CO+HOOTS member Rebeca Rodriguez recounts her days on Mars. Yes, Mars.

by | Mar 20, 2015 | Blog, People

CO+HOOTS member Rebeca Rodriguez, founder of Xplore BoX, was selected among thousands of applicants for a mission on Mars, joining a team of seven explorers from five different countries. OK, so it was actually Utah. But the team spent two weeks at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah focused on intense research, team building and simulation training on “Mars.” This is Rebeca’s journal entry of her experience:

To (mock) Mars and back

By Rebeca Rodriguez

The New Year brought my adventure at the Mars Desert Research Station where I lived inside a habitat with 6 other people for 2 weeks. The team was made up of 7 alumni of the International Space University.

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On Mars (aka the Utah desert) we simulated a mission to Mars! What did this entail? We conducted research to gather data, which helps us move closer to a real life human mission to Mars. Every time we stepped out of the habitat we went into the airlock and put on a flight suit, life support backpack, helmet and radio headset.

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Our communications were limited to mimic that of a crew on Mars. Due to our current methods of communication and the million of kilometers between the Earth and Mars, there is a significant delay in transmission times and the amount of data that can be sent. Therefore, we were limited to 100MB of downloads a day and could only reply to a message after allowing for a one-hour delay.

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One of the benefits of being crew engineer at the Mars Desert Research Station was seeing the sunset over the Mars-like terrain while doing my daily tasks. My responsibilities included checking the level of the water tanks, keeping track of our use of propane and diesel and refueling the ATVs. If anything broke during our mission, I was tasked with communicating the issue to Mission Support. Throughout a sol (aka a Martian day), I gathered the necessary information and created a report to be sent to Mission Support during our daily 2-hour communications window.

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Life on Mars was tough. During our fourth day in simulation, we received word from Mission Support that our main water tank had ruptured and that we had to begin rationing water immediately. Our commander quickly prepared a rationing plan. This resulted in no showers, no washing dishes, using small amounts of water to create meals out of the bountiful freeze dried food, and special toilet arrangements. Trust me, you don’t want to hear any more about that…

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Fortunately, we were able to receive a water resupply the day when we were going to run out of water completely. This lifted our spirits until the point when we turned on the faucet and there was low water pressure. Plus, a water pump was making unusually loud noises. After a discussion with Mission Support, this led to me disassembling water pipes, finding unknown filters that were clogged, and cleaning them up. I was able to complete these tasks thanks to the support of my crewmates.

Every other day, I went on an EVA and explored sites up to 5 kilometers away from the Hab. These adventures involved 3 crew members (including myself) and our experiment with a quadcopter! We first identified interesting geological locations on the map, obtained their coordinates, and then went searching for them on the ATVs. Once at the site, we marked out a 10’ x 10’ area with stakes and ribbon. We then flew the quadcopter and the imagery captured was used to help identify low, medium and high risk sites for human exploration. In the near future, we look forward to astronauts having access to such resources allowing them to explore an area virtually in order to assess any possible danger.

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My time on Mars was organized and well spent. This was thanks to a crew that was dedicated to research and learning as much as possible from each other and our perspective experiments. I am thankful for the challenges that arose as they brought us closer together and showed us just how much we can tolerate and overcome as a team. I am optimistic that the days when we can apply the lessons learned on the actual Red Planet are just around the corner.

For more information on our mission at the Mars Desert Research Station explore the following link:

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