Life on Mars: Meet the crew – Part 1

UK engineer Zoe Townsend is the crew journalist for LATAM III, the 212th crew of the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS). In the second of a series of blogs for The Student Engineer, Zoe catches up with two of the crew members to find out how they’re adapting to life in the simulated Mars environment.


Héctor Palomeque (Mexico) – GreenHab Officer

So, after landing on Mars yesterday, how did your first day go? How are the living quarters?

It’s pretty amazing, the Hab is nice there are some comfortable places but some not so much. The landscape is just mesmerising, you just can’t imagine.

So what is your aim at MDRS?

My aim is to enhance my knowledge. I want to know how to grow plants in different environments, this is my main reason for being here.

What are you looking forward to at the MDRS?

I am really looking forward to meeting new people, some of the crew members are really prepared. I want them to help me to learn. I am interested in what they studied and where they worked how their pathway is different.

What is your biggest concern at MDRS?

I am committed to work, so I think failing is the biggest thing I am afraid of.

What was your expectation leading up to MDRS, how has that changed now you are here? Did you do any training to prepare yourself?

My main training was getting involved in science. I had high expectations coming to MDRS but it lives up to it. The EVA was something I would never forget. I was worried I wouldn’t be useful for the crew and concerns about being welcome, but it is the complete opposite, we are all familiar and get along.

So, you mentioned the EVA, tell us a little more about that.

It was our first EVA being outside the HAB, our first exposure to the Mars Environment. We have some good results, part of the crew went out and part stayed in the Hab as support. Tomorrow we will attempt another with longer distances; it was just an exciting speechless moment.

Life on Mars: Zoe Townsend’s MDRS mission

Camilo Zorro (Colombia) – Spacesuit Engineer


Camilo, you have been here for a few days now. Are you settling in, what are you learning?

For me, I am used to this environment as it is like the holidays I have with my parents. At home the internet is bad so I spend most of my time helping my family.

How are you faring with the isolation?

It is fine as I have experience with it, however my parents keep trying to contact me, but I am ignoring them as the Wi-Fi is bad.

What are the challenges that you have faced here at MDRS?

My challenges are catching up on my university classes, but that is a problem for future!

What experience are you hoping to take from here?

I am hoping to take the experience and pass it onto the new Columbian crew, there are a lot of things I would have done differently.

So, what advice would you give your former self before entering the hab?

That the rules make sense and are there for a reason. That the stress is prior to the experience and once here it isn’t so bad. That I need to keep calm and try to move weekly with my experiment. Oh, and bring more toothpaste [laughs]!