Crew 261 Journalist Report 03-05-2023
Author: Kris Davidson, Crew Journalist
A strong wind arose during the afternoon of Sol 3, battering the hab for several hours. The fierce gusts elicited contrasting emotions; a sense of comfort as the crew found solace in their secure shelter, while concern lingered with each shake and rattle. The inhospitable conditions outside served as a stark reminder that critical structures can be damaged or compromised under the formidable Martian elements.
Winds have long defined Mars and remain an important area of study. Earlier in the day, prior to the intensification of the wind, the crew united to support Erin Kennedy, the Crew Robotics Engineer, as she embarked on her first on-site test of Atmosphinder. This innovative wind-powered rover is being designed to probe the geomorphic processes in the south polar region of Mars, an area known for its seasonal eruptions that contribute significantly to the planet’s atmospheric system. During EVA 4, Executive Officer Aline Decadi took the lead, offering valuable support as Kennedy worked with the robot, while Crew Commander James Burk supervised the team’s endeavors from the hab. Kennedy tested the robot using a half-sized design (~1 m diameter) in front of the hab. The objectives of the test focused on structural aspects of the robot and de-risking operational elements.
Cécile Renaud (Greenhab Officer + Crew Biologist) has been working steadily on two biology experiments, both with the overarching goal of understanding how future Martian settlers might successfully grow edible plants. The primary purpose of EVA 3, led by Crew Commander James Burk, was for Renaud to collect a variety of soil samples to use in a biostimulation project, in which spirulina (a stimulant) will be placed on tomato plants. Renaud and Julien Villa-Massone (Crew Engineer) have also successfully completed the setup of the photobioreactor device, intended to study the growth of spirulina in a Martian environment.
Transatlantic Mars 261 is comprised of safety-focused individuals, with a focus EVAs, among the most dangerous activity for an astronaut. Villa-Massone (Crew Engineer) installed a temporary monitor in the hab featuring a live EVA map feed, allowing HabComm to track the analogue astronauts in real time. Decadi (Executive Officer) polled the crew about the EVA spacesuits, compiling a list of areas of potential safety-focused improvement. Audrey Derobertmasure (HSO) has further improved the safety of EVAs by implementing a quick numerical (1 through 5) self-assessment of well-being, Each analog astronaut is queried at various points of an EVA by HabComm, a simple but valuable metric for recent hot Sols.
At 1700, the crew gathered in the lower hab for an enlightening demonstration of Mars VR by Commander Burk, who was joined in a virtual MDRS setting by project development partner Jeff Rayner of MXT Reality, based in Seattle, Washington. While still in the midst of a windstorm, the crew explored the virtual hab and surrounding landscape.
As the crew members of the Transatlantic Mars 261 mission press forward, they continue to confront the challenges and marvels that the Martian landscape has to offer. From the winds of Sol 3 to the intricacies of rover testing and the pursuit of sustainable plant growth, each day brings a wealth of learning experiences and opportunities for growth. With a focus on safety and a commitment to teamwork, the crew remains dedicated to advancing our understanding of Mars and its potential for future human habitation.