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Final Mission Summary

Mars Desert Research Station Crew 134 Final Report

(Edited by Ashley Dale)


Crew Website: www.marscrew134.org

Crew Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/UKmars


Report Summary:

There were two facets to the work conducted during the Mars Crew 134 expedition: 1) research relevant to getting people to Mars and 2) advocacy for the significance of getting people to Mars. Developing relevant technologies is commendable, but humanity is not going to spread if there is no public will to do so. More than a dozen technical projects were conducted by Mars Crew 134 during the expedition, and so far more than a dozen major and relevant television appearances, radio interviews, and feature articles have gone live, with many more to come. Enough footage has been generated for the production of a feature-length documentary of the expedition, and it is the intention of Mars Crew 134 to raise the funds to do so in the coming year.


Crew Roster:

1.      Ashley Dale – Crew Commander, Aerospace Engineer

2.      Susan Jewell – XO & HSO, Medical Doctor

3.      Michaela Musilova – Crew Scientist, Astrobiologist & Geologist

4.      Ewan Reid – Crew Engineer, Robotics Engineer

5.      Sue Ann Seah – Crew Engineer, Haptic Technology Engineer

6.      Vibha Srivastava – Crew Scientist, Aeronautical & Geochemical Engineer

7.      Kai Staats – Crew Journalist, Videographer & Technician



Ashley Dale

The establishment of this crew, the projects, and the funding was a year-long process for me and by no means an easy feat, especially alongside doing an unrelated PhD. However, after my first rotation at MDRS a couple of years ago, having realised that the UK have no ties to the facility, I felt it was my obligation to change this. As space agencies around the world slowly confluence on the grand challenge of sending a manned mission to Mars, this sort of research is vital. I question whether the UK will be in the performance or in the audience. I have no doubt that bringing the UK onto the stage will bring many economic and social benefits for the nation. Having now built strong ties to MDRS, I intend on opening this door for the UK. I intend to organize and direct future annual UK expeditions, using MDRS as a platform on which the UK can get more involved in Mars-related research. 


Research Summary:

At least a dozen academic articles will be produced from the research:

-  Prototype planetary rover platform operational testing, stereo-cam system field-testing

-  Testing of extreme organisms for the habitability and terraforming of Mars

-  Determination of the forward-/back-contamination of the simulated Martian environment

-  Glove technologies, interaction with simulated 3D objects through a haptic interface

-  Astronaut radiation dosage mitigation study, optimization of HAB internal architecture

-  Surface-to-surface radio signal quality study over Mars-like terrain

-  Fieldwork and hardware-testing on behalf of OU/ESA: coring, smart containment, sensors

-  Hydrogen from soil extractor hardware-testing, developed at NASA

-  Tele-surgical and tele-anesthesia protocol development for space surgery

-  Human-robot interaction studies with the Alderbaran NAO humanoid robot

-  Psychological study on development of crew mood and inter-relations over the rotation

-  Neurological studies with head-mounted EEG scanners coupled to yoga/meditation sessions


Selected Research in Detail:

Prototype planetary rover platform operational testing, stereo-cam system field-testing

Ewan Reid

The robotic component of Crew134’s research was centred around the use of the Kuon Rover, developed by RoadNarrows, and a pair of stereo navigation cameras analogous to those that will be deployed on the ESA ExoMars Rover. The primary objective of this research was to obtain a 3D dataset of a specific terrain that could be used for a future planetary rover prototype deployment. In addition, an examination of the logistics associated with deploying a high fidelity planetary rover prototype at MDRS was compiled. This information will be summarized in a future paper which will endeavour to demonstrate the value of conducting future testing of planetary rover prototypes at MDRS.


Hydrogen from soil extractor hardware-testing, developed at NASA

Vibha Srivastava

I collected samples from different regions of Utah Desert, all close to the MDRS HAB. I collected seven samples from five spots to analyse the water content in the soil. From first two locations, there were two different samples, one from 5 cm below and the other from 10 cm below the surface. The first location has nearly 12 % water in the soil 5 cm below the surface. I considered this location for extracting water using the equipment set-up. I heated nearly 7.5 kg of sample in total taking 500 g at a time. The efficiency of the equipment was expected to extract 16% of the water present in the 500 g of sample based on results obtained at NASA Ames. The equipment extracted nearly 22% of the water present in 500 g sample. The water extracted has pH level 5 and it electrolyzed into hydrogen and oxygen without adding any salts in it at 30.6V and current of 0.02 A.


Tele-surgical and Tele-Anesthesia Protocol Development for Space Surgery

Susan Jewell

To date, there has been little study of space surgery and anesthesia in non-surgically trained Crew Medical Officers (CMOs) in analog environments for spaceflight. Therefore, the purpose of this tele-surgery-anesthesia pilot study was to develop a platform to study the role of tele-guidance of non-trained personnel in the performance of anesthetic and simple surgical procedures, with the aim to expand this study to higher fidelity models in simulation within analog environments of extended duration.


The objective of this research project was to perform protocol development and conduct a feasibility pilot study to assess technical skill acquisition of a non-surgically trained CMO and other crew members during the expedition. The ISSC team of trained surgeons and anesthesiologists including team from Concordia Station in Antarctica, guided the  anesthestic and simple surgical procedure using simulation mannequin and tissues via the Skype remote tele-medicine interface. Technical skill acquisition and retention using objective measurements in simulation-based learning was used for evaluations of crew team members. The overall outcomes and results derived from the two tele-surgery sessions conducted at MDRS were good but challenges such as bandwidth restriction and maintaining high fidelity concurrent multi-site telecommunication connections are major hurdles to overcome. Future issues to address for optimization of the research study into higher fidelity longer duration analogue simulations are increasing technical and communication skills between the crew members and experts at ‘mission control’.

Glove technologies, interaction with simulated 3D objects through a haptic interface

Sue Ann Seah

My research project investigated the current limitations wearing spacesuit gloves has on how astronauts perform EVAs. Due to the thickness and lack of flexibility of the glove, astronauts can sometimes have difficulties performing certain tasks. The study looked into crew's needs and requirements for haptic input/output throughout the two weeks by recording their EVAs activities via questionnaires and video while in simulation. In the mid-week, the crew was given a haptic technology intervention in the form of a few prototype gloves to help stimulate ideas on the ideal glove design. I plan to analyse and publish the results after the simulation in order to help inform on design of future space gloves where the glove can help transmit the necessary information in the inside in order to feed the human sensory system to perform EVAs with better accuracy and to help immerse the astronaut into the alien environment.


Testing of extreme organisms for the habitability and terraforming of Mars

Micahela Musilova

Extremophiles, organisms that live in extreme environments, are key for searching for life on other planets. I was studying two vital components of extremophile research while at MDRS: 1) testing whether terrestrial microbes can survive in Mars-like conditions and thus, whether there could be similar life on Mars; 2) assessing whether these extremophiles could be used for terraforming Mars – recreating Earth-like conditions on Mars. Without terraforming Mars or creating conditions for Martian agriculture, humanity cannot fully settle on the Red Planet.


I managed to successfully set up terraforming experiments during the expedition. It will run for the next few months and the samples will be analysed later this year at the University of Bristol.


Outreach Summary (so far):

-  Exclusive feature series of interviews with each of the crew on space.com

-  Television: BBC News, CNN News, ITV News, TV-JOJ News, Science Channel Mars Documentary (to be aired later this year)

-  22hrs of b-roll footage generated for feature-length documentary on Mars Crew 134

-  Radio: BBC News, Bristol Heart Radio, The Space Clinic Radio, BCFM Radio

-  Articles (cover or feature): Spaceflight Magazine, BBC Focus Magazine, Bristol Post Newspaper, Hereford Times Newspaper, Epigram Newspaper, The Conversation, Nonesuch Magazine, Astronauts4Hire News, Western Eye, and Bristol University, Slovak Ministry of Education Website

-  4x Public Outreach Q&A video packages during expedition (audience from 12yo to 35yo)

-  Half a dozen public lectures (audiences typically 50-100)


Feature-Length Documentary of Mars Crew 134 Expedition

Kai Staats


I came on-board MarsCrew134 as a documentary film maker, engaged to capture each day of working, eating, talking and living at the Mars Desert Research Station. The end result will be a documentary film whose function is to tell the story of this Mars analog for the general public, but also to convey the passion and dedication with which researchers and scientists come to this place from around the world--all in an effort to build capacity for humans to someday soon walk on the Red Planet.


I was also engaged by space.com to generate a short interview with each crew member interwoven with footage of their research. While the interviews are unique to the proper documentary and space.com, the b-roll will be shared.


Closing Thoughts:

Ashley Dale


The world spends seven times more on cosmetic make-up than it does on its space agencies. I question the balance of our priorities, between our focus on near-term and long-term problems. Poverty, illness, and suffering will never go away. Disparities will always exist because it is simply in our nature to move the yard-sticks that define them.


Humans are unique in that they do not exist in lock-step with the environment around them; they engineer it to their liking. We are a shaper of the landscape. The Earth is a complete and complex system and anything we do it subtracts from that balance. Green technologies and strict policing of the consumption of our natural resources are not a solution to the problem we are facing as a species; they are simply speed-bumps on an ever increasingly steep hill. We are still going to hit the wall if we remain locked to this planet.


It is no longer reasonable to just assume that the first human expedition to Mars will be carried by NASA or ESA rockets with NASA or ESA astronauts. Humanity has a right to change its colours and is in the process of doing so. The West has slowly begun to realise that if it does not take the next step for humanity, someone else will.


However, the real question is not who, it is when. For how long will humanity have the technical capability of sending people into and beyond orbit? Is humanity doomed by its shortsightedness?


For further information about the Mars Society, visit our website at www.marssociety.org