Copyright ‹ 2004 by Shannon Rupert Robles. Published by The Mars Society with permission.
THE MDRS REMOTE SCIENCE TEAM: EARTH / MARS COMMUNICATION AND COLLABORATION
In August 2003, a remote science team was established for the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) that included the fields of biology, geology and multidisciplinary human factors. The need for a rigorous, coordinated science program at MDRS dictated a new, more active approach to the science being conducted there. The MDRS Remote Science Team (RST) completed its first successful field season beginning operations with Crew 20 and concluding with Crew 29. The group of twenty-one scientists was selected from past MDRS and/or FMARS crews, and so was able to share with incoming crews their knowledge of MDRS and the surrounding area, the expertise of their diverse disciplines and the challenges of doing science during a simulation. In addition, if a crew did not have any direct science goals, the RST developed experiments for these crews that either added to, or advanced, the science being conducted at the station. This first formal experience at running a remote science team looked at ways to accomplish science, via email and other forms of communication, between the crews and scientists back on Earth. The biggest challenge was finding adequate ways to communicate with the crews in order to facilitate a truly collaborative effort between the Earth-based scientists of the RST and the Mars-based scientists at MDRS, both prior to and during a rotation. Despite these challenges, we were able to complete a number of successful experiments, including continuation of a long-term microbial ecology study and a rotation in which all science was directed remotely by the RST. Other RST accomplishments during its first field season included setting the lab up for microbiology by soliciting several thousand dollars in donated supplies and equipment and resurfacing the lab countertops.