Crew 261 Journalist Report 01-05-2023
Author: Kris Davidson, Crew Journalist
In the tapestry of human existence, two shimmering threads interweave, binding the fabric of our collective destiny: Toolmaking and storytelling, the twin engines that drive the progress of our species. We find ourselves at an extraordinary moment when the loom of technology whirls with unprecedented velocity, spinning forth marvels in multiple realms – artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and rockets powerful enough to propel us (and all that we need to thrive) to Mars.
Storytelling has long served as an essential catalyst in the alchemy of scientific discovery. It is the vessel that carries within it the fragile essence of our humanity, infusing the sterile precision of data with the warm pulse of our imperfect hearts. Every simulation carried out at the Mars Desert Research Station is a story, an important draft in the larger unfolding story of humans to Mars. One day, a human being will be the first to set foot on Mars. That person — perhaps a teenager today — will also be standing on the shoulders of countless scientists, engineers, and analogue astronauts who have made and rectified all manner of mistakes to ensure their success.
Every analogue astronaut carries some version of this story with them to Utah. On the eve of the beginning of Transatlantic Mars Crew 261’s sim, Commander James Burk gently warned of the many discomforts to be endured in the coming two weeks. He reminded the crew that the experiments and projects will almost certainly take longer than expected, and that perfection should not be the goal (the subtext being that challenges and setbacks are precisely what we need to work through as a unified team). The Transatlantic Mars Crew 261’s arrival to the red planet was a liminal affair, a dreamed landing that occurred between a final dusk on Earth and the first Sol on Mars as the crew slept.
After the first breakfast on Mars, Executive Officer Aline Decadi led Audrey Derobertmasure (HSO), Julien Villa-Massone (Engineer), Cecile Renaud (Greenhab Officer), and Kris Davidson (Crew Journalist) on the first EVA to Marble Ritual for EVA training and testing communication systems. The EVA returned late, and Crew Commander James Burk called a debrief for the entire crew to review. It was determined that the novelty of being in spacesuits on EVA decreased anticipated efficiency. Throughout, Decadi prioritized safety for the crew. At the debrief, the crew also discussed hab etiquette for quiet hours, meal prep and clean up, as well as ways to ease stressful workloads for each other. The illusion of perfection was duly (and necessarily) shattered, but under the leadership of Burk and Decadi, the crew was empowered to voice concerns and strengthened as a unit.
The crew also expressed a desire to streamline communications with Mission Support and made the decision to invite Sergii Iakymov to join for dinner and conversation at 1800. A decision was also made to cancel the second EVA for the day.
The rest of the day was busy, with crew members beginning the setup of various experiments and projects. Derobertmasure (HSO) worked on collecting biometrics to assess cardiovascular aging from all crew members. Burk unpacked and qualified the file server that will be used for a multitude of technological applications in the coming days. Villa-Massone (Engineer) assessed facilities as required and worked with Renaud (Greenhab Officer) to set up the photobioreactor in the science dome. Erin Kennedy (Crew Roboticist) worked steadily on assembling and programming robotic elements of Atmosphinder, a wind-powered rover to be tested on upcoming EVAs. Decadi (Executive Officer) assessed observatories ahead of her planned celestial imaging for education and outreach purposes.
As Sol 1 for Crew 261 comes to a close, we are tired but more connected as a crew. And, we are all grateful and proud to be a part of the larger humans-to-Mars story.