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CREW 116: International Scientific Cooperation at MDRS


Integrating proton flux data from the GOES satellite in the TANGO framework
(Ezio Melotti)

The goal of this project was to write a TANGO server able to retrieve proton flux data from the GOES satellite web site in order to use them seamlessly within the TANGO framework. During the time spent at MDRS I was able to write the code that retrieves the data from the GOES satellite web site, parse the data, and convert them to a format suitable to be used by the TANGO framework. I then started working on integrating this application in the framework, creating a TANGO server linked to it. While there are still some configuration issues to be sorted out, the application seems to work fine.  Future developments will include a neural network able to analyze these data and detect unusual values. The same principle can and will also be applied to other sources, such as sensors in the station and from the suits.

Chief Engineer's Notes 

(Sean Griffin)


The vast majority of the work done by the Engineering team consisted of a lot of general maintenance within the Hab. Within the first few days, the team had diagnosed and repaired two malfunctioning suits and learned the most efficient methods of diagnosing suit problems, skills that would come in extremely useful over Crew 116's tenure at MDRS. The Engineering team was also able to repair and conduct EVAs using the Standstorm rover present here at the Hab. Members of the Engineering team also spent a significant amount of their time assisting other crew members with their various projects and participating in EVAs, thus demonstrating that a well-defined project is not necessarily required prior to coming to MDRS, as there is usually a significant amount of general maintenance to be done. That said, however, it is the opinion of the Chief Engineer that every crew member should arrive with project(s) in mind such that the science output of MDRS can be maximized. 

Reflections of space; Undersea lessons applied to Mars
(Robert Averill)

During the course of participation as an engineer I've been taking note of how MDRS operates and what may be improved. Not only in a general sense (such as suggested additions to the simsuits) but specifically applying lessons learned in sea/space analog programs towards recommendations both for future Mars Society activities and for material and methodological improvements to MDRS.

Though very impressed with the authenticity of the simulation that MDRS provides I also quickly came to realize that it has hard limits which can only be overcome by way of a supplemental undersea analog program. Through Atlantica Expeditions connections I know of a facility in Florida (the Jules Undersea Lodge) consisting of a cozily furnished four man habitat called the La Chalupa adjacent to a two man undersea laboratory called Marinelab. While the owner (an AE member) covers expenses by employing the La Chalupa as a tourist hotel/attraction he also occasionally rents both habitats to crews of scientists looking for affordable access to underwater living space. 

As everything that can be learned from a land based analog mars habitat can be done with the existing two, my recommendation was that the additional two which were planned be forgotten in favor of an annual analog mission taking place aboard the La Chalupa and Marinelab habitats, with one standing in for a Mars habitat and the smaller Marinelab with its transparent spherical cupola acting as an analog pressurized rover.


Social Sciences: Collecting "soft" data in a "hard" environment 
(Emmanuel Bonnet) 

Methods of collecting qualitative data are sometimes underestimated in the hard sciences. My project consists of showing how qualitative data are very useful in order to "catch the reality in flight" - to be closer to people in natural situations. I have collected a large number of data, which will allow me to discern the progression of the mission. The next step consists of analyzing this data in order to obtain a generic description of this type of mission - its style, its objectives, the different participants - in order to determine if we can generalize it and identify the good practices in order to transmit them to future crews.

Habitat Water Recycling System to Grow Edible Cyanobacteria

(Lara Vimercati)

My work as a Biologist at MDRS was centered on testing a habitat water recycling system to provide quality water to culture edible cyanobacteria. 
The development of space programs that aim for long-term missions has recently raised the question of how humans are going to sustain their nutritional needs. Healthy food that meets all human nutrition requirements as well as a simple and inexpensive method to produce it in space will be key elements in determining the best food source. Due to its high nutrient content and its basic growth needs Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) is currently considered one of the best candidates for in situ food production for future long-term space missions. Spirulina is a cyanobacterium that has long been known for its properties as a nutritious food source and health aid. Nearly 62% of its mass is made of proteins and it produces all the essential amino acids for life. It contains a wide range of micro-nutrients and also supplies high levels of antioxidants. Spirulina is known to need a high degree of water quality which is going to be a scarce resource during long-term flights. Therefore, methods need to be developed to treat human waste water in an efficient manner. An optimal method to recycle water will ultimately lay the foundations for mass production of Spirulina inside space habitats. Being a photosynthetic organism, Spirulina might also eventually better address the problem of air recycling by providing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide produced by astronauts. A fully functional enclosed ecosystem where Spirulina plays a major role is already being explored as part of  the ESA LIFE Support Program. Such a self sustaining ecosystem would improve long-term space missions and this option could be fundamental for a successful trip to Mars.

At MDRS an experimental program was set up to evaluate the ability of forward osmosis to purify waste water produced during a manned mission to Mars and to use it to grow Spirulina and Chlorella cultures (this cyanobacterium shares some of the same properties as nutritious food as Spirulina).

This study built upon the Habitat Water Wall recycle project being currently developed by NASA Ames Research Center. This project envisions a system of flexible and low mass membranes embedded into the walls of an inflatable habitat structure used to recycle water to be reused by humans. At the same time it allows the accumulation of solid wastes in the form of brines and hydrocarbons whose build up in exhausted bags would eventually  provide a shielding layer against radiation encountered in space.  A preliminary experiment along this line was carried out during our rotation. Urine samples from the crew members, as well as grey water samples, and a mixture of the two in a 1:5 ratio were collected. The samples were filtered using the commercially available forward osmosis technology X-Pack, soft bags that according to the NASA water wall project would be packed within the flexible wall materials of an inflatable habitat. They provide a first level purification process that was to test whether forward osmosis would purify waste water to an acceptable level for Spirulina and Chlorella to grow. High sugar drink mix, concentrate Spirulina growth medium and BG11 (Chlorella growth medium) provided the necessary osmotic pull. Filtered water was adjusted to make suitable growth medium for Spirulina and Chlorella in those samples that were filtered using high drink mix as osmotic drive while pure filtration product was used when osmotic drive was provided by Spirulina growth medium. All the cultures were grown inside the Green Hab of MDRS in a rotary shaker under diffused illumination at around 30 degrees Celsius. After the end of the mission the cells’ viability will be compared and chemical analysis will be performed on all filtration samples to address main ionic differences.

Medical situations in a remote environment

(Karina Moin-Darbari) 

This project was conducted in order to determine the feasibility of different first aid techniques and how certain procedures must be adapted in order to be completed while in remote environments such as MDRS. Originally, six different medical scenarios were to have been performed while at MDRS, but due to certain circumstances, only two were conducted. The two scenarios which were performed included simulating an asthma attack and simulating a fractured tibia, both during EVAs, with the participants fully suited. The second scenario was also filmed in order to obtain visual data concerning efficacy of techniques, communication and overall feedback. General results from the scenarios have yielded certain issues concerning medical care at MDRS. In addition to these simulated scenarios, two real medical cases will be analyzed: a crew member's allergic reaction to dust in the Hab in addition to another crew member's head trauma from getting hit by a falling roof fixture.