Team of ISU alumni selected for a two-week research mission on “Mars”


An all International Space University (ISU) Masters alumni team selected! Team ISU will be Crew 162 at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Hanksville, Utah.

The two-week field rotation includes a simulated isolation at the remote Mars analog site, during which time the team will delve into deep-space exploration and planetary research topics. MDRS is sponsored by The Mars Society and this is the second year Team ISU has participated.

Crew 162 is composed of a highly motivated group of international scientists, engineers and thinkers who all hold degrees from ISU’s unique interdisciplinary MSc in Space Studies (MSS) program. The team will set out for the research station for two weeks beginning January 23rd.

ISU staff and faculty proudly endorsed the team’s application, hoping this will enable a yearly rotation of alumni, while encouraging collaborative research with the MSS class each year.

“Our distinguished alma mater has provided all of us with a shared life experience that has shaped our collective careers in the current space industry,” says Renee Garifi (MSS11), Crew 162 Commander. “We share a passion for space research, engineering, mission design and exploration that unites us as a tightly bonded team of space adventurers.”

Crew 162 Final PatchTeam ISU’s combined background includes a broad range of scientific, educational and engineering accomplishments. Their current works include astrobiology research, space cargo management, venture capitalism, international entrepreneurship, STEM education and microgravity research aboard the International Space Station.

Anderson Wilder, the team’s Executive Officer, is thrilled to join such an inspirational team, sharing:

“What brings this team together is our common dream of space exploration. After studying abroad together, our team understands the importance of defining roles within a team and have learned to cope with high-stress situations in small living spaces.”

Wilder knows that completing this mission together will challenge the team to improve their professional communication skills while they live and work together in the 2-story, 8-meter diameter habitat.

The crew’s Health and Safety Officer, Carmen Felix, explained the need for ISU alumni to actively participate in Mars research.

“The first Mars colony will undoubtedly be an international collaboration. Culture sharing will be an important part of our two-week stay at MDRS as we cook, share language and music during our down time. We plan to publicize our mission in each of our home countries and hope to leave the habitat with an incredible life experience that we can share when we get home.”

The research this year will include a unique astronomy education and outreach project demonstrating use of the Musk Observatory on site. A rare observing opportunity during the mission will allow the team to star gaze at five visible planets and a comet. Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter and the Comet Catalina will be spinning in the sky together. Photos and videos from the mission will be available on the team website and we hope alumni around the world will also look up and share their best astronomical photos of the event as well!

As well as star-gazing, Team ISU will hunt for fallen micrometeorites in the undisturbed desert terrain surrounding the habitat, test two new NASA prototype passive-watering systems for plants, as well as study the social interaction of the crew during isolation via the method of Sociomapping, a study which is vital to future long-duration missions to Mars.

Follow Team ISU’s mission and consider supporting their research:

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For information about applying to be part of next year’s field rotation, please send your resume to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Visit the MDRS website for information on this year’s field season