E&T magazine’s reporter Tereza Pultarova will join an international group of engineers and researchers on a two-week mission to the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, the USA.
Starting on 1 February, the group, led by Florida Institute of Technology architect Ondrej Doule, will study the structure of the simulated Martian station, based on a 1990s Nasa concept, and examine its structural sturdiness, using computer modelling.
As survival of a possible future crew on the Red Planet will depend on the flawless functioning of all life-critical systems, the Crew 135 will also assess reliability and redundancy of those systems and propose improvements
Of the greatest interest to the group, also including two PhD researchers from the University of Strathclyde, the UK, will be the chances of a possible future Martian crew to survive a great Martian dust storm.
About every ten years, turbulence in the atmosphere of Mars develop into a giant storm that encircles the entire planet. The wind raises enormous amounts of dust from the surface of the arid planet, making the Sun disappear for several months. In such a situation, strong winds carrying the dust particles would buffet the walls of the station, threatening to cause damage to the station’s shielding and to its solar panels.
As the Sun wouldn’t be visible for weeks, the solar panels wouldn’t generate any energy, increasing strain on the station’s back-up generators and energy storage units. Due to the high amount of dust in the atmosphere, radio contact with the Earth-based ground control centre would be either impossible or very limited.
As noise is a frequent nuisance mentioned by astronauts at the International Space Station and most likely present in any future Martian base, the Crew 135 will also conduct an acoustic experiment, trying to design measures to reduce the amount of noise in the crew’s living quarters to increase comfort.
In the past years, space agencies as well as private entities around the world including Dutch non-profit Mars One project have stepped up their efforts to get humans to Mars in the upcoming decades, prompting researchers worldwide to gather information that could help tune the concepts of a future real mission.
The Mars Desert Research Station located in a high altitude desert in the area of the San Rafael Swell in the American state of Utah is an ongoing project operated by the Mars Society and dedicated to promoting human settlement in Mars.
As a part of the mission, the participating crews have to operate as if they were really on Mars – that includes wearing spacesuits, oxygen packs and helmets in the outside environment, consuming shelf stable food or growing their vegetables in a green house.