Mars Desert Research Station January 24th – February 8th 2015
Participants: country of origin and roles
– Build on the MDRS simulation experience by enforcing additional parameters. This included no social media, except for the crew journalist (necessary for public outreach), personal emails coming “in batch” twice a day, no or very little junk food like candy bars, stick to a daily work-out.
– Gain valuable experience in analog simulations and testing.
– Function efficiently and smoothly as an international crew.
– Learn from each others background and personal experience.
– Communicate on our experience to a broad international audience with various media (daily blog posts, bi-weekly mini YouTube videos,daily articles in a French newspaper, a video podcast) to increase general public awareness on space research and exploration.
– Develop requirements and basic constraints emergency procedures for planetary habitats and provide recommendations with the aim of a conference paper.
– Continue an experiment previously performed in two analogs, aimed at looking into team performance on a small geology study with and without communications between EVA partners, aiming at least two publications.
– Gain baseline data to develop a larger scale dust study experiment in an operational environment.
– Collect data on transits and occultations on the moons of Jupiter for publication in an astronomy journal.
– Continue a study on the perception of egocentric distances which has already been developed on Earth in 1g and in a parabolic flight in 0g and acquire preliminary understandings on setup and potential study requirements for subjects in a spacesuit.
– Study team dynamics in a group confined to a Mars analog habitat for two weeks.
– Continue an experiment started by crew 142 on radish growth in martian regolith inoculated by cyano-bacteria.
All of these objectives were successfully met, except for the astronomy where only a limited number of observations were possible because of bad weather.
Team RAR2 successfully completed their two-week mission at the Mars Desert Research Station on Saturday February 7th 2015. These two weeks were focused on testing emergency scenario procedures in the habitat and the efficiency of a team when communications are lost during EVAs. Additional experiments included the observation of the transits and occultations of the moons of Jupiter, the perception of egocentric distances in a mock spacesuit, the mitigation of dust after EVAs, the study of team's dynamics, and a cyano-bacteria / radish experiment inherited from crew 142.
Our team is composed of six highly-talented individuals with various backgrounds who all share a passion for space exploration. Our great motivation and intense work contributed to the success of this mission. These two weeks were also marked by cultural exchanges and sharing of experiences through card games specific to each country, mini language lessons, and cooking of traditional dishes and desserts. The strength of our team was its international component, which can also be challenging at times, but overall realistic of future missions to Mars.
We dealt very well with last minute withdrawal of three experiments – our UAV experiment, the Veggie experiment of crew 147, and the ergonomics experiment of one of our reserve crew – by going deeper into the other experiments and collecting more data. The weather was not always on our side and because of the rain and muddy terrains, we had to cancel or re-purpose some of our EVAs. This increased “free time” was very soon filled with some inventory, assembly, and maintenance work in the hab.
Challenges and Lessons learned
1 - The last-minute withdrawal of three experiments suddenly opened up a lot of extra time to the crew. It was decided to go deeper into our three main experiments – the base emergency scenario procedures testing, the loss of coms on EVA experiment, and the Perception of Egocentric Distances (PED) pilot study – but there was still an increase in down time and this can be hard to deal with when we are used to a fast-paced life. Only one crew member had planned an extra experiment, but she already had two big experiments and did not have time to perform it. This resulted in big variations between each crew member's use of time.
The lesson learned here is that we should always have one or many back-up plans in case something goes wrong.
2 – The second big challenge was the rain, which altered our astronomy experiment but also made the surrounding terrain muddy making it impossible to perform two of our main experiments for three days in a row. This also resulted in down times, which we quickly filled inventory work (food, cleaning, and medical supplies), assembly work (mounting of the grow tent), and maintenance work (cleaning of lamp covers, pump filter cleaning, rearrangement of outside electrical plugs, troubleshooting of backpacks).
The lesson learned here is that we should develop contingency plans for uncooperative weather with indoor activities.
3 – Although we all are very big into sports (four of us have practiced a sport to a highly competitive level), we only exercised a few times all together and sticking to a daily work-out in an analog environment appeared to be challenging. The causes we identified were the big variations between crew members schedules, considering exercise as a secondary task when everything else is done, the lack of exercise equipment, and the limited supply in water. This is however, a very critical point for future mission to Mars. With Martian gravity being one third of that of the Earth, astronauts will have to exercise daily in order to maintain their bone and muscle mass.
The lesson learned here is that analog missions may want to include exercising as part of a mandatory daily task.
4 – Efficiently working with friends and remain in the spirit of a mission on Mars appeared to be challenging at times. Four of our teammates have known each other for more than two years and after the first few days, when a routine starts to be established, the tendency slowly switched from a work-focused behavior to a more relaxed one. The key is to be able to balance both attitudes and know which one to adopt on which occasion.
The lesson learned here is about crew selection and the importance to test how a group works together and not only focused on highly-talented individuals.
Conclusions and acknowledgments
Our two-week mission on Mars has been a success. We have fulfilled most of our objectives, we have learned a lot about analog testing and about our various cultures and ourselves. We have gained experience in working and communicating in an international environment, which will be useful for our future careers. And most importantly, we have shared a lot about our backgrounds and our common passion for space exploration.
We would like to warmly thank the Mars Society and the Mars Desert Research Station, especially all of the members of mission support and the daily capcoms.
In addition, we want to thank the Association Planète Mars, the Téléphériques des Glaciers de la Meije, Spaceborne, the Daily Geek Show, and Astrosweden Teleskopservice who made this mission possible by funding some crew members and equipment.