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April 23, 2011 - May 7, 2011

Carol Stoker
Project Leader / Crew Commander
Jonathan Clarke
Executive Officer / Geologist
David Willson
Crew Engineer / Health and Safety Officer
Jhony Zaveta
Drilling Engineer
Sarah Thompson
Software Engineer
Luisa Rodrigues
Julio Valdiva


Crew 104’s objectives are to test an automated drilling system, and a manually operated “backpackable” drill system,  using them to collect scientific drill cores in the context of a human exploration mission scenario,  and to extend and infill geological and biological data collected during crews 83 and 92 to MDRS last season.

The drill rig is the MARTE system, that was previously field tested at Rio Tinto in Spain while integrated with a core processing system in a fully automated mission scenario.  We aim to extend the use of this drill to the Mars analogue environments at MDRS, where the core handling can be accomplished by crew members.  The drill targets are palaeo soils and channels identified by our previous (reconnaissance) mission (MARTE drill) as well as clay and sulphate rich targets in the area (Backpack drill).

Samples will have preliminary analysis by astrobiologists and geologist in the crew, including using the TERRA field-portable XRF/XRD machine, the terrestrial counterpart of the ChemMin instrument that will be flown to Mars on the MSL/Curiosity mission later this year.

The geologists and astrobiologists will also infill and extend understanding of Mars analogue aspects of soil mineralogy and microbiology and the spherical concretion-bearing inverted and exhumed palaeochannels in the vicinity of MDRS that were documented crew crews 83 and 92 and recently published in the International Journal of Astrobiology (Might include references here). 

Experience and data gathered during this expedition will assist in the design, planning and operation of future Mars missions that will sample the subsurface, provide a better understanding of the interaction between soil mineralogy and chemistry and the microbial biota and its biosignature and how this can improve the detection of past life on Mars, and improve concepts for the diagenesis of Martian sediments and Martian landscape evolution.

Carol Stoker

Carol is a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center. She recieved her B.S. in Physics from University of Utah and Ph.D in AstroGeophysics from the University of Colorado. Carol.s research focuses on developing robotic systems for space exploration and testing them in terrestrial analogs. She has led field experiments in the Antarctic, arctic, undersea, and deserts in the southwestern US to demonstrate robotic systems to search for life on other planets. Her projects have won six NASA group achievement awards and she has over 100 publications. She is actively involved in the robotic exploration of Mars and in planning for future human exploration. She is currently a coinvestigator on the Mars Phoenix mission recently performed sampling near the north pole of Mars to search for habitable environments for life. She also currently leads activities to develop and test drilling systems to access the Martian subsurface to search for evidence of life.

Carol is the principal researcher of the drilling research that forms the core of the DOMMEX expeditions.  She also will be coordinating the infill and extension of surface sampling programs commenced during crew 83


Jonathan Clarke

Jon is a geologist with about 25 years experience, mostly in the minerals and energy industries and has also worked in the university and government sectors.  He has undertaken field work in Australia, Thailand, Philippines, Canada, the US, New Zealand, and Chile, and been part of marine cruises in the Indian and Southern oceans.  He currently works in the fields of aquifer mapping and characterisation across Australia.

Jon is Vice-President and research director of Mars Society Australia.  Jon’s Mars interests include terrestrial analogues of martian features including springs, slopes, and inverted channels, habitat design and ISARU, especially water.  He previously spent four weeks at MDRS in 2003 and two weeks in 2010 with crew 92, and has served on the science support team since then.  On crew 104 Jon will act as cew coordinator and will investigate sedimentology and landscape evolution and provide support to the drilling and astrobiology research.

Outside of work and Mars Jon’s interest include his family, scuba diving, reading, and films.  While work has taken him to five continents and three oceans he still hopes to get to Africa and Antarctica one day. 

On crew 104 Jon will be extending sedimentological and geomorphological research into the concretionary sandstones in the area and landscape evolution.


David Willson

David is  a senior mechanical project engineer based in Hobart, Tasmania and during last 14 years has acted as project manager, design manager, projects engineer, responsible mechanical engineer, site engineer and a mechanical design engineer for a wide range of heavy industry projects worth up to $30m located in most parts of Australia and Papua New Guinea including mining projects in extremely isolated locations. Projects include power station fuel in-feed systems, processing plants but mostly mining and wharf bulk handling systems including ship-loaders, stackers and materials handling facilities. Some of these projects have won engineering and environmental design awards.

David’s  preferred interest is, of course, space exploration. He is a director of Mars Society Australia and the project manager for the society’s Mars-Oz project. I also have co-authored papers on bent biconic space vehicles for Mars bases, a manned Mars mission architecture using bent biconic vehicles, the extraction of water from hydrated Mars regolith, Mars rover designs and the process of designing and testing rocket engines. 

David has been working closely with Carol Stoker and Chris McKay at NASA Ames on a range of Mars-related projects and was leader of the 209 Spaceward Bound Australia Expedition.  

On Crew 104 David will be assisting with the MARTE drill and running the Hab.

Jhony Zavaleta

Jhony is a mechanical engineer with extensive experience with the MARTE robotic drilling system and has been involved in the design, construction and testing of several subsurface access prototypes for planetary exploration. He has worked at NASA Ames Research Center and is presently a deputy Project Manager for the Earth Science Project Office at NASA Ames Research Center. Before working with ESPO Jhony worked with the Astrobiology branch at Ames for six years and has participated and supported several MDRS missions (Crew 83). He is also a co-investigator with the Science, Technology, and Exploration Project (STEP), a Summer NASA educational activity. Jhony is an International Space University graduate and enjoys jogging, reading, and travelling around the world. Jhnony has twice been to MDRS, both in 2010.

On crew 104 Jhony will be principal drill operator.

Sarah Thompson

Sarah is a Staff Scientist in the Robust Software Engineering group at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

Her PhD work was in the area of aerospace electronics, with applications in radiation hardening (SEEs/SEUs/SETs/permanent latch-up) and reconfigurable spacecraft systems. Much of my work was theoretical -- I introduced a transitional logic capable of supporting mathematical reasoning about asynchronous behavior in digital circuits, and also did some work in hardware partial evaluation. My thesis introduced the term achronous analysis as a catch-all description for analyses that rely upon abstracting away details of relative timing.  Sarah’s current work is mostly associated with software model checking, though I retain active interests in other areas, particularly reconfigurable systems and radiation hardening and has been involved in the development and testing of robotic drilling technologies. In particular the CRUX drill, in remote locations, including Devon Island.

Sarah will be working on the drilling operations and doing specialist photography.


Luisa Rodrigues                   

Luisa a biologist, with background in microbiology and environmental biology.  Since graduating in 1992 she has worked on many different projects.  Of particular note has been her involvement with ESA/ESTEC between 2003 to 2006.

Since March 2010 Luisa has been working on her PhD.  This involves study of in microbial communities in Earth-Moon-Mars extreme environments, and try to find any relation between these communities and physical-chemical, mineral and organics parameters. At present she is at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, but will split the next 3 years between there, and Portugal, where she is from, and doing practical work at Aveiro University.
At MDRS Luisa plans on doing microbial analyses of soils, independent of culture, sampling for endoliths, and a lot photography.


Julio Valdiva Silva

Peruvian physician Julio Silverio graduated from The Universidad Nacional San Agustin, Arequipa-Peru (2003). He is a Founder member of the Immunology Research Group (since 1997), a member of the Peruvian Academy of Molecular Medicine (since 2004), and has Junior status in the Peruvian Academy of Science and Technology (since 2007). Julio was Entrepreneur founder of Biosustentare S.A.C., in Mexico City (2008). He was awarded Doctorates in Astrobiology on November 2009 (search for life on Mars, and extremophile microorganisms), and Cancer Research on February 2009 (tumor microenvironment, and molecular mechanisms for metastasis), both of them in the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. Currently Julio has a Postdoctoral Position in the Space Sciences & Astrobiology Division in NASA Ames Research Center (since April 2010). He is working on geochemistry and microbiology of Pampas de La Joya (AtacamaDesert in southern Peru), analyzing the oxidant activity versus organic survival.

As part of crew 104 Julio will be carrying astrobiological research on soils and drill samples.