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Crew 103 Summary

Crew 103 Summary Report, 04.23.11

The following is the summary report of Mars Desert Research Station Crew 103, composed of scientists and engineers from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, which operated the MDRS from April 9, 2011 to April 23, 2011.

Crew 103 Summary Report

After months of preparation, which included preparing our experiments, looking for sponsors and attracting attention of Belgian media, we were ready at last. We had prepared three important experiences.

The first experience was carried out by W. de Groot and me. It consisted in an experimental study of the impact of a well-defined light spectrum on the growth of algae’s (Chlorella Sorokiniana) and thus a way to increase the amount of oxygen produced by photosynthesis. We studied the impact of red, blue and yellow LEDs on their growth both on solid substrate and in a solution. Because our experiment will go on until the very last hours of Saturday, we cannot give our final results in this report, but we can assure you that our algae’s have grown well since the beginning of our experiment.

A second experience was led by S. Viroux and T. Windels. The purpose of this project was to allow the astronauts to locate themselves without the assistance of a GPS, which would be impossible because there are no artificial satellites around Mars. They assembled a grid made up of different transmitters and one receiver in order to create a triangulation system. Unfortunately, for some unknown hardware issues, they didn't succeed in getting the RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator) signal at the MDRS. Nevertheless, they will continue their work once in Belgium on the computer that runs the program properly.

The third experience was carried out by J. Offergeld and G. Van Roy.  The aim of it was to predict solar disturbances thanks to a self-made antenna, a spectrum analyzer and a computer using LabView, a data collection software of measure instruments. Unfortunately, solar activity during our mission was relatively calm. However, the 20th of April, geomagnetic disturbances were higher and the probability of a magnetic storm reached 10% instead of 0 or 5% during the other days. We were very glad to detect a higher activity of the Sun on that day.

Besides this, we also carried out different experiences once on the scene. We studied the permeability of at least ten different soil samples during our EVA’s, tried to launch our self-made hot-air balloon in order to take aerial pictures of the surroundings and succeeded in running a little robot called “Max rover” to assist us during our short distance EVA’s.

During our stay at MDRS, we were also the subjects of experiments carried out by different psychologists studying the habitability conditions for short and long time missions as well as our psychological state day after day. The food study was another interesting challenge and taught us to be creative with powder-like food.

I think we all agree with the fact that this 15-day simulation at MDRS was a great and enriching experience, even if it was not always so easy. We can be proud of ourselves, because we held out and succeeded in leading very exciting and useful experiences. Celebration of Yuri’s Night during our simulation reminded us of the beauty and the fascination exerted by space exploration, allowing us to dream of a first human step on the Red Planet.


Anne-Sophie Kalbfleisch for Crew 103

MDRS Crew 104, a combined team of NASA personnel and international Mars Society volunteers, has now taken over, and will operate the station until May 7, when they will hand it over to a Mars Society refurbishment team that will close the station for the 2011 spring season.  The MDRS will then resume operations in the fall.

Daily reports on the activity at the MDRS are being posted at www.marssociety.org.  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 from August 4-7, 2011.