Seven students from ISAE-SUPAERO aiming to conquer Mars in the Utah desert

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For four weeks, seven engineering students will be simulating life on Mars in the Utah desert, USA. From 18 February to 16 March, they will conduct experiments in collaboration with CNES and several research laboratories at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS). This 2024 edition marks 10 years of participation by the Institute’s students in this mission.

Mission MDRS 2018

No manned flight to Mars before 2030? Never mind: every year, students at ISAE-SUPAERO experience life on Mars, thanks to the American association Mars Society. This enables a panel of students from the institute to experience life on the Red Planet in an astronaut base, the MDRS (Mars Desert Research Station). Crew 293, made up of seven engineering students, are preparing to leave for this scientific station for four weeks, from 18 February to 16 March. The programme for their stay in the United States and Mars includes collecting data for various scientific experiments.

A woman in charge

This tenth ISAE-SUPAERO mission will be commanded for the second time by a woman: Marie Delaroche, currently on an Erasmus break at the University of Southampton. A keen space explorer, she was already part of Crew 275, which went to Utah in 2023. Alongside her, three young women and three young men in their 2nd year of engineering studies will take on the roles of astronomer, scientist, botanist, journalist, health worker and on-board engineer. All are members of the ISAE-SUPAERO Mars Club, a student association for the popularisation of science centred on the Red Planet and the missions dedicated to its exploration and study.

Like real astronauts, Crew 293 will be carrying out around ten experiments in collaboration with CNES, the University of Florida, CNRS and MEDES. Its members will be looking at the influence of the space base environment on astronauts’ stress and cognitive performance. They will also study the benefits of watching virtual reality videos filmed in their respective homes, in order to investigate the facilitation of family intimacy and social support in an ultra-confined environment.

>>> Follow Crew 293’s mission on social networks
>>> Crew 293 blog

Working with secondary school students

During their mission, they will also be experimenting with AI4U, an artificial intelligence that assists astronauts in their daily tasks (environmental measurements, voice recognition, emergency exercises). Finally, they will be conducting a science popularisation experiment in collaboration with secondary school pupils. Inspired by the film The Martian, in which an astronaut grows potatoes on the Red Planet, the aim of this experiment is to compare plant growth in Martian soil with growth on terrestrial soil.

A real professional experience for them, and a great way to make a name for themselves as scientists!

Orbital Architecture, one of the experiments carried out at the station

Initiated during the mission of the previous crew (Crew 275), this experiment is continuing this year with Crew 293. The aim of the study is to measure the influence of the space station environment on astronauts’ stress and cognitive performance. It requires a major deployment of environmental sensors in the station, as well as sensors and trackers worn by the crew members, who will carry out a whole battery of cognitive and physiological tests during the mission. The study, in collaboration with the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, will be carried out in January on board the ISS (International Space Station) as part of the Axiom 3 mission.

Photo credits: Club Mars ISAE-SUPAERO

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