Mars Society Installs Starlink at Mars Desert Research Station

The Mars Society has installed Starlink’s satellite Internet service at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS). It will supplement Starlink with a WiFi-6 mesh network that will provide Internet access for the entire MDRS. For greater realism in its simulations, the Internet will operate at a 5- to 20-minute delay to simulate the time it would take for a radio signal to get from Earth to Mars.

Crews at the MDRS typically live and work at the site in highly immersive Mars-analog simulations during two-week rotations. They are often third-party crews who don’t have any association with the Mars Society otherwise. MDRS crews will be able to use Starlink to record and send high-definition videos of activities like EVA in which they have to wear simulated EVA suits like they would in the thin atmosphere of Mars. This is in addition to the mission logs that are often published on the official Mars Society website.

“With SpaceX playing such a major role in pursuing the goal of humans to Mars, we are excited to be able to incorporate the company’s cutting-edge Starlink high bandwidth Internet services into our Mars analog program to enhance crew training and research activities,” said James Burk, Mars Society Executive Director in a statement announcing the new Starlink installation.

The MDRS is a remote station in Utah’s desert that is commonly used for two-week Mars analog research missions. Its small yet well-equipped facilities include two observatories and a GreenHab that is used to grow crops that might be suitable to grow in a similar greenhouse on Mars.

The Mars Society is currently accepting applications for two on-site assistant directors for MDRS who must be willing to work in-person at the MDRS for several months out of the year.

Like SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the Mars Society promotes the goal of crewed missions to Mars. Besides the MDRS, it also operates the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station in Nunavet, Canada. Mars Society programs also include the annual International Mars Society Conference, at which Elon Musk has given presentations in the past. Most recently, he addressed the all-virtual conference in 2020.

This year, the Mars Society conference will be an in-person event at the Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ, on October 20-23, 2022.

The Mars Society puts on the robotic competitions University Rover Challenge and European Rover Challenge, in which teams design and build rovers and run them through an obstacle course. It also created MarsVR, a full scan of MDRS that has been converted into virtual reality with plans to add a virtual Martian environment — allowing users to see and explore what they would see if Mars was really right outside the MDRS.

For all about Mars and Martian exploration, check out the Mars Society’s Marspedia.

SpaceX’s Starlink is uniquely suited for use in remote locations like the MDRS because it pulls Internet signals from more than 2,000 satellites currently in orbit. SpaceX frequently launches new batches of satellites on its Falcon 9 rockets, occasionally leading to complaints of interference with ground-based astronomical observations.