The mission

Mars is an incredibly harsh environment: global-covering dust storms, toxic terrain, thin atmosphere, extremely low temperatures. To push the concept of human exploration and colonization of the Red Planet, much more research needs to be done on the adaptation of human physiology to such hard conditions. After 6 months of travel in microgravity condition, having dealt with the shock of a planetary reentry and landing, the first crew on Mars will face the challenge of recovery and rehabilitation, but also the need to assess and mitigate independently any possible health emergency throughout the mission.

To enable these opportunities, we are organizing SMOPS (Space Medicine OPerationS), an analogue mission that will take place between November 21st and December 4th 2021 at the MDRS (Mars Desert Research Station), a research facility owned and managed by The Mars Society in the Moab desert, Utah, USA. For two weeks in isolation, our analogue astronauts will test different technologies and operational scenarios in the field of space medicine, in preparation for future human missions to Mars.

The conditions offered by the MDRS are in many ways similar to the ones that can be found in a possible Mars habitat: desertic environment, crew isolation, spacesuit simulators for external activities, limited living spaces and resources (water and food), local energy (solar panels), and food production (greenhouse). This will allow analogue astronauts on Earth to simulate, as best as possible, the difficulties that human crews will face on the martian surface.

The Crew

Nation Italy
Position PhD Candidate at ISAE-SUPAERO (France)

Paolo Guardabasso is an engineer from Sicily, Italy, with an Aerospace Engineering Master's degree and a specialization in Space Exploration at the Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy. He is currently a PhD candidate at the Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace (ISAE-SUPAERO) in Toulouse, France. The main subjects of his research are space debris, multi-body orbital mechanics and lunar exploration missions, to see the impact that the future missions towards the Moon will have on the debris environment. In his free time, Paolo acts as chief engineer for the Drone Operations for Martian Environment research group, and is an active collaborator of the Space Generation Advisory Council and Mars Planet, the Italian chapter of the Mars Society.

Nation Canada
Position Medical Scientist

Dr. Nadia Maarouf is a medical scientist with expertise in Cardiac Sciences, Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacogenomics. She is currently working as part of a clinical trial team (Clinical Neurosciences) at the University of Calgary, Cumming School of Medicine, Canada. Nadia is also an astronaut-scientist candidate who is very passionate about biomedical space research and advancing the health, safety and wellness of space explorers. Nadia aspires to conduct scientific experiments as a clinician-scientist at the future moon-base, solve a few medical mysteries and use this scientific knowledge to contribute to the improvement of the health and quality of life of all earthlings. Nadia is also trained in advanced wilderness and remote first response and survival management.

Nation Italy
Position PhD Candidate at PoliBa (Italy)

Vittorio is a Space Architect from Italy. He received a B.Sc. in Architectural Science and a M.Arch. in Architectural Design from the IUAV of Venice and a M.Sc in Space Architecture and Aerospace Engineering from University of Houston, TX. He works as project manager at DOME, a research group focused on the development of drone assets for the Mars exploration. His research field can be identified in the development of orbital and deep Space Habitats and automation of space processes through AI and robotics. Sailing Skipper since 2003, with more than 30.000 nautical miles, drone pilot, radio operator and Scuba diver, he is also member of SATC (Space Architecture Technical Committee), SGAC (Space Generation Advisory Council) and OeWF (Austrian Space Forum).

Nation Italy
Position ISS Payload Integration Manager

Studied Space Engineering, a BSc, two MSc at La Sapienza University of Rome and a PhD about Satellite Navigation at the University of Nottingham. Since April 2017 works at ESA-ESTEC as a contractor for the integration of Payloads on board the ISS. He is also an Analog Astronaut for the OeWF.

Nation France
Position Human Factors Expert

A former European Space Agency's Euromoonmars team member. He is a human factor expert for the Human Spaceflight committee of the International Astronautical Federation and an Explorers Club Fellow International specialized in the study of Life in [I.C.E] Isolated, Confined and Extreme environments.

Nation Italy
Position CEO and Founder at D-Orbit

Serial entrepreneur, seeking profitable and sustainable expansion of humankind in space. PhD in Space Propulsion, Master in Sustainability, Certificate in Business, former Paracorp Officer, worked at NASA Ames, founder+CEO of D-Orbit. He loves parachute jumping, scuba diving and science fiction books.

Any questions? Contact us!


Aerial drone technology has considerably evolved in the past years, thanks to the increasing number of potential applications. Hardware miniaturization and deep-learning algorithms brought this technology to a fundamental role in high-risk scenarios. Mars, due to its geological and atmospheric properties, represents a totally new ground to expand the boundaries of this technology. Aerial drones can become a fundamental subsystem of human activities on Mars, and are especially suitable for the use as long-range, fast-response healthcare providers on the martian surface (as on earth): logistics, safety inspections, search and rescue missions and medical devices deployment can be safely left to swarms of autonomous flying drones. We will test different hardware and scenarios to validate our researches.

Stress factors can play an essential role in the performances of future astronauts on Mars. In long-term missions such as expeditions towards Mars, stress can be triggered by predictable and unpredictable events and needs to be controlled through training, monitoring and support. In this experiment, the first layer of a spacesuit contains a system that measures and relieves stress level using electroacupuncture, a variation of the traditional medicine acupuncture technique. Sensors will be placed in the points of the body traditionally employed by acupuncture medicine. With reference to the figure below, these points are related to the measurement of:

  1. Nervous tension and stiff neck.
  2. Stress, fatigue, insomnia, heaviness in the head, eye fatigue
  3. Stomach, anxiety, arm pain, elbow pain and discomfort in the chest.
  4. Nausea, anxiety, palpitations and pain in the wrist.
  5. Emotional imbalance, fear, nervousness, anxiety and forgetfulness.
  6. Nervousness, stress, tightness in the chest, anxiety, depression, hysteria, etc.
The data collected by the sensors are then visualized and analyzed through a software tool.

Wearable devices will play a key role in future manned exploration of the Moon and Mars. In this experiment, we will test a new type of shoes used to help astronauts to identify parameters of the explored environment and biometrics of their health condition, including emotional responses. A set of sensors will be included in a new model of shoes, specifically designed and produced for this purpose. The signals detected by sensors will be transmitted to the mission control to visualize and monitor the evolution of Extra-Vehicular Activities.


The SMOPS mission has just received the patronage of the Italian Space Agency (ASI). This is an incredible achievement and an honour for the SMOPS crew and mission organisation team. Stay tuned on our advancements, follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

As the new year starts, the SMOPS mission is ready to take the challenges to come and achieve its objectives! During the Mars to Earth virtual conference, organised by Mars Planet, the SMOPS mission crew has been officially presented to the public and on our social networks. Go check them out in the crew section of the website! Stay tuned on our advancements, follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

After reviewing many applications from smart and inspiring people, the application process comes to an end. The final crew will be an international and diverse group, with different backgrounds and fields of expertise. Stay tuned on our advancements, follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

The Swiss Institute for Disruptive Innovation (SIDI) and the European Center For Space Exploration and Colonization (ECSEC) jump on board on our trip to Mars, becoming official SMOPS mission sponsors. They will support and promote our activities during the coming year. Visit and for more information on SIDI and ECSEC!

We are starting the crew selection process today, until the 15th of September. First, the candidates will have to fill out a Google form with some general information and their experience relevant to the mission. After, they will be informed about the outcome of their application and, in case of a positive result, they will be asked to do a video interview with Mars Planet, the organisers of the mission. Interested in joining our crew? Visit the crew section and apply!

Three new experiments have been added to the research that we will carry out during our time at the MDRS next year. We will use drones to support the crew in case of medical emergencies, observe the effects of acupuncture for stressfull situations and test some innovative sensing technologies on smart wearables. Check the research section!

The new mission logo was designed to represent all the elements that matter to the mission. Our focus will be medical operations, hence the Rod of Asclepius, international symbol for medicine. Our simulated martian mission will take place on Earth, with Mars as a final target.

After discussing with the Mars Desert Research Station, the time slot dedicated to SMOPS mission in 2021 has been confirmed. Despite the current COVID-19 situation, the organisation of the mission continues.

Our partners

If you are interested in contributing to our field mission or you want your research objectives to be included in our experiment schedule, contact us!