Mars 160: 6-person crew arrives at Arctic station
The second phase of the Mars Society‘s Mars 160 mission began at the end of June 2017 in the Canadian high Arctic. A six-person crew is staying at the organization’s Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) for several weeks. However, due to inclement weather, the crew was unable to make it to FMARS until July 17.
The six-person crew will be living under simulated Mars mission constraints for 30 days at FMARS located on the rim of the Haughton Impact Crater on Devon Island in Nunavut, Canada. The Arctic mission represents the second half of Mars 160 after the first half concluded in December 2016 at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah.
The primary goal of Mars 160 is to conduct two nearly identical field analog studies to determine how mission location impacts science return. As space agencies and organizations around the world are setting goals of sending humans to Mars, the metrics and methods used for crew selection and training on Earth increase in importance. Mars 160 also seeks to perform detailed field studies to answer questions about the geology and biology of these unique desert and high arctic environments.
The location for FMARS was selected for its similarities to the surface of the Red Planet in terms of its analogous geology as well as its relative isolation. Situated on the rim of a well-preserved 39-million-year-old impact crater, periglacial processes near the Arctic station are similar to those that have been observed on the Martian surface.
Daily temperatures during the arctic summer hover right around the freezing point of water, which would be considered a warm day at the Martian equator. Its remote location in the Arctic has made it well-suited to test the effects of isolation on the 13 crews it has hosted over the last 17 years.
The Mars 160 Arctic crew consists of six members representing six nationalities:
- Dr. Alexandre Mangeot, from France, is the crew commander and also serves as the crew engineer. In addition to his involvement in the Mars 160 project, he has also served on two other simulated Mars missions at MDRS.
- Yusuke Murakami, from Japan, serves as the executive officer and brings polar experience to the crew having served on the 50th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition.
- Dr. Jonathan Clarke, from Australia, serves as a crew geologist for the mission. He brings decades of field geology experience to the mission and has served on several missions to MDRS in the past.
- Anastasiya Stepanova, from Russia, serves as the crew journalist for the mission. She has previously served on another mission to MDRS and is a Mars One finalist.
- Anushree Srivastava, from India, serves as the crew biologist and has previously served on another mission to MDRS.
- Paul Knightly, from the U.S., serves as field operations manager and a crew geologist for the mission. He also served on a previous mission to MDRS.
The second phase of Mars 160 is being coordinated by two principal investigators:
- Dr. Shannon Rupert, from the U.S., is the Principal Investigator for Mars 160 and is the director for MDRS. She also serves as the primary mission control officer for the crew.
- Paul Sokoloff, from Canada, is the co-principal investigator for Mars 160 and brings several seasons of arctic field research experience to the mission. He has also served on a past mission to MDRS.
After performing a necessary refit of the station, the crew entered into simulation (or “sim”) conditions July 20. That, in part, requires crew members to wear simulated space suits while conducting field science activities. Additional simulation constraints placed on the crew will include limiting communications to the outside world. The Mars 160 mission is expected to run through the middle of August.
Paul Knightly is serving as a crew geologist for Mars 160 and is also writing for Spaceflight Insider.
Paul is currently a graduate student in Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Akransas in Fayetteville. He grew up in the Kansas City area and developed an interest in space at a young age at the start of the twin Mars Exploration Rover missions in 2003. He began his studies in aerospace engineering before switching over to geology at Wichita State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in 2013. After working as an environmental geologist for a civil engineering firm, he began his graduate studies in 2016 and is actively working towards a PhD that will focus on the surficial processes of Mars. He also participated in a 2-week simluation at The Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station in 2014 and remains involved in analogue mission studies today. Paul has been interested in science outreach and communication over the years which in the past included maintaining a personal blog on space exploration from high school through his undergraduate career and in recent years he has given talks at schools and other organizations over the topics of geology and space. He is excited to bring his experience as a geologist and scientist to the Spaceflight Insider team writing primarily on space science topics.