Living on Mars: Team to lead simulation facility mission

December 13, 2018, Purdue University
Members of last year’s Boilers2Mars team exit the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah to conduct experiments. Purdue is sending another team to the facility again this year. Credit: Purdue University photo/Cesare Guariniello

The air may be breathable and the location is on planet Earth, but for two weeks a multidisciplinary team of Purdue students and alumni will eat, sleep, work and live like they're on Mars.

For the second consecutive year, a Purdue team will undergo a mission at the Mars Desert Research Station facility in Utah, conducting a number of experiments and living life as though stationed on the fourth planet from the sun.

Cesare Guariniello, crew geologist on last year's Boilers2Mars team, is team commander this year and an aspiring astronaut. He said improving technical expertise and knowledge is only part of the preparation to travel one day to the red planet.

"It is much more difficult to test oneself in the psychological and ," said Guariniello, a 2016 School of Aeronautics and Astronautics doctoral program alumnus and current research associate. "Participation in at the Mars Desert Research Station gives the team a chance to get as close as possible to an actual mission in space, with a good amount of realism."

The six-member team was selected by Purdue MARS (Mars Activities and Research Society) to take part in the simulation mission. The team, called MartianMakers, will take over control of the research station on the evening of Dec. 30 and pass it on to the next team on Jan. 12.

In addition to Guariniello, the teams consists of:

  • Alexandra Dukes, crew journalist and AAE master's student.
  • Denys Bulikhov, executive officer and doctoral student in Industrial Engineering.
  • Kasey Hilton, crew engineer and senior chemistry major.
  • Ellen Czaplinski, crew geologist. 2016 Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences alumna.
  • Jake Qiu, health and safety officer and senior agricultural and biological engineering student.
Credit: Purdue University

The simulation includes a variety of aspects that combine to make the experience as real as possible. The team cannot break simulation during the mission and must don a flight suit and a heavy air pack with helmet every time they perform extra-vehicular activities.

Guariniello said accurate protocols must be followed for , including a large number of daily reports during a two-hour communication window with the volunteers at the Mars Desert Research Station Mission Control Center. Highly structured daily schedules are used and the team must work with extremely limited amounts of water, power and communication.

Guariniello said the team has a number of experiments and research projects that team members will be working on during the two weeks. Among the work is analysis and mapping of radiation in the station area, crew reaction to stressful situations, the study of germs and contamination of plants/crew in the habitat and analysis of waste produced in the habitat.

Some of it is computer-based while others will be executed directly at the habitat, such as bacteria collection and sequencing, and waste analysis.

Guariniello said he was able to adapt to the same lifestyle during last year's mission in a short period of time.

Built near Hanksville, Utah, by The Mars Society in 2001, the desert research includes a small two-story habitat, an astronomical observatory and a scientific laboratory and greenhouse.

The Mars Desert Research Station is one of only a few Mars simulation environments around the world.

Explore further: My life on Mars: engineering student experiences life on the red planet

Related Stories

First to red planet will become Martians: Canada astronaut

September 22, 2018

Astronauts traveling through space on the long trip to Mars will not have the usual backup from mission control on Earth and will need to think of themselves as Martians to survive, Canada's most famous spaceman half-jokingly ...

Launch of Mars500 mission on 3 June in Moscow

May 25, 2010

( -- The first full-duration simulation of a human mission to Mars is about to begin. After closing the hatch, the crew of six will remain in their 'spacecraft' for 520 days.

Europe names crew for Mars 'mission'

February 26, 2009

The European Space Agency (ESA) on Friday named a Frenchman and a German who will join four Russians in an innovative 105-day isolation experiment to test whether humans can one day fly to Mars.

Recommended for you

Matter waves and quantum splinters

March 25, 2019

Physicists in the United States, Austria and Brazil have shown that shaking ultracold Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) can cause them to either divide into uniform segments or shatter into unpredictable splinters, depending ...

How tree diversity regulates invading forest pests

March 25, 2019

A national-scale study of U.S. forests found strong relationships between the diversity of native tree species and the number of nonnative pests that pose economic and ecological threats to the nation's forests.

Study suggests trees are crucial to the future of our cities

March 25, 2019

The shade of a single tree can provide welcome relief from the hot summer sun. But when that single tree is part of a small forest, it creates a profound cooling effect. According to a study published today in the Proceedings ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.