Crew 178

Mission Plan


Aurian d’Avernas – Commander

Aurian d’Avernas is currently in his second year of Master in electromechanical civil engineering, mechatronics orientation. During his brief experience in previous business engineering studies, he has developed useful team management skills, on both a financial and group dynamics levels. It is in this way that he took part of the “Watt for Africa project” in July 2014 to install a photovoltaic system in order to supply autonomously a telecommunication relay in Benin, together with two engineer students. More recently, he participated to the European robotics contest “Eurobot” within a group of five engineer students and got a strong practical experience in the mechanical, electronic and computer design. His master thesis addresses the autonomous control of a group of quadcopters into an unknown environment. About passions, he likes playing badminton, sailing, surfing and practicing Yoseikan-Budo to keep a good physical health, together with playing drum and saxophone.

Calogero Montedoro – XO & Crew Biologist

Calogero Montedoro is a graduate in neuropsychology, in cognitive neurosciences and in biology. He currently pursues a PhD thesis in biology of behavior. During his years at University, he led many projects all around the world. Passionate about astronomy and adventure, this expedition was tailored for him. Second in Command Executive Officer and Crew Biologist, he will conduct experiments in the fields of life sciences and managing vital resources and relationships in close environments, will ensure the supervision of the greenhouse and will investigate the topography of the Red Planet throughout geomatics studies.
Elke Mergny – Crew Geologist

Elke Mergny begins this year a PhD in the University of Liège (Ulg) in the field of structures, especially about the study of fire resistance of buildings. Before this thesis, she have studied civil engineering in construction and graduated with Magna cum laude at the University of Louvain (UCL).
Her studies allowed her to acquire a lot of skills through participation in various activities. During her bachelor, she chose to be involved in a student association called the AGL where she developed many communication skills and a sense of organization. In master, she supervised exercise sessions in geology and chemistry, for twenty students. After her studies she conducted two years of research at UCL about the influence of cracks in the timber beams and continued to give practical sessions in the field of steel structures and prestressed concrete.
She is passionate about science and carries on to follow MOOC courses (online courses). She also loves music and follows courses in music theory and singing.

Mathieu Vander Donckt – Crew Scientist & Journalist

Mathieu Vander Donckt has always been passionate about sciences. He is currently studying chemistry at the University of Louvain, doing his master thesis in structural chemistry and adsorption of gases.
His interest in astronomy and space leads him to participate in projects that allow him to acquire new knowledge or share it. This is why he wants to stay at the Mars Desert Research Station. He is also a member of the Kot Astro, a student association that promotes astronomy on the campus of Louvain-La-Neuve. He occasionally teaches space to children, and does not miss an opportunity to talk about the stars.
His hobbies include reading, DIY, geology, stargazing, astrophotography and hiking. His favourite destinations are the Alps and the Pyrenees mountains where he can walk for several days. He also likes chess and riddles.
In addition to his W-Rray diffraction experiment, Mathieu will act as the journalist of the crew and inform the general public about the progress of the mission.

Nathalie Dupont – Health and Safety Officer

Nathalie Dupont is completing last year in physiotherapy and rehabilitation at the University of Louvain (UCL). After her last year, she plans to continue her studies with a master in Management at ICHEC and complete her physiotherapy training with specialization courses in the field of sports physiotherapy and maternity. She is currently working on her master thesis. This thesis is related to the study of the biomechanics of running and knee injuries.
She did scouting during twelve years as activity leader and then chief. This experience had given her the taste for adventure, team spirit and resourcefulness. As chief, she always loved taking on the role of rescuer responsible leader and it is not a coincidence if today she obtains her BEPS and is the “Health and Safety Officer” of our mission.
Dynamic and involved, she is implied for her third year on the project “Carpestudentem”. She learned there how to live every day with one team and evolve together around a specific project for different challenges.
In terms of interests, Nathalie loves many sports such as running, fitness, windsurfing, hiking, skiing and swimming. But she also loves everything related to music (She plays the transverse flute and is volunteer in a festival), traveling, reading and photography and video editing.

Quentin Thomas – Crew Astronomer

Quentin Thomas is currently in 3rd bachelor year in physical sciences at the University of Louvain, with an option in mechanics. He plans to do researches in the field of quantum physics. His dream is moreover to work as a physicist scientist for ESA.
Fascinated by physics for a long time, he followed several astronomy courses at the Observatoire Centre Ardenne in Belgium.
He was instructor in a summer camp for two weeks in the South of France for 14-16 years old teens for several years. He is currently part of “Kotangente”, a student association promoting mathematics and physics on the campus of Louvain-la-Neuve University.
He is passionate about music. He plays piano for 4 years and guitar for 5 years. He also practices many sports such as football, swimming and tennis. He was also captain of a football team for 3 years. He loves reading many books, mainly about physics but also likes travel books and plays.

Damien Mertens – Crew Engineer

Currently an engineering student in his third year of bachelor, Damien specializes in electricity and applied mathematics. His interest for aeronautics and space dates back to his childhood spent in Houston (Texas), near the Johnson Space Center he frequently visited.
Passionate about his engineering studies, he found a way to put his theoretical courses into practice. This year, he was Head of the Engineering Business Unit of LSM Conseil, the Junior Enterprise of UCL. The real-life projects he fulfilled for clients in IT and engineering, such as mechanical and electrical prototyping, will certainly be useful for his job as a Crew Engineer.
Damien is quite active in extra-academic activities, and loves to dedicate himself to projects unrelated to his studies. For example, he spent 3 years in the team of the Jeugd Parlement Jeunesse, a youth simulation of the Belgian Parliament. Additionally, he is Chief Leader in a boy-scout team, entertaining 60 boy scouts from 12 to 18 years old. Over the years, that experience taught him to be resourceful and developed his leadership and group skills.
Even if he does not know where he will be in 5 years (he is equally interested in a diplomatic career as to be one of the first astronauts to set foot on the Red Planet), he is impatient to have an overview on the astronaut’s life, and apply his telecommunications courses to his experiment.