Saturday, February 04, 2012

New Field Testing at the MDRS

There is little point in going all the way to the moon and Mars if you cannot protect
the rocks collected from contamination. That’s why graduate students and faculty
from the UND Human Spaceflight Laboratory (HSL) will be testing procedures for protecting these “samples” at a Mars analog site starting February 5. HSL Director Pablo de León, with Masters of Space Studies students Annie Wargetz and Tim Holland, will spend a week at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), a famous simulated Martian exploration habitat in South
Utah owned and operated by The Mars Society. “For us, it’s also useful because we learn more about operations in a very remote place,” de León says. “We have to be very careful and well organized to bring with us all the things we will need out there. If something breaks down, we need to fix it with the tools we have on hand.” Living and working on MDRS not only
provides training in procedures, but also lets students work hand-in-hand with seasoned space professionals from NASA Ames Center.
Teamwork in challenging environments is an integral part of space exploration and will
be valuable experience for the participating students, who will receive financial support from the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium for the trip.
The team from UND will bring the North Dakota Experimental-1 (NDX- 1) Mars Prototype space suit for testing. This is the first planetary space suit built at the university level. It has been tested in the North Dakota Badlands, Marambio Base in Antarctica, and the Pilbara region in Australia.
“The complexity [of testing the space suit] in a remote place, such as the MDRS, due
to the logistics involved, helps us to imagine the complexities of an “out of Earth” expedition,”
says de León.

For updates on the testing, please visit this blog.


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