John Tolley, December 5, 2017

Is this intrepid all-Purdue team actually going to live on the surface of Mars?

The short answer is no, not yet.

The long answer? They?re doing what amounts to the next best thing, as their two-week mission to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in 2018 will provide crucial information and serve as an important stepping stone to the eventual manned missions to the red planet.

Consisting solely of Purdue students and alumni, including crew chief Max Fagin, a Purdue alum who was profiled by LiveBIG in 2014, the 7-person Boilers2Mars team represents a broad swath of scientific disciplines, from geology to botany to mechanical engineering. They even have a crew journalist to document the experience.

Over the course of their stay in the facility, built by The Mars Society in the remote Utah desert, the group is charged with carrying out not just experiments in their respective fields, but testing potential equipment that will keep astronauts alive on Mars, from spacesuits to vehicles. The crew will also be testing the psychological strain of living in cramped quarters, as the MDRS consists of nothing more than a small, two-level live-work habitat, a greenhouse and an observatory.

?In doing so, it provides an environment that is several steps above a lab bench but is still within reach of a determined team like us,? Fagin said, speaking with the Purdue University news service. ?Simulations like this are an essential and cost-effective way to test equipment, procedures and people for a mission to Mars before it actually happens.?

While the Boilers2Mars team isn?t exactly rocketing to another planet, it doesn?t mean this is the end of the road for the crew members, many of whom hold extraterrestrial ambitions. Fagin, who is returning for his second stay at the MDRS, does not mix words when asked about how he sees his place in future space exploration. As he told us in 2014, he?d like to be the ?Neil Armstrong of Mars.?

With a shared Boilermaker background between the two, that?s an outcome we think is altogether likely.