Four students and four researchers from the Catholic University of Louvain, UCL, will participate in the UCL to Mars mission from 10 to 25 March 2018. The team will live for two weeks in the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), a scientific station in the Utah Desert in the United States. It will conduct various scientific experiments in conditions close to those of a station on Mars.
The programme, which is supported by NASA, was developed by the Mars Society, a U.S. association that aims to promote the exploration and colonization of Mars to the public and government institutions.
“The experiments we are going to conduct include mapping the outside environment with the help of a drone and including data such as the chemical composition of the soil in this precise mapping,” team leader Maximilien Richald said. “We shall also check whether life is compatible with that soil and grow plants without soil.
“One experiment also focuses on the psychological impact of life in a confined space on members of the team,” Richald added. “We shall also have to study the degradation of some medicinal drugs”.
The objective is to explore problems that a mission to Mars could have in the near future. The participants will then develop the results with the support of UCL and convey them to the Mars Society.
The team is still looking for sponsors to complete the financing of its UCL to Mars mission (www.ucltomars.org).