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6. Crews

This section discusses ideas pertaining to the design of crews for IMRS missions; in particular, the optimal crew size and roles necessary for successful HMMs.

6.1. Crew Size

The smaller the crew the better, as crew size affects mass of consumables, spacecraft, habitats, life support systems, surface vehicles and marssuits. Crew size therefore has a significant impact on mission cost.

The Mars Direct and MARS-Oz architectures require crews of only four; however, the Mars Semi-Direct, DRA and many other mission architectures specify crews of six.

Blue Dragon is also designed for six. There are several reasons for this:

  • Because the DRA and many other architectures have been designed for a crew of six, existing research can be leveraged.
  • Given the resources available, six is approximately the largest practical crew size while keeping the mission achievable and affordable.
  • A crew of six permits a dedicated crew member for the most crucial functions, while also allowing for a degree of redundancy in skill coverage.
  • B330 modules are designed to support six people with life support and ample volume. To use these modules and design the mission for less than six would be inefficient.
  • A SpaceX Dragon V2 capsule is designed for seven people. It should therefore be large enough for six crew in MCP spacesuits, with some space allocated for samples during Mars ascent.
  • Six crew members permits a degree of flexibility with team configurations.

Why not five, or three, or seven? The Apollo crews had three members. One advantage to having an odd number of people in the crew is that there’s never a tied vote. However, it also means you can’t use the buddy system. The “buddy system” is something children learn in school, but is also a good idea for HMMs. It simply means that everyone works in pairs. Your partner is your “buddy”, and it’s their job to keep you company, watch your back, and make sure you don’t fall into a collapsed lava tube or step on a Martian rattlesnake. In turn, you do the same for them. This is important for safety as well as psychological health.

Naturally, the crew will not always be able to all work together. However, for safety and psychological reasons it is best to avoid leaving crew members to work alone.

Six people can be organised into three teams of two or two teams of three. This flexibility can be useful when organising shifts, EVAs and chores, it means no-one works alone, and safety and happiness is optimised.

6.2. Crew Roles

Each crew member on this mission will need to be capable of fulfilling multiple roles, from engineer to videographer to psychologist to gardener to commander. All skill sets are crucial to the mission and require redundant backups, and each astronaut on the mission must be trained in a range of functions.

It is proposed that the crew be comprised of two basic teams, namely Engineering and Science, each with three members. The engineers ostensibly have different roles; however, they must all also be able to fix any of the mission hardware, and therefore, to a large degree, be able to do each other’s jobs. This applies equally well to the scientists.


Flight and Mechanical Handyperson, mechanic, pilot, surface vehicle operator.
Mechatronics and Communications Software, robotics, computers, electronics, antennas, multimedia.
Chemical and Electrical ISRU, ECLSS, propellant and power systems


Planetary Scientist and Astronomer Areology, planetology, navigation, site selection, cartography.
Astrobiologist and Astrohorticulturist Search for past/extant life, bio-experiments, food production, food systems.
Medical and Safety Health, fitness, nutrition, psychology, medical, safety protocols and drills.

Colour coding

As indicated above, each crew member will each be assigned a unique, distinct colour, which is theirs until the end of the mission. These colours are used for everything that belongs to that astronaut - their bunk, spacesuit, treat meals, clothes packs, towels, everything. Everyone in the crew will learn everyone’s colours.

Apart from the advantages of not mixing up your towel with someone else’s, one of the primary advantages of having distinct spacesuit colours is that it will be easy to identify who’s who during EVA, particularly from a distance. Brown, orange and pink are excluded due to similarity with local colours on the Mars surface, as is black, which would be hard to see in the dark. Red should be ok, since, despite Mars being known as the “red planet”, there’s not a lot of actual red in the landscape.

6.2.1. Engineering Team

Flight and Mechanical Engineer

This person is not only an expert mechanical engineer, but also a mechanic. The role requires understanding, operating, maintaining and (if necessary) repairing, all space and surface vehicles, including Adeona, the MAV and the CAMPER.

Colour: White

Mechatronics and Communications Engineer

A master programmer, this role includes responsibility for all computing, communications and mechatronic equipment, including flight computers, on-board computers in the CAMPER, robotic systems, multimedia/web servers, personal computers and all communications hardware used in space and on Mars.

Colour: Blue

Chemical and Electrical Engineer

This person is responsible for operating, maintaining and repairing all chemical engineering hardware in the habitat and various spacecraft, including propellant systems, ISRU systems, ECLSS, waste disposal systems and plumbing. They’re also in charge of monitoring and maintaining all power and electrical systems, both in the SHAB and in space and surface vehicles and machinery.

Colour: Purple

6.2.2. Science Team

Planetary Scientist and Astronomer

This role combines geology, planetary science, astronomy and cartography. On the surface of Mars they will study areology, areomorphology, areochemistry, areography, etc., and in space they will perform Earth, Mars and astronomical observation. They will be responsible for any telescopes used in space and on Mars, and producing detailed maps of the IMRS site and surrounding area.

Colour: Red

Astrobiologist and Astrohorticulturist

This role includes searching for and (if found) examining extant life on the surface of Mars. This person is also responsible for all food and food systems, and will experiment with food production in Adeona, and in the SHAB or (eventually) a greenhouse or laboratory on Mars.

Colour: Green

Medical and Safety Officer

This person is responsible for keeping the crew in good health for the duration of the mission. This critical role combines ship’s doctor, personal trainer, psychologist and safety officer. It includes monitoring each crew member’s physical and psychological health, including the effects of microgravity, radiation, and separation from Earth; ensuring crew members perform their exercises; providing nutritional advice; administering medications and treatments; monitoring solar flares; conducting JSAs (Job Safety Analysis); and developing and implementing safety protocols.

Colour: Yellow

6.2.3. Journalism Duties

If one more person could be squeezed into the mission it would be tempting to include a dedicated journalist and communicator, whose responsibility would be documentation and communications, including writing, photography, videography, blogging, vlogging, interviewing other crew members, and other forms of reporting.

This would be tremendously valuable to any space mission, as it would drastically increase engagement with the public (i.e. viewing audience) on Earth and thereby generating a greater ROI across the board, helping to justify the cost of the mission, generating a higher volume of feedback and good wishes for the crew, and thus improving morale and decreasing feelings of isolation. Most importantly, it would increase the connection people on Earth would have with the crew, the mission and Mars, which would inspire them and most likely spur further missions and settlement.

However, as ideal a dedicated journalist might be, it may be hard to justify for those first few missions. The alternative, which may in fact produce a better result, is to train all crew members in basic journalism and communications. Another approach would be to assign journalism duties to the Planetary Scientist and/or Astrobiologist during the space travel stages of the mission, since they may not be able to do as much science as they would like during that time. The two scientists could share the responsibility once on the surface.

There may simply be one or two crew members who are naturally more extroverted, expressive, and better suited to journalist-style duties, and who may voluntarily take on much of that role; a Carl Sagan, Brian Cox or Neil deGrasse Tyson, who could be both scientist and science communicator.

Another idea that could have an equivalent effect would be for all crew members to regularly report on their individual activities and experience via blogging and vlogging.