Guest post by Dylan Dickstein:

Astronaut analogs are unique and incredible opportunities to jump into new worlds and challenge your ability to remain productive and level-headed while living in isolation with limited resources. This past April, The Explorers Club member, Dylan Dickstein, commanded a team of six students and recent graduates through a two-week-long Martian analog at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS). While Google Maps would tell you they were just outside the rural town of Hanksville, Utah, they were living, breathing, and working as though astronauts on the Red Planet. MDRS is owned and operated by the Mars Society and it supports Earth-based research in pursuit of the technology, operations, and science required for human space exploration. The advantage of the location is that the landscape is an actual geologic Mars analog.
The team conducted a variety of experiments including a growth rate comparison for pea plants sewn in Martian soil versus terrestrial soil as well as a root and leaf sprouting study in a hydroponic garden that was assembled while in simulation at the research station. When living on Mars, growing your own food will be key. If you’ve read or seen “The Martian”, you’ll know what I mean! The team also collected soil samples at various geologic features (e.g., river beds, cliffs, and flatlands) which are currently undergoing genomic sequencing. These same studies will one day be performed on Mars itself, so it is crucial we understand how the human element factors in – what challenges will be encountered with doing field research while encumbered by a spacesuit and gloves, for one? That is where astronaut analogs provide our human space program invaluable scientific data and help get us ready for the real thing.
To learn more about the Mars Desert Research Station, or to apply for a field season with your own team, check out: