Melissa Battler's mission to Mars

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Melissa Battler

Earth and Space is part of the new Ontario Curriculum through grade 12. Melissa got the Earth Sciences bug while she was at high school in Cambridge. Her Earth sciences teacher, Stan Jones created the spark of interest and she has found her career interest. Melissa wishes to work on Mars exploration projects. When she graduated from the University of Waterloo in Spring 2004 she will continue an interest which has given her opportunities even as an undergraduate.

BELOW: Melissa collecting a sample of the Dakota Sandstone.

Melissa collecting a sample

Melissa was keen on organizing a field trip to the Southwestern U.S.A. for the Earth Sciences Students Society and was one of the student organizers who planned the trip with Peter Russell over the Christmas vacation 2002-03. The trip included a daylong hike of the Grand Canyon and a visit to the Berringer Meteorite Crater.

A month after that trip Melissa took part in a project at the Mars Desert Research Station. This was a joint project of the Mars Society of Canada and the Mars Society of Australia, these groups formed the Mars Expedition Research Council. Melissa flew to Salt Lake City and drove to Hanksville, in southeastern Utah. The Mars Desert Research Station is a Mars analog Research Station at a designated Mars Society Analog site. While at the Mars Desert Research Station, Melissa participated in Expedition One. Expedition One is the first in a series of science- driven Mars simulations. During the two weeks of the project Melissa lived and worked in the Mars Habitat a building housing labs and living quarters. Attached to the Mars Habitat is a greenhab where the water is recycled using plants etc. An observatory is also on site. Food for the mission was army rations and dried food. Participants were also limited to one shower per week.

Melissa and coworkers

ABOVE: Ready for fieldwork.

Melissa was one of the three mission geologists on Expedition One. There were nine geological and biological goals for the mission. 14 people were involved in the four phases of the mission. Most participants on the mission were geologists, biologists, engineers and psychologists. They came from NASA, universities and government. All the work from the mission has been published. Melissa studied the Dakota Sandstone as if it occurred on Mars. The sandstone was studied for evidence of water. This research was used for Melissa's fourth year thesis, part of her final year of courses at the University of Waterloo.

Starting in June 2004 Melissa will spend ten weeks at the NASA Aimes Astrobiology Academy as the Canadian representative. She will attend courses, participate in research and visit NASA facilities in California. Part of the research will be the design of a drill to be used on a Mars project in five years time.

Melissa will then travel to Memorial University, Newfoundland where she will start a Masters degree with Guigné International. Melissa will study ice berg scours on Earth, and features that appear to be ice berg scours on Mars (caused by ice floating in rivers or oceans and scraping the bottom sediment). Guigné International specializes in geophysics applied to space activities.

BELOW: Mars Habitat with greenhab and observatory.

Mars Habitat with greenhab and observatory