Journalist Report – June 9th

Journalist Report

MDRS Crew 282 (Martian Biology III)

Jordan Bimm, 06.09.23

On the final full day of Martian Biology III, we revisited two sites from earlier in our mission. At Salt Wash we released captured insect specimens—including grasshoppers, caterpillars, and beetles, we had been studying in the Science Dome—back into the habitats where we first collected them. We also checked in on the water trap we deployed with the hope of collecting mosquito larvae. Unfortunately, we did not discover any mosquito larvae this time. The same was true for the water traps we set along the bank of the Fremont River, which was the site we returned to next. After collecting the water traps, we returned to the Hab where we finalized our mission report detailing the extensive biodiversity survey we completed over the past five days. Science highlights from our report include collecting 126 vascular plant, moss, and lichen specimens from 12 localities around MDRS, as well as direct collection of mosquitoes at all life stages and the experimental testing and evaluation of the novel mosquito trap design. In summing up our activities and preliminary findings we also had a chance to reflect on our time at MDRS and appreciate the breathtaking natural beauty in which it is situated. We captured some of our feelings of curiosity, wonder, and gratitude in an astrophotography session documenting the cosmic splendor overhead.


Image 1: Jacopo and Paul releasing collected insects back into their habitats at Salt Wash.

Image 2: The Core of the Milky Way rising over the desert hills at the Mars Desert Research Station.

Image 3: Cassiopeia over “North Ridge” at the Mars Desert Research Station.

Image 4: The arc of the Milky Way over the deserts east of MDRS.

Journalist Report – June 8th

Journalist Report

MDRS Crew 282 (Martian Biology III)

Jordan Bimm, 06.08.23

Since April 2021, we’ve all marveled at Ingenuity, NASA’s small robotic helicopter that’s been making the first powered flights on Mars (52 in total at time of writing). At MDRS, Crew 282’s mission Martian Biology III has been interested in a different kind of tiny flyer with big implications for the future of humanity—not advanced drones, but mosquitos. For many of us mosquitos are the classic summertime nuisance. We repel them with bug spray or a well-timed slap. However, even with global mitigation efforts mosquitos still infect around a million humans with deadly diseases including malaria each year. This is why entomologist Jacopo Razzauti, a PhD student at Rockefeller University and member of Crew 282 studies these unsavory critters. So instead of avoiding mosquitos, we are in the odd position of actively seeking them out. Today our hunt for “Marsquitos” took us to Muddy Creek. Reaching this field site, which we also examined during last year’s mission, involved firing up the rovers and trekking out across the lunar-like landscape of Copernicus Valley before arriving at winding reed-lined banks. At the start of our mission, we set out in search of mosquitos in all stages of development, larvae, pupae, and the familiar adult. “Mosquitos are very lazy,” Jacopo explained to us. “But if a human is around, they will come to you.” In this situation, we are not only scientists and scholars, we are also human bait. Over the past three days we’ve had lots of success: in the Henry Mountains we discovered a treasure trove of mosquito larvae in an abandoned water tank (mosquitos love laying eggs in still water), and last night by the Fremont River we used nets to catch eight adult mosquitos. Quickly transferring them from our net into sample tubes before they had a chance to escape turned the process into a fun high-stakes challenge. (Catching them alive and intact so they can be properly identified and studied is harder than you’d think.) Today we built on this success at Muddy Creek where we discovered and captured five more adult mosquitos. Then on our return drive to the station we stopped at a site called Cowboy Corner which we explored last year as well, remembering there was water here too. Hidden away in a natural depression we found standing pools of water that contained tadpoles, frogs, and yes, mosquito pupae! Now Jacopo is in the process of preparing them for analysis in the science dome. We endured a few itchy bites, but this was a sacrifice we were prepared to make for science, especially if the result is a better understanding of this important organism and the rich ecosystems surrounding MDRS.


Image 1: Muddy Creek at the northern edge of the MDRS Exploration Zone.

Image 2: Jacopo catches an adult mosquito on the bank of Muddy Creek.

Image 3: Jacopo collects a mosquito pupae at Cowboy Corner.

Journalist Report – June 7th

Journalist Report

MDRS Crew 282 (Martian Biology III)

Jordan Bimm, 06.07.23

Exploring Mars, NASA’s mantra is “follow the water.” On Earth, wherever we find water, we also find life, and this principle has guided robotic rover missions including Perseverance’s search for evidence of past habitable conditions. Today the crew took the MDRS rovers Spirit, Opportunity, and Perseverance to collect biological samples at two sites where water is key: White Canyon and the Fremont River. White Canyon is an ecologically diverse canyon with unique features called seeps along its southern edge. Seeps are places kept moist and lush by water that reaches the surface from underground aquifers, which in the desert surrounding MDRS makes White Canyon an ideal oasis-like place to search for life. (For those familiar with the Station, White Canyon is located near the turn-off from Utah State Road 24 that leads to MDRS.) Last year, during Martian Biology II, we explored this site for the first time and flagged it as one worth returning to for more coverage. Today we collected more plants including Small-leaf Globemallow (Sphaeralcea parvifolia), discovered tadpole larvae in a small pool of standing water, and spotted some whiptail lizards (Teiidae) as well as a White-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii) sheltering from the blazing sun in a small, cool crevasse between rocks. We followed White Canyon to a culvert that leads under Utah State Road 24 and to the banks of the Fremont River, which flows in the direction of nearby Hanksville. Back on Day 1 of our mission, Jacapo, our entomologist, had set a special trap for mosquito larvae here since these pesky insects love to lay their eggs in water. Today was our first chance to check and see if it had worked. We located the trap, which was still in good shape, but unfortunately it did not contain the hoped-for mosquito larvae. Astrobiologists know all too well the disappointment in not finding life you are hoping to discover. But in science negative findings are productive results, so Jacopo decided to make some alterations to the experimental setup, and we will check back on it again later in the mission.

Image 1: White Canyon is a consolidated sandstone gully leading to the Fremont River at the southern edge of the MDRS exploration zone.

Image 2: Sphaeralcea parvifolia (Small-leaf Globemallow) flowering in White Canyon, south of MDRS.

Image 3: A White-tailed jackrabbit we spotted in a shady crevasse in White Canyon.

Image 4: Jacopo checking in on mosquito larvae traps on the Fremont River.

Journalist Report – June 6th

Journalist Report

MDRS Crew 282 (Martian Biology III)

Jordan Bimm, 06.06.23

The atmosphere on Mars is very thin—less than 1% of Earth’s comfy 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi) at sea level. At MDRS we can simulate many aspects of Mars exploration, but even in our space suits the pressure outside the Hab remains normal. However, there is a low-pressure analog near-by: the Henry Mountains, an impressive range of snow-capped peaks which top out at 11,522 feet. What kinds of life might we find up there? How would it relate to what we find closer to the Hab? If you’ve ever spent time at MDRS you’ve probably noticed the Henry Mountains. Step outside the Hab, look south, and “the Henrys” are the collection of distant peaks rising from the horizon. Today Crew 282, along with Sergii Iakymov, assistant director of MDRS, ventured into the Henry Mountains, expanding our biodiversity survey to this unique high-altitude environment. Driving in the crew car, we made our way up winding roads which turned from blacktop to gravel to narrow and rock strewn. Breathtaking views were our first reward, but soon we turned to the business of field science. We collected at three different sites: McMillan Springs, South Creek Ridge, and South Creek. Our finds included insect larvae, colorful flowering plants, and hardy lichens. The highest point we reached was South Creek Ridge at 9,100 feet, around 10.5 psi—not even close to Mars’s extremely rarefied atmosphere at 0.095 psi, but still an investigation of life in different low-pressure environments near MDRS. We returned to the Station just in time to avoid a different kind of atmospheric threat: a rainstorm with massive wind gusts pushing sheets of dust and sand across the desert landscape. It reminded us of the opening scene of The Martian. “Is the Hab secure?” Sergii’s voice crackled over the comms system. We made certain all the hatches were battened down and thanked our lucky stars we made it back in the nick of time.

Image Captions:

Image 1: Utah Penstemon (Penstemon utahensis) flowering in the Henry Mountains.

Image 2: Desert Paintbrush (Castilleja chromosa) flowering in the Henry Mountains.

Image 3: A plant press full of the drying specimens collected by Crew 282 in front of the Hab.

Image 4: Paul, Jordan, Jacopo, and Sergii in the Henry Mountains.

Image 5: The Fairy Candelabra (Androsace septentrionalis), pictured here growing in the Henry Mountains, also grows in Nunavut, where the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station is located.

Image 6: One of the snow-capped peaks visible from South Creek Ridge at 9,100 feet.

Image 7: Gorgeous orange-red lichens discovered at South Creek Ridge.

Journalist Report – May 5th

Crew 282 Journalist report 05June2023

By: Jordan Bimm

Is there life on Mars? Scientists are still searching. But there is life at MDRS, and Crew 282 is here to study it in detail. Martian Biology III is a non-sim science mission at MDRS focused on cataloguing the biodiversity of the desert south of the San Rafael Swell, with a special focus on plants, lichens, and insects. The Martian Biology Program at MDRS was conceived of by Dr. Shannon Rupert, field ecologist and Senior Director of Analog Research for the Mars Society. This time, our team consists of botanist Paul Sokoloff (Canadian Museum of Nature), entomologist Jacopo Razzauti (Rockefeller University), and space historian Jordan Bimm (University of Chicago). Building off previous missions Martian Biology I (May 2019) and Martian Biology II (June 2022), we plan to visit different field sites of biological interest reachable from the Hab over the next 5 days searching for interesting flora, fauna, and biota. Early each morning, before the heat of day, we travel to a different field site and collect specimens. Upon returning to the Hab we process, catalogue, and study these in the Science Dome. Field sites Martian Biology III will investigate include Salt Wash, The Henry Mountains, Muddy Creek, and the Fremont River. Stay tuned for more photos as we explore these stunning and fascinating ecosystems.


Image 1: Entomologist Jacopo Razzauti uses an aspirator, a device that uses suction to capture small insects alive, to collect ants at Salt Wash.

Image 2: Botanist Paul Sokoloff collects plant specimens at Salt Wash

Image 3: The purple Intermountain Phacelia (Phacelia demissa) and the yellow Palmer’s Bee Plant (Cleomella palmeriana) are in full flower on Factory Bench.

Image 4: The Plains Pricklypear (Opuntia polyacantha) flowering in Salt Wash.

Image 5: A red beetle we collected at Salt Wash and will identify in the Science Dome.

Image 6: The Nakedstem Sunray (Enceliopsis nudicualis) is a common desert species which is newly collected for the Mars Desert Research Station area.

Image 7: The day’s haul of plant specimens laid out in the Science Dome before pressing.

Image 8: Crew 282, Jordan Bimm, Jacopo Razzauti, and Paul Sokoloff, pose in front of the Science Dome on the first night of Martian Biology III.

Journalist Report – May 26th

Crew 281 Journalist Report 26May2023

Journalist Report

By: Rachel Jones

12th Sol, It’s Time for Crew 281 to Roll

My morning started very early. I wanted to see to the Sun rise on our last day of Mars. The Sun peaked the horizon at about 6:05 AM. As I reflected on this wonderful experience, I couldn’t be more grateful to have such amazing team mates.

Ana and Ritu were up early preparing for their longest EVA yet. Their explorative spirt and prospective on future scientific scanlines took them out to the Special Region (Burpee Quarry). First, Ritu conducted additional payload tests with the Medical Device Delivery Drone, “Peggy.”. Then, they traveled back to Marble Ritual to get additional aerial shots of the first scanline. Finally, they went out to the Special Region where dinosaur bones are being excavated. This EVA wrapped up all of Ana and Ritu’s scientific goals here at MDRS.

After MDRS, Ritu plans to publish her findings in a peer-reviewed journal. The data from her experience will be used for performing basic ratings and calculations for a larger drone system that will be capable of carrying a heavier load and of carrying out safe flights in high winds and lower air density.

Ana will further analyze her collected samples and the images that Ritu provided for further publication. Ultimately, Ana wants to publish a geotechnical zoning map for future MDRS crews.

KC was Hab Comm for the EVA. He then inventoried the entire kitchen. One of the things he wished he had was more preemptive information on kitchen supplies before he came to MDRS. He wants to give future crew better information. KC has been doing an amazing job as the Crew Engineer. Going above and beyond daily maintenance.

Megan made fudge brownies as a surprise for the EVA team while they were gone. Afterward, she spent almost six hours closing down the GreenHab for the season. For the finale, she brought in six kilograms of produce.

I, surprise, surprise, spent my day on the radio. I’ve learned a lot about HF operations. I made some mistakes. I learned how to jump into a pile-up (i.e. when multiple stations are trying to reach one station). It was really on this last day of operations that I got to experience some of the magic of amateur radio. Early in the morning, I got to hear operators from Australia and Japan. No, I didn’t get through those pile-ups, but it was amazing just to hear the other side of the world from a portable 20 Watt station in Utah.

As we close our journey here at MDRS, we think about the magic of what we are doing and why we are doing it. Each of us have a different dream we are pursuing. Ana, Ritu, and Megan want to be the first women on Mars. KC wants to farm on Mars. Ana wants to develop geotechnologies for building on Mars. I am passionate about space communications. Each of have our dreams to further human presence on Mars.

Thank you MDRS and thank you to all that have been following our journey. 73s.

Journalist Report – May 25th

Crew 281 Journalist Report 25 May 2023

Journalist Report

By: Rachel Jones

11th Sol, Went for a Stroll

It’s almost the end of our time here on Mars, but our crew still has a thousand things to do. KC, Ana, and Ritu went on a long EVA to an alluvial plane along Watney Road (I wonder if Watney Road is named after the main character from The Martian…I hope so). They then walked a kilometer from Cow Dung Rd to Barrainca Butte. They collected samples and took additional drone footage at both locations.

For lunch, I successfully got some of Ritu’s leftover casserole. Ritu, Megan, KC, and Anna worked on end-of-mission reports. KC also did routine maintenance checks and inventorying.

I spent my morning, afternoon, and evening on the radio. My goal was to make over 50 contacts while I was at the Mars Desert Research Station, and I have! A contact in amateur radio is when two radio operators successfully exchange information. If you are a cyber/aviation geek (like me), think of it like a three-way handshake. A typical conversation might be similar to the following:

Rachel: “CQ. CQ. CQ. This is KO4HLC” (CQ is a code used to say an operator is open to talk with anyone)

Tony: “KO4HLC this is NR1Z, I read you at a 5.5” (The responding operator might give my call sign (KO4HLC), or they might just say their own (NR1Z). They then might give a signal report that indicates how well received one station is to the other.)

Rachel: “NR1Z, I read you 5.3 from a portable in Utah. QSL?” (QSL is a code used to indicate a successful contact)

Tony: “QSL, 73. NR1Z Out.” (73 means “best regards”)

I am grateful for those that took the time to talk with me from around the United States and Canada. I’m also so thankful for my crew mates that supplied me with food and drink as I worked hard to accomplish my contact goal.

This evening, our MDRS Crew 281 talked to the HI-SEAS Crew “Ike Loa.” We each got a virtual tour of each other’s analog Habitats. I particularly enjoyed meeting the Hi-Sea’s robotic seal, Pono.

I’ll still be on the air for one more day. I hope to make some additional contacts before we wrap up our mission on Mars. 73s.

Journalist Report – May 24th

Crew 281 Journalist Report 24 May 2023

Journalist Report

By: Rachel Jones

Sol 10 We’ve Achieved Zen.

Sol 10 started with an EVA. Ana and I went outside to checkup on my HF antenna. Due to the rain and the winds, I wanted to ensure my coax connection hadn’t gotten wet or damaged. While I would have liked to have driven the ground spike in further, KC hypothesized that there was a layer of caliche below the surface, and I wouldn’t be able to get the spike in further. After we checked on the antenna, we attempted to do another series of medical drone deployments. Unfortunately, the winds picked up and made it unsafe for flying. We had to abort that segment of our EVA mission. The final part of the EVA had us take another visual inspection of the outside of the facility. This was a very realistic simulation of a task that might be completed at least once a week on Mars. There were some debates within the crew on how often and whether it should be a human or a drone that conducted those safety observations.

After the EVA, I, of course, had to get on the air and ensure the operation of the radio. I could listen in to a veterans’ hospital net in CA, and then I made four successful contacts within the OM International Sideband Society net. I made contacts in CA, AL, and FL.

For lunch today, Ritu made broccoli, cheese, and rice casserole. It was absolutely amazing. I am constantly impressed by the ingenuity of our crew. Together, we have combined cultures, backgrounds, and flavors to make a creative and dynamic (mostly) vegetarian meal plan.

This afternoon many of us took a moment to relax and reflect upon our time here thus far. We are working on our various papers, reports, and research. Ana and Ritu worked with KC to plan their long EVA for tomorrow. Megan spent time in the GreenHab tending plants and harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, and chives for tonight’s dinner.

Tonight, we are having pizza made from scratch. Megan and Ritu spent 2 hours working on pizza dough. Then, we rehydrated and supplemented the GreenHab veggies to make individual pizzas. After dinner, I got back on the radio and made 5 more contacts from AR, MO, and PA.

T-minus two sols to go, till our days are filled with cleaning, and then the team blasts back to Earth.

Journalist Report – May 23rd

Crew 281 Journalist Report 23 May 2023

Journalist Report

By: Rachel Jones

Sol 9 and Things are Going Fine

Despite the early EVA, I slept in. The crew mercifully agreed I could sleep in and that KC and Megan could help Ana and Ritu prepare for their 0745 EVA. I woke up just in time to see them start to drive the rover away from the hab. Ana and Ritu were going on a long EVA to the Overlook region. This area is really special because it has gypsum (which glows when exposed to UV light). In the past, this region was nicknamed the “Moon” region because the grey and white sand features resemble the moon.

KC was Hab Comm for the EVA. Hab Comm is a member of the crew that attempts to maintain contact with the EVA while they are in the field. We were warned that the Overlook region and the paths to get there had very bad/spotty communications. Given the current band conditions, I imagine this matter was expounded. While I was never able to resolve my Software Defined Radio (SDR) sound issue, we did observe the waterfall of the crew transmission frequency (i.e. we could see when they were transmitting), even when our radios did not register the transmission. I only wonder if we would have been able to hear them if my speakers were working.

Overall, the EVA was a success and lots of aerial footage and loose samples were collected.

For lunch today, KC went overboard in the best possible way. He handmade noodles from scratch and turned our normal rehydrated and freeze-dried ingredients into an amazing soup. I again tried to get on the OMISS (Old Man International Sideband Society) net but do not think I was heard today. The bands were all over the place.

After lunch, Ana, Ritu, Megan, and I filmed an outreach video of an experiment for the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS). Then we had a rapid segment of high wind and a light dusting of rain.

Before dinner, I was very successful at making amateur radio contacts on 20 meters. Then my friend Tony (NR1Z) helped me make my first Morse Code contact. Morse Code is a method of communication that uses dots and dashes (dits and dahs) to code a message. Morse Code holds some advantages over voice communications as the transmission often requires less power and (some people.…not me yet) is faster. This makes Morse Code very efficient for emergency situations and most associate it with signaling S.O.S (… – – – …). I’m not sure yet, but I might be the first person to have made a Morse Code contact from MDRS.

I continue to imagine what communications on Mars will be like, but till then, I’m signing off: 73s.

Journalist Report – May 22nd

Crew 281 Journalist Report 22 May 2023

Journalist Report

By: Rachel Jones

Sol 8, Getting Our Procedures Straight.

It’s Sol 8, and things are starting to feel like clockwork. Everyone knows I’ll ask them if they have water, if they’ve been drinking water, if they brought extra water, etc. etc. etc. Our EVA of Ana, Ritu, and KC went to Pooh’s Corner test to perform the last scan line and take aerial footage. Our Crew has taken over 950 measurements of rock hardness with the Equotip and Schmidt Hammer. The crew has the system down to a point where neither the slightly damp ground nor the poor band signal interfered with the mission.

Lunch today, prepared by Ritu, was Tofu Thai Curry and white rice. I spent my lunchtime hour trying to check into the Old Man International Sideband Society’s (OMISS) daily net. For those not into amateur radio, a “net” is traditionally an on-the-air gathering. I was on 20 meters and could barely be heard. I plan to try again tomorrow and see if I can get through. You can check them out on

After lunch, the great hair-washing experiment commenced. Our goal was to use as little water as possible. We averaged about 3/4s of a gallon per person. We then reused the hair-washing water to top off and flush the toilet system. From cooking to basic chores, we like to make every drop count. After my hair was washed, Megan our impromptu stylist, put it up in a French braid.

The afternoon sent everyone off to their various tasks. I collaborated with various radio operators to try and diagnose my radio set up to be clearer. KC and Ritu constructed a new on-EVA drone transportation system so that the drone could be carried in a ready-to-be-deployed configuration (gloves make it hard to do in the field). Ana and Ritu then planned out tomorrow’s EVA. Megan took care of the GreenHab and her chocolate plants. The chocolate plants are starting to sprout now.

Dinner tonight was up to me. For all those of you that have waited with bated breath to learn what-all is involved in cooking at MDRS, wait no longer. Given the variety of options we had, I chose to make a MDRS version of stamppotten, a potato and vegetable dish. First, I gathered the various vegetables I wanted to include. Each ingredient had a different amount of time it needed to rehydrate. I put about two tablespoons of the first two ingredients (carrot flakes and cheese gratings) in a large bowl and added warm water. They needed 15 mins to rehydrate. Five minutes later, I added the next two veggies (onion flakes and peppers bits). Then 5 minutes later I added the last two ingredients (spinach flakes and butter powder). On the stove, I put in
2 cups of the instant mashed potatoes mix, salt, garlic, and some of the rehydrated milk mix. Then I added the hydrated vegetables (along with the excess water) into the potatoes and brought it to a quick boil. I think it turned out fantastic.

Feeling full and happy, I bid you all ado for tonight.

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