Galway engineer leads mission to Mars Station

By: March 8, 2017
Mars Desert Research Station

Ilaria Cinelli, a PhD student of Biomedical Engineering at NUI Galway was selected as Commander of Crew 172, an international mission for the Mars Desert Research Station.

The station supports Earth-based research required for human space exploration.

The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), run by the Mars Society, is a full-scale analog facility in Utah (United States) that supports Earth-based research “in pursuit of the technology, operations, and science required for human exploration on Mars”.

The extreme mission is a bit like the fictional story behind the 2016 movie The Martian, starring Matt Damon. The Hollywood star plays astronaut Mark Watney who is left behind when an unexpected storm hits Mars, leaving him to engineer ways to feed himself and survive the harsh environment of Mars.

Cinelli, a PhD student in the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway was picked as ‘Emerging Space Leader of the Mars Mission’ thanks to her extracurricular activities in this field.

Cinelli led an international crew of six people under the constraints of a simulated Mars mission over four weeks.

Mars Desert Research StationThe facility in Utah is surrounded by terrain that is a geologic Mars analog, which offered Commander Cinelli and her crew opportunities for “rigorous field studies” as they would carry out during an actual space mission. This study will lead to new insights into the nature and evolution of Mars, the Earth, and life on Mars.

“The purpose of this mission was to investigate the impact of isolation on human behaviour, performance and leadership. The Mars simulation experiment is aimed at increasing the physiological and technical autonomy of the crew in preparation for an actual long-term mission over a number of years,” says Cinelli.

For more information about The Mars Desert Research Station visit the site. :