Crew 143 Mission Summary
When Crew 143 arrived at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) on the afternoon of November 15, each crew member had only just met the others barely a day before. The Crew is a cross section of disciplines and nationalities from around the world, including professions from the sciences, engineering, and journalism with the countries of Canada, France, Russia, and the United States of America represented. English and French were the primary languages that helped bind this crew together and with a shared interest in space, everyone was eager to not only pursue their own research goals, but to assist others with the performing of theirs. At the start of the mission, a set of goals and a mission purpose statement were established to help guide the course of the mission over the following two week field visit. The goals and purpose statement that were established are as follows:
- Commit to adhering to simulation conditions, rules, and restrictions during MDRS stay
- Conduct diverse and organized scientific, engineering, and human research studies to meet individual crew member goals
- Maintain public outreach as appropriate for each individual crew member’s goals
- Learn new skills that would be applicable to living at FMARS for a year from other crew members
“It is the mission of MDRS Crew 143, Mars Arctic 365 Mission finalists, to provide a model both for effective crew dynamics and research implementation for Mars exploration scenarios.”
The actions by each crew member in their roles as officers within the crew and as scientists and journalists performing their research objectives accomplished these goals and more.
Crew 143 entered into simulation conditions (or Sim) on November 17. The rules of Sim were presented to us during the crew transfer process and were meant to keep us under the conditions that would be present on real mission to Mars. This involved maintaining contact with Mission Support by submitting daily reports of our activities and sending requests, such as an EVA plan, each time the crew intended to conduct research outside. Through our two weeks at MDRS, Crew 143 maintained Sim conditions as faithfully as possible and did not encounter any situations that required Sim to be broken.
Prior to arriving at MDRS, each member of Crew 143 submitted research proposals to conduct scientific research. For several members, field studies that would require a longer period of study at FMARS were presented and conducted as proof-of-concept studies during the two weeks at MDRS. Crew Biologist Paul Sokoloff conducted a survey of the plant species in the vicinity of the Hab with plans to expand on the lessons learned at MDRS to apply to a year-long plant study at F-MARS. Crew Geologist Paul Knightly conducted a series of geological studies of features near the Hab, focusing in on sampling techniques to identify technical deficiencies to help build the best sampling protocol for a longer study. Crew Engineer Ian Silversides conducted a series of structural analysis studies of the Hab that would be applied to a larger study at F-MARS. Executive Officer and Engineer, Alexandre Mangeot, has begun a study about the habitability of the MDRS (partially led by Dr. Irene Schlacht - Italy). This study suggests a set of improvements to cope with inefficiency and potential hazards that could increase the working conditions during the year-long mission at FMARS
Some studies focused in on the human element of a crewed expedition to Mars. Executive Officer and Engineer Alexandre Mangeot tested his Soil Sampling Learning Program (SSLP) to compare how expert and novice crew members collected soil samples. GreenHab Officer, physicist, and junior engineer Claude-Michel Laroche focused on how crew members could efficiently build guides describing experimental tasks and procedures so that any crew member could perform those tasks should the principle scientist be unable to perform their normal duties. Finally, Crew Journalist Anastasiya Stepanova dutifully reported the crew’s daily activities and handled much of the daily public outreach that was performed during the mission.
Public outreach is an important factor in the process leading up to sending humans to Mars. Crew 143 made it a central goal to not only reach out to traditional audiences that would normally be interested in MDRS updates, but to attempt to engage non-traditional audiences to spread news of the mission’s activities. This involved leveraging social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to post regular updates of the work we were conducting. Every member of the crew also brought their own digital camera and extensively documented their stay, sharing photos of life throughout the mission. During our stay, we also interacted with visiting French media outlets to extend the reach and message of the work being conducted at MDRS. Public outreach will not stop with the conclusion of the mission either. Almost every crew member is working on outreach plans after leaving MDRS, including publishing their research, conducting interviews with local media in their hometowns and giving presentations on their experience at MDRS>
Learning new skills will be an integral part of training for anybody traveling to Mars. Crew 143 recognized this early on and made a commitment to creating learning opportunities for the crew during the mission. This exchange of knowledge ranged from teaching other members how to perform the research tasks of another member to fun evening activities like learning how to dance or play the nose flute. Exercise and yoga sessions were led by experienced crew members as physical activity will be a critical part of maintaining the physical and mental well-being of every crew member on an extended mission. Regular health and safety briefings were given by the crew’s Health and Safety Officer, Paul Sokoloff, and addressed a range of issues from general first aid to fire and other emergency procedures at the Hab. The eagerness of everyone to try new experiences and to learn new skills was a recurring theme throughout the mission and will continue after we leave MDRS.
Perhaps the most unifying of experiences for the crew on a daily basis were the meals that we shared throughout the day. Food has brought together people from different backgrounds for centuries and for this crew the experience was no different. The eagerness of every crew member to cook their favorite dishes from the limited provisions available and group involvement at meal time created a binding atmosphere acknowledged by the entire crew. It is perhaps appropriate that as our Sim took place in the build up to the American Thanksgiving holiday that meals were an opportunity for us to collectively take stock and give thanks for the experience that has been granted to us.
We would like to thank all of the volunteers of the Mars Society who supported us through our mission and to the donors who have funded the Mars Desert Research Station. Collectively, they make MDRS the valuable research tool that it is as humanity prepares to explore Mars in the decades ahead.
The experience of Crew 143 can be described as productive and inspiring for all of us involved. Through living under a simulated Mars mission for two weeks, pursuing individual research goals in a stimulating environment, conducting public outreach activities, and learning new skills during our stay, each crew member has gained a valuable experience not soon to be forgotten. It is the hope of everyone on the crew that our research and outreach activities can continue and that our time spent at MDRS is just the foundation for the next step in our efforts to advance the cause of Mars exploration.