Feature Story

Mars attracts

Alejandro Diaz, a senior engineer with Boeing’s Advanced Space Exploration division, watches the modified stretcher

Boeing

Alejandro Diaz, a senior engineer with Boeing’s Advanced Space Exploration division, watches the modified stretcher as the team begins testing how a crew could transport a wounded astronaut. See more photos and read about the crew here.

Boeing and NASA employees recently partnered with academia to conduct early experiments on technologies that could eventually support life on Mars. The group traveled to a corner in southeastern Utah, right outside of Hanksville, Utah, to test out early solutions to potential problems.

“We’re doing some very interesting research,” said Alejandro Diaz, a Boeing senior engineer in Advanced Space Exploration, and the commander of the crew at the Mars Desert Research Station. “Not granted, we can’t simulate the gravity or atmosphere on Mars, but as far as a procedures stand point we do simulate what it might be like to live on Mars.”

This research includes studying how to grow plants in Martian soil, a specialty of Josh Borchardt, an astrobiology graduate student with the University of North Dakota. Kavya Manyapu, a flight-test engineer with Boeing in Houston, also studies how the group works together, and the stress that living in an isolated environment can put on the crew.

“So, you’ve gotta start somewhere, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here,” said Peter Morgan-Dimmick, a NASA flight controller on the International Space Station. “We’re pretty early in the planning stages, so this is just laying the groundwork to see if the concepts are feasible.”

To read more about Boeing’s work in Utah read the story in this month’s Frontiers click here. To view the video, click on the image above.

Josh Borchardt, a graduate student in astrobiology from the University of North Dakota, rides an all-terrain vehicle

Boeing

Josh Borchardt, a graduate student in astrobiology from the University of North Dakota, rides an all-terrain vehicle, which the crew uses to simulate a rover.

At night, the Mars Desert Research Station’s greenhouse lights up in a purple glow

Boeing

At night, the Mars Desert Research Station’s greenhouse lights up in a pink glow. Inside, the team tests what kind of plants future space pioneers could grow in Martian soil.