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Curator

Space may be the final frontier but Mars is second, after the moon obviously.

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Fancy moving to Mars? Some things to consider before you book your flight...

I've really enjoyed curating this collection of content related to Mars, and will continue to do so as long there's relevant research being published or I can add other content that adds value. The content is structured in such a way as to tell a story, as I believe that's the most logical way of ordering the various subject areas.

We start with getting to Mars as the journey is perhaps the most hazardous phase. That is until the landing which obviously is pretty scary given so many missions fail to make it down in one piece. Once you're down it's real plain sailing in comparison, just the food, water, air thing to worry about. Then there's politics and what to do with all the spare time, oh... and kids?

There are many challenges along the way, and whilst most science research related to the technology is commercially sensitive and therefore not in the public domain, there is lots of real science to get excited about.

Hopefully you find it interesting.

33 items pinned

The MARS2013 Mars analog mission.

Abstract: We report on the MARS2013 mission, a 4-week Mars analog field test in the northern Sahara. Nineteen experiments were conducted by a field crew in Morocco under simulated martian surface exploration conditions, supervised by a Mission Support Center in Innsbruck, Austria. A Remote Science Support team analyzed field data in near real time, providing planning input for the management of a complex system of field assets; two advanced space suit simulators, four robotic vehicles, an emergency shelter, and a stationary sensor platform in a realistic work flow were coordinated by a Flight Control Team. A dedicated flight planning group, external control centers for rover tele-operations, and a biomedical monitoring team supported the field operations. A 10 min satellite communication delay and other limitations pertinent to human planetary surface activities were introduced. The fields of research for the experiments were geology, human factors, astrobiology, robotics, tele-science, exploration, and operations research. This paper provides an overview of the geological context and environmental conditions of the test site and the mission architecture, in particular the communication infrastructure emulating the signal travel time between Earth and Mars. We report on the operational work flows and the experiments conducted, including a deployable shelter prototype for multiple-day extravehicular activities and contingency situations.

Pub.: 16 May '14, Pinned: 09 Sep '16

Exercise in space: the European Space Agency approach to in-flight exercise countermeasures for long-duration missions on ISS.

Abstract: To counteract microgravity (µG)-induced adaptation, European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts on long-duration missions (LDMs) to the International Space Station (ISS) perform a daily physical exercise countermeasure program. Since the first ESA crewmember completed an LDM in 2006, the ESA countermeasure program has strived to provide efficient protection against decreases in body mass, muscle strength, bone mass, and aerobic capacity within the operational constraints of the ISS environment and the changing availability of on-board exercise devices. The purpose of this paper is to provide a description of ESA's individualised approach to in-flight exercise countermeasures and an up-to-date picture of how exercise is used to counteract physiological changes resulting from µG-induced adaptation. Changes in the absolute workload for resistive exercise, treadmill running and cycle ergometry throughout ESA's eight LDMs are also presented, and aspects of pre-flight physical preparation and post-flight reconditioning outlined.With the introduction of the advanced resistive exercise device (ARED) in 2009, the relative contribution of resistance exercise to total in-flight exercise increased (33-46 %), whilst treadmill running (42-33 %) and cycle ergometry (26-20 %) decreased. All eight ESA crewmembers increased their in-flight absolute workload during their LDMs for resistance exercise and treadmill running (running speed and vertical loading through the harness), while cycle ergometer workload was unchanged across missions.Increased or unchanged absolute exercise workloads in-flight would appear contradictory to typical post-flight reductions in muscle mass and strength, and cardiovascular capacity following LDMs. However, increased absolute in-flight workloads are not directly linked to changes in exercise capacity as they likely also reflect the planned, conservative loading early in the mission to allow adaption to µG exercise, including personal comfort issues with novel exercise hardware (e.g. the treadmill harness). Inconsistency in hardware and individualised support concepts across time limit the comparability of results from different crewmembers, and questions regarding the difference between cycling and running in µG versus identical exercise here on Earth, and other factors that might influence in-flight exercise performance, still require further investigation.

Pub.: 05 Aug '16, Pinned: 09 Sep '16

A voyage to Mars: Space radiation, aging, and nutrition

Abstract: On exploratory class missions, such as a voyage to Mars, astronauts will be exposed to doses and types of radiation that are not experienced in low earth orbit where the space shuttle and International Space Station operate. Astronauts who participate in exploratory class missions outside the magnetic field of the earth will be exposed to galactic cosmic rays which are composed of alpha particles, protons and particles of high energy and charge. Exposure to cosmic rays produces changes in neuronal and behavioral functioning which are characteristic of aged organisms. As has been observed with aging, maintaining rats on antioxidant berry diets can prevent/ameliorate the radiation-induced changes in neural and behavioral function. As such, these diets have the potential to provide protection to astronauts from the deleterious effects of exposure to space radiation. Content Type Journal ArticlePages 233-241DOI 10.3233/NUA-140045Authors Bernard M. Rabin, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, USABarbara Shukitt-Hale, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, USDA-ARS, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA Journal Nutrition and AgingOnline ISSN 1879-7725Print ISSN 1879-7717 Journal Volume Volume 2 Journal Issue Volume 2, Number 4 / 2014 On exploratory class missions, such as a voyage to Mars, astronauts will be exposed to doses and types of radiation that are not experienced in low earth orbit where the space shuttle and International Space Station operate. Astronauts who participate in exploratory class missions outside the magnetic field of the earth will be exposed to galactic cosmic rays which are composed of alpha particles, protons and particles of high energy and charge. Exposure to cosmic rays produces changes in neuronal and behavioral functioning which are characteristic of aged organisms. As has been observed with aging, maintaining rats on antioxidant berry diets can prevent/ameliorate the radiation-induced changes in neural and behavioral function. As such, these diets have the potential to provide protection to astronauts from the deleterious effects of exposure to space radiation. Content Type Journal ArticlePages 233-241DOI 10.3233/NUA-140045Authors Bernard M. Rabin, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, USABarbara Shukitt-Hale, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, USDA-ARS, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA Content Type Journal ArticleContent Type Journal ArticlePages 233-241DOI 10.3233/NUA-140045Authors Bernard M. Rabin, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, USABarbara Shukitt-Hale, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, USDA-ARS, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA Authors Bernard M. Rabin, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, USABarbara Shukitt-Hale, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, USDA-ARS, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA Bernard M. Rabin, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, USABarbara Shukitt-Hale, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, USDA-ARS, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA Journal Nutrition and AgingOnline ISSN 1879-7725Print ISSN 1879-7717 Journal Volume Volume 2 Journal Issue Volume 2, Number 4 / 2014 Journal Nutrition and AgingOnline ISSN 1879-7725Print ISSN 1879-7717 Journal Nutrition and AgingJournal Nutrition and AgingNutrition and AgingOnline ISSN 1879-7725Online ISSN 1879-7725Print ISSN 1879-7717Print ISSN 1879-7717 Journal Volume Volume 2 Journal Volume Volume 2Journal Volume Volume 2 Journal Issue Volume 2, Number 4 / 2014 Journal Issue Volume 2, Number 4 / 2014Journal Issue Volume 2, Number 4 / 2014Volume 2, Number 4 / 2014

Pub.: 19 Jun '14, Pinned: 09 Sep '16

What happens to your brain on the way to Mars.

Abstract: As NASA prepares for the first manned spaceflight to Mars, questions have surfaced concerning the potential for increased risks associated with exposure to the spectrum of highly energetic nuclei that comprise galactic cosmic rays. Animal models have revealed an unexpected sensitivity of mature neurons in the brain to charged particles found in space. Astronaut autonomy during long-term space travel is particularly critical as is the need to properly manage planned and unanticipated events, activities that could be compromised by accumulating particle traversals through the brain. Using mice subjected to space-relevant fluences of charged particles, we show significant cortical- and hippocampal-based performance decrements 6 weeks after acute exposure. Animals manifesting cognitive decrements exhibited marked and persistent radiation-induced reductions in dendritic complexity and spine density along medial prefrontal cortical neurons known to mediate neurotransmission specifically interrogated by our behavioral tasks. Significant increases in postsynaptic density protein 95 (PSD-95) revealed major radiation-induced alterations in synaptic integrity. Impaired behavioral performance of individual animals correlated significantly with reduced spine density and trended with increased synaptic puncta, thereby providing quantitative measures of risk for developing cognitive decrements. Our data indicate an unexpected and unique susceptibility of the central nervous system to space radiation exposure, and argue that the underlying radiation sensitivity of delicate neuronal structure may well predispose astronauts to unintended mission-critical performance decrements and/or longer-term neurocognitive sequelae.

Pub.: 17 Jul '15, Pinned: 09 Sep '16

Laminar and turbulent heating predictions for mars entry vehicles

Abstract: Laminar and turbulent heating rates play an important role in the design of Mars entry vehicles. Two distinct gas models, thermochemical non-equilibrium (real gas) model and perfect gas model with specified effective specific heat ratio, are utilized to investigate the aerothermodynamics of Mars entry vehicle named Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). Menter shear stress transport (SST) turbulent model with compressible correction is implemented to take account of the turbulent effect. The laminar and turbulent heating rates of the two gas models are compared and analyzed in detail. The laminar heating rates predicted by the two gas models are nearly the same at forebody of the vehicle, while the turbulent heating environments predicted by the real gas model are severer than the perfect gas model. The difference of specific heat ratio between the two gas models not only induces the flow structure's discrepancy but also increases the heating rates at afterbody of the vehicle obviously. Simple correlations for turbulent heating augmentation in terms of laminar momentum thickness Reynolds number, which can be employed as engineering level design and analysis tools, are also developed from numerical results. At the time of peak heat flux on the +3σ heat load trajectory, the maximum value of momentum thickness Reynolds number at the MSL's forebody is about 500, and the maximum value of turbulent augmentation factor (turbulent heating rates divided by laminar heating rates) is 5 for perfect gas model and 8 for real gas model.

Pub.: 25 Jul '16, Pinned: 09 Sep '16

A beacon configuration optimization method based on Fisher information for Mars atmospheric entry

Abstract: The navigation capability of the proposed Mars network based entry navigation system is directly related to the beacon number and the relative configuration between the beacons and the entry vehicle. In this paper, a new beacon configuration optimization method is developed based on the Fisher information theory and this method is suitable for any number of visible beacons. The proposed method can be used for the navigation schemes based on range measurements provided by radio transceivers or other sensors for Mars entry. The observability of specific state is defined as its Fisher information based on the observation model. The overall navigation capability is improved by maximizing the minimum average Fisher information, even though the navigation system is not fully observed. In addition, when there is only one beacon capable of entry navigation and the observation information is relatively limited, the optimization method can be modulated to maximize the Fisher information of the specific state which may be preferred for the guidance and control system to improve its estimation accuracy. Finally, navigation scenarios consisted of 1–3 beacons are tested to validate the effectiveness of the developed optimization method. The extended Kalman filter (EKF) is employed to derive the state estimation error covariance. The results also show that the zero-Fisher information situation should be avoided, especially when the dynamic system is highly nonlinear and the states change dramatically.

Pub.: 13 Nov '16, Pinned: 21 Nov '16

Assessment of the Forward Contamination Risk of Mars by Clean Room Isolates from Space-Craft Assembly Facilities through Aeolian Transport - a Model Study

Abstract: The increasing number of missions to Mars also increases the risk of forward contamination. Consequently there is a need for effective protocols to ensure efficient protection of the Martian environment against terrestrial microbiota. Despite the fact of constructing sophisticated clean rooms for spacecraft assembly a 100 % avoidance of contamination appears to be impossible. Recent surveys of these facilities have identified a significant number of microbes belonging to a variety of taxonomic groups that survive the harsh conditions of clean rooms. These microbes may have a strong contamination potential, which needs to be investigate to apply efficient decontamination treatments. In this study we propose a series of tests to evaluate the potential of clean room contaminants to survive the different steps involved in forward contamination. We used Staphylococcus xylosus as model organism to illustrate the different types of stress that potential contaminants will be subjected to on their way from the spacecraft onto the surface of Mars. Staphylococcus xylosus is associated with human skin and commonly found in clean rooms and could therefore contaminate the spacecraft as a result of human activity during the assembling process. The path the cell will take from the surface of the spacecraft onto the surface of Mars was split into steps representing different stresses that include desiccation, freezing, aeolian transport in a Martian-like atmosphere at Martian atmospheric pressure, and UV radiation climate. We assessed the surviving fraction of the cellular population after each step by determining the integrated metabolic activity of the survivor population by measuring their oxygen consumption rate. The largest fraction of the starting culture (around 70 %) was killed during desiccation, while freezing, Martian vacuum and short-term UV radiation only had a minor additional effect on the survivability of Staphylococcus xylosus. The study also included a simulation of atmospheric transport on Martian dust, which did not significantly alter the metabolic potential of the cells. The high survival potential of skin microbes, which are not among the most robust isolates, clearly underlines the necessity for efficient decontamination protocols and of adequate planetary protection measures. Thus we propose a series of tests to be included into the description of isolates from spacecraft assembly clean rooms in order to assess the forward contamination potential of the specific isolate and to categorize the risk level according to the organisms survival potential. We are aware that the tests that we propose do not exhaust the types of challenges that the microbes would meet on their way and therefore the series of tests is open to being extended.

Pub.: 26 Jul '16, Pinned: 09 Sep '16

Microbial succession in an inflated lunar/Mars analog habitat during a 30-day human occupation.

Abstract: For potential future human missions to the Moon or Mars and sustained presence in the International Space Station, a safe enclosed habitat environment for astronauts is required. Potential microbial contamination of closed habitats presents a risk for crewmembers due to reduced human immune response during long-term confinement. To make future habitat designs safer for crewmembers, lessons learned from characterizing analogous habitats is very critical. One of the key issues is that how human presence influences the accumulation of microorganisms in the closed habitat.Molecular technologies, along with traditional microbiological methods, were utilized to catalog microbial succession during a 30-day human occupation of a simulated inflatable lunar/Mars habitat. Surface samples were collected at different time points to capture the complete spectrum of viable and potential opportunistic pathogenic bacterial population. Traditional cultivation, propidium monoazide (PMA)-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) assays were employed to estimate the cultivable, viable, and metabolically active microbial population, respectively. Next-generation sequencing was used to elucidate the microbial dynamics and community profiles at different locations of the habitat during varying time points. Statistical analyses confirm that occupation time has a strong influence on bacterial community profiles. The Day 0 samples (before human occupation) have a very different microbial diversity compared to the later three time points. Members of Proteobacteria (esp. Oxalobacteraceae and Caulobacteraceae) and Firmicutes (esp. Bacillaceae) were most abundant before human occupation (Day 0), while other members of Firmicutes (Clostridiales) and Actinobacteria (esp. Corynebacteriaceae) were abundant during the 30-day occupation. Treatment of samples with PMA (a DNA-intercalating dye for selective detection of viable microbial population) had a significant effect on the microbial diversity compared to non-PMA-treated samples.Statistical analyses revealed a significant difference in community structure of samples over time, particularly of the bacteriomes existing before human occupation of the habitat (Day 0 sampling) and after occupation (Day 13, Day 20, and Day 30 samplings). Actinobacteria (mainly Corynebacteriaceae) and Firmicutes (mainly Clostridiales Incertae Sedis XI and Staphylococcaceae) were shown to increase over the occupation time period. The results of this study revealed a strong relationship between human presence and succession of microbial diversity in a closed habitat. Consequently, it is necessary to develop methods and tools for effective maintenance of a closed system to enable safe human habitation in enclosed environments on Earth and beyond.

Pub.: 03 Jun '16, Pinned: 09 Sep '16