Mission Summary – April 12th

Mission summary Crew 296
Author : Loriane Baes
3, 2, 1… “Atlas mission Is back! It was a complete success!”
Crew 296 landed on the surface of Mars at midnight Earth time on March 31, 2024 and the mission ended on April 12, 2024. Twelve sols elapsed during which we took Mars as our habitat.

We quickly familiarized ourselves with our new home and, after a good night’s sleep, immediately started work on our experiments and spacewalks. The first two days were very busy, with report writing, spacewalks, the start of experiments, tasks to be accomplished in the MDRS, adapting to lyophilized food, all facets of accommodating to the new lifestyle required on Mars. Moreover, the next three days, as the first two, were also very busy, but we managed our tasks better to take time to enjoy the fact that we’re on Mars, the beautiful scenery and each other’s presence with team-building activities, card games and cooking together.

The days were punctuated by EVAs where Romain’s experiment involved determining the required frequencies to use a new digital system, Louis’ experiment involved 3D mapping of the terrain using drones, and Maxime’s weather station studied the movements of dust in the simulation, comparing them to Mars data. When the team wasn’t on EVA, Hippolyte took the opportunity to conduct his experiment on the implementation and interfacing of an intelligent voice assistant. The biomedical team also had a busy schedule with saliva, blood, urine, and stool samples, supplemented by self-questionnaires assessing sleep and stress. The goal was to evaluate the impact of LH supplementation on stress associated with confinement and sleep disturbances. The agenda was full, but as the crew likes to say, "science first."
Apart from scientific experiments, life on Mars involves a number of responsibilities. As the station’s engineer, Louis never failed in his duties: emptying toilets, calculating water and repairing various mechanical problems. As much as we appreciated his work and the security he provided, it was always a real challenge for the team to discuss with him the possibility of taking a shower, ruining all his water predictions. Hippolyte also did his duty by pampering the GreenHab all day long, allowing us to add great flavors to each of our dishes. Maxime, the crew’s astronomer, spent most of his time in the observatory, capturing spectacular images of the sun and sky. He even shared his passion with us by helping us observe a solar eclipse. Imane, Crew Safety, never failed to get a message across when someone had a sore back on the way back from EVA, and was always ready to help listening to our each and every little whining. The whole simulation would not have been so immortalized without Alba’s daily photos and videos. Despite the amount of work involved in her job as journalist, Alba always rose to the occasion. Arnaud, as Crew Scientist, proved to be a central pillar of respect for the various studies. SciencesDom became his second home, where he spent a lot of time preparing samples for the biomedical team. The team would not have been complete without Romain and Loriane, who were both in charge of the crew, ensuring that commitments were respected, as well as the team’s benevolence and cohesion.
As part of Loriane’s psychological experiment to study grouped confinement and, more specifically, the stress dimension, the team cut off all social networks and contact with loved ones. The team therefore had to demonstrate their autonomy and creativity, by proposing various playful team-building activities. In the afternoons, some of the team liked to meet up at the Science Dome for their sports session. Despite the limited space, we had no shortage of creative ways to let off steam. We also enjoyed the evening events. We try to innovate each evening with a new and stimulating activity. Card games, board games, mime games, personality tests, general knowledge tests and even a light painting session. The crew were able to take advantage of special moments to get closer to each other, creating real group cohesion.
The days were also punctuated by end-of-day meetings. We usually hold a meeting before dinner to plan the next day, review the simulation and experiences, and discuss how everyone was feeling. For us, the meetings are a privileged moment when we all get together and everyone is free to express themselves in a friendly atmosphere.
We weren’t expecting it, but we enjoyed the lyophilized food. It has to be said that we have some excellent cooks on the team. Loriane and Imane have become the chefs in the kitchen, creating varied, delicious meals every day that we’d never have imagined with this type of food. At the end of each meal, Imane would always prepare a sweet dessert with so few ingredients. She’s a real magician.
Time was also devoted to making videos. We’re keen to share our experience, so we’ve produced videos for several of our collaborators to share on their networks. The content of these videos explains the station, the way of life on Mars and our experiences. We also produced two live broadcasts at the end of the simulation with a major Spanish TV channel and the Mars Society Belgium. These exchanges allow us to share our passion for space exploration and attract the curiosity of some. We’ve also made videos for our aftermovie, so that when we watch them, we’ll be able to recapture the magic of the experience.

We’re leaving Mars on April 12 with lots of memories. We’re all very grateful to have had the chance to discover Mars and its complexity. We’ve all learned a lot from our scientific experiments as well as about ourselves. For some of us, it’s a first step towards our dream of one day becoming astronauts. This experience on Mars has been an important milestone in our journey, and we take with us unforgettable memories and valuable lessons.

Mission Summary – March 29th

MDRS Crew 295
Mission Summary: Mars Desert Research Station Simulated Mission

Our MISSE course takes students to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) on a six-day simulated mission, serving as a unique platform for university students to undergo cross-training in wilderness medicine and human spaceflight principles. This immersive course aimed to blend didactic lectures with hands-on simulated medical scenarios, challenging students to apply their knowledge and skills in a Martian analog environment. Over the duration of the mission, students encountered a series of simulated emergencies and operational challenges, providing invaluable opportunities for learning, growth, and skill development.
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Day 1: Retrieval of Crashed Satellite and Radio Relay Repair
The mission commenced with the crew being tasked to retrieve a crashed satellite and repair a radio relay, simulating the operational demands of a Martian exploration mission. Despite meticulous planning, one crew member suffered an ankle injury during the retrieval process, underscoring the importance of safety protocols and emergency response training. The incident prompted the crew to assess their communication and leadership strategies, laying the foundation for collaborative problem-solving and effective decision-making throughout the mission.
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Day 2: Design and Launch of Rocket with Medical Supplies
On the second day, the crew undertook the design and launch of a rocket carrying vital medical supplies to support another crew in need, mirroring real-life scenarios of resource allocation and interplanetary collaboration. This task required precise planning, teamwork, and coordination to ensure the successful delivery of supplies to the designated location. As the rocket soared into the Martian sky, the crew celebrated a significant milestone in their mission, showcasing their engineering prowess and adaptability in a simulated space environment.
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Day 3: Summit Attempt and Emergency Response
The third day saw the crew attempting to summit a local peak to set up a relay, presenting physical and logistical challenges akin to Martian exploration. Tragically, one crew member fell and broke their femur during the ascent, prompting an immediate shift in focus to emergency response and medical evacuation procedures. The incident tested the crew’s resilience and ability to remain calm under pressure, highlighting the critical importance of wilderness first aid training and effective communication in managing medical emergencies in remote environments.
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Day 4: Simulated Fire and Emergency Evacuation
A simulated fire outbreak on the fourth day thrust the crew into a high-stakes scenario, requiring swift identification, rescue, and extinguishing efforts to safeguard the habitat and its occupants. As flames engulfed a section of the habitat, the crew mobilized into action, implementing firefighting protocols and coordinating evacuation procedures. Despite the intensity of the situation, the crew demonstrated remarkable composure and teamwork, successfully containing the fire and preventing further damage to the habitat.
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Day 5: Search and Rescue Mission
The penultimate day of the mission presented the crew with a search and rescue mission, simulating the challenges of locating and assisting crew members stranded in remote terrain. Utilizing their navigation skills and strategic planning, the crew embarked on a coordinated search operation, eventually locating and safely evacuating the stranded individuals. The successful outcome of the mission underscored the importance of preparedness, adaptability, and collaboration in responding to unforeseen emergencies in hostile environments.

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Day 6: Soil Testing and Future Habitat Location Identification
On the final day of the mission, the crew undertook soil testing to identify a suitable location for a future habitat, employing an explosive charge and seismometer to assess soil density and composition. This task required precision and scientific acumen, reflecting the multifaceted challenges of Martian exploration and habitat construction. Through meticulous data collection and analysis, the crew contributed valuable insights into potential habitat sites, laying the groundwork for future missions and scientific endeavors on Mars.

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The Mars Desert Research Station simulated mission provided an immersive and transformative learning experience for university students, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, leadership development, and hands-on application of technical skills. Through simulated emergencies and operational challenges, students gained invaluable insights into the complexities of Martian exploration and the demands of spaceflight missions. As they navigated through adversity and uncertainty, students emerged as more confident and effective team members, poised to tackle the challenges of future space exploration with skill and determination.
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Mission Summary – March 21st

Crew Commander: Leanne Hirshfield
Crew Journalist: Emily Doherty
Health & Safety Officer: James Crum
Crew Engineer: Marta Ceko
Crew 294 was made up of a group of researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder with expertise in human performance, AI, and cognitive neuroscience. We came to MDRS on a research scouting mission as part of a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) project funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The title of our project is: “Cognitive Security and Risk Mitigation: A Theoretical Framework, Supporting Neurophysiological Studies, and Interactive Deep Learning Models in Sparse and Dense Information Environments.” Cognitive security refers to protecting humans from information-based threats that aim to disrupt cognitive processes such as reasoning and decision making. While the concept has received growing attention, research on topics relating to cognitive security suffers from several challenges: First, cognitive security is poorly conceptualized, lacking a consistent definition and clear, coherent specification of indicators. Research relevant to cognitive security is highly fragmented within and between different scientific fields. Further, cognitive security is particularly difficult to disentangle when we consider the complex (and understudied) ways that the information density spectrum affects decision-making. For example, the unique cognitive security challenges posed by low-information density environments such as space and the arctic are likely to be very different from high-information density environments such as heterogeneous Human-Agent Teams operating with maximum communication and information density channels. To address these challenges, our goal is to support humans to maintain cognitive security across a range of information density environments in a variety of operational environment. Our time at MDRS was an invaluable resource to help our research team to better understand the unique challenges faced by teams in space and to begin the long process of designing future experiments within our project.
Our team has expertise with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), which can take non-invasive measures of the blood flow in the brain (similar to what one could get from a fMRI scanner).While fMRI represents the gold standard for measuring the functioning human brain, the fNIRS device collects similar measures (from the outer cortex), and has been implemented wirelessly, allowing for measurements to be taken in field environments. We brought with us two fNIRS devices, Tobii Eyetracking Glasses, and Bionomadix physiological sensors (for EDA, heartrate, respiration) and ran pilot studies to see how well we could record quality data in field contexts at MDRS, considering range of sensors, quality of data in different movement and noisy scenarios. Figure 1 shows an overview of areas on MDRS campus where we had strong signal quality.

DFI23CKCWJvDa4p7DV5S8QwRe29zVsFG8zPsWO163Z0USyIFaEaYY3BF_LAZCciDD8euskKZrG8DUZF2bVkKiXtO9-JUHgfn0HxoJY-ReBEHHRO47rkIk4WdvQJyvC1JeE2lbjEBzBCbLOyOS-HfgAFigure 1: Summary of range studies, where we were able to collect eyetracking, biopac, and fNIRS data, and where we had challenges of signal drop.

We also tested our capability to take eyetracking and fNIRS measures on EVA. Figure 2 below shows images from EVA#3, where we test the sensors. We wanted to not only measure the range of the sensors, but also the quality of data collected, as one challenge in using neurophysiological sensors in field settings involves an inability to collect quality data amidst such noisy and complex experimental conditions. We designed a simple experiment based around a series of ‘breath holding’ experiments. Breath holding is a great way to achieve a systemic response in the human brain, where oxygenated blood measured in the brain decreases while a person holds their breath. When they resume breathing, we see a smooth increase in oxygenated blood flow.

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Figure 2. Equipped with fNIRS and eyetracking, ready for EVA!

The Figure below shows this experimental paradigm. We manipulated movement (stationary vs mobile) as well as adding a cognitive element of spatial navigation by finding waypoints during the task. Initial results suggest that we were able to achieve quality measures with the fNIRS data. The Tobii eyetracking glasses did not fare as well, and it was challenging to get pupil fixations and saccades outside of the hab. The eyetracking glasses became more of an expensive go pro😊 on EVAs. We are working already with our Tobii distributor to see if they have recommendations (or eyetracking glasses upgrades) to achieve higher quality data on EVA.

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Figure 3. Experimental design of EVA #3.

Summary: We learned so much during our time at MDRS about the real life use cases that exist when people make critical decisions in low information density environments and we are eager to build from our findings to continue our research. Integrating neurphysiological sensors involves ergonomic, range, and data quality considerations that must be made carefully. We look forward to future work with MDRS as we continue to research cognitive security in low density environments.

Mission Summary – March 15th

Crew 293 – ISAE-Supaero (France)

Crew Commander: Marie Delaroche
Executive Officer / GreenHab Officer: Mathurin Franck
Crew Journalist: Erin Pougheon
Health & Safety Officer: Lise Lefauconnier
Crew Engineer: Leo Tokaryev
Crew Scientist: Yves Bejach
Crew Astronomer: Léa Bourgély

Crew 293’s rotation marks the 10-year anniversary of SUPAERO MDRS missions. For the past decade, 11 student-led crews have made the trip to Mars, passing on their experience every year to a new team. We are very proud to have added to the legacy of the project over the past year, and during our month-long rotation. The mission has been rich in scientific achievement and bonds formed between the members of this Crew. This year, in continuity with Crew 275, our aim was to focus on large-scale human factors experiments, ambitious technological demonstrations, leading a measurement campaign in atmospheric physics, and enhancing the simulation.

Technology Demonstrations
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AI4U is an artificial intelligence tool designed by the French space agency to assist astronauts in their tasks. This year, new functionalities were tested, using the AI as a way to centralize data. AI4U was connected to environmental sensors strategically placed all over the station, and the Crew evaluated the quality and usefulness of the software by taking part in planned interactions with AI4U.
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 pursue testing of an Augmented Reality interface coupled with an organ detection AI. We have successfully completed the planned sessions: each Crew member performed at least two sessions with our only passive subject. We have had several issues with this experiment two weeks into our rotation, mainly because of hardware malfunctions. After our 4-week mission, we have nevertheless 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. The researchers at CNES will have some elements to evaluate the accuracy of their AI, and how the AR interface can be improved.
Finally, over the course of our rotation, we tested an Anomaly Monitoring Interface (AMI) developed by a former SUPAERO MDRS crewmember. The beta version of AMI has been running since Week2, enabling the Crew to monitor the power distribution of the station and handle alarms and malfunctions. An emergency EVA occurred on Sol24 to repair the tunnel to the Science Dome that had been damaged by the wind, enabling us to test the interface all the while performing a meaningful action outside the station. The PI was in contact with the Crew by email throughout the mission, exchanging back and forth on upgrades. A detail report will be written and discussed to improve the software for future missions. An abstract has been submitted for an IAC 2024 panel.

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 was a success: the Crew performed three iterations of the study, changing parameters (terrain type, team composition, etc.) and collecting enough data to add to Crew 275’s first attempt. As for areas rendered and explored, we count North Ridge, Candor Chasma and Kissing Camel Ridge W. The areas covered were wider, more complex and more impressive in scale compared to last year, as we were able to have access to a better drone. We hope to pass on this experiment to the next Supaero crew, and an abstract has been submitted for an IAC 2024 panel.


A person using a computer Description automatically generated The Crew Astronomer’s research project was to estimate the speed of sunspots, factoring in the Sun’s rotation. Unfortunately, for the first half of the rotation, the Musk Observatory was not usable. They decided to use the robotic observatory to learn astrophotography. As the MDRS’ robotic observatory was offline, they used the RCOS-16 remotely. At mid-rotation, the Musk Observatory was available and they started to learn how to handle it. They had to deal with issues with the observatory dome, requiring a great deal of troubleshooting. Pictures of sunspots and solar prominences were taken during 6 Sols, then the Crew Astronomer was unable to continue because of cloudy conditions. They worked on improving their MATLAB code to make the necessary calculations from the sunspot pictures; they will actively continue to pursue their project after the end of the rotation.

Human Factors
This year, we mainly took part in three studies pertaining to Human Factors.
Orbital Architecture is a study led by Michalis Magkos, from KTH University. Studying the impact of the architecture of an interplanetary space station on the global psychology of the astronauts is critical to optimizing 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 MDRS. We connected 19 "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 3 to 10 seconds. Each crewmember also wore a smartwatch during the night, in order to monitor their sleep activity. A chestband was also worn 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.
The results generated during our rotation will be compared to those of ESA astronaut Marcus Wandt, who took part in the Orbital Architecture study during his stay in the ISS as crewmember of the Axiom 3 mission.
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The MELiSSA project (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative) is a European projected led by the European Space Agency (ESA) aiming at developing a highly circular and regenerative life support system for space missions. The ALiSSE methodology (Advanced Life Support System Alternative) was developed as part of the project to provide an impartial evaluation tool of each technology system, including mass, energy and power, efficiency, crew time, crew risk, reliability, and durability. The activity performed by the Crew within the MELiSSA project focuses on the operational aspects of preparing recipes from higher plants and aims for a preliminary evaluation of the "crew time" criterion.

Finally, the Crew participated in a study from the TRACE Lab at University of Florida: The Role of Emotion Regulation Mechanisms and Coping Strategies in Team Dynamics for Long-Duration Space Exploration (ARMs in SAE – Affect Regulation Mechanisms in Space and Analogue Environments). The purpose of this research is to better understand the role that emotion and coping strategies have on team dynamics within ICE (Isolated, Confined, Extreme) teams. The findings from this study will aid in the understanding of the role of affect within teams operating in ICE conditions. The Crew responded to stress questionnaires and journaled daily. The research team will also be provided with our core datasets (see “Monitoring Health and Water Consumption” section).

Atmospheric Instruments measurements campaign

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This year’s atmospheric measurement campaign for CNRS researchers was a success. We were generally lucky in terms of weather conditions, and certain modifications made to improve Crew 275’s configuration were successful (centralized single power source, new mast for MegaAres). We mainly measured the electric field (with the field mill and MegaAres), the particle concentration (with the LOAC) and other atmospheric parameters with our weather station, in order to correlate these different parameters. We started the measurements on Sol 3, although we had to perform regular maintenance EVAs to change batteries, and retrieve and reinstall certain sensitive instruments, given the variations in atmospheric conditions.

Monitoring Health and Water Consumption
During the entire 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 38L (10.3 gallons) per day. For a crew of 7, this represents 5.4 L (1.4 gallons) per day per person, which could be reduced even more with specific technologies. The goal set at the end of Crew 275’s rotation, aiming to reduce consumption to less than 5L per person, was therefore almost achieved.

KKEaXp6wsCS9YKYJGGuRk190-UUWB_EZ6zKNi9ozkzoeRjVtBmcm-_hCo8dvOFzYDhv4WhrMxzOlZdKsS56eyOLmnbL10cv9X6CEKffpIE5ObBE8V3bBO-9G-hyc34iJ2n_t2enqiFKIlnjbgorSBw 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. These “core data sets” will be shared with the Human Factors research teams.
A 30-minute daily workout session was also organized by the HSO to keep all crewmembers in good shape and get them ready for the day, thanks to bonding activities and music.

GreenHab Activities
The GreenHab Officer’s aim was to use the GreenHab efficiently, growing plants that are useful and practical for a space mission Crew. During our 4-week mission, they had time to clear the GreenHab, by removing plants that were taking too much space and weren’t consumable. A lot of plants and food was planted before our arrival, but not often transplanted at the right time. The GreenHab Officer took it upon himself to make the necessary transplantations, for example of radishes and cabbage. They also tried to improve the organization of the GreenHab by creating a precise map, to write down everything action performed. This map can be useful for future Crews to know exactly what was planted and where. Some aromatic herbs like basil were planted again because the Crew noticed how much better our meals were when adding them. At the end of our rotation, the GreenHab is now clean and clear, every plant is labeled with its name and the day it was planted.

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 French and American School of New York (FASNY) and the Lycée Français de New York (LFNY) with 6th and 10th grade students, using games and simple experiments to share our passion for space.
Crew 293 also performed an experiment created with students from various schools during our school outreach interventions, in collaboration with OSE l’ISAE-SUPAERO. This experiment, named "SEEDS OF MARS" by the students, challenged them to answer this question: is it possible to grow plants on the Red Planet, as in the film The Martian? Students choose watercress to test their hypothesis. During our first EVA, we retrieved samples of Martian soil, and we planted watercress in the GreenHab, one pot with Martian soil and another with Earth soil. At mid-rotation, we had a problem because of mold in the soils. So we planted again to have another try at the experiment. At the end of the mission, we collected data related to “SEEDS OF MARS” and we will be presenting their results to the students in a restitution day on the 2nd of April 2024.

Mission Summary – February 16

Crew 292 End-of-Mission Report

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MANGALYATRI (Mars Explorers)
Mars Society Australia
February 4th – Feb 17th, 2024

Crew Members

Commander: Dr. Annalea Beattie
Crew Science Lead and Geologist: Bharti Sharma
Health and Safety Officer and Crew Biologist: Daniel Loy
Crew Engineer: Rajvi Patel
Green Hab Officer and Geospatial Information Specialist: Mehnaz Jabeen
Crew Astronomer and XO: Aditya Karigiri Krishna Madhusudhan
Crew Journalist and Geo-conservationist: Clare Fletcher

Mission Overview: Planning for Ladakh

Mangalyatri MDRS Crew 292 is a primarily Indian national crew fielded by Mars Society Australia. We have an overall focus on what we can learn here from the Mars Desert Research Station, Utah to build a Science Desert Research Station in the Himalayas, Ladakh, India. Ladakh is a very cold, high-altitude desert region, (3500 to 5700 metres above sea level) in northern India. It has lower levels of oxygen in its atmosphere and high levels of UV radiation. Its glacial deposits and regions, dune and intra dune ponds, hot springs, hypersaline lakes and permafrost regions are high-altitude environments for off-earth analogue and astrobiology research. Presently, there is no dedicated Mars analogue science research station in the southern hemisphere.
The members of Mangalyatri Crew 292 at the Mars Desert Research Station were chosen because of their research interests and their ability to think ahead to the future for a science desert research station in South Asia. Our crew shares a common goal yet each person has different objectives aligned to their research and field of knowledge, whether it be science, science operations, design, systems in the hab or green hab, art, astronomy or geoconservation. We are all driven by the science, carrying out field science and scientific research to compare different, extreme, terrestrial environments to understand more about the extraterrestrial. Our aim is also to develop frameworks for sustainable analogue research in terms of both science and science operations. See individual research reports for progress. All our field work has contributed to this project.

Exploring Planetary Analogue: Deciphering Geomorphometric and Slope Analysis across Analog Environments

Bharti Sharma in collaboration with, Dr. R. P. Singh (University of Allahabad), Dr. Jonathan A. Clark (Mars Society Australia) and Prof. Colin Pain (Mars Society Australia) and support of Crew 292.

The goal is to measure the slopes of outcrops, create a geomorphological map of the region, conduct geomorphometric analysis, and understand the processes that produced the region in comparison the slope angles and geomorphometry of Ladakh. This research provides insights into the geology and geomorphology of the region, which we can compare to the Martian landscape to detect parallels. So far, no extensive geomorphometric investigation of Hanksville has been conducted.

A total of 6 EVA has been conducted to get to the ground data from the field. First EVA was a training EVA, to get accustomed to the suit and Rover. Second and Third EVA was to get data from Cowboy Corner. Location points were collected from the site for different types of weathering, structural features such as cross bedding, rock type classification, general geomorphology to understand the chasm, meandering of river channels and ridges in the region. The fourth EVA on Kissing Camel Ridge’s western side estimated the slope from the bedding plane. Three measurements of the dip and strike have been obtained from the Kissing Camel Ridge. It was challenging to quantify dip and strike since the majority of the surface in the area has worn and eroded away from the parent rock. The locations of the fifth EVA were Compass Rock and Candor Chasma. The field data includes the kind of rock, the weathering patterns, and different landforms such as buttes, canyons, paleo-river channels, mesas, and caves. SRTM DEM has been used to create a basemap. The research area’s comprehensive geology and the literature review has been written. Geomorphometric analysis of Tso Kar, Ladakh, has already been completed. To comprehend the stratigraphy of the area, the Litholog has been developed from several sites. For post field analysis, the 32 fundamental morphometric variables will be used.

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Survey benchmark, Hanksville, Utah, USA

Understanding frontier environments through drawing

Dr. Annalea Beattie, with full crew participation.

Through art making, this project focuses on boundaries, thresholds and environmental stewardship. This research project invites our crew to participate in an act of examination, to explore through drawing and painting beyond the boundaries and borders we create for ourselves as humans, in an unfamiliar, non-human landscape.

Crew 292 were provided with sketchbooks and drawing materials and a working studio table in the Science Dome to paint and draw something from their discipline or experience that might extend their understanding of simulation in this extreme desert environment. Or something that might help them explore the future. Almost all our crew have used drawing and/ or painting to reflect upon their position. Our astronomer Aditya has drawn the magnitude of celestial light he can see in our dark sky. Green Hab Officer Mehnaz has begun to draw the future – breathing life into barren planets through drawing a vision of the Green Hab for spacefarers living off-Earth. Observation in the field is a primary means of obtaining scientific knowledge for planetary field science and Crew Geologist Bharti Sharma and I drew geology together in the field on EVA #10 at Kissing Camel Ridge. We will work on the lithologic log for her comparative study of different kinds of deserts. The deliberate practice of geological field sketching in simulation is a sustainable method of gathering of data during field work. Crew Journalist Clare Fletcher drew rock samples removed from the desert. Clare is a geoconservationist and her project focuses on the practicalities of efficient and sustainable sampling. Drawing samples is a useful way of thinking through materials to inference and hypothesis. These samples have been returned to the site on our last day here at MDRS. I also have spent time drawing rock samples in the Science Dome, drawing basalt, concretions, gypsum, and the sandstone weathering. As I draw, I engage with this desert as a geological analogue for Mars. This research project is improvised, long-form and ongoing. Its results are not easily quantified nor is it data driven yet there is no doubt that art making in this confined context has potential to shift our perceptions and the capacity to affect change.


Drawing concretions in the Science Dome, 12-02-24

Investigating the Thermo-hydrological Dynamics of Green Hab: A Comprehensive Study on the Impacts of Temperature and Humidity on Evapotranspiration

Mehnaz Jabeen, in collaboration with crew member, Aditya Karigiri Krishna Madhusudhan

Manipulated atmospheric variables in a controlled environment compared to natural environments can be shown to be pivotal to study and access the impacts of changes and estimation of PET, maximizing plant growth and resource efficiency. This research aims to delve into the thermo-hydrological dynamics within the controlled ecosystem of Green Hab, specifically focusing on nuanced interplay between temperatures, humidity, evapotranspiration (ET).

Explore spatial and temporal variations of temperature, humidity, and soil moisture within the Hab and different climatic environment within MDRS (artificial ecosystem).
Rigorously assess the effects of manipulated temperature and humidity conditions on evapotranspiration dynamics.
Employ climatic datasets from nearest climate centers.
Calculate Actual Evapotranspiration (AET) and Potential Evapotranspiration (PET) through established equations.
Apply the Budyko curve to decipher the ecosystem’s response to altered temperature and humidity regimes.

Current Status:
Obtained datasets the LOA Climate Center, Utah.
Data cleaning and processing.
Performing Pan Evaporation experiment to estimate evapotranspiration rates at different temperatures.
Performing experiments with newly sown seeds in similar pots with equal weights to study effects of varying temperature on plant growth.
Developing machine learning model to predict evapotranspiration using the datasets collected.

The technical rigor embedded in this research will not only contribute to our fundamental understanding of controlled ecosystem dynamics but will provide precise insights into optimizing temperature and humidity parameters for enhanced plant growth and resource management in artificial habitats especially in Ladakh (India) with extreme climate conditions and Mars-like terrain.

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Green Hab Officer, Mehanz Jabeen in the Green Hab measuring the temperature of the crops and with the cherry tomato harvest.

Developing a method of simultaneous Mars exploration and exogeoconservation in the Mars Desert Research Station

Clare Fletcher, Crew 291 (Scientist) & 292 (Journalist), with thanks to all Crews 291 & 292.
Over the course of Crew 292 (and following on from Crew 291), Clare researched practical methods of geoconservation that don’t limit exploration and science, to apply these to both a possible future analogue station in Ladakh, and to Mars. Clare conducted 7 EVAs during 292 (and 8 during 291) to meet these goals, as well as analysis of field samples, and mapping of important geology and geomorphology. The key finding of Clare’s research was that geoconservation can’t be conducted effectively using remote operations work. Other notable findings include: the necessity of accessible baseline study sites and the lack of predictability of finding key study targets therefore necessitating exploration, science, and geoconservation to occur concurrently. When thinking about a research station in Ladakh, good baseline study needs should be identified early, and a code of conduct for fieldwork and sampling practices should be created that crews sign, acknowledging that they will adhere to it. Clare’s study highlights the importance of concurrent geoconservation, exploration, and science on Mars, and the necessity for detailed, crewed geological, geomorphological, and exogeoconservation studies due to limitations of remote operations. Detailed records should also be kept as each successive mission or crew will treat the landscape differently, meaning that both the landscape and knowledge of the area change concurrently and proportionally.

Use of portable laboratory equipment in a Martian analogue research station

Daniel Loy, Crew Biologist, with support from all Crew 292.

The aim of this project was to conduct research on the use of portable equipment in a Martian analogue simulation and environment: carrying out DNA extractions, PCR and gel visualizations with the Bento Lab portable PCR workstation.
Soil and water samples were collected by multiple crew members across different EVA’s for culture-dependant and independent DNA extraction using the Qiagen DNEasy Powersoil Pro kit. From 5 soil, 3 culture media, 2 water, 1 lichen, and 1 organic-looking deposit, two positive results were found from two of the soil samples. Using targeted PCR, Archaea and Fungi were identified to be within the soil in both S and S2 samples. The S soil sample also contained Bacteria, while this could not be identified within the S2 sample due to an amplication failure. The presence of functional genes was also investigated with the large subunit gene hhyL of the group 1h [NiFe]-hydrogenases found within both soil samples, and the sulfide:quinone oxidoreductase gene fragment sqr found within the S soil sample.
Successful extraction, amplification and visualisation of DNA and specific genes with this equipment shows that portable laboratory equipment can be used in extraterrestrial analogues to investigate the presence and functions of microorganisms. Pre-existing protocols for all processes were followed, meaning anyone, including non-biologists and having the correct equipment, would be able to replicate these methods including at the proposed Ladakh analogue research station.


Image of an electrophoresis gel showing the results of a PCR test investigating the presence of functional genes in Soil 2. The positive result in S3 shows that the hhyL gene is present in the microbial community present in the soil sample.

Looking through the eyes of telescopes and exploring the wonders of our cosmos
Aditya Krishna Karigiri Madhusudhan (Crew Astronomer) and Peter Detterline (Director of MDRS Observatories)

The central objective is to formulate plans and effective strategies for the construction of an observatory for the upcoming Mars Science Analog Research station in India. A critical aspect of the observatory’s success is selecting the right telescope optimized for the weather conditions in India. Studies have been carried out to identify telescopes with optimal solar and deep sky observation capabilities. The telescopes are chosen such a way that they offer precision, high-resolution imaging, and compatibility with local weather patterns. To safeguard the chosen telescope and observation equipment, a weather-resistant dome is being designed using Fusion 360 software. The dome’s design is planned to incorporate features such as insulation, ventilation, and stability to ensure reliable and uninterrupted observations despite the weather conditions. To ensure the safety of astronauts during Mars missions, understanding and monitoring solar radiations is crucial. In addition to developing plans to build an observatory, the secondary objective is to make use of the Musk and robotic observatory, a specialized facility designed for solar and celestial object observations. I conducted photometric analyses of AG DRA to determine the variable star’s brightness. The star is observed to be much fainter than it should be. Hence further photometric measurements at various filters will be conducted. Several observations were carried out utilizing the MDRS WF robotic observatory to capture NGC 5904 (Globular cluster), NGC 281 (Pacman nebula), M51 (Whirlpool galaxy) and NGC 1952 (Crab Nebula). The following image is taken through the MDRS WF telescope, processed using AstroImageJ and Photoshop software.

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NGC 281, Pacman Nebula in the constellation of Cassiopeia, 9500 lightyears away (10-02-2024)

Propellant production at MDRS using water-bearing and carbonate rocks
Crew Engineer Rajvi Patel in collaboration with Crew 292 and Andrew Wheeler (291)

This project is focused on the production of rocket propellant methane utilizing the resources available on the Martian surface to make interplanetary travel self-sustainable. This mission included a collection of Gypsum (CaSO4.2H2O) samples and concretion samples as sources of water and carbon dioxide required to produce methane. Our goal is to determine a process to generate methane (CH4) from water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2).
Three types of Gypsum samples were collected – efflorescent gypsum, authigenic bedded gypsum, and selenite gypsum. Preliminary analysis is required to be performed to validate if they release water at elevated temperatures.
Three types of concretion samples were collected as a part of EVA’s on this mission:
Type 1: Dark concretions in the dark matrix
Type 2: Light concretions in the light matrix
Type 3: Dark concretions in the light matrix

All three confirmed carbon dioxide release with vinegar.

As a part of future work, hydrogen can be produced from gypsum water using electrolysis. Hydrogen and Carbon Dioxide can be used to produce methane using the Sabatier process.

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Figure 1: Types of Concretions validated for CO2 release

System requirements for the Ladakh station.

Rajvi Patel with the whole Crew 292.

This research includes the study of power systems, heating systems, and fuel systems at MDRS. The campus is powered by a 15kW solar panel system which feeds the 12kW battery bank. There is a 14kW propane generator that autostarts when the campus uses more power than the solar can provide. The main source of heat for the Hab is a forced air propane heater located above the shower room and bathroom. Hot water is produced from a 6-gallon propane RV water heater located above the rear airlock on the lower deck. There is a second wall-mounted ductless propane heater in case of low temperature or power outage. It has a propane heater and a wall-mounted cooler unit which provides cool air by using the evaporation of water across fans. It has a dual split heater/AC installed for the protection of the power system’s batteries. Propane for the Hab and GreenHab is in a 1000-gallon tank. This research is a basic study of these systems at MDRS. Future work will prepare a detailed systems for the station in Ladakh.

Crew 292 closes this mission report with a big thank you to everyone who has supported us.

On to Mars, Mangalyatri.

Dr. Annalea Beattie
Mars Desert Research Station, 16th February 2024

Mission Summary – February 2nd

Crew Members:
Commander: Andrew Wheeler
Health and Safety Officer: Steve Hobbs
Crew Scientist: Clare Fletcher
Crew Engineer and Green Hab Officer: Scott Dorrington
Crew Astronomer and Medical support: Rob Hunt
Crew Journalist: Alexander Tobal

Mission Plan:
Expedition Boomerang III saw an all Australian crew from the Mars Society Australia (MSA) bring a multidisciplinary team to MDRS to undertake our investigations. The mission objectives were divided into eight disciplines. In no particular order of importance they were: a) revisit geologically relevant analogue locations that can be shown to be appropriate to ISRU on Mars, b) deploy sensors to monitor the local environment including basic weather data, c) characterize mineralogy using a push broom VIS/NIR spectrometer, d) test the ability of a remote controlled rover to deliver the spectrometer over a variety of sloping ground and roughness, e) locating known prominent features for navigation purposes using trigonometry and dead reckoning rather than GPS and compass, f) revisit previously documented geological features for weathering and degradation with a view to develop strategies for geoheritage preservation, g) evaluate the set out of the MDRS and developed procedures with a view to inform the deployment of MSA’s Mars-Oz habitat in Australia and h) observe the current disposition of the Sun’s surface utilising the solar observatory.

Mission Activities:
The geology at the MDRS has been mapped at large scale by many crews over the years. EVAs were undertaken to revisit sites that have exposed minerals analogous to the minerals appropriate to ISRU on Mars. The two majority targeted minerals were gypsum and carbonate concretions. These locations were GPS located and saved to a format that can be transferred to multiple GIS software packages and used by following crews. Samples were collected and processed in the science dome to demonstrate usefulness. Secondary targets such as fossil beds and petrified wood (signs of preserved life) were also GPS-located when identified. Concurrent with these EVAs, the spectrometer was deployed both as a handheld tool and delivered by a remote controlled rover to the various sandstone, silstone and mudstone lithologies surrounding the MDRS. Samples were collected and returned to the MDRS for more controlled analysis and compared to the field data. Approximately 5GB of data was collected and continues to undergo processing.
Again, in parallel with these EVAs, angles and distances to prominent features were collected and positioned on a localised global map and tested for conformity to GPS positioning and compass bearings. Accuracy of positioning improved from approximately 100m to 40m but the majority of processing will be conducted away from the MDRS.
Two sensors were meant to be deployed at the beginning of the rotation and re-deployed at greater distance from the MDRS after an undefined number of days. One, a solar logger previously deployed during the FMARS15 mission in July/August 2023, was successfully positioned outside the science dome in view of the panoramic window. The battery needed recharging on four occasions. The second sensor, an electronic Stevenson Screen with multiple environmental sensors, was unable to be initiated due to circuitry burnout in the secondary battery pack and an untraced, electrical fault in the primary battery pack and was only ever deployed as a test of the setting up procedure rather than to collect weather data.
In 2005 and 2006, geomorphological features such as yardangs and mudstone and siltstone outcrops were located and photographed for follow-on studies. These were revisited, measured and re-photographed in an effort to determine degradation over the prior 18 years. How much is due to natural weathering and how much to human interaction is not obvious at MDRS but the data will be informative to a geoheritage conservation strategy.
Procedures for EVAs, communications, moving between elements of the habitat, conserving water, stocking the pantry and design of the habitat and its elements were continuously evaluated inside and outside the habitat during this rotation to inform the design of the proposed Mars-Oz.
Finally, due to the weather and issues with the software, the solar observations were severely curtailed. Though a short lived prominence was observed, only a solar limb with sunspot activity was imaged for processing.

Mission Summary – January 19th

Mars Desert Research Station

End-of-Mission Report

Crew 290 – Project MADMEN

Jan 7th – Jan 20th, 2024

Crew Members:

Commander and Health and Safety Officer: Madelyn Hoying

Executive Officer and Health and Safety Officer: Rebecca McCallin

Crew Scientist: Anja Sheppard

Green Hab Officer: Benjamin Kazimer

Crew Engineer: Anna Tretiakova

Crew Journalist: Wing Lam (Nicole) Chan

Crew Projects:

Title: Project MADMEN

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

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

Summary: Soil samples have been collected from 8 field sites with diverse geologic profiles that indicate potential for microbial activity. Measurements in the field include salinity, temperature, and ATP readings at surface level, 3-inch depth, and 6-inch depth at each site. Starting on EVA 07, pH measurements are also conducted in the field at surface and 6-inch depth. In the Science Dome, these samples are diluted and incubated in our novel microfluidic device to promote microbial growth for detection, then flushed after 24 hours to investigate through microscopy, with our first set of samples showing growth. pH measurements are taken of the soil samples in a dilution with various salts found on Mars that could also promote metabolic activity of extremophiles. The crew targeted evaluation of at least 6 sample sites, and met this target.

EVAs: 6 (EVA 04, 06, 07, 08, 09, 11). One field site (EVA 04) was collected from a member of the Curtis foundation, where gypsum and sandstone were prominent under a smectite bed indicating a depositional environment with water followed by a period of dry climate. EVA 06 resulted in 2 field sites: one from a valley between two Brushy Basin members with evidence of anhydrite, to contrast with another collection site in a dried riverbed with conglomerate oyster reefs. EVA 07 saw sample collection in alternating siltstone and mudstone bands with gypsum deposits, with field pH measurements introduced into the procedure. EVAs 08-11 expanded the geologic diversity of our sample sites.

Title: Evaluating Psychosocial Impacts of Mars Mission Architectures

Author: Madelyn Hoying

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

Summary: As noted in the mid-mission report, the on-site investigator does not read questionnaire results while participating in the analog mission; as such, a “current status” check can only show the number of completed surveys. All participants have been submitting daily surveys, with one participant having missed one survey.

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

Title: Ground Penetrating Radar for Martian Rovers

Author: Anja Sheppard, PhD Candidate in Robotics at the University of Michigan Field Robotics Group (PI: Katie Skinner)

Summary: This project is aimed at characterizing novel uses of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) for Martian applications. GPR is a sensor often used for understanding subsurface features, such as water deposits and geologic formations. There is currently a radar sensor on the Perseverance rover on Mars. However, very little work combines GPR with other sensor modalities, such as stereoscopic cameras. This research project utilized a custom data collection robotic platform titled REMI (Robotic Explorer for Martian Imagery) to explore various terrains and geologic sites in the MDRS area with a suite of sensors. Over the course of the field expedition, REMI collected about a terabyte of camera, GPR, positional data at a total of 48 sites. This data will be further processed by the University of Michigan Field Robotics Group for training machine learning models after the expedition is complete.

Despite a challenging shipping experience from Michigan to Utah, the robotic platform REMI performed well in the field. Only one EVA had an unrecoverable issue. Any minor issues with the platform were solvable in the field with EVA suits and gloves on. REMI was also transportable in the MDRS rovers, which enlarged the data collection radius considerably. One challenge was the reduced battery life of the robot and its sensors due to the cold weather. In terms of diversity of collection sites, REMI was able to meet its data collection targets.

EVAs: 8 (03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 11).

Mission Summary – January 19th

Crew 290 Mission Summary
19 Jan 2024
Crew Members:
Commander and Health and Safety Officer: Madelyn Hoying
Executive Officer and Health and Safety Officer: Rebecca McCallin
Crew Scientist: Anja Sheppard
Green Hab Officer: Benjamin Kazimer
Crew Engineer: Anna Tretiakova
Crew Journalist: Wing Lam (Nicole) Chan

Mission Plan:

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

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

Additional Crew 290 studies include psychosocial investigations and the use of ground penetrating radar. The psychosocial investigation seeks to compare interactions among crew and emergency response capabilities between Mars mission architectures. Results from this single-site architecture test will be compared to previous dual-site architecture experiments developed and tested by MIT. The ground penetrating rover study, run by the University of Michigan, is aimed at characterizing novel uses of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) for Martian applications. GPR is a sensor often used for understanding subsurface features, such as water deposits and geologic formations. There is currently a radar sensor on the Perseverance rover on Mars. However, very little work combines GPR with other sensor modalities, such as stereoscopic cameras. This research project utilized a custom data collection robotic platform titled REMI (Robotic Explorer for Martian Imagery) to explore various terrains and geologic sites in the MDRS area with a suite of sensors. Over the course of the field expedition, REMI collected about a terabyte of camera, GPR, positional data at a total of 48 sites. This data will be further processed by the University of Michigan Field Robotics Group for training machine learning models after the expedition is complete.

Crew Activities:
Sol 1 and 2 saw the first three EVAs, with training completed and initiation of REMI data collection by the end of sol 2. After some initial hiccups with the pH meter, the crew settled into the science and field operations associated with conducting Project MADMEN at MDRS. Field procedures flowed smoothly and Science Dome analysis established signs of microbial life, much to the excitement of the crew. The crew had plenty of fun too! Sol 3 introduced call signs for Melon (Madelyn), Chopper (Rebecca), Freebee (Anja), Funk (Ben), Roots (Anna), and PODO (Nicole). We spent time sewing on mission patches, playing games, doing gymnastics training, and exploring plenty of teambuilding activities. Stargazing in the observatory was a consistent favorite, and late-night team bonding forged strong friendships that will last well beyond the end of mission.

Mission Summary – January 5th

Mars Desert Research Station
Mission Summary

Crew 289 – Deimos
Dec 25th, 2023 – Jan 6th, 2023

Crew Members:
Commander: Adriana Brown
Executive Officer and Crew Journalist: Sara Paule
Crew Geologist: Eshaana Aurora
Crew Engineer: Nathan Bitner
Health and Safety Officer and Crew Astronomer: Gabriel Skowronek
Green Hab Officer and Crew Biologist: Riya Raj
Crew Scientist: Aditya Arjun Anibha
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Crew 289 is thankful for the critical support of the following individuals associated with the Mars Society and Management of MDRS: President of the Mars Society, Dr. Robert Zubrin, who endorsed Purdue Crew 288 and 289 serving at MDRS this season; MDRS Director Sergii Yakimov, who assisted us in-situ, trained us, and answered our many, many questions; Director of Observatories Peter Detterline, who assisted our crew astronomer with imaging, analysis, and guidance all throughout preparation and mission; Scott Davis at the NorCal Mars Society for his assistance with troubleshooting EVA suits during mission; Mars Society Executive Director James Burk; Director of Media and Public Relations Michael Stoltz; MDRS IT Coordinator Bernard Dubb; and Senior Director of Analog Research Dr. Shannon Rupert. Additionally, we could not have done this without the support of our institutions – Purdue University and the University of Michigan. We wish in particular to thank Dr. Kshitij Mall and Purdue Mission Support staff, all of the faculty who supported us in our research and crew selection; and our home departments. Additionally, we could not serve at MDRS without financial support so our deepest gratitude goes to our external and internal sponsors, who made our participation financially possible. We are additionally thankful to the previous Purdue crews whose legacy has paved the way for our participation at MDRS and also our friends and families who loved us enough to willingly accept minimal contact with us throughout the winter holidays.

Mission description and outcome:
MDRS Crew 289 “Deimos”, twin of mission 288 “Phobos”, is the seventh all-Purdue crew at MDRS. Crew 289 was a diverse crew; it comprised undergraduate, Master’s, and PhD students. The students represented the departments of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Civil Engineering, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Mechanical Engineering, Astronomy and Physics, Communications, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Aeronautics and Aerospace Engineering. The crew completed eleven EVAs during their rotation at MDRS and made successful progress on all research objectives. The crew maintained a high fidelity simulation by practices such as relying on the Martian stores of food, restricting communications to set windows, and formulating a water budget and conserving the resource for strictly necessary activities. Interpersonally, the crew strengthened their relationships and camaraderie, as evidenced by the call signs developed during the mission, collection of quotable moments, and many cheerful evenings spent on the upper deck.

Summary of Extravehicular Activities (EVA):
After being trained in the use of rovers and in the safety protocols for EVA, the crew had eleven excursions during rotation 289, two of which being the traditional short EVAs to Marble Ritual. The remaining EVAs were long excursions, where the crew greatly maximized time usage, especially the time spent walking and performing field activities, LiDAR scanning, and robotic/drone image capture and maneuverability tests which was on average 85.18% of the total EVA time. The EVAs reached areas in the Tununk Shale (Hab Ridge), Morrison Formation (mostly along Cow Dung Rd), Dakota Sandstone (Candor Chasma), and looked into the Jurassic Strata (White Rock Canyon). The EVA served multiple research projects and was used to train crew members who were inexperienced in geologic field work, remote communication and LiDAR scanning.

Table 1. Summary of EVA, indicating Sol of execution, total duration and distance covered, time and distance spent walking and performing activities, and time percentage spent on site and walking.

Map 1. Satellite map of the EVAs performed by MDRS 289 crew and of the Station points where samples were collected

Summary of GreenHab Activities
The GreenHab is the best part of the entire MDRS campus. It was a place for me to provide the best care to all the adorable little plants. When I first came in, I noticed that Crew 289’s GHO did a fantastic job in setting the foundation for most of the veggie plants such as the carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes. My work in the GreenHab ensures proper growth for the plants that are now within their intermediate growth stage. The broccoli and radishes were replanted into a larger pot since they will be growing deeper roots. The carrots were replanted with small doses of the organic and MiracleGro fertilizer to allow the roots to set in place. The new planted spinach, onion, and mint should also be sprouting their little seeds soon. To keep the humidity at a proper level, adding cling wrap helps. Just ensure that air is still coming in to avoid mold and fungus. Composting the produce waste like orange peels, leftover dehydrated food, and old leaves are a good way to keep up with recycling and they act as a natural fertilizer for the plants. It is kept in a separate pot for now. The journey of the GreenHab ended with rearranging the gloves, tools, and plants. An updated inventory list of the veggies that are already planted is taped on the static tank to ensure that unnecessary plants are not added. Finally, to make the greenhouse more colorful, consider adding some flowers.

Science Summary
Our crew of 7 worked on a total of 11 projects during our time at MDRS. EVA-related research included geological-based paleoclimate investigations; LiDAR scanning of local terrain by hand, extended monopod, and also by drone; and locomotion testing of the Electronic LeapFrog (E.L.F), a transformable origami robot with and without drone assist. The remaining 8 projects were completed within the habitat and included remote sensing, dust monitoring, air quality monitoring, astronomical investigations, human factors research examining skills usage, review of past crew reports, and two agricultural based projects – one on understanding agrivoltaics and the other examining the effects of stress on plant growth. Crew 289 is pleased with our research progress – each member made substantial progress on their projects during the mission. The breadth of projects spanned multiple engineering specialties, such as aerospace, electrical, biological, mechanical, computer, and civil as well as the fields of communications, psychology, geology, agriculture, and astronomy.

Crew Projects:

Project 1
Title: Remote Station Monitoring
Author: Nathan Bitner
Description, activities, and results: The goal of this project is to provide MDRS crew and mission control with air quality data and airlock statuses from the MDRS station. Through work conducted by Purdue crews 288 and 289, two air quality modules have been created that successfully send information to an adafruit dashboard. This dashboard can then be accessed remotely by those with the account information. The software for these boards, and all the others to be deployed, is on the GitHub page https://github.com/bitNathan/MDRS_monitoring_overlay/tree/main made for this project. More technical details and documentation can also be found there.
Each module uses a Raspberry Pi Pico W board to send data to the dashboard and control the connected sensors. Each board currently measures temperature, CO2, VOC, ozone, and PM2.5 particles using separate sensors that were purchased before the mission. The Raspberry Pi then automatically uploads a snapshot of this data to the dashboard hourly.
Shipping delays and technical difficulties prevented full deployment of some air quality sensors during this rotation, and other difficulties with the board themselves prevented full deployment over our intended timeline. Our idea to use battery packs made from AA batteries connected together works, but it is labor intensive to make these packs and they provide, at best, power for only two weeks of operational use. In the future, switching to power via wall fixture or rechargeable batteries that can be routinely rotated would provide a permanent solution. In addition, an unknown connection error appeared roughly halfway through crew 289’s rotation which prevented long term testing.
In the future, Purdue plans on continuing this project to complete what was started by these two crews including full air quality and airlock status deployment in addition to adding monitoring for EVA suit charges, water level detection, and online crew logs and schedules. All of these are possible using equipment already at the station, aside from wire, LEDs, resistors, casing, and long-term battery solutions.

Figure 1. Adafruit dashboard consisting of air quality data collected from MDRS habitat. Top) The main dashboard screen shown here is highly configurable, but for testing it contains just one plot of all the air quality data from one sensor module. This can be expanded to include other rooms as well as other information. Bottom) The adafruit website refers to a stream of data as a feed. In this image we can see the feeds from our first prototype air quality module grouped together by the location that they are intended to monitor.

Project 2
Title: Recording Dust Levels in the HAB
Author(s): Gabriel Skowronek
Description, activities, and results: The objective of this project involved qualitatively tracking the amount of dust that settles down on surfaces throughout the Habitat. Several sites were chosen throughout the Hab, including both the upper and lower deck. In the lower deck, the top shelf of the comms station and the black cabinet underneath the first aid station were of interest. In the upper deck, the comms station surface and the top of the kitchen cabinets were chosen. Samples of dust were collected by swabbing the surfaces with a moistened cotton swab and subsequently observed using a handheld magnifier. Initially, the surfaces were thoroughly cleaned with wet wipes to obtain a clean baseline to track further dust accumulation over time. Swabbing was then conducted every 2-3 days, with observations like number of particulates, relative size and color being recorded in journal entries. Furthermore, amounts of dust were compared between other locations swabbed the same day. Based on these relative amounts, it was fairly clear that there is a noticeably larger amount of dust particulate buildup in the lower deck of the hab, with the top of the comms station having the most dust particles than any other area. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of the observed dust was composed of fine, dark fibers of unknown origin. There were also few light colored particles present in swabbing samples (presumably dirt from outside). There was also a white sheet of paper that was left untouched on the lowest shelf near the stairwell of the Hab, which served as a good background to easily spot the total amount of dust that accumulated over a two week period. Because it was not swabbed or otherwise disturbed until Jan. 05, it served as a good comparison with the other areas of the lower deck. The type and amount of dust present on the white paper was similar to the other swabbed areas of the lower deck at the end of the rotation.

Project 3
Title: Astronomy on Mars
Author(s): Gabriel Skowronek
Description, activities, and results: This project involved two distinct objectives: 1) Determining the period of variation of the Cepheid variable star, SW Tauri and 2) capturing impressive images of deep sky objects for outreach purposes. For the first mentioned project, the RCOS-16 remote telescope was used to take one or two 20-second exposures of SW Tauri each night (with weather permitting). Furthermore, since it was of no interest to process these images in color, only the visual filter was used. To determine the magnitudes, the program AfterGlow was used because of its simplified process. The alternative but more rigorous process in AstroImageJ was not used because of the steeper learning curve which was difficult to tackle with the time constraints and limited internet access for troubleshooting. To obtain more accurate measurements of intensities, the process in AstroImageJ will be implemented post-MDRS. The final step will include plotting the intensity measurements against time to determine the period of variation. Preliminarily, the period seems to be approximately 48 hours, which matches expectations. The second objective aimed to capture color images of M1 (Crab Nebula) and M42 (Orion Nebula). An image of M1 was taken on the MDRS-WF, with RGBLH filters being used with exposures of 75 sec, 150 sec, 300 sec, 150 sec and 300 sec, respectively. This proved to produce an overexposed image so an updated imaging request was sent with smaller exposure times. Due to technical difficulties with the MDRS-WF, this image was not able to be retaken. Similarly, M42 was also not able to be imaged. It is expected that once the difficulties with the MDRS-WF are addressed, the images will be taken and processed remotely.
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Figure 2. (A): An image taken using the RCOS-16, with emphasis shown on the variable star, SW Tauri, and the comparison star with well documented and stable intensity. (B): A processed image of M1 (Crab Nebula) taken using the MDRS-WF.

Project 4
Title: Comparison of Self-selection Traits versus Skill Utilization by Mars Colonists
Author(s): Sara Paule
Description, Activities, and Results: The intention of this project was to examine the skills (e.g., flexibility, leadership, communication, problem-solving, domestic skills, etc.) most used by “colonists” in their day-to-day activities at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) versus their ratings of importance pre- and post-mission. The pre-mission survey was collected via Qualtrics, as will be the post-mission survey, which will be distributed to everyone the week after the mission ends.
During the mission, the crew completed daily surveys from Sol 1 (December 25, 2023) and will complete their final survey today, Sol 12 (January 5, 2024). These were completed at the end of the mission day as planned and converted to digital format the following day.
Data will be analyzed post-mission after completion of the post-mission survey. As of this moment, I can note that there is wide variability among “colonists” in their daily skill usage responses. However, a few kills are more uniformly used. Excepting Sol 12 data, this includes Q2 knowledge – to learn and contribute valuable knowledge (M = 7.2, SD = 1.5), Q13 prioritization – determining task order based upon multiple completion criteria (M = 7.8, SD = 1.5), and Q17 problem-solving – to identify an issue and alternatives for addressing said issue (M = 7.6, SD = 1.5). Most skills were used semi-regularly with the exception of Q6 risk – to take risks and chances (M = 4.0, SD = 1.5).
This is a very small sample size so the research would benefit from additional participants. Future research might include a question about whether or not the individual participated in an EVA that day to ascertain if there is a difference in skill usage for days when on EVA versus remaining at the Habitat.

Project 5
Title: Establishing Best Practices in Mission Reporting from Prior Crew Reports
Author(s): Sara Paule
Description, Activities, and Results: Objectives were to examine past reports to begin to establish best practices by gaining an understanding of common content within prior reports, Specific aims included: 1) establish the average word length of the various report styles, 2) examine whether crew members are most often referenced by surname/family name, given name, or both, and 3) determine common subject matters within reports, such as references to meals, sleep, showering, etc.
Pre-mission all the reports for the past calendar year were downloaded from the MDRS Reports webpage. A sample from each mission of the last year uploaded to the reports repository for both the Journalist Report and Sol Summaries were randomly selected for analysis from the reporting repository. Additionally, random samples of the Journalist Report and Sol Summaries were pulled from the emails of the prior crew (288) that were received pre-mission. In total, 15 crews were identified during that time period and 14 Journalist and 12 Sol reports were acquired using the aforementioned methods.
Word length and character length have been calculated for each.
Length in words: Journalist Report (M = 322, SD = 112) and Sol Summary (M = 377, SD = 259).
Length in characters: Journalist Report (M = 2180, SD = 661) and Sol Summary (M = 2184, SD = 1474).
There was comparable word length and character length though greater variability in the Sol Summary than the Journalist Report.
When it comes to referring to personnel, there is no consistency in reference style. Roles are included only about half the time. Referring to astronauts by first name only is the most common (6 occurrences in each report style), which is higher than surname/family name only (2 occurrences in the Journalist Reports and only 1 in the Sol Summaries) or full names (2 per Journalist and 3 per Sol).
On topicality, references to crew scientific endeavors are by far the most common in both (12 of 14 in the Journalist Reports and 9 of 12 in Sol Summaries). Meals are the second most mentioned topic in each (10 of 14 in the Journalist Reports and 6 of 12 in Sol Summaries) but the Sol Summaries mention relaxation activities as often as meals (6 times out of 12). Those serving as journalists are more likely to discuss ethereal matters, for instance discussing the beauty of the landscape (5 mentions versus 1) or feelings about the experience (8 versus 3 mentions) than those writing the more practically focused Sol Summaries.
A more thorough examination could be conducted by reviewing additional samples from within the same year and/or extending inclusion beyond the past calendar year. Additional report types remain to be analyzed.

Project 6
Title: Martian analog paleotemperature reconstruction
Author(s): Adriana Brown
Description, Activities, and Results: With the onset of cutting-edge geochemistry, the temperature and dynamics of ancient water systems can be determined better than ever before. Performing analysis on carbonates will be essential to understanding climate history on Mars due to their power to record water temperature and isotopic composition – abiotic factors that determine essential biological controls, such as oxygenation and environmental habitability. This project collected sediment and Gryphaea samples from the Tununk Shale to study the coastline of the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway during the Turonian stage. The samples collected will provide information about the temperature of the seaway during the time the Gryphaea lived using carbonate clumped isotopes, where the carbonate is sourced from the bivalves and, if needed for higher resolution, foraminifera in the sediment samples. Carbonate clumped isotopes measure the frequency of “heavy” isotopes of oxygen and carbon to be bonded together within the carbonate ion – a temperature-dependent process. These paleotemperature results will be integrated into my wider thesis research which aims to reconstruct latitudinal temperature gradients of the Western Interior Seaway – an important control on climate sensitivity.
The objectives of this project were to (1) sample a measured section of sediments up the side of Hab Ridge, (2) identify the percent of carbonate present in sediments, (3) collect Pycnodonte fossils from the Tununk shale near Hab Ridge for carbonate clumped isotope analysis, (4) identify bentonite presence and frequency within the Tununk Shale, and (5) catalog and prepare gryphaea samples for drilling. 90 Gryphaea fossils have been collected from two sites on Hab Ridge and one site from the upper strata of White Rock Canyon. The first Hab Ridge fossil collection site was characterized by a medium to coarse grained quartz-rich sand, containing chert, sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone pebbles. Site one also contained many calcite crystalline structures within the loosely-consolidated sands. The oysters found at this location exhibited recrystallization of calcite and large amounts of sand cemented onto the fossils. Site two was described as a very fine grained, approximately 12 cm thick silt deposit which was black, gray, and dark purple in color. The fossils were smaller than site one and better preserved with no evidence of sand cement. Some streaks of white to light yellow sediment were found throughout site two, interpreted as bentonite material. The collection site at White Rock Canyon occurred along both sides of Cow Dung Road, and were found embedded in the surficial layer of sediment. The Gryphaea at this site were the largest of all collected and the best preserved, with original color and well-defined growth plates intact. The nature of this deposit, i.e. whether these samples were collected in-place or after being transported, will need to be further examined based on the stratigraphy of that area. Additionally, several bentonite “swarm” locations have been noted, with beds documented at Barrainca Butte and sampled at Hab Ridge. These locations will be compared to other published bentonite data so that the age of the samples collected can be constrained.
In the Science Dome, all samples were cleaned, labeled with a sample ID, and cataloged, thereby ready to return to Earth for geochemical analysis at the University of Michigan’s Stable Isotope Facility. 93 1.0 mL sediment samples from two measured sections of Hab Ridge were documented, representing over 150 ft of strata. The sediment samples were labeled and cataloged according to stratigraphic height and site of section. The carbonate percent weight experiment utilized select samples from these sections and the sediment matrix which the Gryphaea were collected from. The sediments were weighed, then dissolved in 0.1 M HCl., and then weighed again. Based on the results from this experiment, it was found that the clay-rich, darkly colored silt that was present at the base of a Hab Ridge section and from the second site of fossil collection had the greatest percent carbonate at 48.37%. The first Hab Ridge fossil yielded a carbonate weight percent of 16.08%. A sediment sample interpreted as a bentonite yielded a 29.24% carbonate weight percent.

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Figure 3. (A): Gryphaea fossil specimen collected from White Rock Canyon. (B): Riya, Adriana, and Gabe collecting sediment samples at Hab Ridge.

Project 7
Title: Mars Exploration by Origami Robot and Drone Scouting or Transportation
Author(s): Aditya Arjun Anibha
Description, activities, and results: Objectives of this study were to apply the concept of transformable origami robots that can exhibit multiple types of locomotion and test their ability to supplement Martian exploration. Investigating the feasibility of transporting the robot using drone and scouting locations of interest prior to exploration was also conducted.
During EVA 3 to Pooh’s Corner, the drone was tested for its carrying capacity within stability limits using a cardboard box container carrying rocks with a suspended transparent fishing line harness to avoid sensor interference and to keep the payload at safer proximity than taping it onto the drone. It was able to carry up to 350 grams before wobbling due to swinging or when directly underneath the drone’s height sensor. The drone would therefore be better used to support the robot rather than carry it due to weight limits.
During EVA 7 to Cowboy Corner, the robot was tested for its ability to traverse mild rocky, uneven and sloped terrain with varied distributions of rocks between 1 cm to 3 cm in diameter. It successfully traveled at a speed of 0.3 m/s for 8 meters in its closed wheel configuration and 57 meters in its open wheel configuration, while supported by a tugging string to lighten its weight to simulate Martian conditions. It climbed three mounds with slope angles varying up to a maximum of 20 degrees.
During EVA 8 to Candor Chasma, the robot traversed two hills of distances 13 meters and 32 meters respectively over mixed rocky and sandy terrain with highly uneven characteristics with the maximum slope angle up to 45 degrees.
Across EVAs and in the Hab, the robot was tested using peristaltic motion with its transformable and controlled origami body as well as jumping about 5 cm allowing it to overcome small obstacles and travel in complex terrain unsuitable for wheels. The robot’s total scale-measured mass on Earth is about 1.5 kg. Its effective scale-measured mass reduced to around 0.9 kg when vertically tugged or supported, which is higher than its expected scale-measured mass on Mars of 0.6 kg. Therefore, we can determine that it would operate freely without the need for a tug-assist on Mars and is an effective method of exploration for uneven terrain that wheeled vehicles cannot traverse safely.

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Figure 4. A transformable origami robot with multiple modes of locomotion undergoing tests at a hill near Cowboy Corner, traversing a rocky mound in its open-wheel climbing configuration.

Project 8
Title: Miniaturized Martian Agrivoltaics
Author(s): Eshaana Aurora
Description, activities, and results: Objectives of this project were to 1) comprehensively test the impact of solar and artificial irradiation on crop yields within an enclosed, module-like environment and 2) to understand the feasibility of a miniaturized agrivoltaic farm within the MDRS Greenhab.
The mini farm was successfully assembled in a discreet corner of the Greenhab. Low humidity in the Greenhab was addressed with a makeshift solution—cling wrap placed on top of pots secured by rubber bands with a few open spots for ventilation. Once the saplings had sprouted, the cling wrap was removed, allowing the plants to breathe with higher frequency watering rounds. Notably, the results highlighted that the fully shaded Kale began sprouting around Sol 6, while Bermuda grass seedlings emerged during Sol 9. The findings also underscored that the most robust seed growth occurred in the fully and partially shaded regions, exhibiting more shoots compared to the non-shaded ones, which displayed lower performance as indicated in Figure X.
Following successful troubleshooting and error management, the Arduino and sensors, including temperature, IV Tracer, and solar irradiation sensors, were fully operational for the last few Sols. Each technical issue encountered was meticulously documented, and the datasets were uploaded to a Google Folder. The only dataset that proved elusive was the tracking of shadow depth across a specific Sol, owing to camera problems and cloudy weather at the culmination of our mission.
Importantly, the results indicate the potential advantages of an integrated Agriculture and Photovoltaic (AV) greenhouse module system over separate configurations. The presence of panels and shade not only influenced the microclimate of the plants but also demonstrated the capability to protect plants from the harsh solar radiation on Mars. This underscores the feasibility of an AV system, making it a crucial consideration for optimizing Martian colonization efforts. As we look towards the future of extraterrestrial habitation, the integration of agricultural and solar technologies emerges as a strategic imperative for sustaining life on Mars.

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Figure 5. Mini Agrivoltaic Farm with the three different shaded sections- Full shade [FS] (bottom left), Partial shade [PS] (middle left) with 45° angled panels to limit sunlight, and No shade [NS] (top left). Kale was planted on the left row of the mini farm and C4 Bermuda grass was planted on the right. The fully shaded plants performed far better than the non shaded ones further fortifying the feasibility of mini AV farms on space greenhouse modules.

Project 9
Title: Image Scanning of MDRS Campus and Surrounding Terrain
Author(s): Riya Raj
Description, activities, and results: Goals for this project were to evaluate the LiDAR, Photo, Room, and 360 Scan modes on IOS Polycam. Obtaining proper visual structures of surrounding terrain is important for expansion and development. For the mission, my project utilized Polycam on IOS to help get terrain structures of the MDRS Campus and nearby areas. Since MDRS is a growing program, we should also look into things that will help with further research! For example, our recent crew EVAs were helpful in identifying large terrain and flat terrain that could potentially be used for solar farming or other habitats. My album includes 500+ scans of the MDRS campus, flat plains, and major structures of Hab Ridge, Kissing Camel, Candor Chasma, etc. This lets us know what exists and what things could be improved for development. Most scans showcase layering, formations, and structure of the terrain. LiDAR also helps with hazard assessments to scan what large rocks could pose a threat in areas of frequent visitors. Within the field of Civil Engineering, such scanning can also help the Earth and people. We can experiment on solutions that can help preserve our beautiful planet while creating the best living places for people/wildlife to thrive!

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Figure 6. Left Figure: MDRS Campus, Middle Figure: Terrain Scan of Hab Ridge, Right Figure: White Rock Canyon Elevated Structure

Project 10

Title: Oxidative Stress Simulation with Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) in Kale Seed Hydroponics
Author: Riya Raj
Description, activities, and results: This project aimed to simulate the effects of UV radiation on plants to research more into sustainability and bioregenerative methods.
Hydroponics is a good example of controlled agricultural practices that can help increase plant growth rates and health. During my time at MDRS, I have been using 12-hour intervals with a control vs. variable experiment. The variable experiment includes the addition of H2O2 with the hydroponics module to compare the plant roots and leaves. Supporting data and conclusions will come from:
1) Image scans of the roots/leaves
2) Monitoring the water pH/temp, surrounding temp/humidity
3) Plant cell structure comparisons with microscope views.
Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) can induce oxidative stress in cells through its role as a reactive oxygen species (ROS). Reactive oxygen species are highly reactive molecules that contain oxygen and include species such as superoxide radicals (O2•−), hydroxyl radicals (•OH), and hydrogen peroxide itself. These species can cause damage to various cellular components, including lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids.
Here’s how hydrogen peroxide can induce oxidative stress:
Formation of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS): When hydrogen peroxide is present in cells, it can undergo reactions to generate other more reactive ROS, such as hydroxyl radicals. This often occurs in the presence of metal ions like iron or copper, which can participate in Fenton and Haber-Weiss reactions. These reactions involve the conversion of hydrogen peroxide to hydroxyl radicals, which are particularly potent oxidizing agents.
H2O2 + Fe2+ → •OH + OH- + Fe3+
Oxidation of Biomolecules: Once generated, ROS can react with and oxidize various cellular components. For example:
Lipid Peroxidation: ROS can attack and damage lipid membranes, leading to lipid peroxidation. This process produces lipid radicals that can initiate a chain reaction, damaging the cell membrane.
Protein Oxidation: ROS can oxidize amino acid residues in proteins, altering their structure and function. This can lead to the loss of enzymatic activity or changes in protein structure.
DNA Damage: ROS can cause damage to the DNA structure, leading to mutations and potentially cell death.
Activation of Stress Signaling Pathways: The presence of hydrogen peroxide and other ROS can activate cellular signaling pathways involved in stress responses. Plants, for example, have evolved signaling pathways that respond to oxidative stress by activating various defense mechanisms.
Cellular Dysfunction: The cumulative effects of ROS-induced damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA can lead to cellular dysfunction and, in severe cases, cell death.
While hydrogen peroxide is a natural byproduct of various cellular processes and can serve as a signaling molecule at low concentrations, an excessive accumulation of hydrogen peroxide and other ROS can tip the balance towards oxidative stress. Researchers often use hydrogen peroxide to induce oxidative stress in laboratory experiments to study the cellular responses to such stress and gain insights into the mechanisms of oxidative damage and defense.
Radiation can cause oxidative stress in plants through the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). When plants are exposed to ionizing radiation, such as gamma rays or X-rays, it can lead to the formation of free radicals and other reactive molecules. These reactive species can then participate in redox reactions, inducing oxidative stress in plant cells.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) play important roles in plant biology, and their interactions are crucial for various physiological processes. While ROS can include a variety of free radicals and reactive molecules, hydrogen peroxide is a type of ROS that is particularly relevant in signaling pathways and stress responses in plants.
The results from the scans, photos comparisons, and microscopic views shows that the oxidative stress on the kale plants caused significant leaf and root damage. The hydrogen peroxide caused the kale roots to have short and static growths. They were not continuous and strong compared to the normal H2O roots. The leaves were also bigger in size in the normal experiment, while the hydrogen peroxide caused browning of some of the leaves. Within the microscopic views, the root structure of the normal water experiment showed more rigidity with the xylem and phloem stems.

Project 11
Title: Indoor Air Quality
Author: Riya Raj
Description, activities, and results: The objective for this project was to utilize EPA Indoor Air Quality Standards to build particle and gas sensors.
The importance of air quality is imperative for life support systems here on Earth, ISS, and future life support systems maybe on the Moon or Mars. Maintaining good indoor air quality is crucial for promoting a healthy, comfortable, and productive indoor environment, as well as preventing potential long-term health effects associated with exposure to indoor pollutants. An excess of compounds or particles in the air could cause dizziness, nausea, respiratory diseases, and many other dangerous health issues. There are many countries suffering from the impact of climate change. Learning to properly ventilate areas and keep the air clean will not only keep us healthy, but also improve health on the Earth.
Particulate Matter (PM) includes a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some of the particles are too small to be seen with the naked eye and using an electron microscope would be helpful. These “fine” particles could be smaller than 2.5 micrometers and the “inhalable coarse” particles can be smaller than 10 micrometers. Other particles can be large enough to see such as dirt, soot, dust, and smoke.
PM can come from many sources that seem normal to us in our daily lives such as, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide chemical emissions from power plants, industries, and automobiles. The primary particles can be emitted from smokestacks, fires, unpaved roads, fields, and construction sites. The EPA is helpful in creating regulations for the number of particles based on indoor air pollution. Complications of PM include:
Health: It can cause many issues based on the particle size that infiltrates your lungs and it even enters your bloodstream. Most of this can contribute to common respiratory lung diseases and even lung cancer.
Environmental Damage: The particles can eventually settle in the water or on the ground after being carried in the wind over long distances. The water sources can become acidic, soil nutrients can slowly deplete, crops/forest can become sensitive, eventually harming the wildlife.
Visible Impairment: If the particle stays within the atmosphere, it can create haze especially in many parts of an industrial country.
Aesthetic Damage: Most buildings weather away over time due to water or wind, the particle pollution can also stain.
Hypercapnia (hypercarbia) occurs when too much carbon dioxide enters a person’s bloodstream. This can occur when more than 5,000 ppm of CO2 poses a health risk including high chronic levels related to inflammation, reduction in cognitive abilities, kidney calcification, oxidative stress, etc. The minimum amount should be as low as 1,000 ppm and it could be a factor to consider with room occupancy and building ventilation rates.
Regulating carbon dioxide levels in the International Space Station is imperative since microgravity can cause the air to circulate around a person’s face. Our gravity on Earth helps redirect our breath upward when exhaling. Within the microgravity environment, there is a lack of convective buoyancy that results in an environment that becomes diffusion-limited. More research should be explored within this area to help our astronauts work better in long duration space missions!
Sensors were built, but due to delivery issues, concrete data was not collected. The proper data will be collected upon returning to Purdue.

Mission Summary – December 22nd

Mars Desert Research Station
Mission Summary

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

Crew Members:
Commander and Crew Astronomer: Dr. Cesare Guariniello
Executive Officer: Riley McGlasson
Crew Geologist: Hunter Vannier
Crew Engineer: Jesus Adrian Meza Galvan
Health and Safety Officer: Jilian Welshoff
Green Hab Officer: Ryan DeAngelis
Crew Journalist: Lipi Roy
The entire Crew of MDRS 288 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; Sergii Iakymov, MDRS Director, who assisted us in-situ and helped us troubleshooting the little problems we encountered; Dr. Shannon Rupert, who provided research advice and valuable support remotely; James Burk, Executive Director; Peter Detterline, Director of Observatories, who trained and assisted our Crew Astronomer before and during the mission; Michael Stoltz, The Mars Society Liaison, Media and Public Relations; Bernard Dubb, MDRS IT coordinator; Dr. Kshitij Mall and the Purdue Mission Support staff; the Purdue faculty who greatly helped us in the selection process of Crews 288 and 288 (Phobos and Deimos); all the departments and people at Purdue University and the external sponsors who supported this mission; and all the unnamed people who work behind the scene 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 288 “Phobos”, twin of mission 289 “Deimos”, is the sixth all-Purdue crew at MDRS. The mission was characterized by very high research quality –despite one project having to be cancelled due to delay in approval by the IRB– and extremely good performance both from a professional and a personal perspective. The diverse crew, including three women and four men, representing four countries and various departments at Purdue, and comprised of undergraduate students, Master’s students, PhD candidates, and professional staff, accurately represented Purdue’s honored tradition in the field of space exploration.
Crew 288 performed various research tasks, with a strong geological focus evident in the many EVAs covering all areas of MDRS and in the amount and quality of samples and scientific data collected. Engineering experiment, astronomical observations, and other research projects concerned with Mars exploration and the operations of astronauts on planetary surfaces were also successfully conducted.
The crew is planning to continue working on the data collected during this mission, to support the twin mission “Deimos”, and to participate in various outreach events, in order to spread awareness about MDRS missions and to foster awareness and passion for space exploration.
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Figure 1. MDRS 288 Crew posing in front of the habitat. Left to right: GreenHab Officer Ryan DeAngelis, Commander and Crew Astronomer Cesare Guariniello, Health and Safety Officer Jilian Welshoff, Crew Geologist Hunter Vannier, Executive Officer (and Crew Pirate) Riley McGlasson, Crew Journalist Lipi Roy, and Crew Engineer Jesus Meza Galvan

As commander, I am personally extremely proud of this crew, which was capable to keep the highest level of fidelity and realism, without losing sight of the importance of light moments. After passing a rigorous two-phase internal selection process at Purdue, the crew followed training and bonding activities with passion and commitment. At MDRS, the crew properly followed safety and research protocols, performed as a tight group, and found an appropriate mix of research activities and personal time. Every crew member has been attentive to other people’s needs, respectful of differences, conscious of own and others’ goals and shortcomings, flexible and willing to learn and improve. The pace kept throughout the mission was a solid mix of long, fruitful, and professionally conducted EVAs, work in the laboratory and in the RAM, and slower-tempo personal and communal time in the habitat.

Summary of Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA)
After being trained in the use of rovers and in the safety protocols for EVA, the crew had ten excursions during rotation 288, two of which being the traditional short EVAs to Marble Ritual. The remaining EVAs were long excursion, where the crew greatly maximized time usage, especially the time spent walking and performing field activities, which was in average 92% of the total EVA time. The EVAs reached areas in the Mancos Shale (Skyline Rim), Morrison Formation (mostly along Cow Dung Rd), Dakota Sandstone (Candor Chasma), and looked into the Somerville Formation (Somerville Overlook). The EVA served multiple research projects and were used to train crew members who were unexperienced in geologic field work.

Table 1. Summary of EVA, indicating Sol of execution, total duration and distance covered, time and distance spent walking and performing activities, and time percentage spent in activities outside driving.


Figure 2. Satellite map of the EVAs performed by MDRS 288 crew and of the Station points where samples were collected

Summary of GreenHab Activities
Crew GreenHab Officer: Ryan DeAngelis
The GreenHab is in excellent condition. A lot of things have just been growing and maturing this rotation, with a few exceptions with various herbs and kale. A few of the cucumbers struggled a bit at the midpoint of the mission, exhibiting slowed growth and scarring on the stalks. This, however, was identified as growth marks perhaps exacerbated by slightly too much fertilizer. They are healthy and growing a lot as of the end of this mission. The tomato plants, planted by Crew 287, were caged and trimmed, and we even observed some small green tomatoes growing. In addition to harvesting fresh herbs daily for use in meals, we were able to create several small salads of arugula, kale, and lettuce. We planted more peas, mint, rosemary, carrots, and fennel for hopeful harvest and enjoyment by Crew 289. Overall, the GreenHab provided plenty of herbs and spices, as well as a fantastic place to de-stress for many crew members.

Science Summary
We had 9 separate projects that covered a range of topics. Some of them were EVA-related, while others were conducted at MDRS campus. One project was not conducted because IRB approval was not received in time. Overall, each project uniquely highlighted each crewmember’s strength and expertise, and expanded scientific, engineering, and human factor knowledge to support crewed exploration of Mars.

Research Projects:

Title: Noninvasive search for water
Author: Riley McGlasson
Description, activities, and results: GPR observations were taken at Watney Road, Compass Rock, Brahe Highway, and Hab Ridge. During EVA 3 two 3D GPR grids were taken at the turnoff to Watney Road (WR). One of these was a smaller 15’x15’ grid with 3’ spacing above the dry stream bed, which we used to train the rest of the EVA crew in how to conduct GPR surveys. The second WR grid (WR02) was 36’x36’ with 3’ spacing. WR02 encompassed the dry stream bed and adjacent sandy material. Six total 2D transects were also taken at three sample sites at Kissing Camel Ridge. Unfortunately, there was an error with the radar’s survey wheel, so none of these observations are usable. After EVA 3, this error was fixed, and more data was able to be collected during the remaining 3 GPR EVAs. During these, 100’ x 100’ 3D grids were taken with 10’ spacing at the survey sites, along with an additional 2D transect was taken across ~300’ of material in the same region for quicker analysis. We confirmed that the survey wheel error was fixed, and initial analysis of the 2D transect of the Compass Rock site produces reasonable velocity values for a damp sandy material. The 3D grids will be analyzed back on Earth and compared with spectroscopy data taken at the same sites.


Title: Refining orbital data with in-situ analysis
Author(s): Hunter Vannier
Description, activities, and results: Objectives of this study were to compare grain size predictions from orbital data to in situ observations, assess effectiveness of boulder sampling at the base of Kissing Camel Ridge in obtaining representative samples of upper units, and obtain and determine origin of volcanic rocks in the south.
Conducted EVAs to Barainca Butte, Kissing Camel Ridge and Hab Ridge to achieve these objectives. Boulder and grain size analyses were conducted during two EVAs to the Kissing Camel Ridge, which have been compared to orbital estimates. Some grain-size estimates were accurate, but subtleties in the orbital data were not appreciated until on foot, (ex. disproportionate darkening of orbital images from small cobbles). When sampling boulders at base at Kissing Camel and Hab Ridge, the top stratigraphic unit often dominated and other lithologies were not present (most converted to soil). Overall, sampling boulders was useful in obtaining samples from layers otherwise unreachable, but picking sites with less vs. more diversity of boulders was not accurately predicted.
We obtained spectra and samples of at least three igneous units (basaltic andesite, andesite, diorite) transported fluvially to the Barainca Butte area from both Henry Mountains and Capitol Reef. Near Barainca we identified a very high concentration of volcanic rocks in that area that were generally absent in regions north of Zubrin’s head. The fluvial pathway from source to MDRS is still not understood.
Spectra and samples have also been obtained within GPR grids to complement the radar data set with spectral and geologic characterization of the top ~5 cm of unique units within each grid. Preliminary spectral analysis of a site atop Hab Ridge within grey soil devoid of plants yielded a surface crust that appeared like significantly hydrated clay, yet the subsurface that yielded the majority of material appeared to have little hydration. There was also diversity in forms and depths of gypsum, some of which showed signs of oxidation. Not only does this compliment the science goals of radar, but is an important consideration when evaluating hydration of soils at depth for in-situ resource utilization.

Figure 4. (A): Obtaining spectrum of large rounded vesicular basaltic boulder. Red arrows points to abundant igneous rocks in the vicinity, Barainca Butte in the background. (B): Sampling station containing igneous rocks with multiple lithologies.

Title: Remote sensing for ISRU
Author(s): Cesare Guariniello
Description, activities, and results: The goal of this project is to test the use of remote sensing performed in various locations to support advanced In-Situ Resource Utilization. In particular, assessment of mineralogy via remote sensing will provide information about material abundance. Laboratory study of thermal inertia and its correlation with bulk size (sandy vs. rocky) will add one more variable to the study. Thermal Inertia is correlated to particle size and cohesiveness of the material, which in turn suggests the most appropriate tools to effectively collect the material for processing. Water content is assessed via the analysis of the depth of absorption bands in the spectra. This year’s focus has been on consolidated clay rocks. Samples have been collected for this project in the vicinity of Barainca Butte, at the foot of Skyline Rim, and along Galileo Road between Compass Rock and Somerville Overlook. These samples will be subject to experiments related to water content.

Title: Semiconductor processing
Author(s): Jesus Meza-Galvan
Description, activities, and results: The project was focused on the feasibility of basic semi-conductor manufacturing at the station. Two main experiments were conducted to explore silicon-oxide growth, and photolithography. The goal of the first experiment was to determine if oxide growth is possible in one of the lab ovens. A set of silicon samples were placed inside Oven #1 as shown in Figure 5a. A graduated flask with 1 liter of water was placed inside the oven just beneath the samples to maintain a high moisture environment. The samples were then annealed at a maximum oven temperature of 250 °C for a total of 2 hours, 4 hours, and 8 hours. Quantitative analysis of the oxide films will be performed using ellipsometry at Purdue. Qualitatively, there is no visual distinction between the samples indicating little to no oxide was formed. This is as expected given the temperature of the oven was lower than the typical growth temperature of silicon-dioxide in the range of 400 – 800 °C. In order to reliably grow oxide at the station, the oven temperatures must be increased. For the second experiment, a set of silicon samples with a photo-sensitive polymer (photoresist) was prepared prior to coming to MDRS. The laminar flow hood was outfitted to perform UV-exposure of photoresist as shown in Figure 5b. A Dremel stand was used as a makeshift photo-aligner to hold a handheld UV lamp at a constant distance away from the sample and perform controlled UV exposures of the resist as shown in figure 5c. A set of samples with varying exposure time, and varying working distance were made. Qualitatively, the experiment produced several good exposures of a microscope calibration pattern onto the photoresist layer. The success of the procedure will be determined quantitatively by measuring the dimensions of the samples produced against a calibrated microscope at Purdue.


Figure 5. Semiconductor Processing at MDRS. a) Silicon-oxide growth experiment in Oven #1. b) Photolithography set up inside laminar flow hood. c) Photolithography exposure.

Title: Reducing stress in isolated environment
Author(s): Lipi Roy, Ryan DeAngelis, Jilian Welshoff
Description, activities, and results: The crew consulted some of the sensors brought to MDRS for this project. However, formal research was not conducted, and test surveys were not administered, because IRB approval was not received in time for the mission.

Title: Astrophotography with the MDRS WF and Solar Observatory outreach
Author(s): Cesare Guariniello
Description, activities, and results:
Solar Observatory: visual observations on one day with the Crew Engineer and the Journalist. Various small problems with the telescope (modified Home Station, and some components left out of place by previous crews) were solved. The observatory bottom shutter also had to be troubleshot. All days not spent on EVA were at least partly cloudy during the day, thus preventing further solar observations.
Astrophotography: MDRS-WF was used to produce high-quality photos of M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), Barnard 33 (Horsehead Nebula), Leo Triplet, M42 (Orion Nebula), M1 (Crab Nebula) and some photos of smaller galaxy with quality that could be improved in postprocessing. Further WCS data are necessary to align images from the MLC-ROS16 telescope.

Title: Station monitoring
Author(s): Jesus Meza Galvan and Jilian Welshoff (proposed by Nathan Bitner – MDRS 289)
Description, activities, and results: The goal of this project is to study what information is most useful to analog astronauts during missions, as well as how this information is leveraged for day-to-day mission planning. A prototype of the sensor payload was completed which integrates temperature, humidity, VOC, CO2, and dust particle sensors with a raspberry-pi and battery package. The sensors have been coded by Purdue mission support who will remotely collect environmental data. Crew 289 will continue the project and create additional sensor payloads to place one monitoring station in each of the MSRS modules, as well as sensors on the air locks to determine if they are closed.

Title: Samples transportation with drones
Author(s): Cesare Guariniello
Description, activities, and results: In past missions at MDRS, drones have been used to prospect potential areas of geological interest. This conceptual project had the goal to prove the feasibility and usefulness of using a drone to transport payloads from the station to astronauts in EVA and vice versa. The capability of the drone to carry small payloads while maintaining maneuverability and safety was successfully tested before the mission. During the mission, part of the EVA to Skyline Rim (EVA #5) was spent in surveying the Hab Ridge for suitable locations for this experiment. Later, two crew members were trained in drone piloting, so as to be able to operate the small drone under the supervision of a crew member who holds a drone pilot license. During EVA #9, the drone was launched from the station with a small rock sample and a message onboard. Both items were received by the EVA astronauts, that successfully used the drone to return a rock sample to the station. The drone was then sent back with a food sample (representative of potential use of a drone to provide tools or support to astronauts on EVA), used by the EVA crew to record footage of the GPR experiment, before being flown back once more to the station.

Title: Chez Phobos
Author(s): Lipi Roy (et al.)
Objectives: Creating new recipes with shelf-stable food at MDRS
Description and Results: Crew 288 members proved that it was quite possible to create healthy, tasty recipes from shelf-stable food items at MDRS habitat. Many new recipes were successfully implemented and very much appreciated by the MDRS members. Riley’s Hab-burger, Ryan’s Pad-Thai and carrot cake, Cesare’s Italian pizza and baked ziti, Jilian’s Mujadara, Hunter’s spam fried rice and tuna-tomato pasta, Jesus’s Spanish rice, and my chickpea curry, kidney beans curry, and potato parathas; all created with minimal outside ingredients! For example, our ‘meal of the mission’ – spam fried rice was prepared using rice, dehydrated eggs, spam, dehydrated onions, dehydrated tomatoes, soy sauce, chilli peppers, salt, garlic powder, black pepper; all available in the hab!


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