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NASA Haughton-Mars Project: for the first time, a Polytechnique student joins the mission

August 31, 2022 - Source : NEWS

Gabriel Dubé, a bachelor’s student in aerospace engineering, flew to Devon Island, Nunavut, on August 3 for a three-week mission as part of the Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) to conduct future exploration experiments on the Moon and Mars. He is the first Polytechnique student to participate in this project.

Gabriel Dubé - mission Nunavut
Gabriel Dubé, a student at Polytechnique Montréal, prepares to perform lunar and Martian exploration tests in a prototype spacesuit from Hamilton Sundstrand (Collins Aerospace) as part of NASA's Haughton-Mars Project(HMP) on Devon Island, Nunavut. (Photo: HMP-2022/Rod Pyle).

Being on Mars on Earth

The three-week Arctic research expedition was conducted at NASA’s Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) polar base camp under the direction of Pascal Lee, a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute and the NASA Ames Center in California. The project is primarily supported by NASA, the SETI Institute and the Mars Institute. A total of eight people took part in this mission.

HMP is a research facility located on the world’s largest uninhabited island, Devon Island, Nunavut, whose harsh climate, geological formations and rocky terrain mimic surface conditions on Mars and other planets. The main attraction of the site is the Haughton impact crater, which is 20 kilometres in diameter and 23 million years old. This isolated, remote and extreme environment provides scientists and staff with unique research opportunities. The Arctic cycle—day with no night—and limited communication capabilities provide appropriate analogs for the challenges of long-duration space flights. Planetary scientists and aerospace engineers travel there every summer to conduct field experiments in preparation for future exploration on the Moon or Mars.

The HMP scientific research base, established at the site in 1997, has since hosted teams of researchers from various countries each year. HMP hires both government agencies and private institutions in collaborative research, with annual field research opportunities for selected outstanding students from the United States, Canada and around the world.

Vue drone - Mission Nunavut
The Haughton-Mars Project base camp on Devon Island in Nunavut. Photo taken by drone by Gabriel Dubé. (Photo: HMP-2022/Gabriel Dubé).

A month of adventure for the future exploration of the Moon and Mars

Gabriel Dubé, a fourth-year bachelor’s student in aerospace engineering and former team lead of the Polytechnique rocket engineering society Oronos, is the recipient of the 2022 HMP Apollo scholarship, the most selective and prestigious HMP Project academic scholarship awarded to students and recent graduates.

“Gabriel is a remarkable student who stands out for his exceptional training, knowledge and passion for space,” said Pascal Lee, a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute and Director of the MARS Institute and the NASA Haughton-Mars Project, the day before they left for the mission. “We’re confident that he will be able to put all his knowledge to use and will be an asset to our expedition team.” 

For his part, Mr. Dubé said: “I’m very proud to have received the 2022 HMP Apollo scholarship. It’s an honour for me to be able to participate in this Arctic mission alongside world-renowned experts. This is a unique opportunity for me to learn even more and deepen the knowledge I’ve acquired at Polytechnique and Oronos.” 

To take part in the HMP mission, Mr. Dubé had to raise $20,000 to cover the costs of his participation, including travel expenses, scientific equipment, supplies and their transport, and logistics costs on the ground in the Arctic.

He was able to raise this amount thanks in part to Dr. Pooneh Maghoul, Associate Professor in the Department of Civil, Geological and Mining Engineering and a geotechnical specialist, who donated $2,500 to him through the PIED program, designed to help young research professors at Polytechnique Montréal start up the research component of their careers.

“As a professor, my mission is to support ambitious and adventurous young people, especially those whose ambition is larger than life!” Professor Maghoul says. “To push the boundaries, you have to dream big and aim high... I can’t wait to find out how this contribution will impact this student’s already brilliant career.”

Mr. Dubé’s field assignments consisted in immersing himself in this polar expedition, planetary science, and space technology environment at HMP to conduct two experiments, primarily.

First, he carried out studies of tethered aerostats, specifically helium-filled gas balloons equipped with imaging payloads attached to fixed or mobile platforms, including human-operated astromobile vehicles (rovers), to investigate the exploration value, operational constraints and design requirements of analogous systems in future robot and human exploration of Mars. PIED

Second, he studied drone operation, particularly the use of imaging drones, first-person view (FPV) drone interfaces, and one-handed joystick-like motion controllers, in science and exploration operations on the Moon and Mars.

These two experiments will help develop new concepts and technologies for future exploration of the Moon and Mars, but also generate new data, particularly aerial imagery, that will help scientists studying the site to better characterize and understand it.

Lastly, Mr. Dubé will also be the lead author of some of the new publications that will result from the HMP 2022 research.

Congratulations, Gabriel!

Learn more

Professor Pooneh Maghoul’s expertise
Aerospace Engineering program website
Department of Civil, Geological and Mining Engineering website
SETI Institute website
Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) website
HMP Twitter account

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