Mission description Crew 263

Crew 263's Experiment details


The LOAC (Light Optical Aerosol Counter) and Mega-Ares are measuring instruments developed by the LPC2E, a CNRS laboratory in Orléans, which are brought to the station every year. The LOAC is an optical aerosol counter, measuring the concentrations of different particles in the air and classifying them by size.



Mega-Ares allows precise measurement of the electric field and the air conductivity . It was developed after Micro-Ares, the only payload of the Schiaparelli lander (ExoMars 2016 mission).


The aim of this experiment is twofold:
→ To evaluate our ability to perform a complex (technical, unfamiliar) task in a constrained environment, and in a context of isolation (repetition of the experiment at the beginning, middle and end of the mission).
→ To show the interest of using the ionosphere in Martian exploration, within the framework of long-distance radio communications, without recourse to orbiters (allows for a reduction in the means committed to future missions, or a safety protocol in the event of failure of communication satellites).

Amateur radio stations on Earth are of particular interest in emergency situations. In the case of France, we can mention the Xynthia storm, where amateur radio volunteers took over from traditional communication networks that were out of order. Or on a global scale, amateur radio operators are key points for emergency communications ( https://www.rtbf.be/info/regions/detail_attentats-blackout-catastrophe-naturelle-quand-les-radioamateurs-secourent-les-secouristes?id=10345076 ), relaying satellite networks that have become ineffective (saturation, etc.).

In the context of space exploration, this type of practice can help to manage non-nominal, emergency situations, even in less extreme settings. The advantage of such a practice is to carry out long-distance ground-to-ground exchanges, without the use of orbiters, which will necessarily be fewer in number than those around our Earth, and whose control is more delicate... All the more so as there may be failures and, in this context, redundancy systems are not always provided for because of the investments that this requires (economic, human...). So, when we find ourselves in the presence of a star with an ionosphere, this method makes it possible to cover very great distances thanks to the reflection on the charged particles, and the system then takes on another dimension. One can only dream and imagine one day Martian bases thousands of kilometers away communicating without even using a satellite network!

Geology field campaign with LIBS

This unique experiment will allow us to explore the field around the MDRS. In this context, we will use a laser induced breakdown spectroscopy instrument, LIBS. This allows, by shooting on a rock with a laser and then analyzing the spectrum of light emitted by the plasma created with the laser impact to determine the composition of a rock .

It is on this principle that one of the 5 instruments present on the SuperCam instrument of the rover Perseverance functions and allows to analyze the Martian geology and to search for traces of water and past life on the red planet.

With this instrument, we will identify the transition from different geological eras around the station and compare the sedimentary deposits found to the ones on Mars. Through this study, we will be able to make a comparison of the geological campaigns carried out by a human operator and a robotic operator.

For this experiment we have the great opportunity to work with Dr. Rapin, researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics and Planetology (IRAP Toulouse), Pr.Bousquet of the University of Bordeaux and Cécile Fabre from the laboratory GeoRessources. We are also supported by SciAps with their Z-903 handheld LIBS analyzer.




Augmented Reality

The analog astronauts will test an Augmented Reality application developed with the aim of providing support during the Extra-Vehicular Activities. Mounted on Microsoft HoloLenses, which will act as a Heads-Up Display during the EVAS, the application allows the analog astronauts to take pictures and identify the correct sample collection placement. Furthermore, it allows flags to be placed during the EVA, to optimize the route back to base, saving some precious time.



Ultrasound medical surveillance

Future crewed space missions to the Moon or Mars represent an extreme environment for the human body.  Many health effects of microgravity have been observed during spaceflight and there is also evidence that the isolation present in such missions can affect the nervous system.Therefore, it is important to carry out a medical surveillance of the astronaut during crewed space missions.
Ultrasound is a non-invasive and portable highly desirable for human spaceflight, allowing astronaut organs to be probed quickly and reliably.

During our mission, we will carry out medical monitoring of our organs by ultrasound, using a protocol by CADMOS (Centre for the development of microgravity applications and space operations plans) CNES and a Sonoscanner ultrasound device. This experiment will allow an investigation of an autonomous use of ultrasound scanners by an untrained operator during a crew space mission as well as to observe the effect of isolation on the organs.

Thomas Pesquet also carried out autonomous medical surveillance as part of the Proxima mission.

We have the great honour to be supported by Professor Philippe Arbeille’s expertise for this experiment.

Dreem-Sleep Study

During our mission, we will try to study the correlation between the cognitive abilities of the astronaut, the efficiency in the activities performed and sleep. Indeed, during a long mission such as a mission to Mars, the sleep efficiency of martionauts will be essential to maintain an optimal efficiency rate in complex tasks but also to maintain a good crew cohesion.

Sleep monitoring during current simulations of Martian or lunar life will allow us to anticipate the degradation of astronauts' cycles during their missions but also to quantify the management of stress and the degradation of the social and technical capacities of the participants.

Within the International Space Station, a sleep study of Thomas Pesquet using a Dreem headband has already been carried out. However, the data collected were not continuous: Mr Pesquet wore his headband during a total of 6 nights: two nights before the mission, two nights during and finally two nights after. ISAE Supaero’s Crew 206 at the MDRS also performed a sleep study using Dreem headbands which was awarded at the International Astronautical Congress 2019. During our mission, the objective will be to continuously assess throughout our mission the impact of this confinement on our sleep using these same Dreem bands, loaned by CNES but also from  DREEM . We will attempt to correlate this data with the efficiency of our operations and the cohesion of the crew throughout the day to complete the data collected by the 2019 study.

We had the chance to meet Dr Rachel Debs, a neurologist specialized in sleep at the Toulouse University Hospital, who helped us in developing our monitoring protocol. Using her advice, we will also develop strategies to optimize our sleep and better manage our fatigue through naps, routines or relaxation.




The station has three telescopes. They will be used for :

-Observe solar activity daily and report the number of sunspots using the Musk observatory. The observation of the sun would be indispensable for future living Martians on the surface of Mars. Indeed, between the loss of its magnetic field and its atmosphere, the surface of Mars is exposed to much higher radiation levels than the Earth. In addition to regular exposure to cosmic rays and the solar wind, the red planet occasionally receives deadly explosions that occur during strong solar flares.

- Practice astrophotography of galaxies and nebulae using the wide-field telescope located outside the MDRS station.

- I will use the third telescope, specialised in the search for astronomical events, to try to highlight the presence of an exoplanet by tracing the luminosity curve of a variable star around which an exoplanet transits.



Highlighting the usefulness of drones in rescuing or searching for astronauts in danger during an EVA. The drone is equipped with a thermal camera to facilitate the search. Two situations will be set up, the first without the drone where the crew will have to organize the rescue of a member outside the station; the second with the drone. A third situation could be set up with the virtual reality goggles to see if they are useful in this type of situation.



Space Educational Activities with middle and highschool students

We are keen to give meaning to our experiences. As passionate students, this year we wanted to share our passion with high school students in France and Spain. We are therefore going to carry out experiments with them that revolve around the sciences of space conquest, with the aim of raising their awareness of these issues, introducing them to the scientific process, and we hope to motivate them to continue their studies in this field!

The programme includes three experiments to be conducted in parallel with our mission:

→ highlighting the gravitropism of plants, a phenomenon currently being studied for possible planting on other stars than our blue planet

→ development of safety protocols in the constrained context of a Mars station: how to react in such an emergency situation?

→ introduction to astronomy: what is the point of rigorously monitoring the activity of the sun on Mars? How to monitor it? And more generally, students will be introduced to the observation of astronomical phenomena such as nebulae!

In order to do this, we will go to various classes before our mission to prepare our experiments, in collaboration with the teachers of these different high schools. Then, once we are there, we will conduct them and share our results in a slightly delayed way through a podcast "MDRS Logbook" which will be publicly available. This will allow a closer and more interactive follow-up of our adventure by the young students.

Once we return, we will go back to these classes to share our experiences and results in person.

This experience was also made possible thanks to the help of Ose, the social outreach association of ISAE Supaero, which put us in contact with the secondary schools of Occitania!

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)



Parution/mettings of the 263 Crew