Final Mission Report

“Team Russia” Mars Desert Research Station Crew 129 Files Final Report
May 6, 2013, 
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The following is the final report of MDRS Crew 129, composed of scientists and engineers from Russia, which just completed its tour.  A full review of this year's activity at the Mars Desert Research Station will be given at the 16th International Mars Society Convention, which will be held August 15-18, 2013 at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Registration is now open at

Final MDRS 129 Mission Report
Written 05/03/2013 by Nikolay Dzis-Voynarovskiy

MDRS 129
Team Russia
Apr 20 – May 4, 2013

This report will end our 14 days of simulation. Our team was the first Russian team at MDRS. It is honorable to be the first but leads to some problems. Initially our crew consists of six specialists – commander, executive officer, engineer, biologist, geologist and journalist. Getting US visas turned to be much more difficult task than we expected. Our journalist arrived to MDRS since four days after the beginning of our rotation. Crew’s biologist still has no visa. We hope that she will analyze collected data at home.

Our program for research at MDRS included:
Test of walking robot prototype
Model rocket launches
Human factors research
Geology research including ‘Water on Mars’ experiment
Astronomy observations

Test of walking robot prototype

Team Russia in cooperation with Selenokhod LLC planned to test Selenokhod walking robot prototype at MDRS. Selenokhod LLC is Russian team participating in Google Lunar X PRIZE competition.

Robot’s current design is based on the Soviet Prop-M Rover. Developers have added a rotation device / pivot point to the base of the robot's body, along with modern metal and composite materials. To understand how rover walks on the Moon we recommend to view this video simulation: 

We bring a prototype to MDRS, which resembles original design excluding solar array (only internal battery) and scoop. Avionics and internal body design also differ but at the same time they allowed to control our robot almost as well as we will control a rover on the Moon. We can command Selenokhod to rotate, move forward and back, transmit pictures and video.

The main goal of our experiment was to test robot-operator interaction in Mars-like environment. Serious problem is that a person who controls a rover sees an environment through onboard cameras with limited view. He or she does not see a full picture with all obstacles nearby so one cannot possibly choose a safe route for robot.

The plan was simple – take a robot, put it on Mars-like surface near MDRS, let operator to control robot only by onboard cameras and to walk as long as robot can. Walking robot is small and relatively slow that’s why there is a great risk to encounter obstacle and not to go around it or/and to get stuck. Google Lunar X PRIZE rules require moving at least 500 meters. We planned to test how realistic is that aim for a small robot.

Unfortunately robot’s gear wheel was broken right before our trip to USA. We had no time to make a steel gear wheel. Various wheels printed by 3D-printer and made at MDRS from local stuff did not work properly. When we started a rover, signal from wireless camera was lost, on-board computer freezes and – even worse – plastic gearwheel breaks after a short time. Nevertheless Selenokhod started to walk and move about 10 m. We were satisfied to see that pacing works much better than moving on wheels at irregular rough surface. Despite skepticism about walking robot, it confidently moves forward climbing over various obstacles.

Rocket Experiments

Team Russia launched a low-grade model rocket carrying a miniaturized. We decided to test the small rocket, given that it's very likely that future Mars colonists will use similar rocket launches to photograph particular surface areas from a high altitude (as scientists do on Earth) and also take measurements of the Martian atmosphere.

We successfully find a rocket and get a video with aerial view of MDRS.

Human Factors Research

During our rotation Team Russia collected data, which are necessary for evaluation of needed supply for making sustainable living in closed space. We measured following parameters for each crewmember:
Hours of sleeping.
Consumed calories.
Drinking water volume.
Washing water volume.
Time of water usage.
Duration of physical exercise.
Noise level.
Body temperature.

Final report will include those data, full menu for each day of our rotation and analysis made by our biologist. We will publish it on our web-site 

‘Water on Mars’

Water will be a critical resource on Mars. It is necessary for drinking, washing, cooking, producing rocket duel and oxygen for breathing. It is possible to find an ice in a Martian soil. We were trying to simulate future searching for water and extracting it on Mars at MDRS. Our geologist Petr Romanov determined best places for taking samples in a desert, took samples of soil with high moisture and evaporated water from them.

During one of his experiments Petr evaporated 6 g of water from 3,5 kg of soil in approximately 4 hours. Crewmembers drank that water. It was fine and has a distinctive but not determined and not very unpleasant taste, which was possibly caused by using not very clear equipment.

Other geology research

Other geology research included searching for Mars-like geology features on Earth and radioactive minerals. Besides we made many educational videos for geology students of Moscow State University.

Other activities

Intensive astronomy observations at the Musk observatory were held. Among others following objects were observed and photographed:
Jupiter with its satellites
Saturn with its satellites
Uranus, Pluto
M80, M92, M13

We performed night EVA which is important to understand how emergency activity on the surface of the Red Planet will look like.

We did a lot of work in social networks to promote MDRS and Mars exploration. We appeared on major Russian TV channel before rotation. We expected appearance on FOX News and various leading Russian media after rotation.


As Russia came to MDRS for the first time, the biggest part of our efforts was concentrated on organization of our mission and overcoming various bureaucratic obstacles. That is the reason why scientific program was not as interesting as it should be. Nevertheless we hope our mission will contribute to efforts of reviving Russian program of Mars exploration. All final science reports, videos and photos in high resolution will be posted soon on our web-site 

Many thanks to all people who helped and supported us and especially to the Mars Society for this amazing opportunity!

For further information about the Mars Society, visit our website at