Journalism: Studio 360 Science and Creativity

Client: Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen

Project: 10-min segment for Science and Creativity from Studio 360

In Brief: Where is the divide between design and delusion? This report looks into the phenomenon of Martian analog experiments, specifically the Mars Society’s MDRS station in Utah, where scientists, engineers and artists experience living and working on another planet through immersive simulated environments.


Studio 360, Episode 1111: “Life on Mars”

One task we all share is cooking. Our meals are limited to shelf-stable breads and cans of dehydrated fruits, vegetables, prepared meals, and a slightly disturbing cheese powder. Thankfully, some of the food tasted much better than we expected.

Judah:   Anybody want to try the fri—dried mango?

Lara:    It smells horrible, but…

Kelly:    Uh! Oh yeah, you should test it. See how well you have to ration.

Sniff sniff. Crunch.

Barbara:   mmmmm!!!

Kelly:    MMMMM!!!

Barbara:    Oh wow!

Kelly:    It tastes like Lucky Charms!

Barbara:    Yeah try!


Our flimsy plastic dinner table is the center of this Martian life — whether that’s eating, testing bacteria cultures, or watching movies on our personal laptops –probably the most sophisticated gadgets we have.


Kelly:    I keep smelling something. I don’t know if it’s me or if it’s that cheese. I need a shower so bad.

We’re only allowed one navy shower every three days. Water ice may have been discovered buried on Mars, but it’s not exactly easy to get to. So at MDRS we have a limited supply. And the filtration and recycling systems are far from perfect.

It gets worse when the plumbing doesn’t hold up to the winter temperatures in Utah.

Zak:    So, the water supply to the toilet is frozen. Which means, we cannot flush the toilet. And, potentially when it thaws other pipes burst–

Kelly:    Right!

Zak:    and then we have a real problem. … Well, not that not being able to use the toilet isn’t a real problem,

We quickly learned how dependent we are on technology for comfort and survival. Our generators failed twice, leaving us without heat.  So… if pretending in five below zero is so challenging, how will real Martianauts last at 190 degrees below? 

In our darkest hours, we turned to Dr. Robert Zubrin, the Mars Society founder, whose manifestos line the shelves of the Hab. 

Zak:    So there’s a line in this book, it’s talking about finding social happiness on Mars. It says, “Yes, fully possible, even for you, a person who obviously was a complete social failure on Earth – otherwise you wouldn’t be here.”


Wait? Does Zubrin think Mars is for losers?

Robert Zubrin:    I think Mars is going to be a very optimistic culture, one that reveres change and that welcomes people who wanted something better than they had and were willing to take a chance to go do it.

You need to be an optimist to survive on Mars. At MDRS, the point isn’t to dwell on the things we’ve given up, like showers, and Facebook, but appreciate what can be gained with an entire new world is at your doorstep.



Producer: Leital Molad

Comments are closed.