NASA, in partnership with the Mars Society, will be leading a series of two-week student training and research missions to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah. There will be four two-week expeditions mounted in November 2006 through January 2007. Planned crews and their crew commanders are:
Crew 52 - November 25 - December 10, 2006, Commander Jon Rask
Crew 53 - December 9 - 22, 2006, Commander Jen Heldmann
Crew 54 - December 21 - January 7, 2007, Commander Heather Smith
Crew 55 - January 6 - 21, 2007, Commander Melissa Battler
Did anyone notice two of our members are at MDRS this week? I posted a story up for it on our front page- http://www.marsdrive.com/about-marsdriv … -mdrs.html
We are actually "doing" something this year and it's a great encouragement I think.
Two MIT students are currently living, working and communicating with the outside world as if they were on a mission to Mars. Whenever they go outside their small, round habitat where eight people are spending a two-week "mission," they don spacesuits and pass through an airlock. When they send e-mail, it takes 20 minutes before the recipient can see it--the time it takes for radio waves to travel to and from the red planet.
Engineering graduate students Zahra Khan and Phillip Cunio, from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, began their stay at the Utah facility late Sunday, Feb. 17. Cunio is working on a project to develop a "smart" carrier to be used for research fieldwork in remote expeditions such as planetary exploration. The footlocker-sized container and its contents are fitted with radio-frequency ID tags, so that it constantly keeps track of its contents and can alert people if supplies are about to run out or if an item has been misplaced. Running out of supplies is not just an inconvenience--on a faraway planetary surface it could be a life-or-death issue.
Both Khan and Cunio would like to be involved in real Mars missions someday. Khan's research is on entry, descent and landing systems for human missions to Mars. These will require much gentler, more-controlled descents than past missions.
Khan says she would like to go to Mars herself, but thinks that with the slow progress of NASA's plans in that direction, "the odds may not be very good. I think it would be a good idea to send younger people," and by the time such missions take place that may leave her out.
"I'm an advocate of one-way trips to Mars," she (Khan) says, because the logistics of such trips would be far easier without the requirement for all the fuel needed for a return. For a given spacecraft, she says, you could send six people on a two-way mission or 24 people for a one-way trip. "If you're going to go there, you might as well not waste the resources."
Cunio's research studies the design of self-sustaining life-support systems for Mars colonists, as well as for missions to the moon or other destinations. "We're studying the commonalities in life support and environmental control systems," he says, so that planners don't have to start from scratch in planning missions to different places. "We want to minimize the development costs and risks."