‘This is step one,’ says Calgary engineer off to Mars ‘mission’ in Utah desert – Calgary
A Calgary electrical engineer is hoping a two-week Mars exploration simulation in the Utah desert could lead to a real gig on the Red Planet.
“Going to Mars and making ourselves a multi-planetary species is just the coolest thing I can think of,” Zac Trolley told The Homestretch on Wednesday.
So about 10 months ago, he threw his name in the hat for the next-best thing. A spot at a two-week simulation at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) near Hanksville, Utah.
“I was chosen as a backup crew,” Trolley said.
“Still stoked, it’s kind of fun. About two months ago, one of the NASA engineers dropped out due to NASA-y things he had to do and I got his spot, so off I go.”
Trolley leaves Friday to be the crew engineer for a team of six, making sure the electricity works, the water’s hot and other engineer-y functions.
But training before he leaves, he said, isn’t really a thing.
“You don’t really know until you get there. There are stories of people that have gotten there, after a few days packed their bags and started walking home. It’s kind of a do-or-die moment that you just got to jump in with both feet and see how it goes.”
The Utah desert has some similarities to the geology of Mars, he said.
“They replicate some of the same experiments you would do if you were on Mars. Collecting rocks, doing samples, doing surveying. What works, what doesn’t,” Trolley said.
“Once you leave [the habitat], they have simulated spacesuits that you wear. You use radio communication and talk back to home base.”
Trolley says there are some exciting developments in the possibility of actually exploring the Red Planet down the road.
“Today SpaceX tested its Falcon Heavy rocket on the space pad and it worked. That spaceship is capable of taking people to Mars. Elon Musk has said, that’s what he wants to do. There are several other people with very deep pockets who said that’s what they want to do and I have every reason to believe them,” he said.
And Trolley will be first in line, if he has his way.
“Whether it’s me or if I am enabling somebody else or if I am helping out the mission, I think that will create that Star Trek future we all envision and love,” he said.
“This is step one and I want to help us meet step one.”