface and subsurface terrain properties. We are interested in exploring new use cases for this sensor modality that is already in use in Martian environments.

EVAs: Requires a minimum of 4 EVAs. We plan to collect data at varied terrain types that are present within a 100 meter radius at each MADMEN EVA site. For EVAs independent of the MADMEN objectives, we will target varied terrain within walking distance of MDRS.

Copyright © The Mars Society. All rights reserved. | Main Site