Strathclyde students prepare for life on Mars

Research students are to spend two weeks in a US desert as part of a multinational team preparing for future human exploration to Mars.

Elif Oguz and Martin Kubicek, postgraduate research students in Strathclyde University’s Faculty ofEngineering, will visit the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah to investigate the problems a future manned crew could encounter on the Red Planet.

As members of Crew 135, they will conduct research in the latest phase of the Mars Analog Research Station (MARS) project, examining the station and its structure systems using advanced computer modelling, a method used by aerospace engineers to verify designs of spacecraft.

In a statement, Elif Oguz, who studies in the Department of Naval Architecture, Ocean and Marine Engineering at Strathclyde, said: ‘The main aim of our research is to evaluate the structure of the station and to test whether it is sturdy, durable and human-friendly enough to withstand continuous exposure to extreme Martian radiation without the construction materials degrading too quickly.

‘Living in isolation with such limited resources is going to be a real challenge but it will allow us the opportunity to learn what life would be like on Mars and to minimise the problems that could be encountered by future explorers.

‘We are delighted to be involved in the project and look forward to helping research this important area.’

The average temperature on the surface of Mars is around minus 60 degrees Celsius and the thin Martian atmosphere is not breathable. Furthermore, about every ten years, atmospheric turbulences on Mars develop into a giant dust storm that encircles the entire planet.

The team will assess whether the habitat has a good chance of surviving a dust storm, testing how the station will fare in such a situation and enhance the base and its surroundings to make sure the first coming dust storm doesn’t signal the end for the mission.

Martin Kubicek, based in the Centre for Future Air-Space Transportation Technology within the University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said: ‘Things that we take for granted on earth and minor issues become critical in Mars and we need make things as easy as possible to remove problems that could have wide-ranging implications.’

Located in the San Rafael Swell, in the west of the American state of Utah, the Mars Desert Research Station is the second of four simulators operated by the Mars Society. It is considered the closest environment to Mars anywhere on Earth.

The station will serve as the base for Crew 135 for two weeks from February 1 to February 15.