Mission Summary – Crew 238

Mars Desert Research Station

Crew 238 Mission Summary

January 2- 15th, 2022

Through hardship, tomorrow to Mars, the Earth always


Commander: Dr Sionade Robinson

Executive Officer and Journalist: Pedro Marcellino

Health and Safety Officer: Robert T. Turner

GreenHab Officer: Dr Kay Sandor

Artist-in- Residence and Crew Astronomer: Aga Pokrywka

Crew Engineer: Simon Werner.



Crew of MDRS 238 would like to thank the Board and members of the Mars Society whose vision for MDRS made our mission possible: Dr. Robert Zubrin, President, Dr. Shannon Rupert, MDRS Director, Atila Meszaros, Assistant Director, Dr. Peter Detterline, Director of Observatories, who trained and assisted our Crew Astronomer before and during the mission; and Bernard Dubb, Johanna Kollewyn, Dani Gamble, Juan Miranda, who in addition to Atila, served as CapCom.  We would also like to thank Bharghav Patel for his exceptional ground support, Jason Michaud of Stardust Technologies for engaging us in a VR project in use in several space analogues.  Drew Smithsimmons and Rob Brougham Co-Founders of Braided Communications for the training and facilitating use of a new communication technology to address emotional wellbeing in future deep space faring,  and Dr Julia Yates of City University of London who will evaluate this first-of-its-kind study.  Thanks are also due to Mr Don Mear for receiving and storing many crew packages Grand Junction prior to our arrival.  Lastly, enormous gratitude goes to our family and friends for both joining research project and for sparing us not only for our rotation, but the many online weekend meetings over the last two years of preparation.


Mission description and outcome

Crew 238 is a crew of diverse, international, multidisciplinary and experienced professionals, curated by the Mars Society after individual applications in 2019. The average age is 53.  Our assigned rotation was for January 2021, but necessarily postponed in the global pandemic. Nevertheless we maintained and developed our focus and once travel and the MDRS re-opened in Autumn 2021, we were on our way.


Our focus throughout has been the wellbeing of future astronauts – both in our individual and joint projects.  Our shared objectives were


  • Maintaining simulation fidelity in all activities, including standard ops, communications, emergency procedures in collaboration with Mission Support
  • Producing and documenting results on emergency preparedness and responsiveness
  • Effectively working with External Partners in testing effects of “Braided” communications” vs Latency Governed Messaging on the well-being and emotional response of the crew when communicating with loved ones
  • Engaging in mindfulness and reflection practices as mitigation strategies for stress conditions
  • Extensive multimedia journaling for internal MDRS use and external public relations
  • Welcoming and engaging a visiting journalist arranged by The Mars Society


  • Post mission, generating a portfolio of multimedia assets and creating additional outreach opportunities for media, schools, and other public support of future human travel to Mars.


With the exception of the last objective (ongoing), the crew have successfully completed these shared goals. Data collected in a world-first study Examining the impact of communication latency on crew closeness to loved ones on Earth – Mars Desert Research Station Mission 238: A Small Group Study (IRB-approved) will be analysed by Dr Julia Yates of Department of Psychology at City, University of London on our return.  Additionally, it is pleasing to report we have managed our water, internet and food resources efficiently.


But our shared goals are the mere tip of the iceberg when considering work undertaken at MDRS over the last two weeks.  Our individual projects have included data collection in Standardized Emergency Response Strategies (SRS),  Mars Research Storytelling: Personal and Public Narratives in Mars & Space Research, From Space to Bacterial Colonization, Astronauts’ Coping Strategies in High Pressure Environments and Value creation with an Explorer’s Mindset. Both research work and “HabLife” have been followed by a leading Portuguese national newspaper on a daily basis, demonstrating considerable pubic engagement and outreach expertise of our XO and Crew Journalist.


Physically, crew health, as assessed by HSO Turner, has been robust despite a few minor bumps and bruises expertly dealt with along the way.  Our commitment to maintaining simulation and to optimising our time meant we adopted many best practices of successful crew rotations in environments much more demanding than our two week rotation at MDRS.  We have actively followed a schedule of work, rest and play.  We have eaten breakfast, dinner and almost every lunch together (some surprisingly excellent meals, by the way),  we socialised and we made time to reflect on learning, challenges and positive experiences in a daily After Action Review after dinner.  We also shared a lot of laughter – and it is important to note laughing together should not be considered a mere passing pleasure.  Studies have shown that shared humour is likely to play an important part in selecting the crews that will travel to Mars.  Laughter is a valuable interpersonal tool essential to coping with boredom brought about by prolonged periods of isolation, routine and social monotony. It enhances morale and serves an important communication function when expressing frustration or dissatisfaction in a socially acceptable manner, without causing additional stress or conflict.  Crews that laugh together have been shown to be significantly more productive and high functioning, as well as likely to remain “intact”, rather than split into cliques and subgroups.


Fig. 1. Left to right, CHO Sandor, HSO Turner, XO Marcellino, Artist Pokrywka, ENG Werner, Commander Robinson.


Science and Research Outcomes on site:

  • Crew 238 organised around two fundamental research trunks: astronaut mental health and well-being, on the one hand; and public narratives about Mars research, on the other. The former involved all crew members, through our collaboration with the aerospace start-ups Braided Communications, Stardust Technologies, and City – University of London, but also crew member Dr. Kay Sandor, an experienced psychotherapist. The latter touches upon the open-ended research and storytelling work conducted by the artist-in-residence, Aga Prokywka, and XO, Pedro Marcellino who also served as Crew Journalist and documentarian. Research on leadership learning through exploration and expeditions will also be forthcoming (Robinson).
  • In addition to storytelling and documentary work to be completed and published in mainstream English-language media in Canada and beyond after rotation, XO Marcellino has reported on a daily basis to Observador, one of Portugal’s leading broadsheets, in partnership with one of their science reporters, using Braided’s latency messaging as a core communication tool. Between daily chronicles and the reporter-led pieces, a total of 30 articles were published as a Crew 238 Special Feature, pre-, during, and post rotation. Ten further articles have been published on the European Science Communicators Network, a collective of expert journalists writing on contemporary science topics.
  • For our research on emergency scenarios, the crew was introduced to firefighting principles on Earth and discussed how these would need to be adapted for emergency response on Mars. Work included a practical exercise using a CO2 fire extinguisher and use of an Curaplex® patient transporter. After introduction to the ARAI principle (Alarm, Response, Analysis, and Information to ‘mission control’), several Mars-related emergency exercises were conducted including a medical emergency during an EVA, with recovery and transport of an astronaut to the HAB, a fire in the RAM airlock with a person trapped, a solar flare event including evacuation of the whole crew to a shelter (Science Dome) and a hull breach scenario within the tunnels.







Fig.3 Robinson and Pokrywka firefighting in simulated emergency exercise.


  • Lessons learned through these exercises addressed the importance of gathering the crew in a specific place – to immediately see if anyone is missing. As on Earth – firefighting on Mars demands a trained crew who can quickly identify fire source(s) and responses. A significantly faster response time was achieved after practice.  The solar flare evacuation event went flawlessly and in a coordinated, calm manner. A tunnel rupture exercise demanded section shutdown and identification of the exact rupture position. Even in daylight it took the responding crew several minutes to identify the distributed ruptures and to “repair” them, when suited up.  In terms of learning, we now recommend airlock design allow space for an injured astronaut to be safely transported in supine position and accompanied by at least 3-4 responders. Emergency stretchers or blankets should provide an opening for the life support system. A summary of findings will be written up as a White Paper.
  • Agnieszka Pokrywka (ART) in her multidisciplinary practice merging art, technology, and natural sciences, focussed on the exploration of invisible to the human eye micro and macro scales of living on Mars. She not only observed several astronomical objects (M 51, IC 434, M 101, IC 1848, IC 1805, Ceres, 104P Kowal, C 2019 L3 ATLAS) with the use of the telescope. She also investigated via the dark field microscope bacterial starters for fermented foods, as well as the samples gathered during EVAs. She was also searching for visual and aesthetic similarities between these images.
  • Throughout the mission, Pokrywka was cultivating bacterial starters to enrich the analogue astronauts’ diet with sourdough bread, yogurt, kombucha, and water kefir. She was also cultivating spirulina platensis, a cyanobacteria popularly known as spirulina generating 57g of protein per 100g. Cultivation took place both in a 1 litre vessel in the Green Hab as well as in six mini-bioreactors nurtured by each member of the crew. This experiment aimed to introduce each crewmate to the basics of spirulina cultivation, as well as elements of mindfulness and care. The benefits of growing spirulina this way are not only the production of oxygen and nutrients but also the connection and care for another being which we all seemed to miss during our mission. All the bacterial cultures, without exception, do surprisingly well at MDRS.


Fig 3. Comparing results of mini bioreactors nurtured over three days by crew.

  • Within the wellbeing research undertaken by Dr Sandor, experiments related to medicinal herbs for inhalation (Lavender Sachet), ingestion (Lavender Biscotti), and teas (Chamomile and Tulsi/Holy Basil), introduced to the crew during evening information and ritual times in our crew kitchen. The purpose of using these medicinal herbs was to reduce stress and anxiety. Informal immediate responses revealed all these activities were relaxing and restorative. Qualitative data about the effects of this activity was gathered before and after these activities and will be analyzed at a later time.
  • The introduction of the labyrinth as an instrument to reduce stress, relax the body, and quiet the mind was conducted in several stages. First the history of the labyrinth throughout time was outlined. Second, the process of the walk, and finally, the actual drawing of the labyrinth on paper, and then on the Martian (Utah desert) surface were introduced. A smaller 3-circuit labyrinth was attempted, but the Martian surface was very hard and the results were not satisfactory. Another larger temporary 7-circuit labyrinth was successfully drawn on a softer Martian surface. After drawing, the crew, in two separate EVAs, walked the meditative path of the labyrinth to the centre and then took the same path back to the exit. Immediate crew responses included curiousity and intrigue about the experience of walking the labyrinth – and a desire to repeat it. One said he felt like he left the campus as he focused on the path. Another thought it was meditative. Quantitative and qualitative data were gathered before and after the walk were collected and will be analyzed later.

Commander’s Reflection


Fig.4: Crew profiles captured in silhouette by morning sunlight on upstairs of Hab wall.


As Commander I would like to conclude by highlighting a challenge that research has already identified for future travel to Mars- that of the Personality Paradox, noted more than twenty years ago by Professor Peter Suedfeld in his paper, The Environmental Psychology of Capsule Habitats (2000). The paradox is this – most volunteers for anything as challenging and unusual as space, undersea habitats, and polar work will score toward the upper end of any scale of thrill-seeking, novelty-seeking, and competence-effectance motivation. In a nutshell, such recruits want adventure and challenge.  Yet the reality of missions will often be monotonous, routine, and full of boring tasks. A second factor is that volunteers also tend to be high on the need for personal control and autonomy, whereas capsule life is in fact controlled by environmental requirements and organisational regulations.


The implication of the paradox is that programmes risk recruiting exactly the kinds of people most likely to be unhappy on site. This finding poses questions about what can be done to improve recruitment, orientation, training, or the capsule conditions to diminish the gap? The most promising mitigating strategy is to ensure potential recruits are familiarized with what the experience will really be like by thorough orientation and experience in analogue environments (the value of such locations as MDRS). A second potential area to investigate is the degree to which procedural guidelines can maximize variety, flexibility, and control by the crew rather than base staff.  There is clearly much more research to be done in this field.


End.  (2000 words approx, excluding titles and labels).

Final Mission Summary – Crew 236

Mars Desert Research Station

Mission Summary


Crew 236 – Cradle of Martians

December 19, 2021 – January 1, 2022

Crew Members

Commander: Kasey Hilton

Executive Officer and Health and Safety Officer: Dr. Cesare Guariniello

Crew Scientist: Tyler Nord

GreenHab Officer: Vladimir Zeltsman

Crew Astronomer: Dylan Dilger

Crew Engineer: Pavithra “Pavi” Ravi

Crew Journalist: Benjamin “Ben” Durkee




The entire Crew of MDRS 236 would like to express their gratitude to the many people who made this mission possible: our deepest thanks to Dr. Robert Zubrin, President of the Mars Society; Dr. Shannon Rupert, MDRS Director and Program Manager, who managed and supported our mission, and helped us troubleshoot any issues; Atila Meszaros, Assistant Director, who also managed and supported our crew and served as CAPCOM many times during the rotation; Dr. Peter Detterline, Director of Observatories, who trained and assisted our Crew Astronomer before and during the mission; David Murray, GreenHab Manager; Michael Stoltz, The Mars Society Liaison, Media and Public Relations; Scott Davis and NorCal Chapter, responsible for Spacesuits; the amazing and friendly Mission Support CAPCOM who served during our rotation: Bernard Dubb, Andrew Foster, Graeme Frear, Asma Akhter, and MJ Marggraff; Purdue MARS; all the departments and people at Purdue University who supported this mission; Kathy Celestine and Estelle Scott, for writing Christmas cards to the crew; and all the unnamed people, friends, and family, who supported and worked behind the scenes to make this effort possible, and who gave us a chance to be an active part of the effort towards human exploration of Mars.



Mission description and outcome

MDRS 236 “Cradle of Martians” is the fourth all-Purdue crew at MDRS. This mission encountered different challenges, one of the biggest being COVID-19, which delayed the original mission from the 2020-21 field season to the 2021-22 field season. Other challenges included wind and technical malfunctions making EVAs more difficult and non-nominal systems affecting heating and plumbing in the Hab. Even the logistics of the mission preparation was a challenge, with crew members being spread across the United States and even into Europe. However, the crew continuously rolled with the punches and pushed forward with optimistic attitudes. This is what we at crew 236 like to call “making do”. Making do isn’t about merely surviving life on Mars, but using the ups and downs of this Red Planet to revive our spirit of adventure and spontaneity, and to learn and adapt in order to make giant leaps for humankind. As commander, this is what I’m the most proud of my crew for. Their ability and effort to continue living the Martian life with full hearts, smiles on their faces, and a joke or two always up their sleeves. The research and outreach of the crew reflects that attitude. All crew members performed to very high standards and made substantial progress on their research projects and outreach. As described in the rest of this summary, the crew collected useful and interesting data during their time at MDRS and have plans to use the data after the completion of the mission, as well as ideas for laying foundations for further collaboration of Purdue crews with the MDRS program.

Figure 1. MDRS 236 posing in front of the Hab with a Purdue flag. Left to right: (top row) Executive Officer and Health and Safety Officer Cesare Guariniello, Crew Journalist Ben Durkee, Crew Scientist Tyler Nord, Crew Astronomer Dylan Dilger, (bottom row) Commander Kasey Hilton, Crew Engineer Pavi Ravi, and GreenHab Officer Vladimir Zeltsman

Summary of Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA)

After being trained in the use of rovers and in the safety protocols for EVA, the crew had eleven excursions during rotation 236. Two were training EVA to Marble Ritual, 6 more being successful, and another three being shortened or cancelled due to weather or system malfunctions. The EVA served three research projects: scouting additional habitat locations, collection of geological samples, and heat mapping of geological features. The crew optimized the time on the field, limiting the driving time to less than 22% of the entire EVA duration.

Figure 2. Two-dimensional view of the EVAs performed by MDRS 236 crew

Science Summary

Crew 236 had 10 separate projects that covered a range of topics. Four projects were EVA related and all but one desired EVA was completed. These EVA related projects evaluated additional habitat locations, created heat maps of different geological locations, and categorizing geological samples for use on Mars. The indoor projects evaluated the robustness of MDRS, used the observatories to capture pictures of different celestial bodies, optimized the layout of the Hab, and created content for outreach to the general public and school aged children. Overall, each project uniquely highlighted each crewmember’s strengths, and brought light to necessity of bringing humans to the surface of Mars for both scientific and engineering related research and outreach.

Figure 3. Image taken and processed by Crew Astronomer, Dylan Dilger, of the Orion Nebula (M42)

Crew 260 Mission Summary November 4th

Crew 260 Mission Summary Report 04 Nov 2021
Crew member experience highlights:

As I reach the end of my third sim with Spaceward Bound Utah, I find myself reflecting on the impact of this program. There is no doubt the teachers who participate in Spaceward Bound Utah benefit heavily from their time at MDRS. These crew members arrive with excitement and enthusiasm and leave carrying an even greater passion for their life’s work along with a wealth of resources. SWB Utah teachers continue to collaborate long after their time at MDRS comes to a close, providing a valuable support system for each other. Through promotion of the SWB Utah program, alumni also serve as ambassadors whose enthusiasm, innovative integration of the Mars analog experience, and curricular modifications spread beyond the walls of their own classrooms to inspire and encourage other teachers who are not members of the program. And the biggest beneficiaries of the SWB Utah program are the students – those who are or will be in SWB Utah teachers’ classrooms, those who will be in the classrooms who receive outreach support from SWB Utah, and those who will have the opportunity to participate in a Mars analog experience. Without a doubt, the positive impact of Spaceward Bound Utah will have a ripple effect as more and more teachers, students, and community members are directly or tangentially exposed to the program.

-Jen Carver-Hunter, Mountain View Elementary School

I am in awe of the MDRS and appreciate the opportunity to participate in Spaceward Bound Utah. I especially enjoyed getting to know the other teachers and scientists. This has been one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. Living and exploring as an astronaut was something that I never dreamed I would experience.

-Théo Anderson, Canyon Elementary School

The Utah desert is always a magical place. Experiencing Utah’s Colorado Plateau at MDRS has been a one-of-a-kind experience. I arrived on Sunday excited to meet new science teachers and eager to experience Mars. This week has moved quickly, and I take away great experiences and memories. Perhaps my favorite part of being on Mars was exploring the rock formations and collecting rock samples. Wearing the space suits was the most challenging part of the sim. The suits require a multistep process to put on, and once astronauts suit up, the mobility and visibility changes. Driving the rover while suited up involved some maneuvering, but every rover expedition was exciting and fun. Cooking and eating with the crew was another enjoyable part of the experience. The crew engaged in insightful and interesting conversations. We collaborated with one another, offered suggestions, and provided insight about different subjects. This week at MDRS has been memorable. I plan on sharing my learning and experiences with my students. Thanks, MDRS!

-Adela Genoves, Kearns High School

This has been a phenomenal experience. I have long dreamt of being an astronaut, and this experience helped me to fulfill that dream in the best way possible, only the fun parts! I cannot wait to share my experiences on this ultimate adventure with my family and my students, and hopefully that will ignite the spark in someone else!

-David Joy, Wahlquist Jr High School

The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me as a Utah educator. Living in close quarters with new teammates, experiencing EVAs, astrobiology, and learning about the geologic Martian landscapes are highlights of the mission for me.

I believe the motto “Sim, Science, Education” is fitting for the mission. We experienced the Sim, learned a lot of science, and had a roundtable to incorporate our findings in our classrooms on Earth.

For anyone considering the value of this experience: Do it! Don’t think, just fill out the application.

For administrators: Send your teachers at whatever level they teach.

For the Mars Society: Thank you! I could not experience this in any other location, and I appreciate the facility, the landscape, and the fabulous director (Shannon) and assistant director (Atilla) currently at the facility.

-Tracy Davidson, InTech Collegiate Academy

Phenomenal is the best word to explain my experience here at MDRS! I was blown away by the commitment and knowledge of Shannon, Atila, and our Commander Jen. I have learned more about astrogeology and space in general than I could ever learn inside of a classroom. Learning by doing instead of direct instruction is the best approach for education and that’s definitely how they do it down here. Now my students will be able to not only see the many different rocks that I collected near MDRS, but touch! And if they pay their cards right, they’re even able to lick a dinosaur bone.


Sim Science Education

-Katie Miller, Maple Grove Middle School

Since I got accepted to be a part of the MDRS program I have been very excited, but I don’t think I quite knew what to expect. My expectations were not disappointed! The whole experience was to simulate what it might be like for some of the first teams to live on Mars. It was fascinating to go into the Sim and live life as if we were on the red planet. If we wouldn’t be able to do it on Mars then we couldn’t do it in the Sim. This especially meant that we couldn’t go outside to do an EVA without our space suits. That was one of the most interesting parts of my whole time here and something I will always remember! I loved learning about the geology of Mars and how this area is a true Martian analog. But more than anything my time here on “Mars” will help me to be a better teacher in the classroom. Having real life experiences like this to bring back to my students makes science more relevant for them. Also, the activities we did I can use and adapt to my lessons as well. I am so glad I got to have my experience on Mars! J

-Brandon Barth, Independence High School

Crew 228 Mission Summary October 10th


Crew 228, also known as the Areonauts, is an international crew selected by the Mars Society. Our team traveled to the Mars Desert Research Station this year to help put humans on Mars. We are engineers, artists, sociologists, astronomers, biologists, journalists, and physicians, who hail from all walks of life and eight nations. But most of all, we are explorers. The word ‘Areonaut’ is derived from the Greek roots Ares (Mars) and nautes (sailor), translating to ‘sailor of Mars’. Our motto, Multi Terris, Unus Finis (many nations, one goal) reflects our internationality.

Although we started as a group of strangers who had never met before in person, we shared the common goal to serve as “one small step” toward sending humankind to Mars. Over 2.5 years, we carefully prepared for a productive mission on the Red Planet from all across the globe.

From September 26 to October 9, 2021 we conducted various activities in simulated space conditions. To read more about the symbology of our mission patch and details about our research and outreach activities, please view our mission website at:



Sociological study of group processes in a space analog environment

By: Inga Popovaite

For two weeks, Inga Popovaite collected data for her doctoral dissertation (University of Iowa IRB#201911141). She leaves MDRS with ~24 pages of notes (17k words) that document every day on “Mars”. In her dissertation Inga examines crew interactions from the structural, as opposed to the individual, perspective. Her work will contribute to the growing body of literature that examines group processes in isolated, confined, and extreme environments.

Sparks of creativity in isolated and confined environment helps with group cohesion

In addition to participant observation, Inga tested data collection instruments for a future research project in which she wants to investigate emotion management in isolated, confined, and extreme environments. Crew 228 were given individual journals and were asked to write daily entries based on provided prompts. Based on their suggestions, Inga plans to use digital journaling in the future instead of a pen-and-paper version. She is also rethinking how this project can be better incorporated into MDRS crews’ daily routines.

Lastly, during her time here, Inga found some time to work on a presentation for the Mars Society International Convention, which is happening in a week. In her talk she will be talking about how unsupervised machine learning algorithms (sentiment analysis and structural topic modeling) can be used to infer behavioral patterns from crews’ daily reports.

MDRS GIS map update

By: Jin Sia

In collaboration with: Marc Levesque

Jin suggested information to be added to the MDRS GIS map that corresponded to useful or interesting geographic features. Furthermore, he provided feedback on the formatting of the draft EVA planning map provided by Marc, such as about the usefulness of including an optical map as well as a topographical one, and providing coordinates in DD (Decimal Degrees) as well as UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator.)

GIS mapping of MDRS area

By: Jin Sia

In collaboration with: Marc Levesque

Jin explored the applications of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) for EVA planning and real-time EVA support at the MDRS. Initially, he created a digital map of the area in ArcGIS Pro using data provided by Marc Levesque (Commander, Crew 216) with the intent of starting a process of accumulating scientific SOIs (Sites Of Interest) that would be passed down from crew to crew.

However, he soon concluded that this specific system would likely be impractical due to the limited availability of the software, standardization issues, and other logistical complexities. Instead, he learned several valuable lessons and found unexpectedly useful insights from using the software.

Firstly, as planned, he supported Lindsay’s field microbe genomics project by recording geographic data for samples she collected using the GPS Essentials app. With the help of a visualization of the sample collection sites in ArcGIS Pro with aerial imagery and a DEM (Digital Elevation Model), Lindsay concluded that she had taken samples from a sufficiently diverse range of sites.

Secondly, an unexpected finding was the usefulness of ArcGIS Pro for real-time EVA support. When the EVA team ran into issues locating the target site, they provided Jin with a GPS fix, and he was able to provide them with a bearing and distance to it using the existing digital map in ArcGIS Pro.

Thirdly, Jin noticed during the mission that he could calculate the slope at each point in the map based on the DEM. Using the resulting map, he helped Dave and Inga locate a pass with a gentle average slope that would provide them with access to the dried-up river delta southwest of the Kissing Camel Ridges, which is underexplored. Using the 3D Map feature in ArcGIS Pro also helped them visualize the expected topography on arrival at the site.

Finally, Jin also noticed during the mission that he could perform a viewshed calculation based on the DEM, which was useful for determining whether a radio would have direct line-of-sight to the Hab in every point on the map. He and Inga performed an EVA to verify the accuracy of this calculation. He learned that while the calculation was pessimistic in predicting whether radio reception would be available, it was still useful for finding areas with poor reception or radio blackout. Based on these findings, he recommended that EVA protocol require teams to check in with HabComm and provide an estimated time to reestablishment of radio contact before entering blackout zones.

Future MDRS Research Project Conceptual Investigation

By: David Laude

Dave investigated the prospects of a research project for his next rotation should he be so fortunate. It made good use of a few crew hours at MDRS. What would a nascent Martian colony want or need to be different on Mars from the culture and civilizations on Earth for the better? Why not ask the crew members in a Mars sim? An hour session was conducted mid-sim with all crew participation. Discussions resulted in the idea that just discovering relevant attributes to consider would be beneficial, even if no further details on the subject were immediately forthcoming. Some technological/societal/cultural subjects revealed were food production, labor shortages, extended families living together and reliance upon each other. Full discussions on a single subject could take considerable time and so would have to be limited when considering crew participation. More thought will be required to identify an efficient use of crew time for this potential research project. Most of the work to develop this for publication would have to be completed on Earth.

In-situ, real-time metagenomics analysis of MDRS regolith using the Oxford MinION

By: Lindsay Rutter

In this project, Lindsay added to a unique body of astrobiological research that has been conducted by scientists at MDRS. She will continue to add the next logical “stepping stone” in this stream of work that started 16 years ago. Below is a timeline of the previous work and how her project builds to it.

2005: Moran et al. confirmed the presence of methane in the Utah desert soil around MDRS [1]. The authors provided preliminary evidence (using growth medium) that the methane could be derived by microbes, a finding that, if verified, would be intriguing given that methanogens were not known to survive in desert regolith. Interestingly, around this same time, methane was detected on Mars, where it remains unknown if it is biological in origin.

2011: Direito et al. [2] and Thiel et al. [3] conducted 16S rRNA studies and PCR-based detection surveys at MDRS. Both groups confirmed high bacterial diversity in the Utah desert soil.

2020: Maggiori et al. [4] performed the first metagenomics study of Utah desert soil around MDRS using the handheld nanopore sequencing technology of the Oxford Nanopore MinION [5]. Metagenomics (the study of genetic material collected directly from environmental samples) is a new approach that allows biologists to examine all members in a microbial community at once (regardless of whether they can be cultured). Maggiori et al. characterized a rich microbial community that included several methanogens, which verified the unexpected preliminary evidence from 2005 that methanogens can indeed survive in desert conditions. Maggiori et al. [4] performed their MinION sequencing on MDRS samples returned to their home lab.

During this mission, Lindsay attempted to replicate Maggiori et al.’s findings – but, this time, to perform the MinION sequencing directly at MDRS, instead of her home lab. Because she did not have access to expensive sequencing facilities, she used a “field sequencing kit”, a kit even more designed for remote environments than what Maggiori et al. used. Her study could serve as a proof-of-concept that sequencing can be done in remote space analog environments far away from sequencing facilities, all while under planetary exploration operations.

All equipment used for this study.

Lindsay attempted to replicate Maggiori et al.’s findings by returning to the exact same desert feature from which the previous authors collected their samples – an inverted river channel called Jotunheim, located about 1 kilometer North of the habitat. Before the mission ended, Lindsay was able to obtain a small amount of DNA reads (about 1,000 per sample). Upon returning to her home lab, she will determine the quality and characteristics of these reads and whether similar microorganisms were detected.

Handheld MinION DNA-sequencing device.

Back at her home lab, Lindsay will analyze the samples again not just for the microbial diversity (metagenomics), but also the microbial ecology (metatranscriptomics), of the Utah desert soil around MDRS. This would allow us to increase the resolution and understand not just what microorganisms are present, but also what biochemical pathways and substrates they use to survive. Overall, the project will use MinION to sequence DNA and RNA to identify methane-producing metabolic pathways of the methanogens that were recently

detected for the first time in the desert environment.


Areonauts sharing their mission with elementary, middle, and high school students

By: everyone

This project is led by Stuart Hughes and Lindsay Rutter, with participation from all other crew members. Lindsay Rutter gave virtual presentations about our mission to elementary students (4th and 5th grade), middle school students (7th grade), and high school students (11th grade) through the program “Skype a Scientist”. All together, the presentation about our mission was seen by about 250 students, many of whom sent in questions afterward.

The questions from the students spanned various fields from space farming to life support system engineering to planetary science to space medicine. We filmed short videos to answer the elementary students’ questions, and wrote answers to the older students. Stuart Hughes will help with video editing. The crew will send the final video to all classrooms that participated.

Areonauts at the Space Week 2021

By: Ludovica Valentini

Supported by the whole crew

Ludovica presented the crew 228 and their “hybrid” simulation during the Space Week 2021 in the Italian region Marche. In-situ crew shared their videos and photos, and remote crew helped editing the footage and sharing their remote experience.

Media outreach

By: Inga Popovaite

Inga got >33 GB pictures and videos which she will use to tell a story about her research, MDRS, and Mars analogs more generally to various Lithuanian media outlets and the University of Iowa alumni magazine.

Diaries from Analog Mars

By: Jin Sia

On behalf of: Mars Society of Canada

Jin wrote daily diary entries for the Mars Society of Canada’s Marslog (marssociety.ca/marslog.) He provided a candid, storied perspective into space analog life that was well-received by the public.

Mars-to-Mars (M2M) Video Link

By: Lindsay Rutter, Inga Popovaite, Jin Sia, and David Laude

The AARG-1 (American Public University System Analog Research Group) crew at the University of North Dakota’s ILMAH (Inflatable Lunar/Mars Analog Habitat) analog site, by happy coincidence, were also conducting a simulated Mars mission at the same time as the Areonauts. On October 8 (Sol 11), they joined a cross-planetary video conference together called M2M (Mars-to-Mars) Video Link that was broadcasted live to Earth, during which they discussed space analogs and World Space Week.


Lunch Time TV

We watched two episodes of the science fiction TV series Moonbase 8 and the first episode of Away, both of which the Areonauts found almost too relatable. Moonbase 8 was especially poignant as some of the plot points corresponded closely to issues the crew faced at the MDRS.

Radio Reception Experiments

By: David Laude

David Laude had a 1924 radio with him. The crew set it up to hear what radio signals could be caught from Earth.

Remote Journalist Report Task

By: All crew

We wanted to involve our remote crew as much as possible during the mission, as they prepared for it for 2.5 years, only to drop out due to travel bans. However, they were located all across the globe – In the UK, California, Hawaii, Japan, and Italy. As a result, it was difficult for us in-situ crew to correspond synchronously with remote crew. We also were concerned the remote crew would not be as visible about their experiences. As a result, we created a rotating schedule for all crew to publish a journalist article at least once, describing their experiences. This permitted a certain cohesion in our group, because we had creative or unique reports from a different crew member – whether in-situ or remote – each evening to look forward to. It also allowed them to tell their story, how it felt to almost go to Mars, only to stay back as support on Earth.


1. Moran M, Miller JD, Kral T, Scott D. Desert methane: Implications for life detection on Mars. Icarus. 2005. pp. 277–280. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2005.06.008

2. Direito SOL, Ehrenfreund P, Marees A, Staats M, Foing B, Röling WFM. A wide variety of putative extremophiles and large beta-diversity at the Mars Desert Research Station (Utah). International Journal of Astrobiology. 2011. pp. 191–207. doi:10.1017/s1473550411000012

3. Thiel CS, Ehrenfreund P, Foing B, Pletser V, Ullrich O. PCR-based analysis of microbial communities during the EuroGeoMars campaign at Mars Desert Research Station, Utah. International Journal of Astrobiology. 2011. pp. 177–190. doi:10.1017/s1473550411000073

4. Maggiori C, Stromberg J, Blanco Y, Goordial J, Cloutis E, García-Villadangos M, et al. The Limits, Capabilities, and Potential for Life Detection with MinION Sequencing in a Paleochannel Mars Analog. Astrobiology. 2020. pp. 375–393. doi:10.1089/ast.2018.1964

5. Jain M, Olsen HE, Paten B, Akeson M. The Oxford Nanopore MinION: delivery of nanopore sequencing to the genomics community. Genome Biology. 2016. doi:10.1186/s13059-016-1103-0

Crew 228 – MissionReport _2.pdf

Crew 235 – Final Mission Summary

MDRS Crew 235 Spaceward Bound Mission Summary

May 7, 2021

Summary Title: Generally Speaking, this is how it went

Authors’ names: Thomas Quayle (Science Lion Simba) and Jen Carver-Hunter

Sol Activity Summary:

At the start of our mission, nine strangers came together with different hopes and expectations, all with the same end goal – come together with other like-minded individuals within the education community and emerge with new skills or ideas. Amazingly, every step of our journey together built the outcome that would meet and exceed everyone’s expectations.

Many of the crew interactions and experiences have been recorded in the journal reports that have been submitted each day of the mission. This report will focus on the accomplishment of our mission goals, which included completing a microbiology experiment and geologic fieldwork for collection, comparison, and analysis.

For our microbiology experiment, crew prepared agar, which they used to grow the fungi and bacteria that were swabbed from different areas inside the Hab. After allowing the specimens to incubate for 3 days, crew sorted and categorized the agar to identify the locations that were swabbed. This was done in a blind categorization so both crew teams approached it through flexible problem solving. The first team used a matrix system for identification while the second team used process of elimination and benchmarks to identify the tested locations for each sample. Every crew member felt the microbiology experiment was a success in that it would be transferable to a K-12 classroom environment.

For our geologic fieldwork experience, crew members used a presentation about Mars geology by Dr Rupert as a spring board for identification of MDRS rock samples that represent the geology of Mars. We then used 3 EVAs over the next 3 days to collect rock samples we will use to create our MDRS-Mars rock collections. On the first EVAs, crew members traveled to Kissing Camels Ridge and followed the ridge to the west to collect petrified wood, which we were using as an analogous sample for the sulphur located on Mars. Crew members were delighted to find a diverse variety of samples, including a wide range of colors and textures. On the second EVAs, crew members traveled to Barainca Butte to collect lava, basalt, and granite samples. We were also able to collect gryphaea samples during this EVA as an added bonus! The second stop for this EVA was near Zubrin’s head to collect sandstone blueberries from a blueberry nursery. This geologic phenomenon was one that continued to delight and amaze crew members. On the third set of EVAs, crew members traveled to Copernicus Overlook to see the big picture of MDRS geology. After the overlook, crews returned east on Brahe Hwy, looking for the glint of gypsum near Beige Moon. Every crew member was surprised and excited to see the glinting shine that covered the ground since it was not observable on the way to the overlook. Once gypsum was collected, crews continued on to Cowboy Corner to collect the sandstone samples that would complete their collections.

All crew members agree that each facet of our experience at MDRS contributed to a successful mission. In addition to completing our science goals, we were able to complete all of our Sim goals as well as our collaboration/networking and teambuilding goals. We are grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our lives are changed for the better, and we are all eager to return to our classrooms to share our week of Sim on Mars. In addition, we will continue working with Dr Rupert to develop curriculum and materials that will allow MDRS to reach teachers far beyond the scope of the Spaceward Bound Utah program.


Final Mission Summary – Crew 245

Crew 245 Mission Summary


Crew 245 of the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), Team Patamars, began organizing in the fall of 2019. We are comprised of a group of young professionals and, although none of us had embarked on an analog astronaut mission before, we had an ambition to come to MDRS together. Shortly thereafter, we were accepted for an early 2021 rotation, designed a series of preliminary research studies, and created operational protocols to enhance the fidelity of our analog experience. Through the uncertainty of the global pandemic, we remained hopeful that we would be able to safely conduct our intended mission. When MDRS management informed us that our mission would be possible, the team kicked into overdrive, excited to make this an incredible first analog astronaut experience for each one of us. The mission that we have since embarked upon has exceeded our expectations and has inspired us to continue as an analog crew on future missions.

Figure 1. Crew 245 Standing in Front of Hab. From Left to Right: Crew Botanist Julio Hernandez, Crew Engineer Shravan Hariharan, Executive Officer (XO) Shayna Hume, Commander Dylan Dickstein, Health and Safety Officer (HSO) Alex Coultrup, and Crew Scientist Olivia Ettlin

The crew was pulled from Commander Dickstein’s network including the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program and his university connections. Together, the team is a well-rounded group of individuals with good intentions, level personalities, and a particularly broad set of technical skills and experiences. Commander Dylan Dickstein is in his final year at UCLA and imminently defending his dissertation on electron emission effects in hypersonics. Executive Officer (XO) Shayna Hume, is a third-year Ph.D. pre-candidate researching Martian Entry, Descent, and Landing at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Crew Scientist Olivia Ettlin is a recent UCLA graduate with a B.S. in Molecular Cell & Developmental Biology and now works for California State Parks in the Natural Resources Department. Crew Botanist Julio Hernandez is a Ph.D. candidate about to defend his dissertation on Structural Health Monitoring at Purdue University. Crew Engineer Shravan Hariharan recently completed his B.S. in Aerospace Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and shall begin his graduate studies this fall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he will research Martian In-Situ Resource Utilization. The sixth member of the crew is Health and Safety Officer (HSO) Alex Coultrup who recently completed her M.S. in Spaceflight Human Factors at the Florida Institute of Technology and finished the Commercial Space Studies graduate program at the International Space University. Coultrup currently works in commercial partnerships and strategic development on the Outpost program at Nanoracks. Although only a few of us had formally met, we bonded quickly over our mutual desire to invest in careers as analog astronauts and our dream of human space exploration.

The following research studies and additional projects comprise our endeavors during our time at the station:

Research Studies

[1] Our soil analysis study was born from a desire to gain a more in-depth understanding of astrobiology, an area Executive Officer Hume had investigated previously during her internship at NASA Goddard. To demonstrate field analysis of a novel environment Hume and Crew Scientist Ettlin devised a protocol to 1) return to sites where past MDRS researchers had already sampled extensively, 2) take multiple samples at these sites, and 3) seek disparate geologic formation locations for ongoing sampling activities. This was a preliminary investigation, intended to educate the researchers on the specific techniques required to effectively collect soil samples on Mars. Its secondary purpose was to analyze the genomic content of those samples and isolate the evidence of bacteria and other extremophiles living in different geologic formations. Upon exiting simulation, the samples will be sent to a commercial lab for genomic analysis. For that reason, results will be forthcoming.

Figure 2. XO Shayna Hume (Left) and Commander Dylan Dickstein (Right) Collect Soil Samples

[2] Human space exploration (and settlement) of Mars is an enormous technical challenge since all equipment and necessities for life (e.g., oxygen, food, water) must be transported from Earth to Mars. One technical challenge impeding a permanent human presence on Mars is establishing sustainable agricultural practices. In this preliminary investigation we explored the feasibility of using different soil media composed of terrestrial soil and Martian regolith. Because importing terrestrial soil to Mars may be prohibitively expensive, Crew Botanist Hernandez devised a protocol that would use local Martian regolith in an optimized proportion as to maximize the total agricultural capacity for the minimal cost and weight. This investigation found that pure Martian regolith is a notably poor growth medium with poor water retention quality and a high susceptibility for compaction. In general, the trend showed that the soil mixtures with the greatest percentages of Earth soil served as the healthiest growth medium for plants. This did not come as a surprise, but the results of this investigation provided significant insights into improving the experimental design for future investigations.

[3] Interest in farming practices was a common theme for our research. To further explore the feasibility of Martian farming, Crew Scientist Ettlin devised an experiment to test growth additives in a compact hydroponics system suitable for use in a Mars habitat. The ultimate goal of the experiment was to determine if the addition of a single variable alone would be sufficient to significantly improve the growth rates and productivity of vegetable plants for consumption on Mars. Considering the results from the three growth variables (concentrated compost biproducts, fungus-enriched fertilizer, and earthworm castings) it has become clear that any of these additives were better than un-supplemented water. It is worth noting that this botanical experiment was impacted by the short time frame of this mission, and a statistically significant difference between the variables could not be determined and therefore no single variable was deemed superior. However, Ettlin was able to provide proof of concept and give strong evidence for the feasibility of hydroponic gardening on Mars as a way to farm without a high resource demand.

Figure 3. HSO Alex Coultrup (Left) and Commander Dylan Dickstein (Right) Analyzing Data in the Science Dome

[4] On future Mars missions, where several engineering and scientific operations will require exiting the Habitat and donning an EVA suit, astronaut dexterity will greatly influence the scope of what can be accomplished and the time to complete such tasks. Crew Engineer Hariharan sought to test the effects of different glove materials, thicknesses, and number of layers (mimicking the different pressurization levels and materials of current EVA gloves) on astronaut grip strength and fine motor skills, using quantitative dexterity measurements such as a Purdue Pegboard Test. Through this study, he determined that rather than the thickness of a glove itself, the driver behind fine motor skills is the amount of free space within a glove; the more securely a glove fits to the astronauts’ fingers, the greater direct control and precision the user has. In addition, a rough or “sticky” glove texture can increase dexterity by as much as 10% compared to a smooth baseline, even if the gloves are equally fitted. This study will be built upon during future analog missions, through the use of prototype EVA gloves as well as the addition of qualitative tests on EVA, with relevant IRBs in place.

Figure 4. Commander Dylan Dickstein (Left), Crew Scientist Olivia Ettlin (Middle), and HSO Alex Coultrup (Right) Returning to the Hab After a Successful EVA

[5] In the case of an emergency event on Mars such as a dust storm, radiation exposure, or injured crew member, rapidly locating an adequate shelter will be essential. This study was an exercise for crew members, designed by Hariharan, to locate potential shelters at sites of scientific interest and identify relative landmarks by which the shelter could be located by future crews (as relative navigation requires no instrumentation and satellite signal). In addition, the team qualitatively assessed each shelter in six categories to determine its potential functionality and allow future crews to prioritize shelter transit if needed. The figures of merit were as follows: ease of access by foot, by vehicle, and by incapacitated crew member, size of shelter, physical protection from wind/dust, and ease of visual identification. On subsequent EVAs, other crew members then attempted to identify these shelters using relative navigation and assess them using the same criteria. It was found that precise bearings to nearby landmarks and qualitative descriptions of the shelter itself aided most in shelter location. In addition, shelters that were assessed as higher in quality were typically large, easily accessible by vehicle/foot, and covered on at least three sides.

Additional Projects

[1] Executive Officer Hume is interested in the implementation of planetary protection protocols. We implemented preliminary measures such as keeping a “cleanroom” environment in the spacesuit room, sanitization of all tools or equipment prior to use on EVA, and careful handling of soil samples during analysis.

[2] Health and Safety Officer Coultrup brought educational projects from two different STEM education nonprofits. The first was the Space Farmer DreamKit by DreamUp which is used in K-12 classrooms to educate students about the differences in plant maturation in Earth’s gravity compared to the microgravity environment. Coultrup modified the classroom version of this experiment by incorporating the same growth media and variables used by Crew Botanist Hernandez and Crew Scientist Ettlin in their projects (replica Martian regolith, earthworm castings, concentrated compost byproducts, and a fungus-enriched fertilizer as mentioned previously). The second was a hardware demonstration for a middle school classroom sponsored by the One More Orbit Foundation (OMOF). OMOF students learned about the limitations of astronaut dexterity imposed by EVA suits and designed simple styluses to aid in the use of tablet devices in the field. The crew tried out these styluses and provided feedback to the students and will debrief the students after the mission on the outcomes of Crew Engineer Hariharan’s dexterity research.

[3] Coultrup was interested in learning how various types of personal rituals (e.g., athletic, interpersonal, spiritual, etc.) practiced by the crew might impact their experience as analog astronauts. She engaged in a series of structured conversations with the five other members of the team to learn about the personal rituals they practiced before the mission, which rituals they anticipated modifying or bringing with them into the mission, reviewing how accurate their predictions were, and understanding how the daily routine of the analog mission either inhibited or nurtured their ability to follow through on their plans.

Creative Ventures

[1] The crew recorded footage throughout the mission and is currently organizing it into a documentary-style video that is intended to be uploaded and shared online. Commander Dickstein has professional photography and videography experience and used his keen eye for storytelling and aesthetics to create a one-of-a-kind video capturing this crew’s experience. The documentary highlights the mission in an incredibly positive light and showcases MDRS as an excellent resource for researchers and aspiring astronauts alike.

[2] Throughout the mission, Hume worked on a series of essays/blog posts about the first-time experience of being an analog astronaut and field scientist. Several of these were posted online on her personal website (shayna.space) via the team’s social media ground support (Elizabeth Balga) during the simulation, and a few more posts will be published immediately following the end of mission. The team has also made a point to catalogue the group’s experience via the team’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter (all @redplanetpeople). These accounts shall be used long after the end of this mission to continue to highlight this incredible learning opportunity and illustrate to others the value of MDRS and the Mars Society overall.

This mission has been far more than the sum of its parts. There was a synergistic element to the experience for all of us. As first-time analog astronauts, we did not fully know what to expect, and approached the experience with open minds. After all, we were here to learn, and staying malleable is essential for aspiring astronauts and professionals in any field. We are all in agreement that this experience has exceeded expectations and transformed us from six near-strangers with a common purpose, into a high-functioning crew with robust collaboration and cooperation skills to boot. We are dedicated not only to thoroughly documenting our experiences as we enter the world of analog missions, but also to sharing this experience with others who may follow in our footsteps. With this in mind, our most important lessons learned are as follows:

  1. Space is a vacuum without people in it
    • Human space exploration is a team effort through and through. Each individual plays a role in setting an example for others and maintaining a positive environment.
  2. The new “right stuff” is a deemphasis of daredevilish pursuits and an elevation of team culture
    • Human spaceflight is always a risky endeavor, but on long duration missions, team players with diverse backgrounds are more valuable than individuals with nerves of steel.
  3. Simulation fidelity is key
    • Living as an astronaut on Mars takes dedication from all members of a crew. The team can either use this opportunity at MDRS to live like a Martian, or a team can choose to bend the rules. The former group will be on Mars for two weeks and the latter will be visiting a research facility in Hanksville, Utah.

This crew has a strong interest in continuing to work together. The team plans to use the preliminary studies from this analog mission as an entry point for even more rigorous studies, and to stick together as a crew for analog missions in the future.

Figure 5. Crew 245 in the Science Dome. From Left to Right: Top Row – Crew Engineer Shravan Hariharan, XO Shayna Hume, and Crew Botanist Julio Hernandez; Bottom Row – Crew Scientist Olivia Ettlin, Commander Dylan Dickstein, and HSO Alex Coultrup.


This mission would not have been possible without the following organizations, institutions, and indivuals:

First, we want to thank our employers, UCLA, CU Boulder, California State Parks, Purdue University, Nanoracks LLC, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for allowing us to take time off to pursue this incredible opportunity. These include our advisors and managers from our respective organizations: Distinguished Professor Nasr Ghoniem, Dr. Jay McMahon, Dr. Danielle LeFer, Dr. Tyler Tallman, Jeff Manber, and Dan Coatta.

We also extend specific gratitude to Dr. Allie Anderson for lending us tools from CU Boulder, Dr. Andrew Aldrin and Jim Christensen of the Aldrin Space Institute and ShareSpace Foundation for their support of our research, Lauren Milord of DreamUp, and Jannicke Mikkelsen and Phillip Lewis of the One More Orbit Foundation for the opportunity to impact K-12 students’ access to STEM education.

We also received many generous donations of equipment for this mission. Molekule Air Purification provided air purifiers which added a level of confidence in this pandemic environment. Other supplies were donated by GSI Outdoors, the UCLA Store, and Grant Coultrup. Finally, we received the financial support of 38 private donors to fund our research and mission costs.

None of our social media presence during the mission would have been possible without the attention and support of our Ground Support, Elizabeth Balga, a friend, talented engineer, and fellow aspiring astronaut.

Finally, it is with glowing hearts that we recognize the Mars Society, Dr. Robert Zubrin, Dr. Shannon Rupert, and Atila Meszaros for their ongoing work through the years and the preparations they made to bring in our team as the first crew back to MDRS since the onset of the pandemic. Team Patamars (MDRS Crew 245) looks forward to what is next in this budding relationship. No looking back now. To Mars and beyond we must go!

Mission Summary – Crew 223

Mission Summary – Crew 223

Our mission could be summed up in one word: adaptability. During those two weeks, we had to adapt to a whole different planet. The way we fed ourselves was different, our daily routines changed, the landscapes we saw were completely foreign. We had spent the entire year preparing for this mission with the previous crew (Crew 222), but it still was very different from all our expectations. We have learned a lot about how to live on Mars, science and friendship. We have learned how to evolve in an environment that we did not know and was sometimes dangerous. We got used to the Hab and this incredible station that we discovered on our first day.

Team members: (From top to bottom) Clément Plagne (Journalist), Aurélien Mure (Commander), Luc Fortin (Engineer), Blandine Gorce (Health and Safety Officer), Florian Delpech (Astronomer), Valentin Bellemin-Laponnaz (GreenHab Officer) and Marion Lebrun (Crew scientist)

We are a crew of students coming from ISAE-SUPAERO, an engineering school in France, and we prepared this mission with the second crew of our school, the Crew 222.

Food and plantations:

Food is a key aspect of Martian life and not only because it is a bare necessity for humankind. It has an important influence on human physical and psychological health. During the two weeks we spent in the MDRS, we exploited at best the production that could be harvested from the GreenHab. And it gave us a huge improvement on our daily habits:

  • Since most of Martian food is dry, having to harvest some fresh herbs and vegetables was a relief for most of us. It was essential to be able to gather some lettuce for a fresh salad or some zucchini flowers for an original meal. Having a place to grow crops is essential to the good mood of the crew and the well-being of their digestive system.
  • The GreenHab is the secret garden of our station, it looks like no other place. Supervised by our GreenHab Officer, we were able to grow crops such as wild rocket, spinach, cucumbers, sweet pepper, radishes, tomatoes, swiss chard… We also had an experiment testing the influence of music on plants. In fact, if we need a lot of crops to grow with few resources on Mars, it is essential to enhance the growth rate of the plants. Valentin experimented on radish to see if some precise noise sequence would enhance the production of proteins inside the plant.
  • We also tested a new type of plantation. Thanks to the Aerospring tower, we tested a vertical plantation and grew lettuce into foam. It allows to cultivate out of soil with a circular system of water and it is all lightened by LEDs. It was efficient to grow lettuce, but it is hard to quantify its efficiency because our two weeks mission was too short to see a significant different.

Daily routine and protocol:

Martian life is sequenced by strict protocol that must be the best for the health of the astronauts and the procedures of the experiences.

  • Our daily routine started with sports, then EVAs according to the weather and in the afternoon, we had a lot of time for experiments in the science dome or in the Hab. Having a day timed precisely helped us to get used to this different lifestyle. The protocols for EVAS are timed due to the depressurization and pressurization and because of the danger of going out on Mars.
  • On Mars resources are limited. We had to be aware of every kind of resource we were using and how we were using it. We changed the way we used water, not consuming it for showers or dish washing. Water is used daily but more than ever it must be preserved because it is limited and so hard to get on Mars. We preserved it so well that we only used only 7 Liters per person and per day. Aurélien and Benjamin, the commander of the crew 222 worked together to simplify the way we count water and give a visual signification of water use.

Human factors and teamwork experience:

Living as a crew is not always easy, but it is a key point for the success of the mission. During the two weeks, we learned a lot about each other, about cohesion and about communication.

  • Marion held two different experiments on communication. The first one consisted to test our communication in a foreign language by building LEGOs. And the second one consisted in testing our communication in situation of stress.
  • We worked a lot on team building through relaxation and positive psychology. It helped calm the stress of the crew members when they were having a hard time. It also helped understanding the dynamic of the Crew. We had a functional yoga program to get rid of the cramps after the EVAs. The conclusion on this experiment is that creating a safe space where everyone feels good helps a lot the efficiency of the mission.

Necessity on Mars and future exploration:

Although it is very exciting to go and explore Mars, this is the most dangerous part of going on another planet. You can become very aware of the danger and the fragility of your own life, when being in a suit in the middle of a desert with no communication.

  • During EVAs, we realized that having a functional life support was essential, so Aurélien and Luc spend a lot of time making sure that our life support would be functioning under any circumstances. They also worked our own life support that was supposed to be tested during the mission. Unfortunately, it was still a bit unsafe to test it, even after two weeks of improvements. We also tested the efficiency of communication in these dangerous situations. In fact, after an EVA where one of the Crew members had lost her earplug, we created a protocol only using sign language. We were able to test its efficiency during two EVAs and concluded on the necessity of having a coded language in case of emergency.
  • During our exploration, we realized that the shapes of Mars can be anything but what was expected so it is essential to understand the environment around the station. We had to experience working on a better understanding of our environment. The LOAC is a system that measure the particles in the air in order to better understand the climate. And the MegaARES measures the electrical field on the ground. The results will be analyzed by the the laboratory Laboraton and the scientist Jean-Baptiste Renard back in France.
  • Last but not least, discovering the universe on Mars is perspective that gives a new exploration point of view. Studying the sky would be useful for further space exploration to be able to observe the sun and be aware of any solar storm. Florian was able to observe the sun and searched for supernovas during the nights. He was able to make all the observations and he will analyze the results back at ISAE-SUPAERO with Eishi, the Astronomer of the Crew 222.

As a conclusion, I would say that we grew up and realized that no matter where you are in the galaxy, it feels good to have a place one can call home.

Final Mission Summary – Crew 222

Authors : Auzou Benjamin, Bochard Marie, Bourdeaud Nicolas, Kim Eishi, Prudhomme Valentin, Roiron Bleuenn, Sedbon Nina

The mission 222 is the sixth mission of ISAE-SUPAERO students in the MDRS. This mission is combined with the crew 223, also composed of students from ISAE-SUPAERO. Indeed, the two crews share the science, and prepared these missions together.


I. General Summary

As students, this mission has for us a pedagogic dimension. The preparation of those two weeks has been intense for one whole year and taught us to work as a group, to make decisions, but also to manage an association and a budget. Then here in the MDRS we learned to lead experiments on a very specific field, with the constraints that come with it. Furthermore, we evolved with six other people during two weeks and learned a lot on ourselves and on the others.

As a matter of fact, our crew was marked by a good cohesive spirit. During this mission we shared a lot of moments together, in the Hab and on EVAs. We talked a lot and shared our feelings during those moments. For example, at the end of each day, we had a moment called the “Word of the day”, where each crew member chooses a word to describe his/her day and explains it to the others. It was interesting to see that everyone had a different perception of the same sol.

After those two weeks, each of us has found answers to his own objectives of the mission, and as a crew we also tackled the group objectives, from a scientific and a human point of view.

The crew transition with crew 223 is ready, and we look forward to exploiting the results of all the experiments we deployed here.

Moreover, in 2021 a new crew of students from ISAE-SUPAERO will come here to continue the work we are doing for now six years in our association, the Club MARS of ISAE-SUPAERO. The strength of our crews is the cohesion, as we are preparing this mission together, and the fact that year after year we have a database of experiments and we share the experience as the veterans of the previous missions.


II. Science Status

During the past two weeks a lot of projects have started in the MDRS. We wanted to work on different aspects of a future sedentary life on Mars.


Martian food

Concerning plants and food we started several experiments that will continue with the second crew of ISAE-SUPAERO (Crew 223).

We grew Spirullina which would enable future humans on Mars to eat very nutritive algae. Today the Spirulina is growing in the aquarium and we hope that the next crew will taste it (it grew about 0,5 cm at the top of the aquarium). We also started the Aerospring moss garden. This garden can be placed in different environments and different temperatures. We are currently observing the development of roots (herbs and vegetables) in the garden with a highly controlled amount of ater (max 75L of water in the garden with every nutriments inside). Besides, we also wanted to compare this vertical garden with the same seeds in gelatin. At this moment we can’t observe any change inside gelatin but we can’t make any conclusion yet.


Martian environment

When we first arrived in the station we noticed the heavy and bulky equipment a human has to put on itself before going outside. That is why we wanted to test the Backpack combined with the LCVG for an EVA. Unfortunately we did not have time to test this outside the RAM because it was not sufficiently efficient and we did not want to take the risk to go outside with a dysfunctional equipment. At this moment everything should be working well and the next crew will be able to test it during an EVA.

We also put two experiments in place, taking measurements continuously during the day. The LOAC is sorting the air particules present in the air of the Utah Desert surrounding the MDRS. The results will be analyzed after the mission, by the researcher responsible for this experiment. The MegaAres is studying the electromagnetic field of Earth (before Mars …). It will be very interesting to measure the difference between day and night and depending on the hour of the day.


Martian house

We know that water is an essential ressource here on Earth and moreover on Mars. That is why we put in place a water consumption device in the HAB in order to know where the water is used to live on Mars. Today every cables are plugged and the next crew will be able to know precisely how they use their daily water.


A Human Civilization on Mars

The Human Factors experiments went very well. It was a special moment, every day for 13 days. Everybody participated willingly, it helped the crew be more bonded. We can’t disclose the purpose of the experiments now because the members of Crew 223 will undertake the same experiments.



III. Astronomy projects

Both astronomy projects have progressed with several gigabytes of raw data gathered and expected to be processed back at my school (ISAE-SUPAERO). Regarding the supernovae research project, nearly half of the target galaxies has already been imaged twice as part of the weekly observations, with the other half pending the run of the MDRS-14 telescope in the coming days. The astrophotography project has yielded beautiful images of the select deep sky objects. A couple of targets could not be imaged as planned because they were not visible for long enough after sunset. I am still looking forward to keeping on with both projects after the mission, in close collaboration with the Crew 223 Astronomer Florian Delpech and the astronomy club of ISAE-SUPAERO. I hope the raw data collected during the mission will be a valuable resource for scientific and training purposes.


Mission Summary – Crew 220

Mission Summary Crew 220

MDRS & MAU “Station-to-Station” MARS MEDICS Mission


The first Mars Academy USA and Mars Desert Research Station MAU-MDRS “Station-to-Station” Mars Medics Analog Astronaut Training Missions was successfully conducted at the Mars Desert Research Station, in Hanksville, Utah. A trans-disciplinary team of analog astronauts, medical professionals and researchers will live and work together at MAU and MDRS stations and will conduct various “station-to-station” interactivities, test novel technologies and develop countermeasures and mitigation protocols and new medical capabilities that will enable humans to survive in austere, remote, Isolated and Confinement Environments (I.C.E) in Space and help improve life on Earth.


  1. TEST A “STATION-TO-STATION” MODEL PARADIGM. Training professionals in the fields of space medicine, aerospace, explorers, innovators, developers, artists, academics, scientists, and researchers in analogue astronautics to support future long-duration space missions, planetary surface explorations and spin-off benefits to improve life on Earth.
    Testing and development of countermeasures and mitigation strategies to address the
    myriad of human factors and behavioral challenges for crews and/or astronauts living in
    austere, extreme I.C.E. (Isolated and Confinement Environments) in Space or in remote
    regions on Earth.
    Improve state-of-the-art in healthcare delivery and medical access for remote, austere populations and astronauts. Create and develop new “gold standards” in Standard Operational Procedures (SOP) and protocols for I.C.E. scenarios to transform and Space Medicine, Disaster and Extreme Medicine.
  4. DEVELOPMENT “JUST-IN-TIME” MEDICAL TRAINING: developing and testing interactive, fully immersive just-in-time” tele-mentoring medically-focused training in I.C.E, integrating exponential technologies, eg, spatial computing, VRAR Training Simulations, robotics and innovative technologies.


John Hanacek MA – Crew Commander / ARMR Officer

Shawna Pandya MD – Crew Commander

Susan Ip-Jewell MD – AI / Astrowellness Officer

Johannes Svensøy MD – Executive & Crew Medical Officer

Connie Delisle PhD – Health, Safety & Operations Officer

Morgan Kainu BA – Crew Geologist / Journalist

Jasleen Josan MSc – Crew Engineer / Scientist

Matt Wise – Executive & Operations & Safety Officer

Alyx Skywalker BSc – Crew Engineer

Marufa Akhter Bhuiyan MSc – Crew Scientist

Lee Roberts MSc – Crew Geologist / Engineer

Grace Graham – MAU Training Intern


Commander Shawna Pandya, MD. – Callsign “Night Owl”

The MAU 001-MDRS 220 mission rep resented the first-ever “station-to-station” mission at the Mars Desert Research Station, and I feel honored and privileged to have served as a co-Commander during this historical mission. With it came a lot of firsts and learning lessons. I appreciated the opportunity to lead my crews with “military” and “consensus” governance models, although I must admit that in truth, there is a great degree of overlap between the models. No military commander can simply order their men into the line of fire – the team must agree to do so, which in and of itself is a form of consensus. As such, I did not notice any great degree of difficulty moving between the two governance models. This was also partially helped by the fact that the MAU Station crew, which operated on a consensus model, was always relatively small (2-3 crew including the Commander), therefore, it was very easy to build a consensus. Co-commanding was also a novel experience, and I enjoyed evolving with, growing with and learning from my co-Commander. Morning and night-time briefings helped us develop a shared mental model of our daily plans, and one lesson I learned was that it is best to err on the side of repeated-briefings to ensure the build-up of a shared mental model for both crew and commanders.

With regards to mission planning, in aviation, we talk about “staying ahead of the aircraft,” and the same is probably true of missions. This mission was task-saturated in nearly all categories – medical, arts and wellness, science and logistics – and in the future, I would work with my science and Executive officers to list all our “nice to have” versus “need to have” objectives well ahead of the mission itself, prioritize accordingly, and draft a mission schedule 2 to 4 weeks ahead of time. This crew in particular was good at stepping up and cleaning, cooking and doing dishes as needed, and made my job very easy, regardless of the station. One is not always so lucky, and future Commanders may need to plan to assign these tasks.

As the mission went on, the crew learned to work as a well-oiled machine, particularly when in small groups, and it is my observation that small groups tend to be productive groups. Spending more time at each station, developing more days with station-specific programming, and observing the station-specific culture that develops would be interesting, both to see how each station develops through the course of the mission, and also to observe how different-sized groups worked together.

I particularly enjoyed teaching, demonstrating and drilling the medical protocols during this mission, and would continue to emphasize this education and its application to EVA in future missions.

As I told my crew today, I learned and grew from my interactions with each and every single one of them, and while this may be the end of one adventure, from the bonds and friendships formed here, it is merely the beginning of the next.

Commander John Hanacek, MA – Callsign “Hummer”

What is power? I have studied this question academically, and now on Mars I have experienced a new level of immediacy and directness to this question. Personal power was the deep running theme of this mission for me. I was forced by circumstance to claim my personal power and my mandate as a leader in the face of strong personalities. I came here prepared to let go of my programming and tap into the inner permission to love myself enough to let go of doubts, fears and limitations – and to fully accept the leader within myself to emerge though this experience.

Establishing power was a running theme both on an operational level as well as metaphysical. I began my commander rotation at the Mars Academy USA (MAU) station, and I felt forced to quickly become comfortable with the freezing Martian nights in the austere habitat without consistent electrical power and just some small propane heaters as we worked to establish electrical systems for the MAU station. At the same time, I was establishing my power as a commander and leader.

The two stations operated on different governance models, MAU on consensus and MDRS in a more traditional hierarchical way. This became a source of growth for me, as I found myself feeling out in the cold when interacting with the MDRS commander, having to constantly ask for briefs and finding myself being talked over and what I felt as subtle undermining in the first few days. I have come to realize that it was a gift –begging me to step into my own personal power and speak for myself. In addressing these challenges directly with my Co- Command during Sol 11-12, I felt I better understood how to manage using Command and Control without being overbearing.  My MAU station mandate was immediately more comfortable as it fit my personality – facilitating consensus and creating time and space for decisions to emerge from the crew.

The first week went by in a strange kind of fast eternity where every night was a new challenge, and emotions often ran raw as I refused to back down, and embraced being my authentic self in always vocalizing concerns and truths, even when it did prove unpopular. Before I switched stations to command MDRS, I first took a three-day trip back to San Francisco, CA, Earth to work on a business project. This was surreal to say the least. I found that the Earth looked different and yet I recognized it more clearly. I reflected on how the station-to-station scenario seemed a smaller microcosm of what goes on every day on Earth: power shifting, jostling for authority and negotiation of sovereignty.

When I returned to MDRS I found myself able to interpret the command hierarchy style of leadership and within it, to communicate with authority not domination. I felt that also shifted my relationship with the MAU Commander – we synergistically seemed to reach an equitable distribution of power, authority and sovereignty. The commander who had acted in my place changed the paradigm and brought an entirely new level of operational order and mental transparency to authentical daily plans and intentions. I enlisted her as my XO and we continued a trend of what I see as the golden age of the station-to-station mission, where clear communication, visible plans and balanced power and empathy reigned.

In all, I enjoyed my time at MDRS and MAU – even when it hurt. I feel transformed from my time on Mars, and I feel like this full crew and the stations themselves will always be in my heart. I found my power here on Mars -my ability to stand tall on shifting ground and feel safe – to give orders, to take criticism and to grow with a crew made up of very different personalities. More than the exploration of Mars, this mission was an exploration of myself and the nature of power. I feel I now have been gifted with a secret to share as my final words – within me is the entirety of the all one and also the specificity of a unique authenticity I refer to as myself. The ability to accept both the light and the dark equally yet choose which one I want to express. I accept my shadow as I shine my light. I remember that everyone is me and I am everyone, and I accept that I have preferences and specifics. The ultimate power is in choice itself, in meeting all happenings and interactions with full awareness and complete memory. What will I express as I embrace the complete unity of myself? How will I be with myself in my many faces? The choice is mine if I make it so, and that is where power truly lives.

Commander Connie Delisle, PhD. – Callsign “Coyote”

Space and time have always been a fascination. Prior to MDRS, that meant introspection and personal discovery of boundaries to set and borders to let go. In in Mars flow of time I feel it’s bigger than that – and non-random. Rather, an intricate design to clear the inner space and for all to share insights as a collective wisdom for those going back to Earth or headed for other far away planets and galaxies.  This first ever-Station-to-Station mission has answered some questions but ultimately more so challenged my theories and conviction. It was a completely unexpected honor to serve as MDRS Commander for Sol 8-11, leading me to affirm that even on Mars my true calling is of service and support to leadership. As Commander, the following three insights are offered: First, self-monitoring and day-to-day crew checks for wellness, adjustments to operational tempo and re-alignment with Mission Objectives requires extreme and ongoing vigilance. Second, Mars is a team sport. I found that delegation and follow up worked equally well on Mars and it does on Earth; the main difference is in the cycle times being very short. Third, crew diversity and culture are powerful. In seeing and feeling through other’s perspective, then patience and understanding transformed hurt to healing.  On a personal note, it was entirely freeing that Crewmate and Astrological Researcher Marufa Akhter Bhuiyan validated for me, the realness of living in imaginary time- something I’ve been doing on Earth without knowing what it meant. Even though current time was short as MDRS Commander, teachings and reflections from MAU and MDRS Crew along with MDRS Director and her team will live on through time immortal.

Morgan Kainu – Callsign “Grass Snake”

This mission was a complete success with respect to teamwork and spiritual growth together and has paved the path for future endeavors together. I would be happy to do a future mission or research with any one of the crew in the future.

Matt Wise – Callsign “Fox”

This was a unique opportunity to practice innovation and group problem-solving in an isolated environment.

Johannes Nordsteien Svensøy  M.D., M.Sc.EMDM -Callsign “Raven”

This was an opportunity to solve real-life challenges in a simulation, which is critical if you are going to push the boundaries in austere environments and extreme medicine.

Project Reports

Johannes Svensøy MD callsign “Raven”

Butterfly iQ Ultrasound tele-guidance, Butterfly Network.

The Butterfly iQ was brought onboard the current mission with much appreciated help and guidance from the Butterfly Network. The Butterfly iQ is a revolutionary handheld Ultrasound System integrating the most commonly used probes in medical ultrasound imaging into only one probe. The device is operated from small-screen devices such as mobile phones or tablets, making this the perfect tool for ICE (Isolated, Confined and Extreme) environments such as this MAU-MDRS Mission. The Butterfly was integrated into teaching and training of both medical and non-medical personnel, particularly into trauma scenarios in the field. The objectives of the training were device familiarization, and to get a hands-on idea of POCUS (point-of-care ultrasound) and FAST (Fast Assessment for Sonography for Trauma) protocols. The Butterfly Ultrasound was also used during simulation for assessment of an injured astronaut after evacuation and decompression into the station. The Butterfly Ultrasound and the program is easy to operate, and with the tele-guidance tool, a medical expert can guide, analyze, and explain the findings to the operator. This project was met with an overwhelmingly positive response from both medically and non-medically trained personnel, and all were able to appreciate its use case for future missions and simulations. My recommendation is to further integrate the Butterfly and its multiple capabilities into more simulations in future missions. Appreciation and thanks to Butterfly Network for the possibility to test this tool in austere environments such as here on Mars.

John Hanacek MA

Virtual Reality and Spatial Computing Demos

Objectives: Give the crew access to cutting edge Virtual Reality (VR) and Spatial Computing/ Mixed Reality headset technologies.

What was done: Brought an Oculus Quest VR headset and a Magic Leap Spatial Computing headset, both loaded with applications.

Did not achieve objectives, only one member of the crew experienced just one device.

Needed to schedule dedicated time for the activity, yet this mission had so many activities that it often got bumped due to other projects taking immediate precedence as being more mission relevant.

Future plans are to once again bring the devices, yet firmly establish a time window of at least an hour to demonstrate them. Next time I will need to get into the schedule much earlier and stay persistent that it is mission relevant to have the crew experience these next generation technologies.

AvatarMEDIC HoloTRIAGE ™ Application Testing

Objectives: Conduct user testing on the newly developed prototype HoloTRIAGE mobile phone AR application for multi victim trauma scenario training. Develop survey for said testing.

What was done: Brought application loaded on a mobile phone, had any interested participants sign MNDA with AvatarMEDIC company

Achieve Objectives? Partially. Did not find time to conduct any tests but we develop a survey which can be used for subsequent tests.

Why not achieve? Application was only completed within the last four Sols of the Mission, not leaving adequate time to slot in a testing time period into the already crowded schedule.

Future plans are to test the application on Earth and further refine the application and the survey methods. Additionally, utilizing the training from this MDRS/MAU mission to inform additional curriculum modules for the application and enhance the quality of the training.

Susan Ip-Jewell MD. Callsign “Chinthe”

Teleanesthesia “Vapojet” Simulation Training

For pre-simulation training, telepresence was proposed to train the crew members in basics surgical interventions such as Debridement and Suturing using simulation tissues. During the sim, the crew learnt and conducted the teleanesthesia protocols using the 3D Printed VAPOJET TM

Mars Governance Models

Designing future strategies for implementing a form of governance model in isolated and remote groups to include ethics, rules and regulations. What infrastructure model is needed to ensure optimum health, wellbeing, increase productivity and collaboration for crews.

The implementation of two different governance models for each station was an interesting experiment for the crew teams. The MAU station adopted the consensus model and MDRS station adopted the “military hierarchical” model. Both crew teams experienced the two models with positive outcomes and was able to live and work together and quickly adapting to the station environments and the limitations and restrictions imposed during the mission.


Paper foldable microscope was assembled by crew and used to detect microorganisms and potential bacteria and contamination in the soil samples collected during the geological EVAs.

Meals for Mars Project – PI: Sian Proctor PhD

The Elements  meals used freeze-dried “meals”  specifically designed for long duration spaceflight missions for astronauts and crews in austere I.C.E was implemented in the mission for several days with selected crew participants.

Matt Wise Callsign “Fox”

Station to Station Data Link

Objective- Create a wireless data link between MDRS habitat and MAU station

We emplaced mesh network access points between MAU and MDRS to create a station to station localized network for sharing files and operational data.  Lack of solar panels and batteries forced us to run power cables to each access point, however the data was relayed very effectively via wireless signal.

Result- The concept was proven, but full point to point connectivity failed due to insufficient access points to span the distance between stations.

Future- In the future having more access points for the mesh network will alleviate connectivity gaps.  I’ve designed a one-piece wireless repeater which solves this issue.  Teams will be able to deploy a modular mesh network to effectively expand station connectivity

Mars’-bucha Bacterial Production Study

Digestive health and, more specifically, the gut bacteria biome are critical considerations for long-term habitation off world.  Complex solutions requiring resource intensive production will be less than optimal from both a transport and operation standpoint.  Kombucha can be easily produced and requires only tea, sugar, and water.  The bacterial culture is extremely resilient and not only reusable but self-replicating after only 7-14 days in ideal conditions.  Producing such a beverage is both healthy and has a positive effect on morale.  While a number of sugar sources are available this study assumes sugar cane grown in the greenhab as well as various types of tea which will also provide excellent oxygen production and a good cellulose fiber source for production of other materials.  The bacterial culture can be easily transported from earth or carefully isolated in the hab.

In our study we began with a 3 gram sample of isolated bacteria, mixed with 1 gallon of brewed tea and sugar, and allowed to propagate in a warm, dark container.  After 8 days the bacteria colony had formed a thin layer in the liquid.  These bacteria consumed most of the sugar and caffeine in the liquid and reproduced large quantities of beneficial bacteria.  75% of the liquid was drained from the container, bottled, and mixed with approximately 2oz of sweetened fruit, tea, and/or spices depending on the taste of each crewmember.  After 3 days of second fermentation the carbon dioxide expelled by the bacteria consuming sugar gave the beverage a slight carbonated kick and the color had changed to deep reds and golds depending on the ingredients added.  They were also delicious!  The remaining liquid was enriched with sugar and left to sustain the bacteria colony until we’re ready to produce the next batch of Kombucha.  As of this writing a second bacterial layer has formed from the original colony.  This layer could be separated and used to begin an entirely new container of Kombucha.

The health benefits of Kombucha are far reaching, as is the simple enjoyment of a tasty beverage.  Additionally, the fermentation process produces CO2 which would be beneficial to plants growing in the green hab. The greenhab, in turn, is a warm environment, a perfect location from producing Kombucha.  Production is non-resource intensive and the yield is high. This is a perfect option for a Mars habitat.


Objective- Use the Golden Bubble medevac device in an analog Martian environment and successfully deploy, load, and transport a mock-casualty to higher medical care.

The Golden Bubble is a pressurized emergency medevac device comprised of a backboard, inflatable transparent membrane, and life-support systems. The Golden Bubble is designed to be used in emergencies to provide a pressurized, clean-air environment during a medical emergency.  The casualty is strapped onto the backboard and then the membrane is inflated around them creating a protective bubble.  Access points along each side allow first responders to assess and stabilize the victim without exposing them to toxic or low-pressure, low-oxygen environments.  The inside pressure is regulated to a specific atmosphere and excess C02, fumes, dust, and other contaminates are vented to the outside.  The purpose of this device is to extend the Golden Hour and give first responders more time to move a casualty to higher care.

In this case we used the Golden Bubble as a medical scenario training aid.  A mannequin was used as a mock-casualty and was subsequently put inside the Golden Bubble, assessed for injuries, and transported by foot, then by rover, to the nearest airlock for higher medical care.

Result- The test was highly successful, and the Golden Bubble performed better than expected in many ways.  It was relatively easy for any individual crewmember to carry and deploy.  A longer version will, however, need to be constructed for patients taller than 72” and improved air tank capacity will be necessary for a production version.

Future Plans- Going forward I will continue to improve the functionality and ergonomics (particularly for patients wearing EVA suits) of this design and create a more streamlined and functional production version.

Shawna Pandya MD. Callsign “Night Owl”


The ISANSYS Lifetouch 20g sensors, blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter were deployed on this machine to see how they would fare in an ICE environment. The sensors are capable of measuring heart rate, respiration rate, heart rate variability, one-lead EKG and accelerometry. When paired with the other two devices via Bluetooth, the system is capable of measuring blood pressure and pulse oximetry as well. In this mission, 4 patches were deployed on 4 crew members (2 male, 2 female), as a test of both longevity over a 2 week mission, and as a test of hardiness, as all 4 crew members spent one week at the MDRS Hab, and one week in the MAU Station, in tents in a winter desert environment. The Lifetouch Patches have been previously deployed in parajumper and military field exercises, the Cleveland Clinic, in Antarctica with the NASA Johnson Space Center Exploration Medical Capability team in drysuits, underwater in wetsuits, and in parabolic flight. In this demonstration, the patches were both used to collect biometrics, as well as make notes of how the patches reacted when used continuously over a two-week mission, with intermittent battery replacement as needed, as well as with continuous exposure in the cold desert environment. Subjectively it seemed that sensor battery life diminished in the tent environment. There were some issues with QR code reading, initially with pairing the blood pressure cuff to the ISANSYS tablet, and later on with the pairing of the tablet to the LifeTouch patches. These eventually resolved, but from previous experience, it seemed like the patches required a new session to be started every time a session was transferred, rather than transferring back to a previous user. Of note, the tablet’s ability to read QR codes seemed to behave better once the tablet was connected to the Internet. By the end of the mission, most batteries had failed, and sessions were either intentionally ended after catching up on all data, or ended prematurely with batteries dying, resulting in the loss of some data. Early on in the mission, the ISANSYS/Stark team confirmed that they were able to view uploaded data on the secure server. This ultimately represented a successful demonstration of the Lifetouch system in an extreme environment. In the future, to minimize data loss, it may make sense to schedule “maintenance” Bluetooth catch-up sessions at 3-4 day intervals. With future deployments of the Lifetouch Patch, it may be interesting to have the subjects keep a journal of particularly notable physical, physiological or emotionally events, and later correlate those events to sensor readings. As a final point, the timestamp on the table is 2 hours ahead, and this was not corrected so as to not interfere with the tablet settings.

EVA Biometrics Study

The EVA biometrics study looked at crew wellness parameters pre and post-EVA. Parameters measured include blood pressure, heart rate, pulse oximetry, weight, and questions assessing hydration status and subjective notes pre-EVA, and questions regarding subjective assessment of physical exertion, mental exertion and emotional distress. The study succeeded in acquiring some data points, but there is room for improvement as to how the study is conducted in the future. Firstly, the vital sign measuring equipment was only available at MDRS station, hence only EVA teams leaving from MDRS station could be consistently assessed. In addition, given the large size of the crew, the number of times a single individual was assessed was limited, usually ranging between 0 to 3 times over the course of the entire mission. Lastly, there were moments, when, either due to time constraints or simply forgetting, that pre or both pre- and post- data point collection was missed, limiting the value of the results. Future studies would do well to regularly collect pre- and post- EVA data. From the data points collected, however, most crew members seemed well-hydrated pre-EVA, no crew members lost weight from dehydration based on the data, and no vital signs were grossly abnormal.

Psychological Resilience in ICE Environments Study

The psychological resilience in ICE environments study was conducted in partnership with Dr. Nathan Smith of the University of Manchester, and this study was initiated in partnership with NASA as an evaluation of psychological resilience of astronauts, and later expanded to adults on expeditions of >10 days in other expedition and isolated and confinement environments. The study consists of both pre and post-mission surveys, as well as twice daily mission diaries. There were difficulties with obtaining data due to the initial state of emergency at the start of the mission, and accessing the digital surveys, which put those partaking in data behind from the outset. In addition, the study data may be affected by the highly dynamic nature of crew members moving in and out of “quarantine,” affecting the data. Ultimately, because of the limited internet, nearly all surveys were completed in retrospect, also possibly affecting the data. These notations will be made when the final data is sent back to the primary investigator. If incorporating this study into future missions, it would make sense both print paper copies ahead of time, so as not to be hindered by technology lapses, and also to schedule time pre, post and in-mission to ensure that data is captured daily.

MAU Ambassadors Program

The MAU Ambassadors Program was started during the second week of the MAU Command under Commander Pandya, with one Officer from MDRS coming to spend a night and part of the next day with the MAU crew to foster cross-station professional competencies, relationships and cultural exchanges. During its initial run, 3 MDRS officers, including the MDRS Journalist, Engineer and GreenHab Officer spent one night each at the MAU station, and all expressed positive sentiments about their stay, commenting on either the view from MAU station, the time spent with the MAU crew and/or discussing mission logistics. All in all, this initial trial run of the program was promising, and may be worth incorporating into future missions.


Mars Academy USA (MAU) is the 21st Century Academy “offering experiential learning with exponential technologies”. MAU is creating a new paradigm in learning using exponential technologies, simulation-based learning, and edutainment. MAU is an organization with a mission to train the Next-Gen Analog Astronauts, Visionaries, Innovators, Scientists, Explorers, and Astroprenuers. Since 2016, MAU has been developing, testing, and implementing a “Portable Integrated Turn-key Analog Astronautics Simulation Training SystemTM” and creating a unique “Let’s get S.T.E.A.M.E.D”TM (Science, Technologies, Engineering, Art, Maths, Exponential, Digital VRAR) workshops and programs focusing on exponential technologies, such as, teleanesthesia-telesurgery, VRAR, solar powered 3D Printing, HoloTRIAGE, and Gamification. The company offers their unique “space-focused edutainment” programs to academia, commercial and corporate markets, and general public. The mission of the organization is to Educate, Empower, Entertain, Engage, and Expand an international, global “voice” in support of human space explorations, technological innovations to enable future settlement on off-world planets, Mars or Moon, with focus in spin-off benefits for improving life on Earth. MAU unique portable basecamp comprised of various size “pods” with connecting tunnels which allows for multiple configuration design to adapt and suit the surrounding environments and number of crew participants. The basecamp can be easily assembled and disassembled for quick removal after the mission. www.marsacademyusa.com


Mars Academy USA (MAU) is a series of Analog Astronaut Simulation Training missions focusing on space medicine, biomedical and biotechnology innovations. Mission crews enter fully “in-person” immersive simulations living and working together in a transdisciplinary, multicultural analog Mars environment in MAU’s mobile, modular Mars Basecamps. The missions are specifically focused on innovations for explorations in space medicine, astro-wellness, space food production and nutrition. The crews will test, develop and innovate ways to support future human explorations and settlement on Mars and Moon. The crews will test design and integrate exponential technologies, such as, VRAR, 3D printing, and even genetic tools.



Mission Summary – Crew 219

ARES Mars Desert Research Station Mission Summary

ARES MDRS Scientific Research and Engineering Testing

Astrobiological Research and Education Society (ARES)


Mission Overview:

            The exploration of Mars has a myriad of physical and technical challenges that will demand the greatest ingenuity and moxie ever displayed by human explorers. To meet these challenges, STEM professionals use Mars Analogs like the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) to evaluate their procedures and technologies in a setting where challenges occur in real time. This provides feedback that permits space agencies to conduct safe and effective missions to Mars.

The Astrobiological Research and Education Society (ARES) was established to unite astrobiology scholars in the search for life and the study of Earth-born organisms that leave Earth. ARES engages in Mars analog studies for two justifications: to define the methods that which might detect life on Mars and to study biological sustainability techniques that facilitate long-duration habitation. Crew 219 came to MDRS with a variety of scientific and engineering-related challenges to expand on this work.


Crew Member Names and Roles:

Commander: David Masaitis

Executive Officer: Nathan Hadland

Lead Science Officer: Hannah Blackburn

Health and Safety Officer: Keith Crisman

GreenHab Officer: Cynthia Montanez

Astronomer: Robinson Raphael

Geologist: Abdul Elnajdi

Engineer: Alejandro Perez



MDRS Crew 219 is supported by international partners including Florida Tech, Ball State University, Compass Equipment LLC, and Anker. We would also like to thank The Mars Society for providing three Scholarships to our IESL Crew 205 Veterans for this year’s visit. Outreach programs are ongoing using the following networks: ARES, Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity, and the Student Astronomical Society. We would like to thank several people: Dr. Andrew Palmer for his guidance, our outreach coordinator David Merced, Dr. Daniel Batcheldor, Dr. Sam Durrance, Dr. Saida Caballero, David Handy, MDRS Crew 205 (IESL), and you too!


Overview of Research

EVA Operations:

Crew 219 executed eighteen Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVAs), serving five of our seven projects. These projects collected data and we will begin post-mission analysis after our return. EVA’s consisted of geologic sampling for both mineralogical analysis and biological viability. We implemented Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which are available as separate appendices.  After each EVA, biometrics data were collected for evaluation by the HSO.


Biometrics and Neurobehavioral Research Pertaining to Cardiovascular Health during EVAs

This was a two-series data collection taken concurrently: Series I focused on collection of biological metrics and Series II focused on collection of neurobehavioral metrics on varying schedules. Data collection for this research is nearly complete.  It should be noted that some metrics were skipped or eliminated at the discretion of the HSO:

  • Respiratory Rate (B4)
  • Modified DAN OSNE (N3)
  • Lower Extremity Measurements (B2)

Data collected was compiled in individual folders and broken down by Average (AVG) of individual metrics minus the Preliminary Collected Individual Metrics, Minimum Value (MIN), Maximum Value (MAX), Variation between MIN and MAX, and Variation from AVG and Preliminary Collected Individual Metrics.  The latter values were recorded on a master spreadsheet to compare crew metrics by averaging each and deriving the deviation from the average for each crewmember at each metric.  These will be combined with EVA data (time, duration, difficulty) and Sleep Logs to determine if the variations in and between crew members for each EVA were indicative of correlation between EVA and cardiovascular health decrement due to the high stress (physical and neurological) of long duration EVAs.

Further research would utilize in-situ recording devices during EVA, allowing for persistent data collection.  One could then derive EVA duration and cardiovascular workload within simulated environments such as MDRS and extend into real-world off-planet science.


UAV Transport and Deployment

The objective of this project was to flight test a specialized quad-rotor UAV developed at Florida Tech. This preliminary phase of development is focused on the transportation, assembly, and deployment in a field environment. While later phases will focus on the more specialized performance aspects of the UAV, this mission sought to evaluate challenges involved in transport, deployment, and flight testing.

The UAV was assembled, and its camera assembly tested. During initial power-on, motors 1 and 2 tested successfully, but motors 3 and 4 failed to turn. Computerized diagnostics reflected the presence of the failing motors, so it was determined that further testing should be postponed in favor of fault isolation.

Fault isolation continued through the duration of the mission and revealed mechanical and electrical quality control issues that were not apparent when the UAV was collapsed into transport configuration. Due to a thorough investigation by the Engineer and his documentation of discovered issues, the UAV’s design team will have an evaluated list of repairs and improvements to make before it returns with next year’s mission.


Dust Mitigation for Optical Mirrors

Many telescopes rely on the detection of light after being reflected by mirrors. Environmental dust on these mirrors can cause obstructions or distortions of captured imagery. Removing it without damaging the mirror is time consuming. In this project, we tested known cleaning methods for optical mirrors in a Mars-like environment. We brought two 135 mm mirrors and a mount which were set up outside the Hab for 4 Sols. This served as a baseline for the effects of weather on an open optical mount. The mirrors were brought inside and given several days to remain undisturbed. Dust was introduced to the mirrors manually and 4 cleaning methods were tested. These methods are listed from most to least effective:

  • Contact method (no cleaning solution): Optical brushes and cotton fiber swab
  • Contact method (non-alcoholic): Lens tissue with optical screen cleaner (altura)
  • Contact method (alcoholic): Cotton swabs and balls with rubbing alcohol
  • Non-contact method: Blower

Methods were evaluated for time, simplicity, and effectiveness. Overall, the optical mirror brush proved the simplest and most effective for dust mitigation on Mars.


Astrophotography of Celestial Bodies

Using the MDRS-14 telescope, we observed celestial bodies to investigate the effect of various filters. Calibration and stacking of images was performed with AstroImageJ. Procedures were implemented to account for weather and atmospheric distortion. These methods include choosing the best fits file for each filter prior to calibrating and stacking as well as repeating observations for celestial bodies. The Discovery object observations planned were scrapped due to weather.

Observations conducted at MDRS included:

  • M32
  • NGC 7318
  • NGC 1068
  • Little Dumbbell Nebula
  • Whirlpool Galaxy
  • M40
  • NGC 4258

Celestial bodies observed had two images generated: one composed of the Johnson-Cousins filter set (B, V, R) and the other composed of a generic filter set (Generic R, Generic V, Generic B). In addition to filters used, the noticeable differences in both images depended on the size and brightness of the object. An example is provided:

                Whirlpool Galaxy (Color Image and Generic Color Image)

Using a set of generic filters alters the appearance of a celestial body from its color as the filters are not a single color. Generic filters made images brighter as opposed to the Johnson-Cousin set, but generic images tend to skew the quality of the image. Future work will test a wider range of celestial bodies with distinct characteristics and a wider variety of filters.


Remediation of Mars Regolith

This investigation consisted of regolith samples inoculated by cyanobacteria to examine mineralogical changes through primary and auto-succession. The intent was to take biologically inert regolith and transform it into substrate for food production. Regolith characteristics of interest were clumping, wettability, and chemical and textural changes. Four samples of regolith were collected during EVA missions. The cyanobacteria used in this study was Anabaena cylindrica.

Daily measurements of cellular density were taken to measure population variations. Initial density was 1.78 x 105 cells/mL, an order of magnitude less than laboratory cellular density values. There was a significant change in algal color during transportation, which indicated a decrease in chlorophyll a and cell death. Low cell count and color change likely occurred due to lack of light and low temperature exposure. Cellular revitalization would have exceeded mission duration, so initial counts were taken and regolith samples were immediately inoculated. Three groups for each regolith sample were tested:

9 mL of regolith, 3 mL of media, and 1 mL of A. cylindrica

9 mL of regolith and 1 mL of A. cylindrica

9 mL of regolith (control)

After four days, no viable A. cylindrica were viewed in the samples. A. cylindrica did not survive the inoculation process, due to low initial cell count and continued exposure to temperatures below 15°C.

Upon completion of the Mars analog mission, follow up assessments will be made by using Electron Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) to identify changes in the regolith. We investigated the properties of the regolith as compared to controls to observe the effects of A. cylindrica. Though this study did not result in an observable growth or decay in cyanobacteria population, we were able to investigate the regolith’s clumping, texture, and dryness. Further analysis will be completed back at Florida Tech.


Chemical and Mineralogical Composition of the MDRS Site

This research used collected samples from the MDRS region to determine chemical and mineralogical compositions of regolith using X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) and X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analysis. Through small samples of regolith, we can infer the mineralogy, composition, and grade of the surrounding region.

The following steps have been completed for Crew 219’s mission:

  • Collected samples at 13 sites in the greater MDRS region and marked with GPS points.
  • Dried in an oven at 100 C0 and cleaned of impurities and plant roots. The samples were then sifted to two different sizes: 60m and 5m.
  • The samples were placed in special containers for shipment.
  • Run XRD and XRF analysis. This will take place in the geochemistry labs at Florida Tech and Ball State University.
  • Generation of a GIS map of the mineralogical composition of the site for future crews to use.


Protocols for the Discovery of Life on Mars

Crewed expeditions to Mars will need methods to identify and characterize extraterrestrial biology. Given the persistence of water on Mars, it is possible that life has or may exist on the surface. Our research focused on three categories of samples collected:

  • Known sources of microbial life (i.e. standing water, lichen, etc.)
  • Fossilized invertebrates (i.e. gryphea) as a proxy for extinct life
  • Random samples

Samples were photographed and collected for further study using fractal analysis, a possible method in the identification of extraterrestrial life. Previous work has demonstrated that fractals are an indicator of life on a microscopic and macroscopic scale. Using fractal patterns instead of chemical signatures allows us to identify non-standard biology on other planets. We took macroscopic and microscopic images of the types of samples listed above. Using FrAn, a Python program, we will analyze images for their fractal dimension or “D” value (Azua-Bustos and Vega-Martinez 2013).  This analysis will be performed upon return.

Future work will use images taken by our UAV and processed in FrAn. Using a UAV to identify areas with a greater “D” value can prioritize EVA sites as potential habitats, allowing astronauts to focus on the most promising locations.


Recommended Standard Operating Procedures and Inventories

Crew 219 tested procedures and checklists developed by Crew 205 (IESL), designed to improve crew efficacy. These procedures focused on improved performance for EVAs, tasks for Crew Engineers, HSOs, and team leaders. These task sheets were printed and laminated prior to rotation and will be handed to the assistant director upon completion of the mission. They will also be available digitally as a collection of appendices.


Recommended Update to Pre-Mission HSO Checklist Rationale

Crew 219’s HSO used his extensive safety and human-factors background to make a pointed re-evaluation of the HSO Pre-Mission Checklist, as included in the mission appendices.  The rationale behind these suggestions are based on efficiency and ergonomics of safety systems inspection and inventories, and bolster risk analysis and mitigation.