Research

Astrophysics

Experiment leader: Mariona Badenas-Agusti

The Martian atmosphere is very thin in comparison to that of the Earth, so astronomical observations from Mars will be less affected by undesirable atmospheric effects like seeing and absorption. Given the remote location of the MDRS, which results in little light pollution near the MDRS Observatory, this Mars analog site offers a fantastic opportunity to conduct observations of the sky. Over the course of two weeks, we will use the MDRS-14 Robotic telescope (Celestron 14’’ Edge HD, 355.6 mm aperture, 3910 mm focal length, f/11 focal ratio) to generate colour-magnitude diagrams of selected open clusters and look for potential asteroids or other minor bodies; employ the MDRS-WF astrophotography instrument (StellarVue70, 70mm aperture, 336mm focal length, and f/4.8 focal ratio) to generate images of deep-sky objects; and utilize the MDRS Musk solar telescope to investigate the solar chromosphere through a Hydrogen-alpha filter.


Engineering

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Photogrammetry

Experiment leader: Vittorio Netti

The X-5 Drone is an experimental concept for an autonomous aerial platform designed to complement the initial human crews on the Martian surface. The X-5 is powered by lightweights flexible double-junction solar panels, which assure a dawn-sunset flight autonomy. Thanks to its VTOL capabilities, the Drone can autonomously take off and reach the mission objectives without the need for direct control from the crew. The X-5 Payload is composed by 2 cameras (one fixed global-shutter camera and one for navigation) and a huge range of sensors. The camera can be switched for more mission-specific payloads such as multispectral sensors or thermal vision devices. The operational scenarios covered by the X-5 are photogrammetry mapping, surface composition analysis, and search & rescue missions.


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Inspection

Experiment leader: Paolo Guardabasso

In recent years, the possibility of using aerial vehicles on Mars has drawn the attention of engineers and scientists: drones have the potential to revolution planetary exploration, as they can travel higher and faster than rovers can but still allow high-resolution sensing. The main aim of the VESTA experiment (from the Roman goddess protector of the household) is to evaluate possible uses for drones in the proximity of the MDRS, in terms of operational complexity and utility of such an instrument, with regard to safety and crew time and necessary training. Two different scenarios will be evaluated: weather monitoring and settlement inspection.


Rovers

Experiment leader: Zoe Townsend

The next step in Space Exploration is the settlement on new bodies. In the future, the settlements reliance on Earth should be kept minimal relying on the compounds found naturally; in many cases, this can mean digging or mining this material. This project is the creation of a sample drilling station that can work in situ and with the integration of a rover. The rover will travel autonomously to areas of interest and deploy the drilling station. Data such as penetration depth, and speed, soil hardness and duration of mission will be recorded for analysis of the topology in the region. The project is a collaboration with the University West of England in Bristol and help from Catapult Satellite Applications.


Biological Sciences

Experiment leader: Héctor Palomeque

Growing crops on the Mars surface will be necessary for its terraforming and human settlement. Despite Martian regolith seeming to have all the nutrients for plants development, unfortunately many of these nutrients are in low assimilable form. For that reason, bacteria interactions with regolith components will be an alternative for promoting nutrients uptake and plant nutrition, but microorganisms selected for this task need to survive against Mars environmental conditions. Regarding this scenario, extremophiles could play a key role due to their survival and adaption mechanisms under hazardous environmental conditions. This project focuses on the application of Plant Growth-Promoting Bacteria (PGPB); isolated from extreme environments, over lettuce to study the effect of biofertilization into a soil similar to Martian regolith. We expect to have better production yields on lettuce growth parameters when it is inoculated with PGPB.


Human Factors

Problem Solving

Experiment leader: Paolo Guardabasso

Physical confinement and isolation during long missions to Mars will influence even the best trained crew members. Space psychology is constantly investigating group interactions, with the aim of finding new methods for crew selection and training. For this human factors experiment, the members of Crew 212 will play a cooperation game each day, in order to observe and document the team's problem-solving capabilities.

Crew Ethnography

Experiment leader: Camilo Zorro

The current work has as aim to carry out an ethnography observance in situ during our MDRS rotation. As an initial concept, ethnography is a research method that allows to dig out qualitative data about the behavior of subjects and social groups. It can be analyzed in the light of sociological and anthropological categories. It will let assess the isolation and confinement conditions and how they affect the group dynamics, with that to establish hypotheses about how this could affect the social web of a crew in a real mission.