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Habitat Marte – Space Analog Research Station (Interview)

Space is always intrigued as much as it contains unpredictable dangers in its darkness. Therefore, scientists use simulations or computer simulations that are designed in the closest way to the target environment in many of their experiments.

Pioneering research has also been sent to Mars on life on Mars, and other spacecraft still on the road have been acted on in this way. However, when the focus of their research in question is a human form that will go to Mars this time, the studies have to be moved to a much different dimension. Machines are generally mechanical, they detect with their sensors; obedient systems without emotions and whims.

Whereas, the human life form does not bring only water and food with it. He takes his emotions, fears, phobias, whims and other needs with him everywhere he goes. In this case, simulations should be tried in person at Mars Research Stations, which are simulated more realistically than computer screens and established on Earth.

For this purpose, research stations have been established in many countries by scientists and volunteers, some even funded by states. Although the number of mars-related groups is quite large, there are very few research stations that have actually been implemented.

We have previously stated that we have cooperation with different groups working on Martian research on Earth. In this article we take it to a fairly remote station; Brazil!

Habitat Marte

1. Habitat Marte location.

In this context, our first introduction; we have previously held a teleconference with our community and will be with the “Habitat Marte” community located in Brazil.

We share with you our written interview with Ph.D. Julio Rezende.


Hello and best regards. Thank you, Prof. Dr. Julio Rezende, for your interest in joint work and for accepting our interview proposal. We would like to start our interview by sending greetings and good wishes to the valued members of your community, especially you.

First of all, would you introduce yourself to our readers? Who is Julio Rezende? Where and what tasks are you currently carrying out? (By the way, as a team; Congratulations also on your new federal advisory role at the CFA)

2. Julio Rezende been nominated as CFA Councillor. (Image Credit: CRA-RN)

Thanks for all the effort developed to popularize Science, Technology and Math in Republic of Turkey.

Introducing myself, I’m a researcher interested to help the awareness and knowledge about space and sustainability. One of the very good tools for this is the space analog stations. I am really interested to support the creation of new space analog station in many parts of the World, areas that presents educational, research, environmental attractiveness.

I’m bachelor’s in management and Psychology, master and PhD on Sustainability (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte – UFRN) and post-doc in University of Central Florida- UCF (Orlando-Florida).

I’m professor of UFRN, Innovation director of FAPERN, coordinator of space analog station Habitat Marte and CFA councilor.

We see that your professional knowledge and interests are not actually too far away from Mars research. What impresses you the most about Mars and initiates these studies?

3. Learning about Mars. (Image Credit: The Mars Society – MDRS)

The challenge it to think about sustainability. How will be the operations there, on Mars. and how We can discuss about it and how We can identify possible outputs and spin-offs to be applied in our daily life on Earth.

You have written some books, including your book preparations, which include learning and implementing management tools such as space, sustainable technologies, management of analog Mars mission processes, projects, innovation and sustainability. Can you tell us about his work and its content? Do you have a new book study?

4. The book Perseverance. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

I launched a book about Perseverance. Not only the NASA rover, but also the behavior and attitude associated to the experience of Habitat Marte, our challenges and achievements about persevere and be positive about the future and always have hope. Related to other books, actually I’m planning about launch new books related to Mars, space and sustainability.

You also have the title of being the first Brazilian to publish a study on Mars at the 19th Mars Society Convention in USA/Washington DC in 2016. What did your research topic take, how did this process unfold, and what kind of feedback did you get afterwards?

5. Julio Rezende during 21st Annual International Mars Society Convention. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

In the research published during 19th Mars Society Convention in USA, 2016, I presented the first considerations about how would to be the operation of Brazilian space analog station Habitat Marte, also identifying learnings from the operation of Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, United States. Was very interesting see the interest of the audience about the proposal about the first space analog station on Southern Hemisphere. An important result of this event was the network, to know very lovely persons.

In 2017, you served as the first Brazilian researcher and team leader at a research station on Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) Mars in the American/Utah desert. How has this process evolved and what has this experience brought you? In what field have you done research as long as you are in MDRS?

6. Julio Rezende with MDRS crew. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

The mission 182 on Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) was very important to bring learnings about the operation of a space analog station. The research developed in MDRS was about sustainability practices that would be operating aboard analog and real future space analog stations. The methodology applied during the MDRS missions also was applied in DMARS space analog station in Israel and is been currently applied in all missions organized by Habitat Marte.

How was it decided to establish Habitat Marte? Who led the way and what happened during the installation process? 

7. Julio Rezende in NUPECS. (Image Credit: NUPECS)

The process was leaded by me since I saw the amazing experience of MDRS on Utah desert and this inspired us to create Habitat Marte. This was during my post doc when I was examining amazing sustainability experiences. I saw that the closed systems, such as the space analog stations, are very important locations to think about self-sustainability. We just was developing research on sustainable construction and social technologies in the location where after was installed Habitat Marte. Some photos of our constructions can be seen in NUPECUFRN.

A little far away from Natal. To get to Habitat Marte, you and your researchers have to use about 75 miles. While most of the road is paved, does the distance cause you trouble supplying basic food or accessing emergency health care?

8. Julio Rezende with cactus in the landscape. (Image Credit: Canindé Soares)

We need to plan very well the travels to Habitat Marte to supply all necessary and required elements. But there is a small city close (7 Km.) where we can find items to supply some emergency of food, tools and health.

What are the other objectives and expectations targeted when creating Habitat Marte? 

9. Julio Rezende receiving students. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

Habitat Marte presents 10 objectives;

  1. Be a space to develop technologies to be operating in Mars and supporting the habitability in red planet,
  2. Develop technologies related with water supply, food, shelter and clothing applied to Mars and arid Earth regions,
  3. As a Research Center we are engaged to identify worldwide technologies that would be receiving collaboration of Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte – UFRN researchers,
  4. Identify possible outcomes/ technologies developed in Mars Research Stations that would be transferred to communities impacted by climate change (droughts and severe weather),
  5. Establish partnerships with worldwide space research groups,
  6. Be an educative place to educators and students to find new knowledge related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and personal sustainability,
  7. Be a place to encourage new scientists in terms of new communication skills, creative thinking skills, and both traditional and technology skills,
  8. Collaborate with community and families of Caiçara do Rio do Vento focusing on changes in student attitudes toward science and an awareness of college pathways and opportunities for scientific careers,
  9. Be an organization to support new Mars Research Stations and international Space Agencies,
  10. Be an active player debating the Agenda for Sustainable Development and the new practices in arid and semiarid regions related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) bringing collaboration to environment, society and economy of territories.

How was the area where Habitat Marte was founded decided? Is there a certain geological feature of the area it is located in? Habitat Marte is geographically located far from the metropolises. What factors have come to the forefront in your selection criteria for its establishment in northeastern Brazil and in a semi-a dry region? Was this choice of location a suggestion or was it the result of a research process? 

Video-1. Habitat Marte Station.

We can mention some reasons;

  • Previous research done in the area,
  • It is a semiarid ecosystem with cactus in the landscape,
  • Scarcity of water and the challenges related with it,
  • Proximity to Cabugi extinct Volcano, an important hotspot where can be found ana soil analog to Mars regolith,
  • Good logistic conditions from Rio Grande do Norte State capital, Natal.

Do you plan to open a second habitat area in the future, as the Rainforest region has other extreme conditions compared to a dry regions? Providing 20 percent of the earth’s oxygen, the So-called “Earth’s lungs” the Amazon Rainforest prevents the release of more than a billion tons of atmospheric carbon a year. In addition, as you know, ecological life is also in danger of many risk factors, such as field dust, volcanic ash and pollution of water resources carried by upper atmosphere winds. Several fires in the region of the city of “Novo Progresso” have resulted in severe forest losses in the rainforest. So much so that Brazil’s National Institute for Space Studies (INPE) also referred to this issue in its statements, noting the significant deforestation rate of forests. INPE is already working on a meteorological data network in all documents. We wondered if Habitat Marte’s remote station could be a part of this work.

It is an interesting idea. We just already cooperate with INPE office in Natal, where We live. All new steps are related to be available funding for it.

Has Habitat Marte been established in this region, the recognition, development or socio-economic recycling of the region? Have you received any positive or negative reactions from residents?

Video-2. Robert Zubrin (The Mars Society) presenting a testimonial about Habitat Marte. 

We present a very good relationship with Caiçara do Rio do Vento municipality and the public school in the city. Habitat Marte only presents positive impacts on local community. Our goal is related to search economic sustainability and identify possible funding to our operations. Now, Habitat Marte it is a touristic place in the region receiving frequently curious people to learn more about our activities.

We are contributing to a better education for all, using space as a trigger to invite students to be committed with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – STEM. We want to do this worldwide.

Were there any serious glitches in the project that went uncensed or later during the installation of the facility, and if so, how were these problems overcome? 

10. Habitat Marte greenhouse. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

The greatest worry since the beginning it is related how supply water to our agricultural experiments and keep the greenhouse continuously operating. This is a great challenge. We need more water and be more smart about how to save water and promote the reuse of the sewage.

Habitat Marte is a project developed by the Department of Industrial Engineering at UFRN – Rio Grande do Norte Universidade Federal. Why sustainability, especially in semi-a dry areas? Did your master’s and doctorate in this field direct you to work in this field? Is the study aimed at living areas on Mars or meeting the need for food and clean energy on Earth, economy, etc. Does that include studies? 

11. Julio Rezende receiving award in Florida. (Image Credit: gov.br)

It is very strategic the studies about the effects of climate change and global warming to areas affected by water scarcity and stress. It is necessary develop ways to live observing new solutions that helps us to live sustainably considering water, energy and food production. This are some topics studied by me in Industrial Engineering Master course on UFRN.

My master was on innovation and doctorate about sustainability. My contact with space analog stations and innovation and sustainability applied was during my post doc and completing five years now.

Can you provide information about your connections and cooperation with national and international institutions and organizations? (Other Mars research stations, universities, CRA-RN and FAPERN, etc.)

12. Julio Rezende and Rio Grande do Norte governor Fátima Bezerra. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

We present the greatest cooperation with UFRN, but also others national and international institutions. Recently we are very happy about to be recognized by professor Robert Zubrin from Mars Society and Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), as can be seen in the video.

13. HI-SEAS presentation during event organized by Habitat Marte. (Image Credit: HI-SEAS)

Some institutions that we are cooperating: FUNPEC, D-Mars analog station, Greek New Space Society, SEDS Brasil, InnovaSpace and among others. Also We have interaction With HI-SEAS Space Station.

How do you provide support for Habitat Marte’s expenses? Are you supported by the government or by personal donations? 

14. Example of Habitat Marte call.

Actually Habitat Marte it is funded with personal resources. But we are prospecting funding during 2021. Recently we receive a funding to renovate our auditorium from FUNPEC.

We know that the structure of Habitat Marte station is focused on the re-use of renewable energy and resources in line with your sustainable development goals. What are the studies on this topic? (E.g. rainwater harvesting and water recovery, solar and wind energy, separation of ash, reusability of human waste) 

15. On line presentation about Habitat Marte greenhouse. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

We have a system to treat the grey water (sewage from the sinks and shower), also we collect the rain water. The energy we are expanding the production based in solar panels. The grey water sanitation system, called BioMarte, was installed by sanitary engineer students from UFRN.

Habitat Marte activities are related to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Our research and practice had identified opportunities to apply the Sustainable Development Goals in a great variety of organizations, also sparking the interest of academia, government and business to adopt the SDGs.

Frequently, HABITAT MARTE receives students from schools and universities. In these moments is presented concepts of sustainability and space. The meeting with students and researchers shows the role of transferring knowledge and technologies to rural producers, students and teachers for the eradication of poverty (SDG1); fighting hunger (SDG2); promotion of education (SDG4) and sustainability (SDG13).

About 28 miles from Habitat Marte station. Can you tell us about your research in astrobiology in the deflated volcano zone at the “Cabugi Ecological State Park” site? 

16. It is possible see photos of Cabugi volcano and activities in this area. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

Yes. You are referring to Pico do Cabugi or Cabugi Peak, an extinct volcano close to Habitat Marte. This is a very interesting to Extravehicular Activities (EVA) using our space analog suits. We collect the soil from Cabugi, did the analysis in Mineral Technology Center (CT-Mineral) and identified similarities when compared to other research related to analog soil developed by Jet Propulsion Laboratory –JPL in United States.

One advantages of Habitat Marte is to be located 28 ml/46 km away from Cabugi Volcano, an excellent hotspot to collect basalt. This feature contributes to the development of studies on the formulation of a Mars soil simulant in Brazil. Cabugi Peak is an extinct 590-meter-high volcano, with an age of 19 million years presenting basalt in the summit.

Basalt is also common in moon and Mars. Basaltic formations, common to volcanic areas, have been a source of research to identify whether this raw material can be used to develop a Mars simulant soil.

Research on Martian soil simulation reveals its importance in seeking to evaluate how the development and behavior of plants in these soils will be, in order to evaluate the cultivation of food that will allow the feeding of future settlements on Mars and the moon.

What challenges do you face such as transportation, communication, meeting scientific experiment requirements, etc.?

17. Example of virtual mission. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

The greatest challenge is related to financial support. It is necessary financial support to more frequent travels to Habitat Marte also to acquire more resources to our operations. We are interested to develop a new space suit and funding it important to this.

Can the system produce its own food during a mission or is it needed to receive external support?

18. Geenhouse BioHabitat in Habitat Marte. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

Our greenhouse, called BioHabitat, produces some vegetables: lettuce, basil, pepper and tomatoes. We would like to produce more, but We have difficulties to provide enough water supply, because a great time of water scarcity. Then, part of food we buy in supermarket and part is produced on Habitat Marte.

Can we say that those who were at the research station at the time of the pandemic are luckier because they are in a more stable environment than other people, or vice versa? For example, the fulfillment of “IVA” or “EVA” duties and a certain plan.

19. Lunching in Habitat Marte during 2019. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

We are not organizing missions abord Habitat Marte during this time, because coronavirus. What is happening are technical visits to keep all activities operating. We hope be possible return regular presential missions soon.

To deal with requirements of social isolation, Habitat Marte developed the Space Analog Virtual Missions when the participants are invited to imagine how would be the operation of a space station on Mars. This station presents 7 infrastructures;

  1. Main station,
  2. Greenhouse,
  3. Power station,
  4. Health center,
  5. Engineering center,
  6. Launch center,
  7. Sanitation center.

Participants from many countries, such as Turkey, are invited.

What are the advantages and disadvantages habitat Marte has over other research stations?

We highlight 10 Habitat Mars advantages over other space stations;

  1. Growing food permanently (fish and vegetables),
  2. Possibility of scheduling missions according to demands of a candidate,
  3. High commitment in publication of articles,
  4. Student guiding regarding scientific initiation,
  5. Possibility of develop long term experiments (several months). Possibilities of these experiments to be followed remotely by researchers in other countries,
  6. Low thermal amplitude climatic conditions – (19C – 31C),
  7. Association with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),
  8. Connection with community: reception of visits from schools and universities,
  9. Emphasis on circular economy and recycling precepts, as part of the materials are highly reusable,
  10. Attention and priority in applied outcomes address threats of climate change.

The weak point; it is low funding situation in this moment.

How long does an analog mission cover the average time?

Video-3 – Virtual Mission and other trainings.

Currently 2 weeks, but depends of the number of participants and the goals of the mission.

How are analog astronauts’ off-site daily missions planned? How are shelters provided at the station? What happens on a one-day shift on a timely period?

20. It is possible see photos of extravehicular activities in Habitat Marte. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

During face-to-face missions at Habitat Marte, activities are carried out such as;

  1. Collection of soil and mineral samples,
  2. Astronomical observation,
  3. Evaluation and improvement of life support systems at Habitat Marte,
  4. Test, improvement and evaluation of space suits and the Autonomous Sustainable Cooling Module,
  5. Performance of Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVA),
  6. Operationalization of Intravehicular Activities (IVA), actions carried out inside the station,
  7. Evaluation of behavioral aspects of the mission members,
  8. Reporting,
  9. Mapping of operational processes,
  10. Development of articles communicating the results generated in the missions,
  11. Maintenance of the greenhouse and the aquaponics system.

Can you tell us about the experiments (bio, hydroponics, aquaponics and nutrient production) conducted in Habitat Marte?

Food is an essential item for space missions, as well as circular habitats, such as the BioHabitat greenhouse operated by the analog space station Habitat Mars. The proper functioning of these habitats needs to guide and evaluate the proper functioning of the food production system (s), as well as guarantee the safety and quality of the operations involved.

21. Habitat Marte Educational Program: Space, Sustainability and Agriculture for People. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

In this sense, several procedures have been developed to guarantee food production at Habitat Marte;

  • BioHabitat aquaponics system handling procedures manual,
  • BioHabitat maintenance protocol,
  • BioHabitat food harvesting protocol,
  • Protocol for sustainable processing of tilapia,
  • BioHabitat observation protocol.

The challenge of space analog research station Habitat Marte is be a self-sustaining habitat. This means: produce the own food, recycle waste, sewage and the use renewables. This concept would be applied to space habitats and to Earth remote/arid areas, as affected by heatwaves, climate change and droughts, as Chile deserts.

We are operating a greenhouse with aquaponics technologies, producing Tilapia fish and vegetables.

How is the data from these experiments used?

The data is used to prepare papers to be presented during academic and professional events.

How are analog astronauts communicating among themselves or with the station, and how is the operating system of equipment such as clothes and hoods? What kind of innovations does the task suit you last worked on cover and when will it be completed and made available to me?

We are developing a new version of our spacesuit and just organized specific missions to discuss this. The innovation of this spacesuit is provide more climate comfort and sensors to provide information from the analog astronaut.

Do you have any amateur radio communication system or sky observation (in the optical or radio field) at the station? Do you have a special weather data station for the property?

Yes. We have radio communicators for analog astronauts, very important during EVA; also telescope and thermometer with humidity functionality. We are looking for partnerships to install a weather data station. The location of Habitat Marte is very good to observer the cosmos.

Are students or civilian visitors to Habitat Marte accepted from different engineering areas?

We have participants from many academic levels and backgrounds, since high school to advanced PhD participants.

From time to time, school students visit the station by bus. Do you have separate studies for students or children?

Habitat Marte

22. Habitat Marte / Visitors and students. (Image Credit: Julio Rezende)

When We receive them, it is done a lecture about Habitat Marte and how the research about space can bring understandings about to live an explore Earth. After this is shown the facilities of Habitat Marte.

Do you have a message that you would like to convey specifically to our Turkish readers who are interested in Mars?

We constantly like to repeat; Habitat Marte is the main project in operation in South Hemisphere! Not only in Brazil, but in great part of our planet, related to space education.

We offer space analog missions based in our physical facilities in Brazil and also virtual space virtual analog missions impacting. TURKISH PARTICIPANTS ARE WELCOME IN OUR VIRTUAL MISSIONS!

O also suggest to follow us in social media looking for @HabitatMarte. Please also look our 300 movies in our YouTube channel.

Since 1995 I have interest to visit Turkey. Was a time when I had a paper approved in a congress in Istanbul and happened an earthquake. So, in that specific time, I need cancel the travel. I sorry about that. I have a great interest to visit this beautiful country. I hope be possible in a near future travel to Turkey and participate in activities related to space and sustainability awareness. This would be amazing.

Thanks for the interest about Habitat Marte. We keep contact! See you soon and follow us!

I believe that both communities will work together well in the coming days. Thank you on behalf of the Mars on Earth when you come to Republic of Turkey, as a Mars on Earth Project Community, we will be honored to host you as our guest. We send our greetings to the kind-hearted people of your beautiful country and your valuable teammates.

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Çevre Mühendisi. Dünya'daki Mars Projesi (Mars on Earth Project) kurucusu. Projenin Çevre, Atık Yönetim, Yenilenebilir Enerji Kaynakları ve Türkiye İletişim Sorumlusu. Amatör telsiz çağrı işareti TA2ISU. (Environmental Engineer. Founder of the Mars on Earth Project. Project Environment, Waste Management, Renewable Energy Resources and Communications Officer Turkey. Amateur radio callsign TA2ISU.)

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