Mars Desert Research Station
The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) is a full-scale analog facility in Utah that supports Earth-based research in pursuit of the knowledge required for human space exploration. The terrain around MDRS is a geologic analog for Mars, and offers opportunities for field studies and simulated missions by scientists, students and other volunteers.
I traveled to MDRS during the summer of 2016 to help create a plan for a newly constructed greenhouse, including choosing a collection of plants that could grow under the harsh conditions of a simulation: in extreme temperatures with limited water, and with roots growing in regolith, a rocky substitute for soil. I chose food plants, like mustard and arugula, that could offer the crew the highest nutritional benefit for the resources the plants required.
While waiting for the garden supplies to arrive, I helped the MDRS staff solve another problem. Curious folks who had found the site on Google Maps would often show up and wander around the campus, even when simulations were in session, which interrupted the work at hand. Using only scrap wood and a mix of Mars-toned paint repurposed from previous projects at MDRS, we created a kiosk that orients visitors, while letting them know how to watch the simulation from a safe distance.