In 2014, Kellie led an Explorers Club Flag Expedition to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), a prototype laboratory utilized by a number of space agencies and scientists to simulate long-duration spaceflight and conduct analog Mars research.
Kellie’s international crew included scientists from both NASA and JAXA, and the crew’s primary research focused on extremophiles, microorganisms that are able to exist in the harshest environments on Earth, and possibly beyond. During their crew rotation at the MDRS, Kellie and her crew conducted a number of scientific EVAs to search for lichen colonies in the nearby area and collect samples. Lichens are some of the hardiest organisms on Earth; whenever new land or ice sheets form, they are the first settlers. Through the use of a centrifuge in the lab, the crew was able separate the samples and then use a sequencer to identify any extremophiles and cyanobacteria, which many researchers believe may be potential candidates for the harsh existence on Mars.
The crew also conducted forced plant growth research, conducting what might have been the world’s first “proof of beer” plant growth study. Thanks to their successful growth of both sorghum seeds and hops rhizomes in the highest-fidelity simulated Martian soil, the crew was able to academically prove that it will be possible to produce beer on Mars. Cheers!
To read more about Kellie’s experience at the Mars Desert Research Station, check out the following coverage in: