Mars Desert Research Station Crew 132 Final Report
January 7, 2014
Leave only footprints, take only pictures. While at MDRS, Crew 132's footprints touched Mars. Martian expeditions take on a multitude of roles. The journey to live on Mars means leaving behind more than just material goods on Earth. It means saying goodbye to friends and family, knowing that future communications are limited to digital letters, social media blips, and occasional one-way videos. Life on Mars exceeded all of Crew 132's expectations. One night's illuminating discussion about love, harmony, knowledge, power, and security was especially poignant. The holistic combination of opinion provided a glimpse into the conscience of the human condition destined for planetary exploration. Life, it seems, went Full Martian for Crew 132. Crew 132 celebrated the Earth holidays of Christmas and New Years while at MDRS. Highlights include Commander Orenstein donning a fuzzy red and white hat to become St. Nick, a multitude of delicious holiday desserts, and the crew's continued joy to be spending this time of the year with their new Martian family.
Planetary analog studies are an ideal way to learn lessons and test equipment for space missions. Geologic exploration of the solar system has recently been limited to remote sensing and robotic tele-presence, but Crew Geologist Michael Bouchard looks to the future when humans will take the lead. Experienced in terrestrial field work, Bouchard conducted a mapping project which allowed him to assess the local Geology under the constraints of simulated EVA. He also analyzed regolith samples using a prototype Ultra-Violet Spectrometer. This instrument was designed and built for competition in the 2014 University Rover Challenge. Bouchard's third and final project was a comprehensive Geologic equipment and logistics survey. Bouchard will compile what he has learned over these two weeks into a paper "Crewed Martian Traverses II: Geologic Field Exploration in an Analog Martian Mission Simulation." He has submitted the first paper in this series to the 45th Lunar Planetary Science Conference.
As humanity ventures farther from home, plants are being recognized as an integral component of deep space habitation for a myriad of reasons (e.g., gas exchange, waste treatment, and food production). Horticulture is the hope for humanity to practice stewardship for life throughout the solar system and beyond. GreenHab Officer Parrish and GreenHab Coordinator Orenstein collaborated to design and build a top-drip irrigation system that pumps hydroponics solution into felt grow bags filled with a soil medium enriched in mycorrhizae and bat guano. Now that this system is installed and operational, future crews will be able to utilize it to produce crops per the outlined procedures that were developed.
Additional planters and planting areas were arranged in designated areas for herbs, flowers, food crops, and temporary experiments. The first seeds of the season were planted on 1 January, and a cactus was planted in Martian soil samples gathered during an EVA. A schedule of plant and harvest dates was generated for future crews to follow throughout the season. A forced-air exhaust fan was installed, and structural repairs were performed to insulate and seal the gap between the two halves of the GreenHab. The inventory of tools and materials was updated with new items and their locations. A scaled aerial plan of the GreenHab was created to help visualize these locations. Some of the materials and tools purchased, such as the pH/EC sensor, either did not arrive or were inadequate for their intended purposes; these items will be mailed and/or returned as appropriate so that future crews will be able to use the proper equipment.
Astrobiologists Lingappa and YoungSmith studied stress response and microbial diversity in a Mars analog environment. This work aims to further scientific understanding of the limits of habitability for terrestrial organisms in this environment, and the evolution of adaptations which allow organisms to survive here. Additionally, developing and modifying reliable aseptic microbiological techniques for Mars simulations is crucial to biology work on a real Mars mission. They used this opportunity to explore the constraints on biological fieldwork imposed by EVA gear and a minimal laboratory facility.
Their work focused on the differences between three depths in the soil around MDRS. They were interested in the microflora of each soil sample, how different organisms (both native and foreign) reacted to the conditions of each depth, and the difference in tolerance to extreme conditions between mixed communities and axenic cultures. In mixed microbial communities, it becomes unnecessary for all species to carry out all functions necessary for survival, which leads to adaptive gene loss in individual species. Therefore, they expected to see a higher tolerance to stress in the mixed cultures. The astrobiology team isolated organisms from soil samples taken 1cm, 10cm, and 20cm below the surface, and were able to characterize a number of distinct organisms by growth rates and patterns, colony morphology, and cell morphology. They then deposited cultures at each depth in the soil, retrieved them 48 hours later, and allowed them an additional 24 hours to recover indoors. In a duplicate study, they found that cultures deposited 20cm underground repeatedly recovered, while cultures deposited only 10cm or 1cm beneath the surface did not. These results are consistent with the proposal that subsurface environments on Mars, which offer protection from both radiation and surface temperatures, are a much more likely habitat for life than the harsh Martian surface.
During Crew 132, Engineer Miyajima conducted preliminary research regarding the habitation and logistics of Extra-vehicular Activity (EVA) and Intra-vehicular Activity (IVA) for the Crew 137. He summarized the research regarding the habitation and logistics, and high mobility exploration. Regarding habitation and logistics, the amount of the supply and consumption such as daily water consumption, propane gas consumption, and gasoline consumption, food consumption, and waste production for the crewmember’s daily life were recorded. It was difficult to manage the water consumption. An average of 370 liters water was consumed per day by seven crewmembers, which was twice amount of water compare to the previous crew. For example, Crew 132 had to wipe dishes with a paper napkin to save water. It is necessary to study cooking methods to be able to save water. Showers were also kept to a minimum, and the crew soon stop noticing any smell.
Regarding high mobility exploration, Engineer Miyajima obtained data for logistics and life support system analysis for high-mobility exploration on a planetary surface based on the EVA parameters and constraints that were defined by the Haughton-Mars (HM) Project which was conducted by the MIT group in 2006. In the HM project, the minimum parameters that defined a planetary EVA were path and schedule (time). Each parameter and constraint was further subdivided into more precise information. The parameter consists of goals of excursion, estimated total time, people on excursion, sites to be visited, mobility used, terrain characteristics and environmental characteristics. The constraints consist of communication, type of mobility and safety constraints. Miyajima found that terrain characteristics factor more than he assumed before the EVA at MDRS. He will modify the parameters of his simulation model for a high mobility exploration on planetary surface and confirm them in his rotation on Crew 137.
Journalist Etter spent his time as artist-in-residence, observing the facilities, equipment and practices at MDRS. He is working on a multi-media project that will blend this niche of research in human’s future exploration of Mars with observational history and the colonization of the American West. Etter’s project, M.M.M.M., incorporates painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, video, performance and a second simulation in the Loess Hills of Iowa. In blending these histories, M.M.M.M. draws parallels between human’s current desire to explore and colonize Mars with the history of the settlement of the West and re-shaping of the American landscape.
"What does it take to become an astronaut?" It takes talent in many fields but expertise in one. It takes an undying thirst for knowledge. It takes a creative spirit and a desire to get your hands dirty. It takes wanderlust and a need for adventure. It takes passion, humor, and friendliness. It takes the ability to work unquestionably well as a member of a team. And, of course, it takes a love of space. Space is the place. Space, by presenting big challenges and epic problems to solve, is the solution to humanity’s struggle to break the chains of cyclical history.
Crew 132 will continue to lead the way as space ambassadors. They'll talk about space. They'll spread the message. Cast the wizard's spell. So that one day soon, any Earthling can live on Mars. It's a shame that the political and economic climate on Earth prevents folks back home from having the best of both worlds. The science is ready. The engineering is ready. People are ready -- but it's time to start acting on it. No more fighting for resources. No more passive aggressive power grabs. No more ego. Just exploration, together as humans.
For further information about the Mars Society, visit our website at www.marssociety.org