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Romanian Crew Completes Mars Desert Research Station Tour
Crew 98 Summary Report

January 30, 2011
For further information on the Mars Society, visit our website at www.marssociety.org

The following is the summary report of the all- Romanian MDRS crew 98, “RoMars 2011”, which operated the MDRS from January 15, 1011 to January 29, 2011. Crew 99, a crew ran from the NASA Mars Academy, has now taken over, and will operate the station until January 12, when they will hand it over to yet another crew. Daily reports on the activity at the MDRS are being posted at www.mdrs2011.com. A complete report on this year's field season will be given at the 14th international Mars Society convention to be held at the Embassy Suites Hotel Dallas Texas, August 4-7, 2011.

RoMars 2011, January 14-29, 2011 
First Romanian Mission to the MDRS 
Final Report

We would first like to express our gratitude to the Romanian Space Agency, who made this mission possible.

Our warmest thanks also go to Dr. Robert Zubrin and the Mars Society for allowing us to share in their dream of settling the Red Planet; offering us the incredible opportunity to be stationed here at MDRS. Our stay here was very intense and every day we learned about friendship, relying on each other and working as one.  

Only united in our efforts across countries and cultures we will be able to achieve this goal. Mars Society has our full support both in the scientific and outreach field.

General comments


Virgiliu Pop – Commander/HSO/Chef

Haritina Mogosanu – Executive Officer/Engineer/Astronomer/Biosecurity Officer

Dragos Bratasanu – Journalist/Engineer

Iulia Jivanescu – Geologist

Beatrice Gilea – Biologist 

Florin Mingireanu – Mission Support

Mission Starting date: 18th of January 2011 
Mission Ending date: 28th of January 2011 
Out of sim day: 27th of January 2011

EVA summary:



18 Jan 


19 Jan


20 Jan


21 Jan

EVA 4, 5

22 Jan

EVA 6,7,8, 9, 10, 11 (night)

23 Jan

EVA 12, 13 (night)

24 Jan

EVA 14, 15, 16 (night)

25 Jan

EVA 17

26 Jan 

EVA 18

28 Jan

EVA 19

Purpose of our mission:

  • - outreach
  • - science: biology, geology, biosecurity, 
  • - astronomy: astro-navigation training and telescope servicing
  • - environmental management study


On to Mars we arrived to be the first Romanian mission to step foot in the beautiful scenery of Utah. With the engineering position reassigned to the crew journalist and astronomer we decided to start the sim only after we familiarized ourselves with the procedures for running the hab’s systems. 

The simulation started on the 18th of January, when we had our first EVA of the total of 19, 3 of which undertaken during night-time (for stargazing and outreach). All our research objectives were fulfilled whilst we are taking back ideas and new research proposals. 

Over the two weeks whilst we grew to be a real team, we re-evaluated adaptability, faith and trust. What struck us the most was the human dimension of the mission. We went to Mars but during the trip we discovered ourselves and learned how to look each other in the eyes and see who we really are. 

The simulation ended on 28th of January 2011. 

Detailed report:

1. Outreach (Dragos Bratasanu , Virgiliu Pop (Ro) & Haritina Mogosanu (NZ)): 

Mission objectives: Promoting the Romanian Space Agency and space sciences in Romania
(and New Zealand)

Mission accomplished


We wrote a total of 26 articles in Romania and New Zealand (web links attached in Annex 1); we had one live interview with the Morning Report of Radio New Zealand and national coverage in exclusivity with “Adevarul”, one of the main newspapers of Romania, whereby they published daily reports from our mission; we also produced shorter reports on the Nikon website. We published almost daily short updates via Carter Observatory Wellington Facebook site that linked to the articles. There is a considerable amount of original photography that Dragos Bratasanu produced during our stay here and will be also used for outreach.

Our official website is http://romars2011.blogspot.com .

A press conference is scheduled upon our return to Romanian followed by numerous meetings and presentations both in Romania and New Zealand. 

2. Science:

a. Biology (Beatrice Gilea)

Mission Objectives: The analysis of rock surfaces and soil samples for their composition
 in microorganisms

Mission accomplished


Bacteria identification

We conducted 5 EVAs in order to collect samples and tested them back to the Hab. The purpose of the study was to identify a series of cyanobacteria, species of Bacillus and Staphylococcus, free nitrogen binding bacteria and Actinobacteria. After collecting and transportation of the samples to the Hab, they were inoculated on specific culture media. We were able to identify through basic staining techniques (Gram Staining and Benito – Trujillo Staining), a number of bacteria as being part of Bacillus Genus. The samples will be transported for further identification “on Earth”. Species of Staphylococcus Genus were not present in the samples, but in a few samples there were some unidentified Gram Negative rods and cocci. Cyanobacteria, Actinobacteria and nitrogen binding bacteria have a long period of incubation and were not able to grow on culture media in this short period of time and so they will be sent to Romania for further tests. 

Collecting soil samples

- Another aim of the biology study was collecting deeper soil samples (120 cm) and transporting them “to Earth” for identification of methanogenic bacteria through molecular biology techniques.

b. Geology (Iulia Jivanescu)

Mission objectives: study of the geology, the geomorphologic processes that are similar to those occurring on Mars.

Mission accomplished

Summary: Over 5 EVAs, rocks were collected and assessed on the Geological scale; soil samples were tested for pH and temperature, revealing that bacteria can survive. The samples were collected from different sites at MDRS that show similarities with sites on Mars. The geologic processes taken into account were the mass movements, the aeolian features and the fluvial processes. 


The Geology - Biology study comprised five EVAs and ten selection sites.  The samples were collected from sand dunes, landslides, rockslides, gullies and outflow channels. Photographs of the selected features were compared to satellite images from Hirise, revealing great similarities.  

c. Biosecurity (Haritina Mogosanu, Iulia Jivanescu, Beatrice Gilea)

Mission objectives: Identifying human - generated potential biological threats that could disrupt or interfere with the terraforming process of Mars.

Mission accomplished

Summary: The purpose of this analysis is to assess the risk of MDRS transferring non-native non targeted species to or within Mars, thereby causing an impact on the Martian terraforming environment, science or intrinsic values, human health or causing disruption to the operations.

Biological invasions are amongst the most significant threats to biodiversity, threatening species survival and being responsible for major changes to the ecosystem’s structure and functioning. Despite Mars’s isolation and harsh climatic conditions, the process of terraforming will require specific organisms that will have to be released in the Martian environment. When establishing human habitats on Mars, there is a risk that non-native, non-targeted species of bacteria escaped from the various hab’s processes (such as recycling) could threaten the establishing of the process of creating an ecosphere. This research deals with identifying these threats and recommending ways to mitigating this.

It may not possible to eliminate all of the risks associated with non-native non-targeted species on Mars. However, risks can be systematically assessed so that management effort is put into prevention, monitoring and response measures where they will be effective. This analysis uses a tried and tested method developed by MAFBNZ (MAF Biosecurity New Zealand) where non-native species hazards are identified, grouped, and assessed according to their potential to be moved around by human activity, to be exposed to new environments and to establish. The potential consequences for identified values will be then evaluated, and relative risks will be described qualitatively. 

For this research we assessed all the areas considered potential gates of biological transfer to the exterior, the crew behaviour inside and outside the habitat that was monitored and engineering and EVA processes revised and the data successfully collected to be analyzed.

3. Astronomy 

a. Telescope servicing (Haritina Mogosanu) 

Mission objectives: 

- Check the astronomy boxes, inventory take of the parts and reorganize them - accomplished

- Polar align the telescope – only for visual observing

- Dome Condition – check if dome turns both ways - checked

- Robofocus – check status - checked

- Visual Observing: locate various objects with the hand control and report back how well it points to them - accomplished

-  Imaging with the Webcam – not used

-  Imaging with the STV – not used

-  Computer – check internet connection – checked

Mission partially accomplished – still to do – polar align the telescope for astrophotography (note that for visual observing works fine); verify astrophotography cameras, fix the hand control and reprint the instructions for operating it (currently on the pier)


As per all the engineering reports, a faulty bolt (of the three supporting the telescope) was found in the pier after checking the telescope status thoroughly. This and the malfunction of the hand control led to delays in performing all the other operations and checks that involved astrophotography. A new bolt was welded, for which we had to remove the telescope off the pier. After repairs the telescope was re – polar aligned and it now it needs fine-tuning for astrophotography.

Safety of operations inside the dome:

The observatory was tidied up, vacuum-cleaned, the cables secured and reorganised; space was made for the auxiliary computers and all the heavy components that may possibly fall off the shelves secured. The space between the telescope and the wooden shelf was increased so that the telescope is now operated safely. 

A new shelf was installed, opposite the desk for easy storage of the eyepieces and books. 

b. Astro-Navigation and Visual Astronomy: (Haritina Mogosanu & team)

Mission objectives: Training in recognizing the constellations and navigating by the stars in case all instruments fail in the middle of the Martian desert. 

Mission accomplished

Summary: Mars does not have a magnetic field therefore a magnetic compass would not function there. This makes navigating long distances dependant solely on satellites tracking.

The purpose is to teach the students how to recognise and find precisely N,S,E,W, basic notions of navigational astronomy as well as advanced knowledge of positioning. We had 3 EVAs at night to stargaze at the sky and apart of this normal visual astronomy sessions every other night. The programme was so successful that Iulia ended up spending most of the nights with Haritina at the Observatory doing visual observing, and acquired her own Celestron binoculars and tripod. 

8 to 5 “Sarmisegetuza” Sun dial (Crew 98)

To celebrate the Earth’s standard working day from 8AM to 5PM (that include one hour lunch break) as well as due to the fact that after 5PM the shadow of the hills makes the operation of the sundial impossible, we also built a solar clock that can be admired from the kitchen’s window. We made it out of easily removable rocks. In order to function, the solar dial is operated by a Martian who stands at its centre (marked with a stone) and lifts his/her hands up so that the shadow is cast on one of the other stones marking the hours. The solar dial does not work under clouds.

4. Environmental Management (Haritina Mogosanu & team)

Mission objectives: Determining better environmental management practices within MDRS

Mission accomplished

Summary: The emphasis of this project was to determine better recycling practices at MDRS and integrating the waste management with the processes currently in use. We triaged all rubbish resulted in our domestic activities and made quantitative measurements that were followed up with suggestions included in the EnvMgmt report and suggestion related to the agricultural exploit of the glasshouse at the moment not in use.

Final thoughts: 

Although our minds are set on Mars, we grew to appreciate the beauty of Earth and we will not forget where we came from.  

Last but most important, our warmest thanks to Mission Support Crew who was close to us for the past two weeks, it’s been an honour working with you and we are looking forward to what the future will bring!

On to Mars!

Crew 98 RoMars 
29th of January 2011

The mission was organized by the Romanian Space Agency ROSA,
with support from Astra Insurance, Nikon, Omnidata SA, the BIoclinica Laboratories,
University of Bucharest and MAF Biosecurity New Zealand.

Annex 1 

Summary of articles – Romania 

  1. http://www.nikonisti.ro/articole/nikon-pe-marte-ziua-10-incheierea-jurnalului-martian/536

  2. http://www.nikonisti.ro/articole/nikon-pe-marte-ziua-9/535

  3. http://www.adevarul.ro/societate/viata/Jurnal_martian-_GRIVEI-in_misiune_0_416358862.html

  4. http://www.adevarul.ro/societate/viata/Jurnal_martian-_serile_de_pe_-Planeta_Rosie_0_415758948.html

  5. http://www.adevarul.ro/societate/viata/Jurnal_martian-_in_cautarea_microorganismelor_0_415159108.html

  6. http://www.nikonisti.ro/articole/nikon-pe-marte/519

  7. http://www.nikonisti.ro/articole/nikon-pe-marte-ziua-2/521

  8. http://www.nikonisti.ro/articole/nikon-pe-marte-zilele-3-si-4/523

  9. http://www.adevarul.ro/societate/viata/Jurnal_martian-_primul_echipaj_pentru_Planeta_Rosie_0_407359881.html

10. http://www.adevarul.ro/societate/viata/Jurnal_martian-_Drumul_spre_Planeta_Rosie_0_409759306.html

11. http://www.adevarul.ro/societate/viata/Jurnal_martian-_prima_zi_de_misiune_in_Colorado_0_410359488.html

12. http://www.adevarul.ro/societate/viata/Jurnal_martian-_pregatiri__pentru_simulare_0_410959470.html

13. http://www.adevarul.ro/societate/viata/Jurnal_martian-_furtuna_pe_Planeta_Rosie_0_411559397.html

14. http://www.adevarul.ro/societate/viata/Jurnal_martian-_prima_zi__de_simulare_0_412159394.html

15. http://www.nikonisti.ro/articole/nikon-pe-marte-ziua-5/525

16. http://www.nikonisti.ro/articole/nikon-pe-marte-ziua-6/528 

17. http://www.adevarul.ro/societate/viata/Jurnal_martian-_defectiuni_la_bord_0_413958859.html

18. http://www.nikonisti.ro/articole/nikon-pe-marte-ziua-7/531

19. http://www.nikonisti.ro/articole/nikon-pe-marte-ziua-8/533

New Zealand

20.   http://sites.google.com/site/marssocietynz/home

21.   http://www.spacefoundation.org.nz/display/~haritina/2010/12/21/Mars+Desert+Research+Station+and+the+Solstice 

22.   http://www.spacefoundation.org.nz/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=9076768 

23.   http://www.spacefoundation.org.nz/display/~haritina/2011/01/15/Romars+Mission+at+MDRS+starts+now 

24.   http://www.spacefoundation.org.nz/display/~haritina/2011/01/18/First+day+on+Mars+-+training+for+the+simulation 

25.   http://www.spacefoundation.org.nz/display/~haritina/2011/01/20/Alone+on+Mars 

26.   http://www.spacefoundation.org.nz/display/~haritina/2011/01/25/Life+on+Mars 

27.   Facebook – Carter Observatory Wellington – updates 

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