Mars space project, emerging engineering and ‘Gone With The Wind’
29 May 2018
Ilaria Cinelli, final year PhD student in biomedical engineering at NUI Galway, was selected as commander and emerging space leader by the Mars Society. Cinelli led an international mission, Crew 185, at the Mars desert Research Station in the Utah desert.
Tested emerging engineering
Crew 185 was representative of: Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom, France, India, USA, Italy, Brazil and Japan (Figure 1). During two-weeks of simulation, about 20 projects were successfully carried by Crew 185. The crew tested emerging engineering, new techniques to improve mental health (empowerment and mindfulness), geographical studies, agriculture and educational activities.
Two projects were designed and led by Trinity College Dublin undergraduate students studying geography and earth science (PI Dr Mary Bourke). First, ‘Gone With The Wind’ (GWW) was about testing the rate of transport of sediments with different densities for an understanding of Aeolian transport on analogue Mars terrain, see Figure 2 (main image).
Second, it is the ‘Mars Aerial Research Vehicle Project’ (MARV). Astronauts on Mars will collect sediment and rock samples away from their base station and transport them back for analysis. The ‘Mars Aerial Research Vehicle Project’ evaluates the response of the transport vehicle with increased sample loads over a range of terrain types.
During Crew 185, the first prototype of the 3D-printed Martian spacesuit, X1, was tested and assessed in safety. The bulky spacesuit (Figure 3) from Ecole Polytechnique (France) is more than a proof of concept, it is a project opening the way to new engineering applications for different 3D-printed materials.
3D printed suits
Although this is an early prototype, 3D printed suits or clothes are reproducible personalised devices that can be made with recycled material. This is an important point to consider in missions during which resupplies are not guaranteed.
The crew has also received detailed daily questionnaires from the University of Rhode Island about clothing and textile with a view towards defining the needs and constraints of design for apparel and habitats for long-duration space exploration and habitation.
For monitoring stress, a study was carried out to quantify the correlation between the change in length and the reduction of language variation in a written text (PI Mars Planet). Writing is not only a task or a communication tool, it can also hide important information about our health.
Software gives an indication about psychological and perceived stress levels
Crew members were asked to write within 30 minutes a 500-word text in the subject’s mother language, like a daily diary. By recognising specific key words and their frequency of appearance in the text, the software releases an indication about the psychological and perceived stress levels of the writer. The text is saved as encrypted, with no chances of recovery for privacy of the information.
Would Google maps work on Mars? Probably, no. A Global Positioning System (GPS) is needed for space missions beyond the low Earth orbit. A GPS works thanks to satellites that receive and send signals within the low Earth orbit. At the moment, there are no satellites around Mars that can be used for landing or navigation.
Space agencies are developing alternative systems, such as the autonomous navigation system of Curiosity. During the mission, we implemented a study about spatial representation without GPS, linking the accuracy of shared situation awareness and the global performance of the team (PI IMS laboratory and Association Planète Mars).
Hills and rocks look almost the same
It was really hard recognising places and reference points in a desert, where hills and rocks look almost the same. Communicating geographical information was harder than expected, because of the altered perception of reality gained throughout the period of isolation. In addition, most of the crew members were lacking when it came to choosing alternative words or synonymous for describing a particular location, and most of the trials failed.
Then, a Green Hab project was about testing the effectiveness of utilising the elevated levels of the plant growth hormone, zeatin, found in Moringa oleifera, leaves to increase the total biomass of tomato plants. Moringa oleifera grows well in sandy soils, is recognised as the most nutritious plant on Earth, and matures relatively quickly.
These qualities make this plant especially valuable in a limited resource environment. Testing different methods in agriculture is necessary to find the right balance with the available resources. Nowadays, space agencies are interested in space farming for sustaining life on other planets. Then, the Green Hab is also the place where analogue astronauts find reconnection with terrestrial nature thanks to the variety of plants and green.
Educational project in collaboration with InnovaSpace
The crew were involved in an educational project in collaboration with InnovaSpace, where children from all over the world sent video questions to the astronauts. Students from Russia, China, Europe, India and others asked very technical questions, and challenged us.
It is fascinating to see the incoming generations reflecting on important matters of space exploration. Young students are embracing space and its challenges as part of their future since the early stages. International educational projects can really motivate them to pursue studies. The replies are available online on social media and YouTube.
Consecutive mission in Mojave desert
Then, Cinelli also took part in a consecutive mission in the Mojave desert (California) for a tele-anaesthesia training for non-medical analogue astronaut crews, testing and performing new surgical protocols and techniques (see Figure 4).
The training was run by Mars Academy USA in collaboration with STONY. The major challenges that confronts humanity to survive and thrive in space and off-world planets requires medical and surgical protocols and standard operational procedures that will enable crews to perform medical interventions during life-threatening situations independently and autonomously from communication and/or medical-support (often not immediately available).
In the end, Crew 185 thanks the undergraduate students of Trinity College Dublin for their support and collaboration, especially Luci Delobel (MARV leader), Nancy Williams (GWW leader), Sarah Fisher, Alexander Fitzpatrick, Liza Jabbour, Kiara Mulvey, Emily Nolan and Sorcha O Carolan Murphy. The crew is also grateful for private donations and for the sponsorship provided by the University of Rhode Island (USA).https://www.engineersjournal.ie/2018/05/29/mars-space-project-emerging-engineering-gone-wind/https://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/a-ilaria2.pnghttps://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/a-ilaria2-300x300.pngTech3D,space,TCD