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Frontiers July 2014 Issue

Frontiers July 2014 35 Boeing a deeper understanding of what daily life might be like on Mars, Diaz said. It allows Boeing employees an opportunity to work with others from academia, industry and NASA, developing a firsthand knowledge of the intricacies involved with doing fieldwork in an environment similar to Mars, Diaz said. Going once a year for two weeks to live in isolation, Boeing employees have been crew members since the station opened in 2003. They join teams of six to seven members. Diaz’s most recent team included one professor in literature, two Boeing employees, two engineering graduate students from Peru, one astrobiology graduate student, and one NASA flight controller who works on the International Space Station program. The teams’ approaches vary, but they all work to answer fundamental questions about how to overcome the challenges of living on Mars: What would someone eat? What happens with wastewater? What is life like in isolation? The atmosphere on Mars is a hundredth that of Earth, but it has just as much carbon dioxide. What little water exists is frozen or trapped in rocks, and all of it is toxic to humans due to a chemical called perchlorate. And, perhaps the biggest problem, exposure to solar radiation on Mars could kill a human in as little as two years. “We have an opportunity to come here and stay for two weeks trying to test various technologies,” said Kavya Manyapu, a flight-test engineer on the CST-100 capsule in Houston. “Be it a biologist or an engineer or a geologist, we can see how difficult it is to perform work while wearing a space suit, and do all the science you’d need to on Mars.” That’s just what the Mars Society, a nonprofit that promotes human exploration and life on Mars, had in mind when it built the Utah Mars Desert Research Station. Team members must wait 10 minutes in a depressurization chamber before heading outside in their orange-colored suits, which can get uncomfortably hot. Sleeping quarters are tight, and food is typically powdered. But the crews endure it all with the hope that these early tests will provide a proof of concept, a sort of launching pad for the technologies that will ensure successful human life on Mars. On average, Mars and Earth are separated by 140 million miles (225 million kilometers). Even when the planets are closest, at 33.9 million miles (55.6 million kilometers), there could be an enormous delay in communications, especially in emergencies. Boeing employees are working on that problem, too. The goal, explained Charles Dutch, director of avionics and software for Boeing’s Space Launch System in Huntsville, Ala., is to have voice and other data communications occurring over the millions of miles through space as fast, or faster, than they do through fiber optic cables on Earth. At light speed (186,000 miles per second, or 299,000 kilometers per second), it would take 12 and a half PHOTOS: (Opposite page, clockwise from top) Crew biologist Josh Borchardt, left, from the University of North Dakota, and Peter Morgan- Dimmick of NASA retrieve a water sample from a gorge; crew members perform yoga, meditation and stretching as part of exercising protocol to cope with stress. MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION Morgan-Dimmick, from left, Borchardt and Boeing’s Alejandro Diaz test rescue operations. ALEX WILSON/BOEING Borchardt, foreground, and Manyapu set up plant growth experiments using Mars soil simulant. (This page) Borchardt uses an all-terrain vehicle to simulate a rover and traverse the long distances the group travels while conducting experiments. MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION


Frontiers July 2014 Issue
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