Mission Summary – November 24th


Nov 12–24, 2023

Roger Gilbertson – Commander
Donald Jacques – XO, Engineer
Liz Cole – HSO, Journalist
Guillaume Gégo – Scientist
Scott Beibin – Artist
Hugo Saugier – Documentary
Our diverse, creative and dedicated crew carried out a broad range of science, technology, and art projects including:

• Bacterial growth experiment helpful for creating closed-loop life support systems
• An extended range EVA using the MASH (Mobile Analog Space Habitat) vehicle
• Technology demonstrations collecting and studying some in situ resources
• LiDAR scanning of campus structures and local geological features
• Simulation and comparison of music as it would sound on Mars and Earth
• Metal casting and component fabrication
• Extensive videography of all aspects of habitat and EVA operations
• Daily media updates
• Daily monitoring of the environmental and life systems aboard the MASH
• Hosted two NY Times photojournalists for four nights who remained fully “in sim” with us

PROJECT 1: CO2 Fixation by Purple Bacteria for Space Food Production – Gégo

Purple bacteria Rhodospirillum rubrum were grown inside low-cost bag photobioreactors to assess the possibility of mass-production in altered gravity. This can provide CO2 absorption and production of important nutritional supplements for humans on Earth and Mars.

OD measurements between SOL 3 and 5. Growth is visible and follows known trends. Similar experiments will be performed at the University of Mons to confirm these results.

After nine days of steady growth it reached a stationary phase, indicating they had reached their peak. Samples were collected regularly, and are being returned to Belgium for analysis.

PROJECT 2: Performing Extended Extra-Vehicular Activities Using a Mobile Analog Space Habitat – Jacques

MASH EVA 11 excursion on Sol 11 lasted three-hours. We drove the vehicle south to Kissing Camel Ridge and parked. Liz and Guilliame exited and walked acquired drone footage of interesting cliff formations. Hugo and Don recorded the MASH at rest and driving.

An unexpected engine warning light led to a spacesuited excursion to successfully service the engine, while remaining fully in-sim.

PROJECT 3: Creating High Resolution Interactive Digital Assets of MDRS and Local Geological Sites Using 3D Scanning techniques – Beibin

I conducted four successful LiDAR scanning EVAs on geological features and MDRS campus buildings. With each excursion, various technical and procedural problems were identified, and solutions were implemented. This gave increasingly improved results with each EVA.


PROJECT 4: Producing Functional Artifacts Using Local Clay Resources and a 3D Extrusion Printer – Beibin

On EVA 4 we gathered clay near the Science Dome, but given time constraints and limited water resources, no further processing of the clay was performed. The samples will be taken to my lab in Philadelphia to process and create test 3D extrusions.

PROJECT 5: Using Local Gypsum Resources to Produce Molds for Metal Casting — Gilbertson

Since learning that previous missions had processed local gypsum into plaster, I used commercially prepared material in order to focus on casting. One mold pair produced four castings (one had structural problems and was melted and recast). The final pieces were trimmed and assembled into a tensegrity icosahedron using six elastic bands to suspended them without touching.

Left: Final cast parts and bands. Right: Assembled tensegrity icosahedron.

PROJECT 6: Mars Academy – A Documentary Film About ESA Scientist Claude Chipaux and the Past, Present and Future of Mars Life Sciences – Saugier

Filming an analog reality is quite a challenge when you’re making a documentary, but from the number of situations it generated on a daily basis, from EVAs to group discussions, brainstorming sessions and so on, I can say I’m bringing back some interesting footage in my suitcase. The other crew members were really available and willing to participate in the project, always keeping an eye on what they could bring to the table, which was really appreciated as a filmmaker. Even though I was busy almost every day, I also tried to help the others as much as I could.

As for the more technical aspects, I found it hard to handle all the shots by myself, but with good quality equipment and a few points learned in the field, it became somehow doable. The hardest things were the sound and shooting in the sun with the reflections from the helmet (but I found the suit in itself wasn’t that big of a deal). However, I always prefer challenge to comfort, so I was very excited to look for tricks to adapt my camera rig to the conditions. Being totally immersed in a mission, in addition to being a great human adventure, was the right approach, in my opinion, to get the most relevant footage of an MDRS analog mission.

Beyond these personal considerations, and as the grandson of one of the founders of the MELiSSA project, I was particularly fascinated by the works of Guillaume Gégo and Donald Jacques on life support systems. The way they think about how to supply not only space expeditions, but also multiple potential locations on Earth, has something that makes you dream of beautiful future explorations on the one hand, and stay connected to our immediate and urgent realities on the other. Not only did I find their works very relevant, despite their very different schools and ways of thinking, but they are exactly the kind of people I needed in the project to make a narrative connection between my grandfather’s story and analog missions.

Thanks to this stay here at MDRS, I’m happy to say that I somehow lived my grandfather’s dream: to experience Martian life, even if it was simulated, because I think that setting the context is enough to give you the first hint of what some real Martian sensations could be.

PROJECT 7: Simulating Acoustics of Mars for an Outdoor Martian Music Performance – Beibin

Using data published in Nature [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-04679-0] and from NASA [https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/participate/sounds] I collaborated with audio engineer John Knott to create a digital audio filter that accurately simulates how sound travels on Mars.

I conducted three Ptelepathetique performance. The first at night inside the Science Dome. Then a “sunrise” set north of the Observatory Dome, and then a “sunset” show east of the dome.

Each presented a musical audio comparison demonstrating the differences between sounds we would hear on Earth versus on Mars with its thinner, colder atmosphere.


Scott performs as listeners at the dome enclosure enjoy audio as we might hear it on Mars.

PROJECT 8: Documenting the MDRS Mission 286 Adventure in Words and Images – Cole

I recorded interviews with Guillaume and Scott regarding their experiments and creations. We arranged for two live conversations, one with Mars Society Belgium, then one with Journal des Enfants a children’s publication to inspire future astronauts and scientists. The MS Belgium event led to an interview with science publication Athena.

We provided visiting NY Times photojournalists with captions for their images, and very much enjoyed their five day / four night visit.

PROJECT 9: Evaluating Performance of Biological Life Support Components Installed within the Mobile Analog Space Habitat – Jacques

Upon arrival and docking at MDRS, the MASH mini-farm was populated by by two (2) operating PhotoBioreactors with Spirulina culture; approximately 55 blue tilapia, twelve (12) quail, 100 meal worms, 100 red wiggler worms, a garden, and marsh. By the end of the first week, I noted challenges in that I had added too many quail at once, and the consequences were the loss of 65 tilapia, and an overabundance of guano and odors. Despite this, each of the components functioned as designed, even though overloaded. I have much to correct as I look forward to growing the system, and improving its functionality and resilience.


Don services the MASH vehicle while remaining fully in-sim.

We enjoyed a challenging, diverse, multifaceted, and ultimately extremely memorable, rewarding and enriching experience at MDRS. On to Mars!

Mission Summary – November 15th

Crew 286 Sol 03 Summary Report 15-NOV-2023
Sol: 03
Summary Title: “Can You Hear Me Now? Over.”
Author’s name: Roger Gilbertson
Mission Status: Nominal
Sol Activity Summary: Early in the morning the science lab started the bacterial growth experiment, having the tools, bio samples, and the hydrogen gas produced on Sol 1, which serves as an electron source for the organism growth.
In the morning, text messages were exchanged with the New York Times photographers who have recently arrived on Mars from Earth, and who are expected to join us at our Habitat about 9 AM tomorrow.
After breakfast the entire team gathered to review videos of the radio training session which were recorded on Sol 0. Extensive notes were made, and additional discussion of communications protocols, astronaut and diver hand signals, were provided by team members having experience with proper, efficient radio techniques as used by military and police. We outlined possible scenarios for a variety of nominal (green), off-nominal (yellow or “issue”), and emergency (red or “problem") situations, and reviewed preferred vocabulary and grammar.
After lunch, the crew continued the radio practice by reading aloud simple scripts for various scenarios. We focused on maximizing clarity through proper technique, simplicity of messaging, and use of correct terminology. We then separated into groups, with CapCom inside, and the EVA Team by the observatory dome. Using live radios the teams improvised a variety of “issue” and “problem” scenarios, with crew members alternating positions as EVA team members, EVA leaders, CapCom, and Missions Support.
In the late afternoon, the first bacterial samples were taken, and more hydrogen was produced.
Look Ahead Plan: We plan to meet the visiting photographers in the morning of Sol 4, and welcome them at the rear airlock. After moving them in, we will provide orientation for their stay, including airlock and tunnel protocols, restroom use, then let them settle in. In the afternoon we propose an engineering EVA to 1) wash the exterior windows using a squeegee attached to a long pole in order to improve visibility, and 2) collect local clay samples, and 3) photograph a memorial image of a recently deceased Mars Society member.
We will suggest that the visitors photograph the EVA from inside the habitat and tunnels, and capture activities inside the Science Dome and RAM. On Sol 5, we plan to train them on EVA protocols in the morning, then take them on a short EVA to Marble Ritual in the afternoon.
Anomalies in work: none
Weather: nominal
Crew Physical Status: nominal
EVA: none today, request for EVA 4 submitted for tomorrow
Reports to be filed: Sol Summary, Journalist report, Photos, Operations report, Green Hab report, EVA 4 Request.
Support Requested: longest paint pole available to be attached to our window cleaning squeegee for EVA 4.

Mission Summary – November 10th

Commander David Mateus
Executive Officer and Astronomer Luis Diaz
Health and Safety Officer Andrea De La Torre
Crew Engineer Tomas Burroni
Green Hab Officer Andres Reina
Crew Journalist Marina Busqueras

The mission at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) was led by Commander David Mateus with a team of experts including Executive Officer and Astronomer Luis Díaz, Health and Safety Officer Andrea De La Torre, Crew Engineer Tomás Burroni, Green Hab Officer Andrés Reina, and Crew Journalist Marina Buqueras, embodied a significant stride in demonstrating global cooperation in space exploration. The crew, of Hispanic descent from various Latin American countries and Spain, aimed to enhance the inclusivity in space missions, motivating underrepresented communities to engage in STEM fields.
The projects tackled during the mission were diverse, ranging from engineering and safety protocols to sociological studies:
Early Fault Detection in Power Generator Systems: Addressing the critical need for uninterrupted power supply, the mission focused on preventive and predictive maintenance of the power generation system. A sensor kit was developed and installed on the station’s propane power generator to monitor vibrations and predict potential failures. Despite minor software issues, the successful deployment of the sensor kit during an EVA and subsequent data collection provided valuable insights into the generator’s performance, paving the way for the integration of such predictive maintenance systems in future missions.

Drone-Aided Martian Geolocation through Image Recognition: With the absence of a global navigation system on Mars, the mission explored the use of drone-captured images and image recognition algorithms to pinpoint the crew’s location relative to the base. The software, developed in Python with OpenCV, underwent successful trials using satellite imagery to test the algorithm’s robustness across various Martian terrains.

Drone Search and Rescue: The mission demonstrated using drones to search for crew members and navigate Martian terrain, ensuring safety and effective rescue operations. The trials confirmed that drones could provide alternative routes and communicate with the base in emergencies, possibly with both manual and automatic control modes.

Building materials for future Mars civilizations: The characteristics of the MDRS soil are suitable for creating construction materials using simple and readily available ingredients. The combination of simulated Martian dust, starch, and water has proven to produce a robust material with properties akin to conventional concrete. This innovative approach can simplify and reduce the cost of future space missions, paving the way for infrastructure construction on the red planet.

Methodology for the Characterization of the Social Implications of Confinement and Isolation: Drawing on the sociological and anthropological theories of Durkheim and Foucault, the mission studied the social dynamics within the crew. By identifying patterns of group cohesion and the sacred-profane dichotomy, the research provided a framework for understanding social structures in long-term space travel.

Techniques for Increasing the Signal-Noise Ratio in Processing Deep Space Images: Addressing the challenges in capturing deep space objects, the mission proposed methods to enhance the signal-to-noise ratio in astrophotography. The successful application of these techniques on a range of celestial bodies demonstrated their potential to improve deep-space imagery.

Generation of 3D Maps and Orthomosaics of Explored Canyons: Drones were used to optimize navigation during EVAs to create 3D models and maps of Martian canyons. The resulting data enhanced the safety and efficiency of future EVAs by providing detailed geographic information and identifying optimal access routes.

Each project represented a critical aspect of the mission, contributing to its overall success. The power system fault detection initiative established a foundation for future maintenance protocols, while the drone-aided geolocation and search and rescue operations enhanced the crew’s safety protocols. The sociological study provided insights into the potential organization of human groups in extraplanetary environments, which is essential for the long-term success of space missions. The advancements in astrophotography and 3D mapping served immediate operational needs and equipped future missions with refined methodologies and technologies.

In summary, the mission at MDRS served as a multifaceted endeavor that pushed the boundaries of current space exploration capabilities. It brought together technical innovation and social science to address the challenges of long-term space habitation. The projects undertaken during the mission have laid a solid foundation for future research and development in the field of astronautics, ensuring that subsequent missions to Mars and beyond are safer, more efficient, and inclusive.

Mid-mission Research Report – November 4th

Project 1: The sensor kit was successfully placed in the generator during an EVA. This allowed the engineer to evaluate their fine motor skills while wearing the full EVA suit. Since then, the sensors have been collecting data every night, which so far has been used mainly for debugging the data collection and analysis scripts.

Project 2: The script to recognize the drone image within the larger satellite image is currently in progress, and tests using real data have already started. The real data comes from two EVAs of the Candor Chasma. Having data from two EVAs provide different light conditions on the images to test the robustness of the algorithms. In the next few days the crew will collect more datasets from different areas in order to finish fine tuning the algorithm.

Project 3: A drone will be used for search and rescue, along with specific signs of communication (indications), tomorrow on an EVA in el Dorado Canyon

Project 4: The 3D mapping project using drones and the generation of digital pathways based on them is operating effectively and was successfully tested during EVA 3 and 4.

Project 5: nothing to report

Project 6: For the Mars construction materials project, We have been working with various soil samples collected from strategic locations in the area. Initially, rice-based starch was prepared within the ScienceDome and later combined with the three sieved soil samples to produce three concrete bricks with distinct properties. The three brick units were crafted through the amalgamation of 100 grams of soil and 6 grams of starch, followed by a 4-hour baking process to enhance their structural strength. Subsequently, strength tests will be conducted on the three Martian concrete pieces

Project 7: The Deep Space Observatory project is proving to be successful, capturing various objects daily and testing proposed processing methods to emulate different palettes that typically include the oxygen 3 band, which the observatory’s telescope doesn’t encompass. It aims to test processes that increase the signal-to-noise ratio. The solar observation project commenced today, experimenting with processing methods to extract the halo around solar flares from the chromosphere

Final Mission Summary – Crew 282 – Martian Biology III

Mars Desert Research Station Crew 282 – Martian Biology III – Final Report
Survey Locations for Crew 282. Map Data: ESRI via QGIS
Crew 282 – Martian Biology III, was the latest iteration of the Mars Society’s Martian Biology program, a special project conceived of by Dr. Shannon Rupert, the Society’s Senior Director of Analog Research.  From June 4-10, 2023,  the crew, consisting of botanist Paul Sokoloff, entomologist Jacopo Razzauti, and historian Jordan Bimm, sampled vascular plants, mosses, lichens, and insects at sites spanning three counties in the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) exploration area, while collecting information critical to our historical understanding of Martian analog research. Joined by MDRS Assistant Director Sergii Iakymov, this non-simulation crew surveyed sites at near the station (the Fremont River, Muddy Creek, and “Cowboy Corner), as well as locations further afield – at Salt Wash, and for the first time in the Martian Biology program,
the biomes of the Henry Mountains.
Botany – Paul Sokoloff
Desert paintbrush (Castilleja angustifolia) in the Henry Mountains.
Over the course of four collecting days, Crew 282 collected 126 vascular plant, moss, and lichen specimens from 12 localities around MDRS. These specimens voucher the biodiversity of the area; the flattened plants and preserved flora we have gathered provide physical proof that each species was found growing at a particular place and time. A complete set of these specimens will be deposited in the National Herbarium of Canada (CAN) at the Canadian Museum of Nature, and a duplicate set will be deposited at the Utah Valley University Herbarium.  Once these specimens are identified down to the species level (or, in certain cases, to subspecies or variety), these biodiversity data will be combined with the 22 new species records collected by Martian Biology II (Crew 243) as we draft a forthcoming floristic manuscript for the station.
As this year marked the Martian Biology program’s first foray into the Henry Mountains, we intensely botanized the three sites we stopped at in this range, documenting taxa in Juniper scrubland, Pine forests, and alpine scree. These biomes are markedly different from the deserts immediately surrounding MDRS. The gravelly verges on the approach to the Henrys were brightened by sprays of Boreal Sweetvetch (Hedysarum boreale) and Utah Penstemon (Penstemon utahensis). Lower elevations and sheltered sites were dominated by numerous tree species like Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa), Pinyon Pine (Pinus sp.), Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii), and Utah Serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis). The herbaceous understory of these elevated forests featured Alpine/Arctic taxa like Cinquefoils (Potentilla sp.), and Fairy Candelabra (Androsace septentrionalis) as well as numerous species of Sedge (Carex sp.) and Milkvetch (Astragalus sp.).
While previous Martian Biology crews have intensely collected the desert regions surrounding the station, Crew 282 was still able to document new taxa for the station.  These include Iodine Bush (Allenrolfea occidentalis) at Salt Wash and Muddy Creek, Nakedstem Sunray (Enceliopsis nudicaulis) at Salt Wash and “Hab Ridge” above MDRS, and several species of grass (Poaceae) and Milkvetch (Astragalus sp.) awaiting final identification in the lab.
Entomology – Jacopo Razzauti
Culiseta incidens from the Henry Mountains.
The ecological survey of mosquito species conducted near the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) involved two main methods of collection: direct collection of mosquitoes at all life stages and the deployment of a novel mosquito trap design.
In the direct collection method, mosquitoes at different life stages, including larvae, pupae, and adults, were collected on-site using nets and aspirators. These specimens were then taken back to the station, where they were prepared and cataloged for identification. In cases where larvae and pupae were collected, they were reared in the Science Dome at MDRS, and the adults were cataloged after they emerged.
The second method involved the deployment of a custom-made mosquito trap at various sites, specifically at Salt Wash and near Hanksville on the banks of the Fremont River. This trap was designed to attract gravid female mosquitoes using geosmin, a compound found in the peel of beetroot that serves as an oviposition attractant for various mosquito species. The trap does not require energy, CO2, or dry ice to attract mosquitoes, making it well-suited for trapping mosquitoes in the desert. Beetroot juice-containing traps were left at the sites for 2-3 days before collecting the water.
The combination of these two collection methods allowed for the cataloging of various mosquito species. The survey demonstrated that mosquitoes in the MDRS vicinity can adapt to a wide range of habitats, including the alpine forests of the Henry Mountains and the dry desert areas surrounding the research station.
Despite the challenging conditions in the desert, mosquitoes have evolved to exploit any available resources to survive in southeast Utah. Larvae were found in water tanks used for cattle, drying ponds, and slowly running streams. Interestingly, the majority of mosquitoes were collected near human settlements, indicating their anthropophilic nature in this region. This suggests that mosquitoes in the area rely on human presence for their blood meals, as well as access to sporadic water sources for development.
Astrobiology in Action – Jordan Bimm
Jordan studying lichens in the Science Dome.
I joined Crew 282 as a historian of science studying simulations of Martian Biology. “Astrobiology in Action” is a study conducted at MDRS to support my current research project Putting Mars in a Jar. This book-length monograph examines scientific attempts to mimic Mars on Earth, from tiny laboratory experiments in the 1950s to vast human-scaled analog sites, like MDRS and FMARS. I designed the study with the idea that, in addition to normal archival research, immersing myself in present-day astrobiology and analog research culture would greatly enhance my thinking and writing on the topic. To structure this approach, I decided to use a sociological method called participant observation in which a researcher joins the types of people they study (in my case biologists interested in space science) in performing their day-to-day research activities to understand how they perceive the world, their work, and its meaning. This study was conducted as a member of Crew 243 (“Martian Biology II”, June 2022) and continued now on Crew 282. It has provided me with practical working knowledge about remote field science and analog research as well as a chance to reflect on how scientists draw parallels between Earth and Mars in the context of biology and ecology. On both missions I worked with Paul Sokoloff to increase my understanding of lichen biology, one of his areas of expertise, at each of our field sites and in the Science Dome. This .directly informs my historical research because in the 1950s the scientific consensus about life on Mars was that it was likely to be lichens, which can tolerate low pressure and low temperature environments. This ongoing study has deepened my understanding of field ecology and analogs of Mars and its possible biology. I hope to continue this participant observation work on future Martian Biology missions as the program progresses.
Looking ahead, we see enormous potential in the Martian Biology program to continue documenting the biodiversity of the deserts surrounding MDRS and at sites of interest to the Mars Society across southeast Utah.  With each crew, we continue to document species that inform us about the state of the site as a Martian planetary analog and as a unique ecosystem on Earth.  We look forward to expanding this program to include taxonomic groups not yet surveyed at MDRS, and to apply the techniques and lessons learned at the station to other analog sites, such as the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station in Devon Island, Nunavut.

Mission Summary – May 26th

Crew 281 Mission Summary
Date: 05/26/2023
As the final MDRS Crew of the season, Team Pegasus (Crew 281) finished the season strong:
doing 13 EVAs, running the Ham Radio for 6 days including the first Morse code contact, kept
the GreenHab operational, conducted 4 geotechnical surveys of the area, 19 drone payload tests
and other experiments. The five person team successfully maintained the Hab and conducted
operations for all 12 sols of the mission. Here is the team:
● Megan Kane: Commander and GreenHab Officer
● Ritupriya (Ritu) Patil: Executive Officer
● Rachel Jones: Health Safety Officer
● Ana Pires: Crew Scientist
● KC Shasteen: Crew Engineer
The 12 Sol mission was packed with research, testing and operational tasks. The team did take
the time to enjoy the mission and time together with good food from the three cooks: KC, Megan
and Ritu.

Mars Desert Research Station Facilities:

The team utilized most of the facilities over the course of the mission.

The Science Dome was home to several experiments. In the grow tent, 75 Cacao (Chocolate) seeds of 2 varieties were sprouted. Started on Sol 1, by Sol 12 the cotyledons had begun to emerge. The workspace was used to test and prepare the equipment for the geotechnical surveys and examine the samples. Additionally, the team supported maintaining the algae experiment from Crew 261. Lastly, Team Pegasus recorded several STEM educational videos there.

In the GreenHab, the commander and crew engineer worked to keep the plants alive late into the increasing heat. Both having experience with greenhouses and vertical farms, they worked to decrease the rising temperatures and increase the humidity for the plants. This was met with limited success due to availability of materials. The watering test conducted by the commander went well.

The Repair and Maintenance (RAM) module was used to support many activities including drone flights, geotechnical device repair, and the radio setup. Additionally, the tools available were used in the Hab, Science Dome, GreenHab, and on EVA. Several days into the mission the RAM shopvac took up residence in the Hab due to the Hab Shopvac being inoperable.

In the Hab, a multitude of activities occurred. Downstairs the team prepared for EVAs and set up the Radio. The HSO is also a HAM radio operator (KO4HLC) she has made more than 50 contacts and completed the first known Morse Code contact from MDRS. She is currently working on updating the guidance for future radio operators. Upstairs was communal space. Here the team planned EVAs, filed reports and made delicious food.

Research updates

The team prepared multiple research projects to conduct over the course of the mission. See a summary of each in the sections below.

Geological-Geotechnical Surveys

The crew scientist proposed a series of geotechnical surveys to improve understanding of the geology near the Mars Desert Research Station and test the use of standard equipment in an analog environment. Over the course of 4 EVAs, 950 measurements were taken by the 2 geotechnical devices used to conduct the surveys. These measurements combined with samples taken for analysis and the aerial footage from the drone provides an extensive amount of information about the areas surveyed. There is a paper already under development related to the surveys during the mission.

Rock Sampling device test

The Pegasus Scoop was designed and built as a component for a larger robotic system. The crew scientist brought the scoop from Portugal for testing in a realistic environment. The scoop successfully performed its function. It will later be incorporated into a larger system.

Drone Payload testing

The drone brought by the executive officer was used for aerial footage and to conduct payload delivery tests while on EVA and to an EVA deploying from the Astronomy dome. Wind conditions limited the amount of testing completed. A total of 19 test flights were conducted with 17 being completed. The remaining 2 flights had to be aborted due to wind conditions mid-flight.

Passive watering tests


The passive watering system brought by the commander consisted of terracotta spikes with 500 mL plastic water bottles. On Sol 1 the 10 spikes were deployed into planters deep enough to utilize the spikes. The spikes were refilled when the bottles went dry, the spikes never went dry. This provided constant water flow directly to the plant’s roots. The remaining planters were assessed for their watering needs and watered as required. The total amount of watering done via both methods was collected.

Luxury crop sprouting test – Cacao

There were three cacao (chocolate) pods of different varieties of cacao brought to MDRS. They included 2 varieties of Trinitario (Red and Yellow) and Jaca a variant of Forastero. The seeds and seedlings require heat and humidity to sprout. On Sol 1 the three pods were opened, the seeds cleaned and set out for germination in trays on moist paper towels. On Sol 3 the seeds were rinsed and transferred to fresh paper towels. On Sol 5 the individual pots were prepared and the seeds showing signs of germination were planted. On Sol 10 multiple seeds showed signs they would be sprouting their cotyledons shortly. The first cotyledons were visible on Sol 12. Seeds were watered every day and the temperature and humidity monitored.

In Conclusion

The 12 Sol mission was a success from a research and outreach perspective. Team Pegasus looks forward to working together in the future and continuing the research started here.

Final Mission Summary – Transatlantic Mars Crew 261 – 12/05/2023

Final Mission Summary

Transatlantic Mars Crew 261

 May 12, 2023

JAMES BURK | Commander

ALINE DECADI | Executive Officer + Crew Astronomer

CÉCILE RENAUD | Greenhab Officer + Crew Biologist


ERIN KENNEDY | Crew Robotics Engineer


KRIS DAVIDSON | Crew Journalist



Crew 261 began planning our experiments in 2019 when we conducted a call for ideas from the worldwide Mars analog research community.  Commander James Burk and XO Aline Decadi worked in partnership with our crewmembers and researchers from across the world to select these experiments that would cover many scientific and technical disciplines.  Over the three years we spent planning the mission, the roster of experiments shifted but many have been planned for that entire duration.  Two crewmembers (Crew Roboticist Erin Kennedy and HSO Audrey Derobertmasure) originally started out as experiment PIs but were added to the crew due to other vacancies and circumstances that came up during the multi-year planning process.

We believe that our final suite of experiments can help towards solving some of the challenges faced by future Mars astronauts, while also advancing technology and research for long-term human presence on Mars. Some of the work that our crew is conducting during our mission will also directly support the overall Mars Desert Research Station program and the Mars Society’s worldwide analog research efforts.

For further details on all of our experiments including preliminary research results, please access our full End of Mission Research Report.


Here are our 16 experiments:

COSMOS (Cardiovascular Monitoring & Pharmacology on Mars) is a project aimed at optimizing and individualizing drug treatments in space. The team conducted a study called MAEVA (Mars Early Vascular Ageing monitoring) to assess the impact of extreme environments and confinement on early vascular aging markers. They used devices such as the pOpmetre for measuring pulse wave velocity (PWV) and blood pressure monitors to monitor cardiovascular parameters. By measuring PWV, they could evaluate arterial stiffness and assess cardiovascular health. The team also utilized a connected scale to analyze body composition and measure vascular age. The data collected will be analyzed by the INSERM team researchers.


The PASKAL (Pharmacology Space Kit – Analysis) project focuses on understanding the fate of drugs in humans in space. Since the knowledge of space pharmacology is limited, the team proposed using dried blood spot (DBS) and dried urine spot (DUS) sampling methods as an alternative. These methods involve placing drops of capillary blood or urine on blotting paper for analysis. The team conducted a preliminary study using caffeine as a model drug to evaluate the feasibility of DBS and DUS sampling in space. Six crew members collected blood and urine samples before and after caffeine intake to assess its elimination. The samples will be analyzed in a laboratory in France to study drug metabolism in space conditions.


The BIOSTIMULATION project, part of the MELiSSA Program at UMONS, aims to enhance plant germination and growth using Spirulina. Two experiments were conducted in this regard.

In the first experiment, the team focused on improving the germination and early growth of tomato seeds. The experiment took place in the Science Dome using a grown tent. Three types of soil were used: regular commercial gardening soil, soil collected from the Utah desert (Kissing Camel Ridge E), and Martian garden soil called Mojave Mars Simulant 1 (MMS-1). Each soil type was divided into different samples, each with distinct characteristics. Eight tomato seeds were planted in each soil sample and watered with various biostimulation solutions, including water-only as a negative control and compost solution as a positive control. The plants were allowed to grow for 10 days.

The second experiment focused on improving the health and growth of tomato plants. This experiment took place in the GreenHab of the MDRS (Mars Desert Research Station). The tomato plants were watered with the same biostimulation solutions as in the previous experiment. Biostimulation was initiated on SOL 3 and continued until SOL 9. Leaves from the plants were collected for further biochemical analysis.


The ALGACRAFT project, led by Crew Biologist Cécile Renaud and Crew Engineer Julien Villa-Massone, aims to test the growth of spirulina in a photobioreactor for future closed-loop life support systems. Renaud oversees the maintenance of the spirulina culture, including preparing the culture media, filling the photobioreactor, harvesting the spirulina, and measuring biomass production. Villa-Massone handles the software aspect, developing and adjusting the computer code to control the photobioreactor and collect sensor data.

The Algacraft Photobioreactor serves as a controllable electric load for the Smart Grid experiment due to its high power consumption. A harvest of spirulina was conducted on SOL 8, and another harvest is planned three weeks after the mission’s end to analyze the culture’s evolution and potential yield. This research contributes to understanding the viability of using spirulina as part of a sustainable life support system.


The ATMOSPHINDER project, led by Crew Roboticist Erin Kennedy, focuses on investigating seasonal jet eruptions on Mars using a wind-propelled experimental rover. The rover, designed as a prototype, was tested in the Mars analog environment at the Mars Desert Research Station. It featured two sails, environmental sensors, and a custom circuit board controlled by a microcontroller.

The testing revealed two key insights: the advantage of using tensegrity robots with compliant and rigid components in extreme environments like Mars, and the need for improved methods of human-robot interaction when astronauts are fully suited. During the mission, the rover achieved various milestones, including unassisted rolling propelled by the wind, sail trim control based on anemometer readings, and data logging of environmental sensor data mapped to GPS coordinates.

Geological features similar to those in the south polar region of Mars were observed and samples were collected. The results demonstrate the feasibility of using a wind-propelled rover for scientific exploration and indicate the potential for further development of a higher fidelity prototype. The project acknowledges the contributions of the entire crew, thanks to the inspiration from various sources, and expresses gratitude for the mentorship received during the mission.

Further analysis and design details will be included in our End of Mission Research Report, and additional resources such as graphs, maps, videos, photographs, code, and datasets can be accessed through provided links.  


ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATIONSAline Decadi, the Executive Officer and Crew Astronomer, conducted various astronomical activities using multiple observatories during the mission. The Musk Observatory, located onsite, was used for solar imaging and processing. Equipped with a Lunt 100 mm refracting telescope and hydrogen alpha filters, it allowed observations of the Sun’s dynamics. Aline learned to configure the telescope using a remote control and practiced different parameters for solar imaging.

Visual observations using the zoom eyepiece revealed phenomena such as granules, which represent the surface of the Sun, prominences along the edge, filaments, sunspots, and flares. Solar imaging was done using a camera, capturing frames for each of the chromosphere, prominences, and flat (imperfections and dust). The frames were processed using software like Autostakkert, Registax, and Photoshop to stack the images, enhance fine details, and merge them into a single image.

The outcomes included observing the Sun’s chromosphere with prominences, granules, sunspots, and filaments. The operation of the observatory, telescope, and computer was nominal, with no tracking errors observed. Some frames were underexposed or overexposed, which could be addressed by fine-tuning the gain and exposure settings. Aline expressed gratitude to Dr. Peter Detterline, the MDRS Observatory leader, for his advice and passion for astronomy. The Musk Observatory was regarded as a beautiful and essential facility for crew safety and survival on Mars.


SAFETY DRILLS were conducted during our mission to improve crewmember safety. One drill took place on Sol 4 when the crew encountered an anomaly during an EVA. A burning plastic smell was detected, causing the Executive Officer, Aline Decadi, to feel ill and lightheaded. A debriefing session was held, and several issues were identified, including technical, medical, and procedural aspects.

Outcomes and recommendations were derived from the drill. It was suggested to keep the air flow of a backpack on while removing the helmet in certain emergency cases, use hand signals for communication, carry water on individuals and have emergency water bottles in the rover, take mandatory water breaks during EVAs, ensure effective communication between rover drivers, conduct comm checks at the beginning of each traverse, and improve the EVA suits to support rapid removal of the helmet and backpack in emergencies. Other recommendations included carrying sugar packets for ill crew members, defining the threshold for breaking sim based on actual fainting, and conducting training sessions on emergency field procedures.

On Sol 5, XO Decadi conducted a training session with all crew members, focusing on exposing potential hazards in the field and training on the quick removal of helmets and backpacks in degraded situations.

Aline Decadi also shared a list of necessary improvements for the suits and backpacks with the Mars-Cal team, responsible for refurbishing the MDRS Space Suits. The improvements included integrating water and urine bags, adding a camera for continuous imaging, enhancing audio/micro features, incorporating a chest box with a mirror for better visibility, allowing quick access to batteries, conducting regular testing of electrical devices, and addressing latch difficulties on the red ring collar.

The Northern California chapter, who does incredible work year after year maintaining and upgrading our suits, acknowledged the list and committed to incorporating the recommended improvements into future upgrades.


The MDRS SMART GRID project, led by Crew Engineer Julien Villa-Massone, aimed to develop a resilient and self-balancing power control system for a Mars base. The system assigned priority levels to controllable electric loads based on safety, comfort, and non-time-critical factors. The Algacraft Bioreactor experiment was chosen as the controllable load, representing a food production farm. The load adjusted its power consumption based on battery state of charge and solar power availability, conserving energy and prioritizing more important loads. A monitoring system was implemented to track the power system’s status and operation.

In addition to the Smart Grid project, Julien Villa-Massone worked on the Station Resources and EVA Monitoring. A water monitor was set up, with manual measurements plotted on a chart to project water utilization throughout the mission. Power measurements were automated and displayed on a system schematic, providing insights into resource utilization. An EVA map showed crew members’ current and historical locations in near real-time, enhancing situational awareness during EVAs.

The outcomes of the resource monitor included better water resource management and a deeper understanding of the power system. The EVA map contributed to a safer environment during EVAs and improved situational awareness for the crew. During an emergency drill, the rescue team was able to reach a crew in need of assistance within 22 minutes thanks to the EVA map system.

Overall, these projects aimed to ensure the availability of sufficient energy at all times and enhance crew safety and resource management at the Mars Desert Research Station.


Kris Davidson, the JOURNALIST/ARTIST IN RESIDENCE for Crew 261, documented crew experiments, projects and activities for three purposes: 1. For documentation and PR/Marketing material for the Mars Society 2. For documentation and for individual crew members, and 3. For Davidson’s ongoing art project that looks at American storytelling across time, intended for book publication and creation of artwork.

In her capacity as the crew journalist, Davidson photographed and created videos of the crew going about their work, and she wrote daily editorials weaving in the narrative of each Sol. She provided support to the Commander in coordinating two media visits. Davidson also created, updated and maintained the crew website https://www.transatlanticmarscrew261.com.

At the conclusion of the mission, Davidson will edit and process the images, and the upload selects to a private, password protected website for The Mars Society and crew members. She will also update the website based on the final report and maintain it as a comprehensive record of the work performed on the mission.



The MarsVR project, initiated by Commander James Burk, aims to create a digital twin of the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) and its surrounding terrain for various applications such as crew training and public outreach. Burk was inspired by NASA’s use of Microsoft Hololens to plan science operations for the Curiosity rover and believed that more people should experience this technology. After nearly seven years of development, the MDRS digital twin experience is now amazingly detailed and available for free download on the Steam video game platform.

During MDRS Crew 261’s mission, the team demonstrated a new version of the MarsVR technology to the crew and discussed its potential for planning and supporting EVAs. Technical issues prevented the full implementation of the newer MarsComms shared experience with multiple crew members using it at once, but a demo was conducted using a single working Quest 2 headset and we were able to connect remotely with Jeff Rayner, who was in Seattle, while we were in the lower deck of the MDRS Hab.

In 2022, the MarsVR team partnered with the Mars Society’s Chicago chapter to begin to integrate EVALink, a low-cost radio device system, into MarsVR. This integration allows for the capture of EVA crewmember positional data in near-real time, enhancing the VR experience and enabling coordinated field science scenarios.

Looking ahead, the wider MarsVR team will continue working on the project, and individuals from Crew 261 will remain involved. The goal is to make the MarsVR technology available for future MDRS crews and showcase it as a successful volunteer-driven effort by the Mars Society. The vision of using virtual reality to explore Mars remains a priority, and Crew 261 is committed to realizing this vision.


EVALINK is an integrated system that utilizes low-cost Meshtastic devices to capture and transmit crewmember positional data in near real-time at analog research stations. Its goal is to improve science, situational awareness, and crew member safety.

During MDRS Crew 261’s mission, EVALink was tested and troubleshooted in collaboration with the remote EVALink and MarsVR teams in Chicago and Seattle, respectively. The team utilized two models of Meshtastic devices: the T-ECHO device, which can be worn by crewmembers, and the T-BEAM device, which can be integrated with larger components.

A total of 10 Meshtastic devices were deployed, including field units and a relay unit for data transmission to a cloud-based server. All devices were functional, and each EVA crewmember carried one or more devices on their person during EVAs.

The team successfully collected positional data from all EVAs and utilized a Discord-based radio relay to record EVA audio transmissions. These achievements were significant for the MDRS program and a source of pride for the EVALink, MarsVR teams, and Crew 261.

Audio recordings of the EVAs have been processed, and anecdotal visualizations of some EVAs on terrain maps have been received. The team plans to showcase the EVAs by integrating map locations, photos, audio, drone footage, and other videos to tell the story of an MDRS EVA in a new way.

In addition to EVALink, Crew 261 developed their own Garmin-based solution using commercial Garmin inReach devices with satellite-based positioning functionality. This solution enhances radio communications and situational awareness of EVA crew positions and statuses. It provides near-real-time visualization of crewmembers, allows the crew to send GPS waypoints as points of interest, and enables text messaging between the Hab and crewmembers.


RESEARCH FILE SERVER – The crew installed a Synology NAS file server with hybrid cloud capabilities during their mission. The server was intended for storing and sharing large amounts of computer files, including crew photography, drone footage, research data, and the Mars Society’s archive. The server allowed crews to reference past learnings and research objectives without relying on real-time internet access, simulating the communication delay experienced on Mars.

The recommended server model was the Synology NAS DiskStation® DS1522+ with Seagate IronWolf drives in a Raid 10 configuration. Due to time constraints, the server was temporarily set up on a table in the Science Dome instead of being installed permanently.

Although the server was successfully set up, the crew encountered power system issues that caused frequent power outages. As a result, the server required manual intervention to restart. Given the power problems, the crew decided not to put the server into operational use and instead focused on improving power monitoring.

File sharing activities and permanent storage of research were carried out using cloud-based services like Google Drive and Google Photos instead of the onsite server. The plan is to pack up the server at the end of the mission and prepare it for the next field season, hoping to have power system upgrades to improve reliability.


COPING STRATEGIES SURVEY – Andrees Kaoosar from the University of Central Florida conducted a study on crewmember behavior in extreme environments. The study involved completing self-assessment scales to evaluate changes in mood, anxiety, and social behavior during the mission. Additionally, a daily journal entry was proposed to help crew members become aware of their feelings, improve communication, and reflect on effective coping strategies.

The participating crew members found the opportunity to journal daily beneficial. The consistent and brief questions allowed for easy integration into their busy schedules. Many crew members reported that the survey had a positive impact on their overall experience during the mission, helping them effectively manage their emotions and interactions with others.

The study’s results will provide valuable insights into individual behavioral reactions and their adaptation within a mission-oriented team. This knowledge can contribute to optimizing team composition, providing strategies for emotional control, and fostering efficient communication among team members.



The Adapa 360 team, a partner on the Mars Society’s MarsVR project, is very experienced with building VR-enabled cameras and mounting them to custom-built drones, and have been doing that for over a decade, since before commercial products were available with similar capabilities.

The Adapa team created two high-performance drones with VR-enabled 8K-resolution 360 cameras that were intended for our mission.  Crew Engineer Julien Villa-Massone traveled to Spain to meet with the team and test flying the drones.  During their meeting, it was determined that we would take the newer and smaller drone, even though it was not a mature platform and did not have adequate testing prior to the mission.

Due to a power spike issue between the camera and the drone, we were not able to get the camera working during a drone flight, so unfortunately this experiment was a failure.


The SCOUT, SAMPLE, and MAP (SSAM) ROVER, developed by Nexus Aurora, is a prototype designed for high-fidelity mapping and exploration of mission areas. Nexus Aurora is a community-based project incubator focused on open-source solutions for space settlement.

The Nexus Aurora team collaborated with Crew 261 in the early stages of mission planning. Initially, there were two experiment ideas selected with Nexus Aurora as the principal investigators. The first idea involved autonomous farming and creating a scalable system to maintain and monitor crops. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and mission delays, this experiment was discontinued.

The second experiment, which evolved into the Scout Platform, initially aimed to develop a sample collection solution using multiple small rovers and a base station. However, due to implementation challenges, the team pivoted to a Sojourner-sized rover with an open hardware platform. The goal is to create a commercially available Mars rover that can be customized for various mission objectives.

Unfortunately, the Scout rover did not arrive at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in time for Crew 261’s mission. The Nexus Aurora team faced logistical challenges in transporting the rover to Utah. The rover is currently awaiting delivery at a facility in Salt Lake City.

The plan is to work with the upcoming crew, the University Rover Challenge staff, and the MDRS mission support team to uncrate and set up the rover for remote testing at MDRS. The goal is to allow the Nexus Aurora team to perform testing before the rover is returned to them.

Although Crew 261 was unable to test the Scout rover during their mission, they express gratitude for the support and dedication of the Nexus Aurora team. They look forward to collaborating on future projects with Nexus Aurora.


The MARSCOIN project, led by Lennart Lopin, aims to create a digital currency specifically for Mars. Based on Litecoin and derived from Bitcoin, Marscoin has been maintained since 2014 with no significant issues and is listed on various crypto exchanges.

The Marscoin development team has built several software products on top of its stable blockchain, including the Martian Republic. This eGovernment application enables identity services, direct voting, and data storage on the blockchain. Commander Burk and Crew 261 provided requirements for the Martian Republic software, incorporating it into our mission planning.

The objective of our mission was to be the first MDRS crew to utilize blockchain technology for inventory tracking and e-voting. We intended to set up a Marscoin node on the File Server with cloud-based redundancy. However, due to power issues, we opted for an initial demo using a cloud instance of the Martian Republic application.

During our mission, we conducted inventories of HSO supplies and food. The results were successfully saved into the Marscoin blockchain using the Martian Republic application, making us the first crew on Mars to utilize blockchain for routine functions such as inventory management.



In conclusion, Transatlantic Mars Crew 261 conducted a wide range of experiments and projects aimed at advancing research and technology for future Mars missions. Despite encountering challenges and limitations, the crew made significant progress in various scientific fields and contributed valuable data to the Mars Society and the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) program.

The crew successfully conducted experiments such as COSMOS and PASKAL, which focused on cardiovascular monitoring and pharmacology in space. These studies provided valuable insights into the impact of extreme environments on the human body and drug metabolism in space conditions. The BIOSTIMULATION project aimed to enhance plant growth using Spirulina, while the ALGACRAFT project explored the growth of Spirulina in a photobioreactor for potential use in closed-loop life support systems.

The crew also conducted experiments related to astronomy, safety drills, power control systems, coping strategies in extreme environments, and the integration of virtual reality technologies. The outcomes of these experiments and projects included improved understanding of the Sun’s dynamics, enhanced crew safety protocols, advancements in power control systems, and insights into behavioral reactions in extreme environments.

Despite some setbacks, such as the delayed arrival of the SCOUT ROVER and technical issues with the ADAPA 360 drone, the crew remained committed to their mission objectives and expressed gratitude to their partners and collaborators for their support.

The achievements of Crew 261 contribute to the collective knowledge and progress in human space exploration, particularly in the context of future Mars missions. The valuable data and experiences gained during this mission will inform future research and mission planning, and the crew looks forward to continued collaboration and involvement in future projects.

Mission Summary – April 28th

Crew 280 Mission Summary

The Crew

The Hypatia I crew is an interdisciplinary and multigenerational team composed of 9 women selected to participate in an analog mission at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) between 16-29 April, 2023. Their names and backgrounds are presented below.

  • Mariona Badenas-Agustí (Crew Commander & Crew Astronomer): Degree in Astrophysics from Yale University, a master’s degree in Astrophysics, Cosmology, and High Energy Physics from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and a Ph.D candidate in Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She spends much of her free time giving educational lectures on the universe and space exploration.

  • Carla Conejo González (Crew Executive Officer & Crew Biologist): Degree in Human Biology by the Pompeu Fabra University, a master’s degree in Pharmaceutical and Biotechnological Industry by the same university, and a postgraduate’s degree in Science Communication by the University of Vic. Cofounder of the science-travel app Polaris. Former head of Science Programs at the Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera.

  • Dr. Ariadna Farrés Basiana (Crew Scientist & Health and Safety Officer): Specialist in astrodynamics, celestial mechanics and solar sails at the Goddard Space Flight Center of NASA (USA). She has participated in the launch of the James Webb telescope. She holds a PhD in mathematics from the University of Barcelona (Spain).

  • Dr. Neus Sabaté (Mission Specialist): ICREA researcher at the Barcelona Institute of Microelectronics (IMB-CNM-CSIC). Co-founder of Fuelium, a spin-off company dedicated to the development of sustainable paper batteries for disposable portable devices. Her research has been recognized by institutions such as the European Research Council and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Currently, she is working on the development of rapid and affordable molecular devices for the global detection of infectious diseases.

  • Dr. Laia Ribas (GreenHab Officer): Leader of the Repro-Immune Team research group at the Institute of Marine Sciences of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), where she investigates interactions between the reproduction and immune system of fish. She is part of the Nüwa team, an award-winning project for the design of a city for 1M inhabitants on Mars. She has a PhD in biology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

  • Cesca Cufí Prat (Crew Engineer): Aerospace engineer at Airbus Defence & Space and specialist in orbital control systems. Her work focuses on the control of high-precision instruments for Earth observation. Passionate about mountaineering, with a good command of risk management and survival techniques in extreme environments.

  • Núria Jar (Crew Journalist): Science and health journalist with 15 years of experience in some of the most important media outlets in Catalonia and Spain, such as Catalunya Ràdio, TV3, La Vanguardia, Rac1, El País, Muy Interesante, and Revista 5W. She is the author of the podcast audio series “Human Condition” and “The Female Scientists of COVID”.

  • Anna Bach (Back-up Crew Scientist & Artist in Residence): Data analyst, mathematician, and computer scientist. In addition, she is the creator and illustrator of comic strips on her profile Annet Planet, where she has more than 40,000 followers.

  • Helena Arias (Back-up Crew Engineer): Undergraduate student majoring in mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, and physics at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and the National University of Distance Education. She is also an engineering intern at the Alba Synchrotron as well as an Olympic shooting elite athlete.

Some Interesting Facts

  • Some of the songs played through the radios for the astronauts 5-minutes waiting to go outside for an extravehicular activity (EVA) in the airlock: Rocket Man (Elton John), Starman (David Bowie) Flowers (Miley Cyrus), Cold Heart (Elton John & Dua Lipa), Surfin’ USA ( Beach Boys), Desaparecido (Manu Chao), No hi ha camí (Sopa de Cabra), Ladies Night (Kool & The Gang), My Girl (Dafunkis).

  • Three showers per person in 12 SOLs, but daily personal hygiene.

  • Seven homemade breads and 25 moka express pots done by the end of SOL 12.

  • Favorite dehydrated food: Cheesy Broccoli Soup Mix from Augason Farms.

  • An average of 6 hours of sleep every day.

  • 1.19 gallons (4.5 liters) of pee recollected from the crew members for the Martian batteries experiments.

  • Two star nights in the Musk Telescope & three dancing party nights, two of them in the lower deck.

  • Two piñata’s: one astronaut and one shiny star (SOL 5 & SOL 11).

  • Two small mice were set free from a mouse trap that had been set in the GreenHab (SOL 8 & SOL 11).

  • Northern Lights were seen from the Mars Research Desert Station (MDRS) in the night sky (SOL 7).

  • The Crew Commander completed another orbit around the Earth, but from Mars (SOL 11).


Daily Life at the MDRS

The Hypatia I crew tracked their daily SOL on Mars, so there is much information about their water consumption, the GreenHab harvest and the numbers of extravehicular activities (EVA).

Operations summary

The Mission Specialist Neus Sabaté and the Crew Engineer Cesca Cufí were in charge of the Operations Reports. One of the data that surprises the most is the water consumption, far from the water consumption on Earth.

Evolution of water consumption

During the first 3 SOLs water tank was being filled partially by Mission Support. This made impossible to calculate water consumption. Looking at the water consumption rate from SOL 4 to SOL 11, we have extrapolated the water consumption of SOL 1-3.

Water Consumption [gallons]

Initial Water

166 gal (Estimated 524 gal)

Water Use

280 gal

Average daily consumption per person

3.55 gal

Green-hab Summary

The GreenHab Officer Laia Ribas was responsible for watering all the plants three times per day. She took care of them to provide fresh vegetables for the crew. The total harvest is summarized below:


Weight (g)









Lemon Balm




Red cherry tomatoes


Yellow cherry tomatoes






Jazz mix








Red onions


Salad mix sprouts


Daily temperatures

SOL 11 was the hottest day during the mission, with the temperature reaching 98.6 degrees Fahrenhet (37 degrees Celsius).

Future prospects

As the Hypatia I crew concludes its mission to the MDRS, the Hypatia Mars Association successfully achieves one of its main goals: conducting high-quality space-related research in a Martian simulated environment as an instrument for promoting science vocations among the young. Our hopes are that the Hypatia I team becomes the first of many crews to travel to “Mars” to inspire future generations of women in STEM. If given the opportunity, we hope to be back to the MDRS in 2025, thus passing the torch to a brand-new Hypatia II crew.


The Hypatia I mission is possible with the financial support of the following institutions and private companies:

Mission Summary – April 14th

During these two weeks, Crew 279 ARES has continuously worked on their research. Our experiments cover a large range of topics, and we hope to get good results out of our efforts. We still need to analyze all the data post-mission to conclude our research but here is a brief overview of how our experiments went during our rotation.

“We are what we eat” – Antoine de Barquin

The goal of Antoine’s experiment is to understand the impact of specific nutrition and confinement on the intestinal flora of astronauts. To conduct this study, a sample of each crew member was taken before departure to perform an analysis of intestinal bacteria by targeted metagenomics. This analysis is performed at the LIMS MBnext laboratory which collaborates with our crew for this experiment. The crew will then give “post-mission” samples. This way, Antoine will be able to compare and analyze how freeze-dried food affected everyone’s microbiota. Every day, Antoine monitored everything the crew ate, type of food, quantities, time of the day etc. He started analyzing the data during the mission and will conclude the analysis after the return on Earth. He also wondered how working the soil would affect the two crew members who worked the most in the GreenHab. People who garden have higher levels of Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacteria found in the soil that stimulates production of serotonin and functions as an antidepressant. He thought it would be interesting to see if our two gardeners have higher levels of it when he analyzes their samples upon our return to Earth.CC_nidUA0-eRmbptHIbBxKvwT_YljqpagahgY5y6OLqkBDTa_1q2q2qUZZYD8dX8Lgg6n7XN0AgwdOFD-3dpBWpXxeJNV_qorskDRTHqgA3ON2t4vrxyyMjwqDEUkYmoNipDd_lyOv1hiwSYvSq7Vw

Our Commander led his team proudly, trying to please everyone and keeping a good overview of the broad range of work we had to do.

“I will survive” – Agnes Dekeyser

Agnes’ experiment studied “extremophiles”. These are microorganisms that live in conditions that are lethal to most other microorganisms. They live on the seabed, in the Earth’s crust, in glaciers, and in many other extreme environments. During the mission on the planet Mars, our Crew Executive Officer studied the viability of two strains of extremophiles after exposure to MDRS environmental conditions : Deinococcus Radiodurans and Cupriavidus Metallidurans. Each strain was exposed outside for 8 days in anaerobic condition. Their viability will be compared to their unexposed analogues based on CFUs (Colony-Forming-Units) analysis. She also worked closely with Augustin and Thomas to find a place with less radiation around the base where her bacteria could survive better. Agnes spent her first days culturing her extremophiles and used one of her EVA’s to take them to North Ridge, a ridge with a higher altitude than the station’s. She also placed their analog inside the station. She then went back up the ridge every two days to check them. She also used an Arduino to calculate parameters such as temperature, pressure and altitude at North Ridge. On top of this experiment, she launched a weather balloon on top of North Ridge with an Arduino as well to test if this could be a useful way to calculate parameters if bacteria were to be put inside of the balloon for a future experiment. Sadly, the balloon did not last long as it did not have enough helium. SOL 11 was the day she collected her cultures and will proceed to analyze the difference in viability.MADqxHa-eyK2bP6UmdGTjxlS1O6loXWVf6ZpPbQL-ROqXlc0JRyEA07Pt6CHh8eLUWjAu8xXpjvK7fof5CCPEWOXd10N3dzs1tyBJGgfjegE3TQ0TUGcBijQ-hE8P5ZxXP2qFsmUTZ5tQT7Z1_boyQ

As CEO, she helped the Commander organize and coordinate daily team tasks and supported everyone before, during and after the simulation.

“Space Oddity” – Ioana Dimitrova

Long term spaceflight separates astronauts from society and their loved ones for months and months. It also keeps them confined without leaving them a possibility to feel free and do whatever they want. This can lead to mental health problems, stress, tensions within the team and can put the mission at risk. Music could be a cheap, easily transportable, and effective solution to this problem. Choosing your personal music to help you relax could have multiple benefits. It could help you transport yourself elsewhere, work through your emotions and stimulate your senses. Ioana tested if this theory is true by measuring cardiac parameters during relaxing times with and without music chosen by the crew. The technology used for the measurements is KINO by HeartKinetics. It’s an app that you put on your chest and that analyzes your heart variability. Added to that, a blood pressure monitor was used to take blood pressure measurements. Before the measurements, she also asked the crew to complete an anonymous Self Perceived Stress Test to get some trends on how the team felt throughout the mission and to correlate it with days they listen to music.s0JNWDPa8SeneDirLVmiqrOMXKSRowi-k_mA-fu6Tk6Usow8H2BJwfuHdWFPy0Gh1j1txMIK8hYGuKPzJmfNneDulj7la7spHpbAWNpid4Aee7oHbgtiUKDmJG30pMoFnt6hFIlvYjkzrh4zaqCJaQ

Our Crew Engineer has also kept busy by fixing two suits, a headset and managing water and power consumption.

“Radiation: how attacked are we?” – Thomas Stinglhamber

Every day, everywhere, different types of radiation attack us. On Mars, radiation will be way more brutal and dangerous than on Earth due to the difference of the atmosphere. It is thus very important to be able to have easy ways to measure the dosage of this radiation. 8yb5Sa9ZWd2DxbZsaRPm5ShFbPh0EBTtOO6UplUCEjPCxfSDO9_kW2zEjHtEggm0VKl-NI45HlLact6-8JCXLXWvdgJKg5n94USB32urviIINmB0Mm89oHx3Nlb4WeNJrGG33AHzcPjLGA6osScvQw

Thanks to BeSure’s technology, Thomas installed dosimeters both inside and outside the station to check how radiation proof the station is. He also gave the crewmates an individual dosimeter that they always wore to measure their personal dosage. He will collect all their data at the end of the simulation and will be able to tell us how much radiation we have been exposed to. Complementary to this, Thomas used a Gamma detector to map out the activity of the soil around the station by searching for radioactive isotopes near the station. He covered the whole region around the MDRS and combined his grid with Augustin’s 3D maps. He also helped Agnes determine if the hiding places Augustin found for her bacteria were protected from radioactive activity.

As Crew Scientist, he helps plan EVA’s, their tasks, timings, and reports.

“Confinement FOMO” – Aglaé Sacré

FOMO, “Fear of missing out”, can appear when we are cut out of society and social media. The Mars simulation completely cuts the crew off the network and the outer world, which makes it the best place to study how the lack of social media affects the mental condition of not wanting to miss out on something. The crew answered some anonymous questionnaires before leaving and were asked to check their social media usage data on their phone to realize how much time they were spending online daily. At the half of our stay, different anonymous questionnaires were completed where we assess how we feel without social media and if we feel like we’re missing out on something. We will have one more to fill in after the end of the simulation. This way Aglaé can compare how the crew used to use social media, how they predicted they would live without it and how they lived without it. Early data shows that pre-mission fears evolve as the days go by.

As Crew Journalist, she wrote the daily summaries and kept the world notified on what work we do every day. She also took photos and videos to document and present after our mission

“High Speed Rotor Manufacturing” – Gwenael le Bussy

The Martian atmosphere is a hundred times less dense than the one on Earth. This means that every flying object we would like to use for observation, scouting or measurements needs to be adapted to the physics of that new environment. Like the ones on Ingenuity, the rotor blades must have a special shape. Naturally, every piece of equipment may encounter a problem and need to be repaired or replaced. The problem cannot be predicted precisely in advance, which means that we need an adaptable solution. Gwenael studied how he can use 3D printing to model (with SolidWorks with NACA profile) and print rotor blades for the Martian atmosphere. Afterwards, he tested them with a high-speed motor and measured their thrust with a scale. He tested the 3D printer by doing some test prints for the oven knob. We tried to see if we could make one that works better than the ones currently used.zGCqdfbQrpwtfgCytbSjBG64WFXAjIVVn__kX7cn5ohgjlygKV8xFz7uuLP1XNRgXUZEinTNUndixCTTOSGAJ6HjPKgKZfm7fZMZpZ11AYGnODPWRtLqxcZ3nHIaLwH-WZVncx2sLfaYpO430VS9lg

Parallel to his aerodynamics work, our Crew Astronomer observed the Sun with the solar observatory and took some pictures. He also used the New Mexico observatory remotely to observe M63 and M51 and spent some time processing them.

“Hide and seek during radiation storms” – Augustin Tribolet

As we mentioned earlier, radiation is an important factor in a Mars mission. If we are to live there or try to make bacteria or plants survive, we must find the most protected areas on the surface. An easy way to be able to find those places could be to use a drone to map out the area and to find these places. Augustin used a drone to scan the surface and generate a 3D model by photogrammetry. This digital technique allows us to build the 3D model from photographic images. He worked closely with Agnes who studied extremophiles to analyze how effective his hiding places are but also with Thomas to map out his radiation with the 3D models. Augustin completed numerous EVA’s during which he mapped out the station, the Special Region, Marble’s Rituals, the North Ridge, Candor Chasma, Kissing Camel Ridge… When he was not on EVA, he exported the images and combined them to create 3D interactive maps. When he would spot a possible protected place on his map, he would send a team out on an EVA, that had never been to that place, to see if they could find it based only on his maps and to check out if his measurements were correct. vNTtAYINzsxFArYLEtDlUI4oSSdViurktE8EoBL9zIAn35JUsdd2tTL7G_Pb7orBmVetAI-NbddkCaNekN0ctq4sgert1XPyq0s1CF3ap-3tXjyt9hyJ4HLF1ZY3WmsgbGSye-SmrxKFnjYoMBVaSg

As GreenHab Officer, he took care of our garden, rooting for it even during the warmer days. He collected the vegetables and different herbs that he dried to make spices for our team as well as for the next teams.

“Mars well-being” – Ttele Hiriart

Confinement, isolation, extreme conditions… All these factors affect mental health and team dynamics. How is the well-being of the crew members evolving? How does the team work together? How do the dynamics evolve? Which teamwork tools work? During the mission, Ttele kept a diary of her observations of the team and different crewmates. She will compare these observations with the ones made by other mission simulations in Antarctica for example. After analysis, she will present her observations of the ups and downs of the mission, how the team interacted and different lessons the team has learned or must work on for future missions. During the day, she observed how effectively every crewmember worked on their experiment, how their motivation changed and how they handled difficult decisions, tensions. Some examples included: decisions made during EVA’s when plans had to change due to lack of time, technical difficulties in the station, decision taking when not everyone had the same opinion, how the team reacted when somebody was down, the effect of the fatigue… She also introduced some teamwork exercises at the end of day to work on team cohesion. All this is documented in her diary, and she took notes of her observations continuously. She will now have the tedious task to read everything she wrote and present her observations and some ideas for improvement.A5B_1xNxG6CcI8q64JBTVFHr5AOsEIHInNlv6IQedvWwmLg7Wa_S1iWvfsjFwS8snTbXMG5m-BT4DzhYH9j0sxaLZmmfw4gOHTmB8Cf-WRHUfI1d2Ld5bueYXPqokLXfwz8NL9Xgu8h77PL-BsiOOw

As Health and Safety Officer, she made sure everyone was feeling good and healthy and took care of us when we were feeling out of shape.

Final mission report.docx

Final Mission Summary – Crew 275

Crew 275 – Mission Summary

Crew 275 – ISAE-Supaero (France)

Crew Commander: Jeremy Rabineau
Executive Officer / Crew Engineer: Quentin Royer
Crew Journalist: Marie Delaroche
Health & Safety Officer: Corentin Senaux
Crew Botanist: Adrien Tison
Crew Scientist: Alice Chapiron
Crew Astronomer: Alexandre Vinas


Crew 275’s rotation at MDRS marks the 10th time that students from ISAE-Supaero perform research in this station. We are very proud of the progress made between Crew 151, when two Supaero students joined an existing crew, and today: a fully student-run crew, conducting research over the course of a month-long mission at MDRS. This year, our aim was to focus on large-scale human factors experiments, ambitious technological demonstrations, and measurement campaigns in both atmospheric physics and geology.

It’s amazing how quickly we get used to extraordinary things. Upon arriving at the station a month ago, we were facing our dream, facing what we had worked so hard to attain, and for that reason we felt invincible. Over the past weeks, we have dodged storms, lived under Mars’ atmosphere, played by his rules, encountered obstacles, and sometimes unfavorable odds. It is difficult now to look back and see what we have accomplished: it all still feels part of our day to day, of routine operations, and the tiny steps along the way don’t yet add up to the monumental leap we have taken.


Artificial Intelligence for space exploration

AI4U is an artificial intelligence tool designed by the French space agency to assist astronauts in their tasks. AI4U has three functionalities: A « relax » mode, an « emergency » mode, and a mode to retrieve environmental data from all of the modules in the station (temperature, pressure, humidity, luminosity, etc.). The « relax » mode worked well, and thanks to the crew taking turns testing it, we managed to define interesting new tracks for improvement. The emergency mode was tested twice. During the first test, we had difficulties because the AI stopped the emergency protocol in the middle of the simulation, but we managed to finish the protocol successfully after a second iteration.

A second experiment with CNES involved artificial intelligence helping astronauts: EchoFinder. EchoFinder is an experiment conducted in collaboration with CNES and MEDES, consisting in testing a protocol for astronauts to perform ultrasounds without any prior training. This experiment has already been conducted in the past by Supaero crews. This year, the aim was to test a new Augmented Reality interface coupled with an organ detection AI. We have successfully completed the 12 planned sessions, each performed in pairs: the two crewmembers take turns in performing the ultrasound and being subject of the experiment. One injured crewmember did not take part in the experiment during the last week of the mission, and the other crewmembers took turns filling in for her. We have had several issues with this experiment one week into our rotation, mainly because our hardware did not support the EchoFinder software very well. With the help of the researchers from CNES, our crew engineer managed to transfer the software to a more powerful device, which has made the last 8 sessions much easier to perform. After our 4-week mission, we have succeeded in providing the researchers with a complete set of data, consisting in detailed reports of each ultrasound session as well as videos of every organ detected for each crewmember. The researchers at CNES will be able to evaluate the accuracy of their AI and how the AR interface can be improved.


Human factors: KTHitecture

Studying the impact of the architecture of an interplanetary space station on the global psychology of the astronauts is critical to optimize their performance.

For this study, we deployed environmental monitoring sensors throughout the station. Each sensor provided us with information about pressure, temperature, humidity, and luminance.

We also set up an Indoor Positioning System to track each crewmember within the MDRS. We connected 10 “anchors” spread around the MDRS, consisting in electronic boards remaining at the same location. Each crewmember wore a “tag”, which logged its distance to the anchors every 10 seconds.

Each crewmember also wore a smartwatch during the night, in order to monitor their sleep activity. A chestband was also worn during the day to measure ECG, heart rate, and accelerometry.

All 3 aforementioned datasets will be used to correlate the stress level of the astronauts to their location and the environmental conditions.

To measure the performance of each crewmember in the different modules, given different environmental parameters and levels of privacy, they all took psychometric tests throughout the mission.

Finally, we used 3D maps of the inter-crewmembers interactions, generated by questionnaires. This enabled us to follow the current team setup, the optimal team setup, the effectiveness of communications, the team atmosphere and performance, etc. We observed that the evolution was correlated to internal issues faced and friendships formed during the mission.


Atmospheric instruments measurements campaign

 This year’s atmospheric measurement campaign for CNRS researchers was a success. Dealing with rough and unpredictable weather, we had to solve many problems on the spot and adapt to the circumstances. We mainly measured the electric field (with the field mill and MegaAres), the particle concentration in the air (with the LOAC and PurpleAir) and the wind speed (with our weather station), in order to correlate these different parameters. We had difficulties setting up the instruments at the beginning of the simulation because of the snowy or windy weather, and because of a conductivity problem on the MegaAres antenna. We started the measurements at the end of the second week, although we had to perform regular maintenance EVAs to retrieve and reinstall certain sensitive instruments, given the variations in atmospheric conditions. We managed to measure the Canegie curve (daily variation of the Earth’s electric field, measurable in undisrupted and clear conditions which can be observed in the Utah desert), which is usually very difficult to obtain.





The aim of this project was to measure different characteristics of pre-identified asteroids. Unfortunately, as both of the robotic observatories were non-nominal during the entire simulation, or non-operational because of the weather, our crew astronomer could only capture a single picture of an asteroid on February 17th, thus the research project on asteroid lightcurves could not be completed. However, he will continue the project after the simulation, as he still has all of his credits on Skynet. As he couldn’t complete the astronomy project, he used the Musk solar observatory to take pictures of the sun.


Geology: The MetMet instrument

The MetMet is a geological instrument measuring both the magnetic susceptibility and the conductivity of a rock sample. It is designed to help find meteorites, but it has been proven to ease the classification of the different types of rocks present in a given area. The objective of this experiment was to see if the MetMet was a useful instrument to help collect geological samples during EVAs or to take measurements onsite for rocks that are too large to be collected. The idea was to pair the data of the MetMet with photogrammetry in order to geologically map the area. Unfortunately, we could only perform one geology EVA because of external factors. However, this EVA was a success, as we managed to collect samples and to analyze them with the MetMet. We will therefore be able to geologically sketch the area of Kissing Camel Ridge W.


Exploration: Photogrammetry

 The idea behind the photogrammetry experiment was to compare the efficiency of humans exploring and finding checkpoints in a given area, using either a 2D map or a 3D render. Each data point required a series of three different EVAs. The first one, to map the area in 3D, with a drone using photogrammetry. The two others were meant for the subjects to find pre-defined checkpoints using the 2D map and then the 3D map generated beforehand. The experiment went very well: we had time to render both North Ridge and Candor Chasma. We nevertheless encountered two issues while conducting these experiments. The EVA with the 2D map at North Ridge was shortened because of the high winds, therefore the EVA Crew managed to find only half of the checkpoints. Moreover, the EVA with the 3D map at Candor Chasma was conducted with only one subject because of external factors. We are quite happy with the data we have already, and we hope to pass on this experiment to the next Supaero crew.


Botany: Aquaponics

For Crew 275, the main botany experiment focused on aquaponics. Indeed, the Crew Botanist worked on a prototype before the mission and tested it for 5 weeks. This prototype was a success, however, as it was a prototype, no scientific data had been collected. He then decided to recreate a similar system in the GreenHab. The space available there being smaller, he decided not to build it with pipes but only with a tank. During the first few Sols, he built the system and ensured the safety of the fish. Then, throughout the mission, he monitored the plants’ growth, the roots’ length, and the water quality to be evaluate the added value of this kind of system. It is expected that plants should grow faster, that water can be saved over time, and that more plants can be grown on a given surface. All the data collected will be processed post-mission and compared to references in aquaponics and basic crops.

Besides this, another experiment was conducted on microgreens. This one was simpler because it only required monitoring microgreens’ growth over time. To do so, we took similar pictures every day with a fixed scale to measure their height. An additional objective was to see if an untrained subject was able to grow these types of crops without knowing anything about botany.


Monitoring Health and Water consumption

During the whole mission, the crew monitored their water consumption. The goal was to reduce as much as possible their use of water, while maintaining good hygiene and drinking as much as needed. With this in mind, we categorized our consumption of water and took note of the quantities used throughout the day. This experiment showed us that by being mindful of our use of water, it is possible to considerably reduce consumption.  The average water consumption was 51 L (13.5 gallons) per day. For a crew of 7, this represents 7.3 L (1.9 gallons) per day per person, which could be reduced even more with specific technologies. This is equivalent to a 1-minute shower, and less than a classic toilet flush on Earth (10 L).  50% of the consumption was dedicated to the restroom. Therefore a goal of less than 5 L per person per day could be achieved, including 2 L for drinking purposes.

Every morning, we also measured health parameters to keep an eye on the physical and mental health of the crew. To this end, we kept a sleep diary and monitored weight and body composition, temperature, as well as blood pressure and oxygenation. A 30-minute workout session was then organized by the HSO to keep all crewmembers in good shape and get them ready for the day, thanks to bonding activities and music.


Media Collection and Public Outreach


Our objective for this mission from a communications standpoint was first and foremost to reach middle and high school students interested in space and STEM in general. Throughout the entire mission preparation, the crew worked with OSE l’ISAE Supaero, an outreach initiative whose goal is to help students gain access to higher education and to promote STEM careers. During the entire year preceding the mission, we visited classrooms and welcomed students to our university to talk about space exploration and STEM studies. Our goal was to inspire as many students as possible to explore and engage with scientific fields. In this vein, we spent a week at the Lycée Français de New York with 6th and 10th grade students, using games and simple experiments to share our passion for space.

Other outreach initiatives destined for students included filming video capsules for the Cité de l’Espace, the French space museum, and writing simplified articles on various subjects pertaining to Martian exploration.

Once the mission had started, we focused on the two media visits of the rotation: the BBC and France Télévisions. The BBC film crew stayed for a day to film interviews for a documentary about Martian exploration, while the France Télévisions crew came to film a newscast for French television.

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