Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Crew Waits Out Rain While Teams Trouble Shoot Rover Power Issues and Conduct Biomedical Research

Mission VII Update – 04.30.19
Stefan Tomovic

EVA2 was scheduled for Monday (04.29.19) at 1400 CDT but due to uncooperative weather conditions the EVA was pushed back to Tuesday. While waiting for conditions to improve the team focused on fixing MACHO Jr. and conducting biometric data for a research study.
Blood Pressure and Oxygen Saturation checks were on schedule as the Mission VII crew continues an ongoing biomedical study. Scientists at Mission Control have been monitoring the habitat residents as they seek to better understand the effects of isolation on the crew.
In the meantime, the habitat residents have been filming life inside the research laboratory. Today, Mission Specialist Peter Henson set up a GoPro in the EVA module to record the crew while donning the NDX-2AT suits prior to egress from the habitat for EVA.
Mission Specialist Jared Peick and Commander Stefan Tomovic spent some time yesterday trouble shooting the MACHO Jr Rover. During a routine test trail of the rover the video feed cut out. The crew initially suspected the problem to be with the video system but through thorough debugging the two were able to isolate the problem and trace it back to a faulty connection on the power terminal supplying the camera. MACHO Jr is set to be used during EVA2, going on its first excursion outside the habitat.
EVA2 will be conducted on Tuesday (4.30.19) at 1400 CDT. It will involve a routine habitat inspection, and soil sample collection. The soil samples are part of a microbiology experiment taking place at the planetary habitat. The study is looking to characterize and quantify microbial diversity. Conducting this form of research helps us better understand the operations necessary for microbial analysis on Mars.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Mission 7 Crew Juggles EVA, Plant Care and Cognitive Space Research

Mission Specialist Peter Henson (left) and Commander Stefan Tomovic (right) cultivating plants for upcoming harvest

Mission VII Update - 04.27.19
Stefan Tomović

The three-member Mission-VII crew completed their first Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA-1) on Friday (04/26/19). Saturday (04/27/19) was a science-packed day for the crew members.  The team conducted research with an electroencephalogram (EEG) study, practiced emergency responses with simulation software and took care of the plants in the habitat’s Plant Production Module (PPM).
The habitat residents conducted EVA1 with Commander Stefan Tomović and Mission Specialist Peter Henson going out on EVA, and Mission Specialist Jared Peick serving as CAPCOM for EVA1. EVA1 lasted an hour and ten minutes with the objectives of inspecting the habitat, collecting water from a resupply drop, and gathering geological samples. The team met all their objectives for the EVA and returned to the habitat at 1510 CDT. The water will be processed, and the geological samples will be analyzed within the coming days.
ILMAH operators Stefan Tomovic, Peter Henson and Jared Peick set up the EEG instruments this morning for more cognitive studies. Researchers are exploring what happens to an astronaut’s behavioral health during long-term space missions. A research team for NTL Group is developing a wearable system that monitors an astronaut’s brain performance under different conditions during different tasks and using ILMAH as a research platform.
Mission Specialist Peter Henson also split the day by tending to the plants and monitoring pH and nutrient levels of the PPM’s hydroponics system. The study on the plants is investigating different growth strategies for edible plants intended for future long-duration space flight missions.
Commander Stefan Tomović focused much of his attention on EVA preparation in the EVA module of the habitat. Mission Specialist Jared Peick spent the day maintaining MACHO Jr, a small rover that will be utilized on EVA’s.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Mission 7 started

Yesterday, April 25, Mission 7 started at the LMAH with three crewmembers. Stefan Tomovic, Commander, Peter Henson and Jared Peick will be performing experiments and testing equipment during the next two weeks.
For more insight about this mission see the UND Today story by David Dodds.

A team of three volunteers is scheduled to enter UND Space Studies’ Inflatable Lunar Mars Habitat (ILMH) at noon, Thursday, for the unit’s seventh NASA-funded “space” mission. The crew will reside inside and conduct a series of experiments and other scientific research until they exit the ILMH at noon,Thursday, May 9.

The crew comprises Peter Henson, a mission specialist, from Carrington, N.D.; Jared Peick, a mission specialist, from Penacook, N.H.; and Stefan Tomovic, mission commander, from Pretoria, South Africa. All three crew members are students in UND’s Space Studies Department, part of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Studies.

From left to right, Peick, Tomovic, Henson.
“This habitat is the only system of its kind in the nation on a university campus,” said Pablo de Leon, an Argentine aerospace engineer and Professor in the Department of Space Studies. He’s also director of the UND Human Spaceflight Laboratory. De Leon noted that the project is funded by the North Dakota NASA EPSCoR grant.

The ILMH project attracts students from around the world to join this prestigious scientific effort. Students are largely responsible for constructing, assembling, and maintaining the ILMH.

“Over the last few years, we have been upgrading the planetary habitat, and now, we have four research modules, plus the living quarters, which allow us to perform complex simulated missions,” De León said. “We are constantly receiving requests from external institutions who want to perform their experiments at UND. This project is positioning in the forefront of analog planetary research, as NASA is looking to return to the moon and travel to Mars.”

Travis Nelson, a research assistant with UND Space Studies and a veteran crew member of an earlier ILMH mission, said mission IV will focus largely on Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA), a specialized rover for transportation outside the Habitat; geology; microbiology; and exercise and human performance of the crew members.

Planned activities and research experiments:

·   Electroencephalographic (EEG) Neurocognitive and Physiological Monitoring
·   Technical fault analysis of space vehicle subsystems
·   Plant production (10 varieties) and assessing planetary soil compositions
·   Psychology, behavior and mental health in isolated environments
·   Task complexity and memory function
·   EVA Performance and Physiological Monitoring
·   3-D printed habitat external tile repair
·   Planetary surface rovers for human assistance
·   High-altitude ballooning with crew assembled payloads
·   Retrieval and identification of soil and mineral samples
·   Analysis of soil samples for microbial life

Crew, experimenters and mission control staff prior to the start of the mission 7.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Mission 6 Habitat Video

The crew of Mission 6 prepared a short video of their activities in the habitat.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Meet the crew of Mission 6. Part 3


Anamika was born in India, and she is an international student at UND, Space Studies Department. She is a second-year masters student with a concentration in Space Engineering. She completed her undergraduate degree in the field of Computer Science and Engineering from JECRC, Jaipur. After graduating, she worked as a Software Engineer for about 5 years in Bigdata domain before coming to UND. Mission VI is a 14-day mission where the crew is conducting 7 EVAs and gathering data for 14 different experiments. The Plant Production module experiments include the use of amended Martian regolith (biomass waste compost from a previous mission) to simulate In Situ Resources Utilization (ISRU) to study plant growth. This is her first mission inside the ILMAH and she is very excited to be a part of it. For this mission, Anamika is overseeing the engineering operations of the habitat and taking care of the Plant Production experiments. She is working on automation and monitoring of the Plant Production module for future long-duration missions to Mars and beyond. She enjoys traveling, reading books, painting and watching space movies in her spare time. Anamika looks forward to pursuing her Ph.D. in Systems Engineering and working in the space industry in her future career. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the mission feel free to email her at AnamikaATund.edu

Meet the crew of Mission 6. Part 2

Laura Banken

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota Laura Banken earned her BS in Biochemistry and Biology at St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN. She is currently enrolled in the Space Studies Master’s program at the University of North Dakota with a concentration in Planetary Sciences. This is Laura’s first mission with the Inflatable Lunar Martian Analog Habitat (ILMAH) and her second closure study. Between her undergraduate and graduate years Laura has worked on over 8 research projects in the fields of genetics, biochemistry and microbiology. She is extremely excited to be applying her investigative background to the more than 21 experiments that will be conducted during the course of Mission VI. 
When not participating in closure studies, Laura works at Medtronic, a medical device manufacturing company. After completing her Master’s degree she hopes to obtain her Ph.D researching astrobiology. In her spare time Laura enjoys traveling and spending time in the north woods of Minnesota. Feel free to reach out to her at laura.I.bankenATgmail.com 


Meet the crew of Mission 6. Part 1

Michael Castro, MD, Mission Commander

Michael Castro was born in Chicago, IL and moved to Palm Bay, Florida when he was 9. He started at the University of Florida then transferred to Florida Tech where he graduated with a B.S in applied mathematics while also getting his private pilot certification. After graduating from med school in 2012, he was selected as a reserve crew member for Hi-Seas mission III in Hawaii 2014 and then the flight engineer for Hera campaign-2 mission 1 at JSC in Houston in 2015. When Dr. Castro is not simulating missions on Mars, he enjoys traveling the earth, exercising, judo and movies with his father and brother, who are also MDs.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


On October 10, 2018 Mission 6 started with three crewmembers. The two-week mission includes veteran of Mission 5 Dr. Mike Castro, MD as Commander, Laura Banken and Anamika.
UND Today published a story of the start of the mission on the following link:

Mission Patch by Nelio Batista
Mission 6 Crew

Mission 5 Highlights

Mission 5 Highlights

In the following link is a presentation with the highlights of Mission 5.

Mission 5 Completed

In May 14, 2018 Mission 5 was completed successfully.
Attached are some photos of the reception of the crew at the Department of Space Studies.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Balloon Launch. Mission V. Deployment.


Drone pilot: Jordan Krueger.

EVA Balloon Launch. Drone View

Drone pilot: Jordan Krueger

Meet the crew, Part 3. Nelio Nelio Batista, mission engineer.

Hello Everyone!

My name is Nelio Batista I'm from Uberlândia-MG-Brazil, I'm Biomedical Engineering undergrad senior.
Since I was a kid my dream was always to be an astronaut and work for NASA. Since I got here in USA as an international student, I had wonderful opportunities to join in space projects and also help on habitat final adjustments and to propose biomedical experiments to the previous Mission(ILMAH IV).
In this mission I'm testing the concept of "How can the Fast prototyping systems like a 3D printer can help astronauts on Mars". I used a 3D printer to create a type of CubeSat to be launched in a High altitude Balloon carrying sensors. I'm loving this mission and this environment, I could stay here FOREVER! Hahaha

To come here to USA I had my flight cancelled by the Hurricane Maria but I was so decided to come and start pursuing my dreams that amazing things happened! Recently, I came from NASA Ames where I'm participating in a project to build a mockup to test concepts of a Mars Drill.

I also joined UND rocket team where I got a great opportunity to practice my engineering skills in the NASA Rocket Competition between more than 40 other US Universities at Marshall Spaceflight Center in Alabama, where we won the 2nd prize on the best website category.

Well, that's it for now! If you would like to know more about me or need a supporting word, feel free to send me a message to nelio.batistadonasci(AT)ndus.edu

Ad Astra!
Tchau!!(bye in portuguese)

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Meet the crew, Part 2. Michael Castro, MD.

Michael Castro was born in Chicago, IL and moved to Palm Bay, Florida when he was 9. He started at the University of Florida then transferred to Florida Tech where he graduated with a B.S in applied mathematics while also getting his private pilot certification. After graduating from med school in 2012, he was selected as a reserve crew member for Hi-Seas mission III in Hawaii 2014 and then the flight engineer for Hera campaign-2 mission 1 at JSC in Houston in 2015. When Dr. Castro is not simulating missions on Mars, he enjoys traveling the earth, exercising, judo and movies with his father and brother, who are also MDs.

Monday, May 07, 2018

WDAZ Coverage of Mission V

Meet the Crew, Part 1. Prabhu Victor, Mission V Commander.

My name is Prabhu Victor and I am the mission commander for mission V of the Inflatable Lunar/Mars Analog Habitat (ILMAH). Mission V is a 14-day mission where we are conducting 7 EVA’s and gathering data for 12 different experiments. This is my second mission inside the ILMAH while my first mission was in Oct 2017 where I participated as a mission commander for mission IV of the ILMAH. I’m from Eden Prairie, Minnesota and my background is in Electrical Engineering and I’m currently a grad student at the Space Studies Dept. at UND. I also work at Northrop Grumman in the Grand Sky facility near Grand Forks. For this mission, I’m overseeing the operation of the habitat and the two modules. I helped with the integration of the plant and EVA module to the main module of the ILMAH. I’m curious to see how well the different systems of the habitat operate together and note how the integration could be improved. I’m looking forward to working with the plant module and help make the process for growing plants more automated. The plant module has been updated with drip feeding and hydroponic systems to provide the water and nutrients to the variety of plants currently growing. I’d like to see how this upgrade in automation helps with the process of growing the plants compared to mission IV where the plants had to be manually watered and provided nutrition’s several times a day. I hope you enjoy learning about our experience and EVA’s throughout this mission! If you had any questions or would like to learn more about the mission feel free to email me at prabhu.victor(AT)und.edu. 

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Day 3, and a second EVA.

The crew is getting more practice into the suitport undocking

Nelio and Michael are ready to go

Exiting the airlock
Prabhu leaving the suitport
Crew during EVA


On May 3rd, the crew performed their first EVA to start familiarization with the space suits.

Trying the suits

Joseph Clift assisting the crew during the EVA

Dr. Gloria Leon (Space Psychologist, Univ. of Minnesota) visiting during the EVA. Crewmember Michael Castro, MD is inside the suit.

Nelio Nascimento (Brazil) and Michael Castro, MD salute in front of the camera.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Some highlights of Day 1 of Mission V

Here are some photos of the Mission 5 crew entry into the habitat.

Crew and mission support before start of Mission 5.
Michael Castro, Prabhu Victor and Nelio Nascimento

Media specialist interviewing Prabhu Victor

Media specialist interviewing Michael Castro, MD

Crew ready to enter habitat

Final photos before start of the mission

Nelio Nascimento closes the habitat door


At 1:15PM CST today, the new crew of Mission 5 entered to the habitat for their two-weeks mission.
The crewmembers are:

From left to right, Nelio Nascimento, Biomedical Engineer from Brazil, Prabhu Victor, Commander (who previously served as crewmember of Mission 4), and Michael Castro, MD who is the mission medical officer and is a veteran of a NASA HERA analog mission.