Crew 179 End of Mission Summary

MDRS Crew 179 continued an ongoing partnership between the Mars Society and the Wilderness Medical Society, two organizations dedicated to educating professionals and the lay public about research, operations, and life in austere environments. The partnership has been a natural one since the beginning, and Crew 179 represents the third time that the WMS has sent personnel to MDRS.

Crew 179 was composed of 9 medical professionals, all with experience in wilderness medicine, aerospace medicine, or both. Five members of the crew hailed from Commonwealth countries (Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) while four came from the US. All were very excited about this opportunity and felt privileged to spend a week at MDRS.

Our goal was to study aerospace medicine and simulate medical emergencies that might occur during long duration spaceflight or on a Mars mission. To do this, we used didactic sessions, including lectures of relevant topics, asynchronous videos, and even participated in a current research study on just-in-time training for medical procedures in space. We covered a very diverse range of topics, and also discussed extensively the differences between terrestrial medicine, long duration spaceflight, and a Mars mission.

For those who have been following our daily reports, one disaster seemed to follow another on our EVAs. However, this was the intention of the group as we sought to simulate how a real crew, whose primary goal is to carry out the scientific and operational objectives of their Mars mission, might react to unanticipated medical and operational crises. The problems that befell crew members were diverse and tailored to the Martian environment. Crew members suffered from hypothermia, decompression sickness, barotrauma, renal colic, orthopedic injuries, and environmental and toxicologic emergencies. No one left unscathed from virtual Mars conditions. Each brought unique challenges, many of which were not anticipated by the scenario planners, including communication drop-outs, ATV issues, and weather pattern changes. The crew performed admirably at all the tasks, thoroughly embracing the well-known medical simulation concept of “suspension of disbelief” and participating in the sim as if the situations were real. In so doing, we learned much about group dynamics, the challenges of an operational environment, and the dangers of living on Mars.

The team greatly appreciated living in the remodeled Hab. With a group of 9 people, we thoroughly enjoyed the increased living space in the crew quarters on the upper deck, and definitely took advantage of the new seats for many discussions, both serious and fun, while unwinding at night. We also used the new space downstairs as sleeping quarters for a couple of crew members. The increased space also gave us more flexibility to continue our medical simulations inside the Hab, and obtained many fantastic pictures of crewmember resuscitations on the floor of the Hab.

While we did get short on water at one point, Shannon very helpfully provided an emergency resupply from town. We took some extensive measures to preserve water, and these challenges seemed very realistic to us. This gave us a sense of the difficulty of balancing resource utilization on Mars, where no such re-supply will be possible.

Overall, the entire crew very much enjoyed their experience. While we each learned a significant amount about aerospace medicine, we have a much greater appreciation for the challenges of Mars. Finally, we’d like to express our appreciation to everyone at the Mars Society and the Wilderness Medical Society who has assisted with our journey.

Respectfully submitted,

Ben Easter, MD

MDRS Crew 179 Commander

XO Report – April 28th

04.28.2017 Sol 5

We jumped into early this morning and assembled for breakfast and lectures at 08:00.  We had two behavioural health lectures and then went straight into our EVA preparation.  We had another exploratory mission planned today in addition to an ex-Hab construction project.  Unfortunately, a medical emergency with one of the crew members resulted in a delta evacuation to base.

Debrief after the EVA focused largely on how to deal with bad outcomes in an extraterrestrial environment.  There was good participation from the entire team.

The debrief was followed up by ultrasound testing of the crew members as part of Rick Cole’s ultrasound study.  The testing continued as we rolled into further lectures on ultrasound applications in space.

The crew also reviewed a proposal for research at the Hab in the afternoon.  It is a proposed study on isolation and mood, which is a topic of interest in prolonged space flight and extraterrestrial habitation.

We had a another lecture on Mars medical kits and then had some free time.

This is our last night in the Hab and spirits are high.

Crew Photos – April 27th

Field Medical Care


Attacked by local Martain Life


In Habitat Sheltering


In Habitat preparing lunch with a Sonic Screwdriver


In Habitat Construction


In Habitat Briefing in Crisis


In Habitat -handling- the crisis

Journalist Report – April 27th

Prepared by: Dana Levin, Crew Journalist
   Date: 27Apr2017
   MDRS Sol  Day 3 update:

Once again we had a day of crisis. There is certainly no chance that these were planned ahead of time though, we must just simply be a horribly unlucky crew. After breakfast several crew members remained sore after Sarah “Connors” nightly physical condition beating. For this reason we elected to split the expedition into two teams. One would stay in the hab to conduct some just in time training on Star City operations and Sleep physiology while the other would perform a survey of a nearby area with poor satellite imagery. However the habitat teams day of rest was not to be…

An alert from Mission Control threw the team into action. A hasty rescue was planned and the science objectives had to be abandoned to deal with the emergency. While the day was long, the team performed admirably and managed to recover all field equipment, prevent horrific injuries and ultimately finish the science objectives including recovering a rare Martian dessert from the desert to complete tonights dinner. The post EVA debrief and clean up was also a long day, but in the end the day was endorsed with such phrases as “I had moments of sheer terror” and “I feel like I won the golden ticket” along with “I am securing VDs package” and even included a disco dance on the Martian surface to ensure a fellow crewmember’s health. We even found a secret message written in stones behind the habitat in an area which we shall dub Lemur Point. We are thrilled to have had another shipment of water last night which will certainly be enough to see us through our mission. However, we discovered that sanitation ops without a functional water heater in 50F weather is far less pleasant than one might expect. It might even rival living with nine uncleaned people in a sealed habitat for a week in terms of pleasantness. 

We are now settling down to eat dinner as a crew, and prepare for our discussion of intercultural issues in spaceflight and plan our intra-crew video competition. Looking forward to tomorrow’s experiences and what new disasters the sunrise may bring…

XO Report – April 27th

Prepared by Dana Levin, XO

Another great Martian morning here at the Hab.

Rick led the group with two lectures this morning: an overview of life and training at Star City (Russia) and winter survival for returned astronauts and cosmonauts.

Ben took us through the EVA brief of a complex and long distance mission which was exploratory and included a search for life.  The teams were split into two groups, ‘alpha’ and ‘bravo’ teams.  Unfortunately, alpha team had to abandon their exploration mission early due to solar flare activity.  A delta evacuation was called and alpha team returned to base after abandoning vehicles.  Bravo team was able to complete their mission, despite briefly losing one crew member who became slightly confused and had wandered off.  The lost crew member was in good health upon retrieval with no lasting medical issues.  Appropriate decontamination procedures were followed for the arriving teams and base was able to give the all-clear following the event. No signs of radiation exposure in any of the crew members has been detected and they are all in good health.

Debrief covered some of the challenges faced during the EVA, in particular: navigation and consumables and solar flare risk.

Dinner was pizza which went down well.

Further discussion of the book ‘Dragonfly’ was led by Rick after dinner and we are looking forward to a bit of dessert.

Journalist Report – April 26th

Prepared by: Dana Levin, Crew Journalist
Date: 26Apr2017
MDRS Sol Day 3 update:

Sol Day 3 began for us with confirmation that our water supply would be replenished by an autonomous pick up truck. This was very welcome news for both our parched lips and our noses. We celebrated with discussions of Sex and Gender issues in Spaceflight, Spaceflight Associated Neuro-Occular Syndrome, and Radiation Injuries in Spaceflight. We then prepared for our third “EVA to Tim’s Peake”

Zone: 12S Easting: 518300 Northing: 4249300

of this mission with our briefing and suiting up. The Group deployed themselves smoothly with excellent teamwork and enthusiastically set out to accomplish out goal. The team then split up into two groups to make the tasks easier. The coordination between these two groups and the Habitat was unparalleled and the mission was a resounding success. However, once again disaster struck. This was our third incident, the crew is beginning to suspect a pattern….
In any case our breathable air was stretched to the limit for our return but the expert leadership and cool heads of MDRS 179 prevailed and Our crew was successfully evacuated back to the Hab. A full assessment was conducted and stabilizing care was provided. All crew somehow remain well despite significant health challenges in these past few days. Crew morale is significantly boosted by messages from those back on Earth we are able to receive during our comm passes, particularly Philadelphia mission support and to our Capcoms for the astronomy updates.
Following the EVA The crew ate lunch together, discussed the learning points of the day’s EVA and then settled in to discuss medical contingencies and spatial disorientation. We are looking forward to tomorrow’s tasks but we are feeling wary of what it may bring given how our past several days have gone…

XO Report – April 26th

Crew 179 XO’s Report 04.26.2017
Sol 3

There is nothing like a Martian sunrise.

The crew got up a little earlier than usual and were treated to a crimson solar breach over the red desert outside the Hab. Photos through the portholes never do it justice but always provide a warm reminder at some point when you look at them again.

Morning lectures started on time at 08:00 and covered radiation and visual impairment in space. EVA mission brief was at 10:00. The objectives of today’s mission were to establish a comms relay south of the Hab at Tim’s (or Thomas) peak and to test Mars Mound and 3 other test relay sites due south of that location. The mission proceeded well with Tim’s Peak relay established with Mars Mound and test site 1 and 2. Time constraints resulted in aborting the search for test site 3. On the return, one crew member suffered a serious injury which precipitated a delta evacuation to base. The team arrived at Hab with casualty at mission time + 25 minutes with all team members on oxygen reserve. Patient was stabilized in Hab by the medical team. The EVA (sim) was terminated when patient was stable inside the Hab. Debrief has held afterwards over another Rick Cole special meal: enchilizza (an enchilada with pizza toppings). Strange, yet delicious.

In terms of the debrief itself, we felt the team performed well under the circumstances with good initial relay and exploration of test sites as well as prompt medical evacuation and treatment of the casualty.

Some fine tuning of our approach was made during the debrief. After the debrief we continued with lectures with ‘Virtual Dana’ giving two lectures: contingencies on EVAs in Mars environment and spatial adaptation in zero gravity and space flight.

During the virtual lectures, we received a priority message from Shannon. She informed us that the water delivery person had run off with a woman ‘from Venus’ and was non-contactable. She stepped up and went to fill the water and delivered it to us. We duly informed her that she was our Obi-Wan and was indeed “our only hope.” It’s a relief to know that our water situation has been resolved.

Following VD’s (Virtual Dana’s) lectures Sarah led several (punishing) exercise sessions which earned her the monicker, Sarah Connor (of ‘Terminator’ fame).

Of note, CO Ben appears to be having some difficulty with color differentiation in the yellow-orange spectrum. We are hoping that this is a transient visual condition. He has no other symptoms of note, but we will continue to monitor him.

In the evening, we were treated to a great potatoes-au-gratin courtesy of Kevin and Adam. To feed the holes left by Sarah Connor’s (punishing) workouts we had a few supplementary side plates of tuna cheese wraps which hit the spot.

The plan for the evening is a group discussion of an excerpt from Bryan Burrough’s ‘Dragonfly’ and then chocolate brownies… of course.

Crew Photos – April 25th


The Hab


Searching for historical artifacts.




Searching for signs of life.


A triumphant return.

XO Report – April 25th

Crew 179 XO Report: 04.25.2017 SOL 2
It was an early start for the crew after a somewhat chilly night (with Ben downstairs suffering the brunt of it.)  After breakfast, we assembled at approximately 09:00 for lectures on Decompression Syndromes and Urological Problems in Space.  After which we were briefed for our second EVA.  It was a complex mission with three main objections and one ‘get-ahead’ task.  The first mission was to locate the crash site of a Chinese satellite and retrieve the remains of the canine passenger that was launched aboard it.  The second objective was to locate the satellite relay station and test its function.  The third objective was to collect geological samples of three rock types from a rock fall drainage.  The ‘get-ahead’ task was to test comms from Ambush Alley and a nearby hill.  (We had also one conservation ‘too-cute’ task of releasing the resident martian life form which was live trapped in the Hab last night-a.k.a. pack rat- back into the desert.)  Kevin was lead and took the team through this complex mission which overall went well.  (EVA start 11:30).  The first three objectives were achieved and the ‘get-ahead’ task was aborted due to medical issues with the team doctor, Alicia.  She had experienced progressive back and hip pain.  
Despite the absence of an obvious leak in her suit, decompression illness could not be out-ruled so a delta evacuation was called and the ‘get ahead’ task was aborted.  We returned to the Hab at approximately 13:20 with the patient and she was evaluated in-suit after repress and then in sick bay.  Graded opening of her suit was performed and full physical exam done after suit was doffed.  Ultrasound ultimately showed a left kidney stone and the diagnosis of renal colic eventually given.  A treatment plan of oral NSAID and IM opiod was prescribed. The EVA (sim) was concluded and we debriefed over ‘breakfast-as-lunch’ which consisted of blueberry pancakes, eggs, Spam, and hashbrowns courtesy of ‘chef de mission’- Rick Cole.  Gastronomic delight aside, we were able identify several issues with our EVA today from the debrief, namely: communication etiquette, adherence to tasks, off-nominal ops (i.e. hard landing of drone today in high winds making it non-functional and unavailable for further use), and visual identification of crew members by role while on EVAs.  We made a team decision to revisit these issues in a separate meeting this evening after dinner.
(By the way, in case anyone is interested: our conservation mission was successful.  The mouse was returned safely to the wild.)
At 15:00 hours, we were treated to a few more lectures: Capsule Landing in Water, Atmospheric Conditions and Toxicology, Study on Congestion and Headache Correlates in Space.
The Hab water situation was discussed after lecture as we appear to be pretty close to our last indoor tank full.  The plan is to pump the outside tank to max out the indoor tank and try to press Sharon to expedite the water delivery.  Failing this we will need to decide whether or not to slowly dry up like prunes and be buried under piles of our own festering dishes (true to sim) or possibly break sim and collect water from Hanksville.  If we learned nothing else from today, space if full of complex decisions.
Crew physical training is scheduled before dinner to be led by Sarah, crew fitness trainer.
Submitted by Dana Levin, Crew 179 XO

Sol Summary – April 25th

It began with crew wake up. Weather was partly cloudy with a 50% chance of precipitation and threatening electrical storms all day. Winds were close to 40km/hour out of north. We are still without showers and on water rations as our water supply continues to dwindle. The resupply ship was delayed and nine crew members in the habitat operating off of leftover water from the previous crew burns through the supplies fast. We are hopeful for a rapid resupply. Waste management systems are also still on backups as the primary waste system is down for repairs. That said the crew is in excellent health and enthusiastically took to our morning tasks and after a hearty breakfast and our morning briefings, we took to the rovers once more for an EVA out to Robert’s Rock Garden at Zone 12S Easting 545687 Northing 4249173. Our surveys revealed many interesting finds today including geological samples and a few samples of historical value. Upon return we had yet another unexpected incapacitating incident but our expert medical crew once again stabilized the patient and returned her safely to the habitat where she was cared for until symptoms resolved. 2 incidents in 2 days is surely no more than a coincidence.
The day then continued with a debrief of the days events and a discussion of CO2, water survival field operations, and hypoxia. Once these were done we attempted to help our water shortage by returning to the water delivery tanks from the last crew. We’d discovered a small amount of water remaining in the tanks that could not initially be drained by the pumps. Our flight engineers rigged a pump and lever system to drain the small amount of water that had been left in them into our habitat’s static tank. We were able to salvage an additional 15 gallons bringing our total potable supply up to 53 gallons. Based on WHO standards for Earth based disaster medicine and our own rationing calculations from urine output and activity level, our Health and Safety Officer estimates this will last us about 1-2 more days. We are confident this will be sufficient for the supply ship to reach us. If it does not dehydration will set in. We will become weak, lethargic, confused, and eventually die. Those with female biology will likely outlast the males but even they will not last more than 4 days without water…
We remain enthusiastic and look forward to tomorrows tasks confident that we have solved all of our problems and will have smooth sailing from here on out. Reports on operations and photos will be submitted as well.