Mission Summary – April 12th

Mission summary Crew 296
Author : Loriane Baes
3, 2, 1… “Atlas mission Is back! It was a complete success!”
Crew 296 landed on the surface of Mars at midnight Earth time on March 31, 2024 and the mission ended on April 12, 2024. Twelve sols elapsed during which we took Mars as our habitat.

We quickly familiarized ourselves with our new home and, after a good night’s sleep, immediately started work on our experiments and spacewalks. The first two days were very busy, with report writing, spacewalks, the start of experiments, tasks to be accomplished in the MDRS, adapting to lyophilized food, all facets of accommodating to the new lifestyle required on Mars. Moreover, the next three days, as the first two, were also very busy, but we managed our tasks better to take time to enjoy the fact that we’re on Mars, the beautiful scenery and each other’s presence with team-building activities, card games and cooking together.

The days were punctuated by EVAs where Romain’s experiment involved determining the required frequencies to use a new digital system, Louis’ experiment involved 3D mapping of the terrain using drones, and Maxime’s weather station studied the movements of dust in the simulation, comparing them to Mars data. When the team wasn’t on EVA, Hippolyte took the opportunity to conduct his experiment on the implementation and interfacing of an intelligent voice assistant. The biomedical team also had a busy schedule with saliva, blood, urine, and stool samples, supplemented by self-questionnaires assessing sleep and stress. The goal was to evaluate the impact of LH supplementation on stress associated with confinement and sleep disturbances. The agenda was full, but as the crew likes to say, "science first."
Apart from scientific experiments, life on Mars involves a number of responsibilities. As the station’s engineer, Louis never failed in his duties: emptying toilets, calculating water and repairing various mechanical problems. As much as we appreciated his work and the security he provided, it was always a real challenge for the team to discuss with him the possibility of taking a shower, ruining all his water predictions. Hippolyte also did his duty by pampering the GreenHab all day long, allowing us to add great flavors to each of our dishes. Maxime, the crew’s astronomer, spent most of his time in the observatory, capturing spectacular images of the sun and sky. He even shared his passion with us by helping us observe a solar eclipse. Imane, Crew Safety, never failed to get a message across when someone had a sore back on the way back from EVA, and was always ready to help listening to our each and every little whining. The whole simulation would not have been so immortalized without Alba’s daily photos and videos. Despite the amount of work involved in her job as journalist, Alba always rose to the occasion. Arnaud, as Crew Scientist, proved to be a central pillar of respect for the various studies. SciencesDom became his second home, where he spent a lot of time preparing samples for the biomedical team. The team would not have been complete without Romain and Loriane, who were both in charge of the crew, ensuring that commitments were respected, as well as the team’s benevolence and cohesion.
As part of Loriane’s psychological experiment to study grouped confinement and, more specifically, the stress dimension, the team cut off all social networks and contact with loved ones. The team therefore had to demonstrate their autonomy and creativity, by proposing various playful team-building activities. In the afternoons, some of the team liked to meet up at the Science Dome for their sports session. Despite the limited space, we had no shortage of creative ways to let off steam. We also enjoyed the evening events. We try to innovate each evening with a new and stimulating activity. Card games, board games, mime games, personality tests, general knowledge tests and even a light painting session. The crew were able to take advantage of special moments to get closer to each other, creating real group cohesion.
The days were also punctuated by end-of-day meetings. We usually hold a meeting before dinner to plan the next day, review the simulation and experiences, and discuss how everyone was feeling. For us, the meetings are a privileged moment when we all get together and everyone is free to express themselves in a friendly atmosphere.
We weren’t expecting it, but we enjoyed the lyophilized food. It has to be said that we have some excellent cooks on the team. Loriane and Imane have become the chefs in the kitchen, creating varied, delicious meals every day that we’d never have imagined with this type of food. At the end of each meal, Imane would always prepare a sweet dessert with so few ingredients. She’s a real magician.
Time was also devoted to making videos. We’re keen to share our experience, so we’ve produced videos for several of our collaborators to share on their networks. The content of these videos explains the station, the way of life on Mars and our experiences. We also produced two live broadcasts at the end of the simulation with a major Spanish TV channel and the Mars Society Belgium. These exchanges allow us to share our passion for space exploration and attract the curiosity of some. We’ve also made videos for our aftermovie, so that when we watch them, we’ll be able to recapture the magic of the experience.

We’re leaving Mars on April 12 with lots of memories. We’re all very grateful to have had the chance to discover Mars and its complexity. We’ve all learned a lot from our scientific experiments as well as about ourselves. For some of us, it’s a first step towards our dream of one day becoming astronauts. This experience on Mars has been an important milestone in our journey, and we take with us unforgettable memories and valuable lessons.

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