Research projects

Once at the Mars Desert Research Station, the six simulated-astronauts of team PRIMA will be undertaking several research projects. Thanks to the crew's wide range of expertise, they will be able to work on multiple scientific projects and experiments, explore the Martian analog environment as well as study behaviours and psychological aspects of containment, all this in a multicultural and international atmosphere. These projects will lay the ground base for future research that will someday enable a Martian settlement. Five main projects will be undertaken by the six astronauts:

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3D-PRINT INFRASTRUCTURES

The use of 3D printing for manufacturing building blocks and other objects has the potential to facilitate the construction of human habitats, buildings and tools on Mars. This project will be directed Arnau Pons and Idriss Sisaïd (engineers). PRIMA has designed a multifunctional brick that can be assembled to make an infrastructure while storing water and providing extra-radiation shielding.

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GROW MARTIAN FOOD

A practical way of eating is the key to long-term expeditions in extreme conditions on the ground and in future long-duration missions in space. Food will have to be compact (for easy transportation), full of the most important nutrients (for maintaining good crew health and performance), but also diverse for all the different human senses. This project will be directed by Dr Michaela Musilova (astrobiologist). PRIMA will monitor the changes in the quality of food for extreme conditions and their nutritional content. These space food products are designed to be easily storable, concentrated, nutritious and varied.

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TRAIN THE MIND FOR MARS

Human adaptability is largely regarded as the most compelling argument for manned space missions. Both directly controlled and autonomous robots are limited by many factors, such as complete dependence on their programming and inputs from humans back on Earth. The communication delays and lack of basic human situational awareness slows down exploration, inhibits adaptability, and limits serendipitous discoveries. Thus, in recognizing the importance of human flexibility, the value of human decision making must be cultivated and allowed to flourish. PRIMA’s research proposal is to test different levels of Mission Control input during mission critical tasks and decisions while accurately simulating communication delays.

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UNDERSTAND MARTIAN GEOLOGY

The potential of extraterrestrial life on Mars is well connected to the distribution of water and carbon on the planet. Carbonate minerals are seen as powerful tools with which to explore these fundamental relationships, as they are intimately tied to both the water and the inorganic carbon cycle. This project will be led by Roy Naor (Geologist). PRIMA will undertake carbonate analysis field work and will concentrate on locating and sampling carbonate minerals in the topsoil and exhumed formation in the vicinity of the research station.

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INSPIRE SPACE THROUGH ART

It has been shown that the most successful communication of science to the general public comes through the use of story and humanity. So, what is the story of Mars for the non-scientist? How can we help them understand why there is so much interest in our nearest neighbour and 4th planet from the sun? This project will be led by Dr Niamh Shaw (artist and scientist). PRIMA will use their mission as a source of educational activities to increase children’s and students’ interest in STEM subjects, particularly space; and use outreach and the media to promote investment in space exploration worldwide.

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