UND Space Studies Department Does Fifth “Mars” Mission

The crew did 12 experiments including growing plants and testing new space suits

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — There aren’t many space studies departments in the world but it just so happens there’s one in Grand Forks.

“It was founded by Buzz Aldrin actually, the space studies department,” said Prahbu Victor.

Since UND’s program began in the 1980’s, the department has given students who have a love and curiosity of everything to do with outer space the chance to even work with big names like NASA.

But the university’s newest addition is its inflatable habitat, which a crew just used to simulate what a space mission to Mars would look like.

Every day the crew would come out of the habitat to determine how easy or difficult it was to do experiments in their space suits.

It was all part of their goal was to take a break from the engineering aspect of aerospace science for a change and start looking at how they could improve physiological conditions for astronauts traveling to Mars.

“Everything you’re used to on Earth, you won’t be able to get used to it on Mars. Everything has to adjust: your eyesight, your hearing, perhaps the way you sleep,” said Michael Castro, the mission’s medical officer.

That’s because Mars only has 38 percent gravity.

While the UND crew still had plenty of gravity here on Earth, they still understood what it meant to go to space, living off a vegetarian diet and in a confined space.

“The first two days were just like aw, what did I sign up for? And then you sort of fall into this routine and you appreciate it a bit more and you start noticing different nuisances about different experiments,” said Victor, the mission’s commander.

During the two weeks they spent in the habitat, the crew didn’t have any contact with the outside world other than when they reported their findings back to the university. However, seeing as how Sunday was a pretty big holiday, they say they had to join in on the celebration.

“We did have to wish our mothers a happy Mother’s Day of course,” Victor said.

This is the fifth simulated “Mars” mission UND has done.

While they’re simulation only lasts for a few weeks, a normal trip to Mars would last about a year and a half.

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