Journalist Report – January 2nd

Greetings from the Red Planet!

This morning we woke up in full “SIM.” Meaning our 14 day simulation is officially underway. Limited communication with Earth, having to wear a space suit when going out on the Martian (Utah) landscape, and eating mostly dehydrated food are the biggest changes. Remember we are on Mars!

The entire crew is allowed 500/mb TOTAL of daily internet access, which is predominantly used to talk to CAPCOM back on Earth about our mission progress.  The Hab has two airlocks which are used to De-Pressurize/Re-pressurize the environment between the light atmosphere on Mars, and the denser atmosphere humans comfortably live in. If you, or any human for that matter, were to go out in the Martian atmosphere without the help of a pressurized and oxygenated spacesuit – you would die in a matter of moments.  The main reasons for eating almost all dehydrated food are: it lasts much longer and has significantly less mass (making it easier to launch to Mars) due to all the water being taken out.

Our day began around 8am with a team breakfast and briefing. Cereal with dehydrated milk.. Not the best tasting and a bit watery, but it did the job. After breakfast, the entire crew got ready for our first Extra Vehicular Activity or “EVA.” Myself and Anushree, the crew biologist, stayed back to be on HABCOM. Anushree is the longest tenured analog mission member among us, she has spent over 80 days in simulation to date, so naturally she was called upon to be in charge of communicating with the EVA team to start. Doing anything the first time takes longer than the next, and we were no different. Getting everyone geared up, dealing with radio issues, and completing every necessary check of the EVA protocol delayed us a half hour after our scheduled start time (but due to that thoroughness no one ended up falling victim to the Martian environment).

Pierrick Loyers), the crew Scientist, was today’s EVA leader. He was joined by his project’s co-investigator Gwendal Henaff (Health and Safety Officer), Patrick Gray (Green Hab Officer), Troy Cole (Engineer), and Ilaria Cinelli (Crew Commander). The main objectives of the EVA were to get everyone used to the suits, go through the regular engineering checks (water levels, ATV/vehicle power checks, diesel for the generator, and propane for the Habitat furnace), and to test the instrument that will be used to scan the Martian subsurface (Pierrick and Gwendal’s main project while on SIM). After two hours, the EVA was complete and all crew members depressurized inside the airlock for the needed three minutes before coming back into the Hab.

The EVA crew was tired upon return, but exclaimed how exhilarating the experience of walking around on another planet had been. They were greeted with hot potato soup for lunch (Cooked…ok prepared… by yours truly) – which they gobbled up quickly. After chow, the crew took 30 minute power naps. We will be participating in a sleep study while on sim, so everyone will be taking mandatory naps in the middle of each day – today was our “training.” (I can get used to this!)

After some Zzzs, the crew wrote reports, fixed and calibrated equipment, and discussed the coming days schedules/crew duties. All in all, a great first day on Mars. CAPCOM window is coming up quick, as well as dinner. Patrick is on cooking duty, so we will see if he can match my creamy potato soup . (highly doubtful, but he is resourceful so he may give me a run for my money. Ha!)