MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION

Sol Summary – January 19th

MDRS Sol Summary Report for Sol 4
Crew geologist Roy Naor
Summary Title
Mars can be harsh but with Team PRIMA everything is under control!
Mission Status:
It’s Mars Northern hemisphere winter now and snow started falling from the thin CO2 atmosphere above us. However, Team PRIMA is a anti-hibernation crew and steaming up work as mission continues.
Sol Activity Summary:
When you are at the extreme, planning ahead might be the one thing that can do the trick and save ya’. As We have left two of our faithful rovers on the windy Plato of the mighty Tharsis Rise, towering above the vanguard first Martian permanent station, we had to plan a rescue mission to retrieve our tools, given the constraints of impending snowflakes. However, the EVA time in the Martian anoxic and radiative outdoor is expensive and we could not let ourselves spend this cost only on logistics. Hence we pulled from our science task list one of our prestige experiment that we were sent for to conduct on Mars. It was an experiment designed by Israeli high school youth to detect variances in rock type along the colorful slopes west to MDRS. Using remote sensing data, the students targeted coordinates along the slopes where there are noticeable change in color between two layers. The astronauts were directed to transect the slope bottom to top to take pictures and collect small sample from each different color rock. For the mission of retrieving the two ATVs the crew selected two of his brave scientists: crew geologist Roy “rocks for breakfast” Naor, for his knowledge of geology field work for conducting the students experiment, and GreenHab officer Richard “endolith for supper” Blake, for his bravery in fulfilling missions under stressful conditions and his high driving capabilities, as an Australian outback person (the rest will be told in the EVA summary ahead).
On the side of our innovative ISRU 3D printing project we are still having unsolved issues. It proves again that once you’re on Mars you can work only with what you have. Luckily enough, our crew Berber engineer Idriss “the dude” Sisaid, is the best man for the job, finding Macgyver solutions to force the printer into actions. More to come on this frontier. Our fine artist Niamh “all she touches is gold” Shaw working hard on creating our most important product- Team PRIMA outreach to the world arsenal of high quality media products. Our fearless leader, crew commander Michaela “multitasker” Musilova (MMM) is on the go with her students’ GreenHab experiment, and several other projects, while also working hard on managing the communication with earth and mission control to maintain our needs and duties.
Look Ahead Plan:
Team PRIMA holds to its mission statement to prove the concept of ISRU 3D printing of interlocking building blocks filled with local Martian regolith, as means of future technology to build more habitats on Mars, other than the vanguard MDRS.
Anomalies in work:
When the thin CO2 Martian atmosphere yield before the decreasing temperature and forced to give up on the bits of water vapors it holds, snow started to precipitate on the dry red planet and made the isolated crew reschedule all planed EVAs
Weather:
Morning frost stopped the common Requiring Slopes Lineae (RSL) from wetting the hills and making them slippery, at noon the snow came up and proved that this arid planet holds many more faces and mysteries than we previously withhold.
Crew Physical Status:
The crew is in good shape and eager to science the sh@#% out of all things on Mars.
EVA:
As planned, Rick and Roy (R&R) headed transecting the steep slopes of the foot of the Tharsis Rise. They were running on a mission against time to sample each change in color while the coming snow blows in the back of their neck (not literally as they were given the state of the art space suites). They succeeded in their mission and got back to their lost rovers. The road back on the mighty plato was much easier than the day before as the slime on the road was frozen solid. They reached back to the Hab not a minute to soon before finely snowflakes have touched the ground and colored the red planet white velvet.
One small EVA for the two men, but one giant leap for our understanding of the Martian environment- the samples will now undergo “field tests” to check if they hold different properties. The crew will take the samples back with him to Earth and send the rocks to the students in the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, where they will be analyzed by the youth scientists. We believe that by doing this experiment Team PRIMA will inspire their imagination and thirst to learn science.
Reports to be filed:
sol 4 summary
Eva report
Eva request
Commander’s report
Operations report
 H&S report
Support Requested:
 We asked previously these two questions several times, which have not been answered yet:
– Does anyone know where exactly the GPS are kept at MDRS? We haven’t come across them yet. Thanks!
– Rick made an inventory of the spices in the kitchen on sol 3, which was sent on sol 3. Please let us know that you have received this and stored it somewhere. Many thanks
Outside Hab January 19th 2017 Niamh proudly waves her Irish flag.
Outside HAB January 19th 2017 MDRS environs Is So Like Mars.
Northing Easting January 18th 2107 Roy and Michaela on EVA.
Main Airlock January 19th 2017 Idriss Michaela and Niamh on EVA.
Main Airlock January 18th 2017 Roy and Rick on EVA.
Outside HAB January 19th 2017 Michaela on EVA.

Commander Report – January 19th

“Hab, this is Michaela, do you copy?”
“… from Roy….”
“Roy, I did not hear everything you said. Can you repeat. Over.”
“…mumble mumble mumble from Roy…”

This is how our first few EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activities) sounded like. We would all roar with laughter when we would listen to our crewmates walking around in their spacesuits over our walkie talkies. All you would hear is “from Roy”, “Hab, from Roy” and “do you copy???”. Until we developed our new and improved method: mumbling something for a few seconds, then trying to contact someone, saying “over” and then waiting for a few more seconds before the next person tries to respond. Our conversations now sound like this:
“Bla bla bla bla. Hab, from Roy. Do you copy? Over.”
[5 second pause]
“Bla bla bla bla. Roy, this is the Hab, we hear you loud and clear. Over.”
[5 second pause]
“Bla bla bla bla. Hab, the aliens have taken our generator. On a positive note, they refuelled the gas container. Over.”
[1 second pause]
“What???. Ohh oops, he won’t hear that…”
[5 second pause]
“Bla bla bla bla. Hab, from Roy. I did not copy that. Over.”

It is not just the communication language and methodology that we have gradually improved while on Mars. Every day we seem to face new challenges and have to brainstorm to find ways to overcome them. As I philosophised about in my Sol Summary yesterday (Sol 3), Mars is trying hard to get rid of us. We are a tough bunch of Earthlings, so we will not give in that easily (or at all ideally). However, Mars is not just a struggle for survival, as it may seem from our reports. On the contrary, we are all greatly enjoying our mission. The problems bring us closer together, rather than shaking up our bonds. I think Mars is bringing out the best in each of us. It us waking up our inner children, explorers, adventurers, but most importantly our inner passion to make a difference. Whether on the Red Planet or our Pale Blue Dot home. I feel so energised spending all this time with everyone radiating with positive energy.

Personally, just a glance out the Hab window is enough to start my day recharged like a Duracell bunny. The gorgeous red Martian landscape calls to me. I love being here. It has always been my dream to be an astronaut and ideally to go to Mars one day. Now, I am living that dream, at least to a certain extent. No problems could get me down. Even aliens stealing our power source or clogged up space toilets are just a tiny bump in the road. If Mark Watney could make it alone, then our crew most certainly can cope with anything. Except perhaps a full on alien attack. This makes me realise that we have no weapons on Mars. Oops, minor detail. We could always try to charm them with our amazing cooking skills – at least those of my crewmates. We have been having so-called culture nights every other night, when each crewmember presents their culture/country to the rest of the crew. It usually involves cooking some typical national dish, singing a national song and/or playing a popular game from that person’s country. I am dreading the Slovakian culture night (Sol 7), as I have no idea what I could possibly conjure here from the freeze-dried food that could represent my country in a positive light 😉
As I sign off, I cannot help but smile at the fresh memories of the last few sols on Mars. Every bad memory is washed out by a happy memory of laughter, succeeding in our scientific projects or our EVA adventures. It was the same last time I was here. When reminiscing about Mars, I could not remember any of the discomfort, the obstructed vision and difficulty in walking or generally doing any kind of movement when wearing a spacesuit. All I could feel was the joy that I experienced when out on an EVA, exploring the Martian landscape and looking for signs of alien life. Now that I am back on Mars again, I was hit with the hard reality of wearing spacesuit. Literally. I still have a bump on my head from the space helmet hitting me during an EVA on a Martian rover. Nevertheless, I forgot about it instantly. Such is the magic of this place. It does not matter how difficult or uncomfortable it might get to live in these confined spaces, isolated from the world, with limited amounts of water, food, etc. We feel like we were meant to live here. The desire to help make humans become a multi-planetary species is stronger than all of us.
Per aspera ad astra!

EVA Report – January 19th

EVA Report
SOL: 4
Date: 19/01/2017
Person filling out the report: Roy Naor
Crew members involved in the EVA: Roy Naor, Richard Blake
EVA leader: Roy Naor
Begin: 10:00pm
End: 12:30 pm
Type of EVA: Walking + ATV 300, ATV 350
Purpose: Conducting a transect sampling along the Brushy basin member slope  for the Israeli educational experiment and retrieving back the rovers from the point were they were left on the 18th.
UTM Coordinates: Northing : 4251100  Easting :  518000 Zone : 12 S
Summary: We’ve transected the slopes bottom to top by sampling rockes from each different color layer. The samples will be sent to Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, where the youth scientists will analyze thier properties.  Team PRIMA succeeded in yet another one of their projects, as this reaserch was aimed at outreach for STEAM education. The ATVs are back and safe, hibernating as they are slowly covering by snow at the moment.

Crew Photos – January 18th

Main Airlock January 18th 2017 Heading out on EVA
Hab January 18th_2017 Idriss is hosting French Culture day at MDRS
GreenHAB January 18th 2017 Rick planting seeds in the GreenHAB
Outside Hab January 17th 2017 Sunset over MDRS
Northing 4251500 Easting 519000 Zone12S January 18th 2017 The HAB and its environs2
Northing 4251500 Easting 519000 Zone12S January 18th 2017 On EVA
Northing 4251500 Easting 519000 Zone 12s January 18th 2016 Michaela and Roy on EVA
MDRS January 18th 2017 Sunrise at MDRS
Main Airlock January 18th 2017 Michaela heading out on an EVA
Ground floor of the HAB January 18th 2017 Sprouting seeds
Ground floor of the HAB January 17th 2017 sprouting spinach seeds
Ground floor of the HAB January 18th 2017 Michaela’s students’ experiment

Science Report – January 18th

“Chemical and isotopic fingerprints of MDRS carbonates” – A quick review
By Roy Naor
Crew Geologist – crew 173
An ongoing study is being conducted in the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, aimed at understanding the chemical and isotopic fingerprint of carbonate forming environments on Mars. The research is active in three different areas: Mars in situ observations, lab simulations and comparisons to analogue environments. The MDRS environment is analogous to, for example, a specific type of arid environment that we hypothesise about in our isotopic fractionation models. Therefore, it is important to compare the chemical and isotopic fingerprints of carbonates at MDRS with those anticipated in such an arid environment. This way future studies of Martian geology, for instance by the Mars 2020 rover, will be able to better determine the environment in which the samples were originally formed. In addition, the previous studies on the MDRS environment have laid a number of constraints, which thus make MDRS a very good candidate analogue site to study.
The potential of extraterrestrial life on Mars is well connected to the history, and distribution of water and carbon on the planet. Carbonate minerals are seen as powerful tools with which to explore these fundamental relationships, as they are intimately tied to both the water and the inorganic carbon cycle. Some local deposits of carbonates have been discovered on the surface of Mars and in meteorites. The wide ranging set of observations of carbonate minerals, provided by a series of robotic missions to Mars, not only defined new constraints on the history of Martian climate, but also opened unique windows into primordial Martian aqueous environments. While questions about habitability remain unanswered at this time, we are obtaining more and more information about the environments in which water has existed on the Martian surface. The research frontier is to focus the resolution on the variability of the different mineral forming environments, rather than try to see Mars as a one uniform environment (Niles et al., 2012).
Though it is one of several sampling sites, the MDRS site is a very good one, because there are many constraints inputted by previous intensive MDRS research. The area around MDRS holds several potential types of carbonate forming environments representing varied conditions. Some are newly formed as part of the topsoil under the present conditions. Some are from older formations, representing different conditions relevant to the period when it precipitated as concretion or as a shale component.
The carbonate prospecting field work is focused on locating and sampling carbonate minerals in the topsoil and exhumed formation in the vicinity of MDRS. The procedure is being conducted as follows:
1) A preliminary prospecting work to locate potential sampling sites has been done by reading through previous studies and analyze geological maps of the area. preliminary pinpointing of potential sites leaned on previous work and geological mapping of the area, focusing on carbonate bearing sediments and potential present carbonate forming environment around MDRS.
2) On site locating and verifying carbonates and carbonate bearing assemblage by simple field analysis using HCl 5%.
3) Collecting verified assemblage or suspected outcrop and bringing it back to MDRS, with the intention to retrieve them full to further analysis (making the sampling very rigorous and somewhat analogues to real extraterrestrial field work).
The sampling is carried out using a geological hammer to break small pieces to feet inside the tubes and a garden trowel for soil samples. a meticulous procedure is being conducted to document the samples:
– Marking each sample bag with the date, time, serial number, name of site/outcrop, GPS coordinates.
– Document all of the above procedures by detailed description of the sampled outcrop using a hardcopy waterproof notebook and by taking pictures of the local environment/outcrop (to scale), the sampling area (to scale), the sampled material (to scale) and the sampling procedure.
– Put all of the samples into one box filled with styrofoam mold to protect them during the transport back to Israel, where they will be analyzed extensively at the Weizmann Institute of Science for the carbonates’ chemical and isotopic fingerprint. the samples will go under the procedure of:
– Crystal separation
– Mineral/chemical identification (XRD, EDS, CL)
– Textural analysis (SEM, micro-CT)
– Isotopic analysis (SIMS)
The processed data will be used as an input and as a testing method for the under development model.
The results will be added to our datasets with the intention of publishing them in academic journals.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Further Reading:
Niles, P.B., Catling, D.C., Berger, G., Chassefière, E., Ehlmann, B.L., Michalski, J.R., Morris, R., Ruff, S.W., Sutter, B. (2012) Geochemistry of Carbonates on Mars: Implications for Climate History and Nature of Aqueous Environments. Space Sci Rev. DOI 10.1007/s11214-012-9940-y

Sol Summary – January 18th

MDRS Sol Summary Report for Sol 3
“The beauty and hidden treachery of Mars”
Mission Status:
We’re overcoming the various challenges Mars is throwing at us and we’re still roaring with laughter. In summary: another fine day on Mars with Crew 173 – Team PRIMA.
Sol Activity Summary:
If there’s a lesson that we’ve learned today, it’s that most things work in a yin and yang kind of system on Mars. Each time we rejoiced that something got fixed/is working again, then something else came along and spoilt our joy. Our euphoria of having the toilet problems fixed got replaced by water pump leakage problems in previous days. Today, instead, aliens decided to steal some of our sources of power and gas. While the electricity was restored (under clearly some kind of peace treaty), the aliens are still entertaining themselves by cutting us off from our heat source. Currently, we’re huddling together to keep warm as the night is coming. In a similar way, my students’ spinach is growing extremely well under their experimental conditions, but Idriss, our crew engineer, is still trying his best to fix the 3D printer. That is not all, the beauty and hidden treachery of Mars is found in every element of our life here. Like it’s trying to trick us into thinking we can live here peacefully and then it hits us from a new unexpected direction. For instance, when we were about to exit the airlock, we got hypnotized by the beautiful landscape. We were so distracted by it, that we didn’t notice an alien come and open the hatch. Luckily, we were all suited up, so there were no casualties, but it was a close one… And then came the exploratory and thrilling EVA. Mars fooled us again. We left under the naïve illusion that the weather is great, the roads should be good and thus we should be able to drive these greater distances in good time. Ha. Little did we know what was ahead of us…(described below). Nevertheless, we showed Mars yet again that it can’t get rid of us that easily. We are here to stay and help colonize it in the future. Take that Mars!
Look Ahead Plan:
Apart our ambitious colonisation of Mars plans, we are planning on doing at least one EVA  tomorrow (weather permitting): one to go a bit of biological sampling in the surroundings of MDRS (ideally endoliths for myself) and another to retrieve the ATVs, which had to be left “sacrificed” today, so that we could return to our Hab safely before sunset. Activities in the Hab will include starting a couple of new experiments in the GreenHab, continuing with existing projects (for example Niamh’s artistic and outreach videos, my Slovak students’ project and 3D printing) and time-permitting attending to some of my projects in the Science Dome.
Anomalies in work:
The 3D printer stopped working and Idriss is still troubleshooting it. We are all also suffering from our helmets fogging up all the time, which makes driving on ATVs and walking on any kind of uneven terrain extremely difficult and even dangerous.
Weather:
Today the weather was very delightful again: sunny and very warm. We are very grateful for that, as our adventurous EVA described below would have not been possible under any other conditions.
Crew Physical Status:
All crew members are doing fine. One of them is still recovering from a cold.
EVA:
The original plan for the EVA was to go prospecting the carbonates in the Dakota sandstone and lower Mancos shale East of the Hab, all the way up to Skyline Rim (Northing : 4251500  Easting: 515000 Zone : 12 S) using ATVs there and back. However, the road called Copernicus highway ended up being in a very bad condition. It was worse than a rollercoaster ride. Even out of simulation I wouldn’t have wanted to drive on it. We were nevertheless on Mars and had to do as the Martians do, so we proceeded with great caution to get to our desired geological samples. With fogged up space helmets and heavy life support units, this ended up taking nearly three times as long as we initially anticipated. Thus, Roy and I had to improvise. The long story short is that we drove all the way to the cliff edges above MDRS, parked the ATVs there for the night and had to hike down to MDRS to make it back safely before sunset. This was also much trickier than anticipated, as the faulty helmets and general space gear made it quite a thrilling hike. We are tough earthling cookies, so we made it all right and showed Mars again who’s boss. We were actually very successful with retrieving some good carbonates and endolith samples during our exhilarating quest, so we had more than just a good story to tell at the end of the day 
Dr Michaela Musilová

EVA Report – January 18th

EVA Report:
SOL: 3
Date: 18/01/2017
Person filling out the report: Roy Naor
Crew members involved in the EVA: Roy Naor, Michaela Musilova
EVA leader: Michaela Musilova
Begin: 01:00pm
End: 04:41 pm
Type of EVA: ATV 300, ATV 350+Walking
Purpose: Carbonate prospecting and sampling in Dakota sandstone and Mancos shale
UTM Coordinates: Northing : 4251500  Easting :  515000 Zone : 12 S
Summary: The road named Copernicus highway, which crosses the Dakota formation plane, is a very bad road. Hence, it took us much more time to get there than originally planned. In the end, we realized we wouldn’t be able to get back to the Hab on time before sunset, so we parked the two ATVs right at the Repeater Point, north to Radio ridge and got down back to the Hab by foot.
However, we were quite successful with retrieving some good carbonates and endolith samples from the regolith of dakota formation and a bolder of ferron sandstone which fell to the foot of Skyline Rim.

Journalist’s Report – January 18th

Inspiration everywhere
By Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist Crew 173
The day goes very fast here at MDRS.  I have this imagined schedule in my head at the top of the day, thinking that there will be ample time to get it all in, plus time to relax, chill out with the crew and rest  up after dinner. Yeah, that hasn’t happened!  And I’m sure its true for all MDRS crews.  You want to do so much to maximise your experience here, aware that the mission and this opportunity will be over before you know it. I want to do my own work, AND work with all the crew on each of their separate projects, plus capture the stunning landscape while on EVA. Today I followed Rick around, as he planted some new seeds in the GreenHAB but I also wanted to join Michaela and Roy on their geological EVA. Ahh! So much choice but so little time!! I’m falling in to bed at the end of the day, with my head full of new ideas on top of the schedule I had in place before getting here. We’re only a few days in to our mission and I know already that I’m not going to get everything covered.
But its the best feeling ever. A sign that I’m in the perfect creative headspace, inspired by everything and everyone around me. I’m going to be exhausted leaving here. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Lets do this!
Slán go foill
CREW 173
SIGNING OFF
by Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist

GreenHab Report – January 17th

GreenHab Report
Sol 2
17/01/17
Richard Blake
GreenHab Status:
Still too cold at night to leave plants in there, the seedlings I have growing are moved in there in the morning (~9am) and brought back to the Hab in the afternoon (~5pm). Currently have spinach, lettuce, onions, (pop)corn?, carrots, radishes, and beans growing amongst other things.
GreenHab Update:
Received some more seeds, will start to plant some in the coming days, namely tomatoes, beans and coriander.
Requests:
– I want to move the grow tent from the GreenHab to the lower level of the main Hab, it gets too hot in the sun to be used.
– Any instructions on setting up the hydroponics equipment?
– GreenHab heater should theoretically be fixed this week (crosses fingers).
– For Patrick – Am I correct in assuming the popcorn growing was from the popcorn in the kitchen? If so, that is hilarious (the almonds didn’t work out so well).
Photos of repotted plants in GreenHab attached
I know what chard is now.