Journalist Report – March 7th

Crew 223 Journalist Report 05Mar2020
Author: Clément Plagne, Crew Journalist
Sol 6
Title: The Sound of Silence
A couple days ago on EVA, Marion unfortunately lost the use of her comms
headset, making her incapable of communicating with the rest of the
expedition by radio. Fortunately, thanks to the little nonverbal
communication we’d all learned to be more efficient, she was able to
pass over her EVA leader role and carry on the EVA normally. This
situation made Aurélien wonder: what if all our comms failed? EVAs limit
our senses drastically already, as the bulky suits limit our vision and
our movement. Even with the radios, it can prove difficult to coordinate
rovers on the road. As he came back in the Hab, he asked the question:
could we carry on an entire EVA without once using our radios?

Communication is the absolute centre of any EVA. We need to be clear
with the HabCom inside, who needs data on vehicles and water outside,
needs to give us permission to get in and out of various zones, and
requires updates to be given as we stop near the Hab to change batteries
on experiments set up within communication range. Between crewmembers on
EVA, communication is kept to a minimum, as radio chatter quickly
becomes impossible to understand if people try to talk over one another.
What remained, however, was of course the important communications:
whether everyone was feeling alright, what direction we need to be
going, or when the rovers need to stop or turn. A lot of crucial
communication goes through those radios, and imagining the ways to
eliminate the need for them and find alternatives is a tough task. While
we were outside yesterday morning with Blandine, Valentin and Florian,
Aurélien, Luc and Marion were thinking of a protocol to carry on a fully
silent EVA.

The final proposal, as given to us by Luc, was clever and felt fool
proof. Our five required minutes of airlock depressurisation would be
directed by the lights turning on or off by the HabCom on the other
side. The beginning measurements of data from the water tank and rovers
around the Hab were distributed among us, and would be relayed by Marion
using hand gestures to Valentin, our HabCom, looking through a window in
the Hab. He would respond similarly and give us the go or no go to take
the rovers outside. To ensure that no rover was left behind on the way,
the one in front would periodically stop and wait to be passed by the
other, and the dance would go on until reaching our destination. By
foot, most things can be done by mime – hand gestures were decided to
tell each other about our levels of fatigue and pain, making sure that
we can go back if someone is too uncomfortable.
The test was a complete success, and the EVA went on nominally without
one word spoken. Two years ago, the Supaéro MDRS crew drew up similar
plans on how to carry on an EVA in case of injury of a crewmember. These
are all possible events during an EVA, and we were glad to continue
doing research on similar themes. The communication between crews on a
year to year basis is one of the strengths of our missions, and this
gives us great hopes for even better experiments in the years to come.

The Science Dome was a lot less quiet though. Marion’s experiment on
foreign language communication is still running strong, and the English,
German and Spanish speaking are still working to build LEGO figures and
find new ways to be understood by the other. The puzzles are getting
rather hard, but what’s interesting is that the speaking pairs are
starting to develop their own slang to describe different pieces, and
much less time is wasted compared to the first attempts. Next week, a
different game: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. An asymmetric,
fast-paced bomb defusal game where one person sees puzzles, but only the
others have the manual to solve them. We’re all getting right in sync,
so this can only be exciting!