Commander Report – February 15th

Crew 221 Commander Report 15FEB2020

Author: Maria Grulich, Commander

Title:Returning to Mars

I can almost not believe it that my second rotation at MDRS is over. The first time I was part of the international emerging space leaders crew and I returned as the crew commander of an international crew from five different countries (Costa Rica, Australia, Canada, Germany, Kuwait) where not everyone knew each other. Arriving back at the station it was as I never left, I immediately felt familiar and back at home as if my friends from crew 205 are still around, especially since crew 205 left us some surprise cookies in the freezer! The first week of MDRS we were very productive going on a lot of EVAs and I was surprised that the weather stayed stable for the two weeks we were here!

The second week passed by very quickly as we realised that two weeks is not so much time when you still have to finish so many projects while keeping a Mars Station up and running. The projects included growing black corn and sprouting mung beans, investigating microbes in Martian soil, testing salinity of the soil and building a robot to assist during EVAs, while filling in surveys for human factor studies and following the international voice protocol used on the International Space Station in the hab as well as on EVAs.

Being the commander of an international crew is very enriching, in particular, as we organised cultural night every other day where we learned how to speak Australian, danced to “Nutbush City Limits”, dressws as Kuwaities, got a history lesson about India and Canada, ate nice food from Costa Rica, and danced to German Octoberfest songs and learned how to make the longest words in the World in German. We managed to entertain ourselves with games, sport and meditation sessions and a lot of good conversations, which always raised the question is it “cultural” or “religion”.

It was an honor to be the crew commander of Crew 221 Earth2Mars!

I want to thank all the crew members, Hemani Kalucha Crew Journalist alias “Juno”, Louis D. Monge Crew Engineer alias “Frankie”, Jessica Todd Crew Greenhab Officer alias “Goblin”, Rawan Alshammari Health and Safety Officer alias “Luna”, and Ghanim Alotaibi Crew Astronomer alias “Astro” for all their effort and being so great in achieving almost all our objectives! We came as strangers and we leave as friends! The team is already planning their reunion in Costa Rica in a year we really hope that this will happen in the meantime almost all our crew members are part of SGAC (Space Generation Advisory Council) and will meet on their events and space conferences for sure sharing now this amazing experiences of being two weeks on Mars together!

Until the next time… Ad Astra!

Crew Commander Grulich alias “Ewok” from Crew 221 Earth2Mars signing off….

MDRS Station

Commander Report – February 08th

Maria Grulich

Commander

Crew 221, MDRS Sol 6

Crew 221 Commander Report 08FEB-2020

Author: Maria Grulich, Commander

Title: First problems to solve

Yesterday, during dinner, the crew 221 Earth2Mars realized that when the oven is on, there is a clear smell of propane more than usual. It was immediately reported to mission support during the comms window. At all times the crew was safe, as it was clear that when the oven is off, no propane gas could be smelled. This morning, after half the team went out for EVA, crew commander M.Grulich together with mission support started to investigate the source of the propane issue. It took a bit of time to read through the manual and check the oven, but after one hour the hypothesis was made that probably the oven was not configured to be used for propane gas. Per default the oven comes from the manufacturer to be used with natural gas instead of propane. In order to change this several grooves and an orifice spud on the stove and oven had to be replaced.

Mission support was very helpful, in supporting the theory and immediately organized support, such that in the afternoon, the oven was fixed with the help of the team. It was identified that the hypothesis was correct and after exchanging the parts, the gas issue seems to be solved. No propane smell can be detected now and also the gas detector was clear and the crew’s air quality detector improved significantly.

Besides this real issue, the team managed to do some science in the science dome, Greenhab and RAM.

The EVA team had some mishaps finding stream bed connector and they reported that the walk took more than 20 min as the soil was harder to walk on than expected. That resulted in a tired team that did not manage to explore the chasma as deep as they were planning on.

The team is in good shape and the cultural nights really add to the mission. We are making good progress on the projects; we are just not patient enough to see the results of the microbiology and ISRU plant experiments.

Commander Grulich

MDRS Station

Commander Report – February 7th

Commander

Crew 221, MDRS

Crew 221 Commander Report 7FEB2020

Author: Maria Grulich, Commander

Title: First days

The crew 221 Earth2Mars settled in and started they science projects. The crew did not realize how much also the daily duties of cooking, cleaning and checking on the habitat takes time. Going on EVA starting to become a routine: checking the bags, the radios, comms-check, suiting up the crew members, depressurization and post-EVA and pre-EVA checklists.

Also, the crew cultural nights, sport sessions and meditation sessions coming along, even though we do not manage to do it every evening as it was planned beforehand. We make good progress on our science projects, which works better than expected and the crew’s cooking skills improve every day. The crew is very conservative with water usage, which results that the crew can take a 3min showers every 2-3 days which everyone is excited about. We are all caught up on the several surveys we have to fill and try to keep track of our samples and EVAs even though not all the time the GPS tracker works as expected. The Martian weather is very much in our favour and we hope that it will stay like this.

The first week the focus was put on microbiology and ISRU projects as they need time to develop. The following week will have a focus on the Human Robotic projects and technology demonstrations. Looking forward to more days on Mars.

Commander Grulich

MDRS Station

Commander Report – February 1st

Crew 220 (MAU) Commander’s Report 1Feb2020

Author: Shawna Pandya, Commander

Title: Sol long…and thanks for all the fish!

Sol 13. Out of simulation, back on “Earth.” Practically, this meant that we awoke with the monumental twin tasks of MAU and MDRS teardown and checkout, particuarly mindful of the ever-present mud threatening to slow us down at MAU Station. With the right crew however…anything is possible.

Fortunately for us, fate smiled upon us on MAU teardown day as we were met with warmth and sunshine, allowing for respite from the never-ending barrage of mud that had dogged us and MAU station throughout the mission, and allowing us to dry our gear in the sun prior to stowage.

As one coordinated unit, we completed teardown by early afternoon, and retired to MDRS to complete checkout, write reports and make some final memories. We also greeted our successors, Crew 221, and were delighted to see that they are just as diverse as we in terms of disciplines and nationalities. We spent time briefing them on our lessons learned, and seeing how keen they are, know that the station is in good hands.

A crewmate yesterday quipped that to go to outerspace, you must prepare your innerspace, that has been particularly true here on Mars. We were able to achieve as much as we have this mission because we stepped up, each and every one of us, every single Sol. We constantly looked for ways to make our mission and ourselves better. We looked for things to do and gaps to fill in. We never said “that’s not my job” and put our mission first. I can honestly say that the bonds forged here are but seeds sown for future missions and adventure – on Mars and elsewhere.

Mars – you asked us to give whatever it takes, and this Crew has, with everything we have. To my crew – thank you for teaching me and growing with me. It was the honor of a lifetime to have led you all.

Final transmission,

Commander Pandya
Callsign: Nightowl
MAU Station, Crew 220
Over and out

Commander Report – February 1st

Crew 220 Commander Report 1FEB2020

Author: John Hanacek, Commander

Title: Last Day, Retiring the Station-to-Station Mission

We awoke today out of simulation and quickly set to work cleaning up the MDRS station. Several of my crew also kindly helped disassemble t he MAU station. As I was the MAU Commander for Sol 1-7, I feel a special connection to this first habitat module, I could not help but reflect on how unique this station-to-station experience has been. I was blessed to start my time as a commander at the MAU station and experienced Mars from the unique perspective of operating at the same time as improving the habitat. I had a humbling experience at MAU; an intense growing experience. Susan Jewell (MAU Crew Lead) and I set up the station in preparation for receiving the crew as well as led the first crew who lived in it. When I became commander at MDRS for the second week rotation, I found myself so grateful for the large station’s size, consistent electrical power, full comprehensive systems and warm beds. I had been directly reminded by my MAU experience that the most important things for mission success are the basics such as shelter, water, food, and ability to look within and be really honest at all times.

As this mission ends, I am reflecting on what changed and what did not. Having two commanders was a challenge, as both had separate sovereignty of their station. Yet we needed to work together on joint missions, and to support one another’s stations. Mars is not a forgiving place for the unprepared – and so it should not be. Life requires being fully present, self monitoring and ensuring full accountability for the self and mutual support for the crew. It requires constant vigilance and good communication skills to survive, as well as deep connections and collaboration among all members of the crew to thrive. During this mission we demonstrated that two very different stations can operate together on Mars and more than just survive – we can thrive. When some MAU crew members became fatigued by the rugged conditions of the MAU station it was my role to ensure I supported them and together found a way to bolster morale. On EVAs each station’s habcomm’s operators handled overall radio coverage and enabled the mission to have a wider capability for situational awareness. The two stations were separate, yet operated in areas that required collaboration such as EVAs which enabled us to consistently move forward. I will forever remember this experience and the unique privilege and honor to co-command a two station mission.

Commander Hanacek

MDRS Station

Commander Report – January 31st

Crew 220 (MAU) Commander’s Report 31Jan2020

Author: Shawna Pandya, Commander

Title: Twelve we meet again…

Sol 12. Last day. Wow. Time flies here on Mars. The morning at MAU started with a breakfast with our visiting Ambassador, MDRS Engineer Wise, and myself and MAU Engineer Roberts had fruitful discussions on mission and station operations and logistics.

Before long, it was time for our joint search-and-rescue and medical simulation with MDRS Station. I genuinely enjoyed this experience as this was one of the rare EVAs in which I served has HabComm, which afforded me a birds-eye view of the crew’s movements in the simulation. Let me say, they made my job easy today, due to their admirable and competent performance in a complex scenario.

The afternoon was spent on end-of-mission and check-out duties, such as science and project summaries, cleaning and reports, with a view to squaring ourselves away in time for one last evening together tonight.

There is still so much to say, but sometimes brevity says it all. I have thoroughly enjoyed co-commanding this mission with MDRS Commander Hanacek, and learned something from every single member of this crew.

When you hear from me next, it will be from Earth. This is the end of one mission yes, but with the bonds formed here, I suspect we have also sown the seeds for many more adventures. I wonder what the future holds…

Until my next communication (from Earth!),

Commander Pandya
Callsign: Nightowl
MAU Station, Crew 220

Commander Report – January 30th

Crew 220 (MAU) Commander’s Report 30Jan2020

Author: Shawna Pandya, Commander

Title: Eleven’ on a Prayer

The day at MAU station started with a beautiful dawn breaking over the station. Between the night sky and the morning sunrises, the view here is incredible, even if it is forever through a window or visor, and I admit I will miss it. MDRS GreenHab Officer Bhuiyan was the visiting MDRS Ambassador for the night, and regaled us with tales of her experiences with astronomy, physics and poetry. She shared one particularly profound quote from Earth poet Robert Frost that will stay with me:

"The Prophets Really Prophesy
As Mystics The Commentators
Merely by Statistics."
– Robert Frost

It was a thought-provoking way to start our second last Sol here on the Red Planet. Next, myself and XO Svensoy rendezoused with the MDRS EVA team to conduct a joint search-and-rescue, medical triage and evacuation training exercise using a mannequin as a simulated injured crew member, and trialing the Golden Bubble pressurized medevac in the field for the first time. The exercise proceeded smoothly, and paved the way for our final training exercise tomorrow.

The day proceeded with further medical teaching and technology demonstrations, including virtual reality applications and the ButterflyIQ ultrasound device. As a medical doctor, I was enthralled with the latter and had to tear myself away! We were also productive, finding time to catch up on some of our nutrition and psychological surveys. The evening ended with some medical teaching regarding 3D-printed medical technologies for airway management, and some wellness and relaxation activities, including painting in the dark and a Mars Circle.

As my time on this dusty, cold planet draws to a close, I cannot help but reflect about all that I have learned about leadership, teamwork, planning, resilience, personal growth and survival. These things are all interconnected, and the lessons I have learned could fill a book. But alas, those are tales for another day. In the meantime, I will enjoy my last minutes on this planet.

Until my next communication,

Commander Pandya
Callsign: Nightowl
MAU Station, Crew 220

Commander Report – January 30th

John Hanacek
Commander
Crew 220, MDRS

Crew 220 Commander Report 30Jan2020

Author: John Hanacek, Commander

Title: Ground to Sky – Commander’s Return Home

Sol 11 arrived very early. After three tedious days in quarantine, Crew Lead, Jewell and I were cleared for release. A clean bill of health was welcome news as we began our journey back home to MDRS. Mars continues to teach me patience and respect – for all that I see, feel, hear and that which I do not fully comprehend. Although I embrace the lesson now, late last night being literally stuck in the Mars mud as we returned home, I realize that the time to reflect and literally ground myself for the challenge or assuming Command was invaluable.

On arrival, I was truly delighted see the MAU and MDRS Crew. They were finishing the first-ever “Future Café” led by International Astronomy Researcher, Marufa Akhter Bhuiyan. This exercise, I was informed, helped the Crew travel in ‘imaginary time’ to 2050 and imagine where they and society would be on Mars or other parts of the known/unknown solar systems. Experiencing pressures of leadership with levels of operational and self-monitoring well above my normal comfort zone on Earth, I truly appreciated the Crew going through the Future Café experience which I feel helped them ‘fly” in today’s MEVA.

Today marked a very important small step forward for Martian-kind: pulling all the medical assessment training and technology together and testing its efficacy in an ICE environment. The Crew performed very well, meeting six (6) of eight (8) objectives. In short, safety, operational efficiency and procedural execution was very well done. Improvements are needed between the MEVA Crew and HabComms and we expect better results from the technology deployment – the semi-autonomous drone is to actually take flight.

Between the MEVA, an intense afternoon to catch up on science, patriciate in a mini-medical technology expo on the lower deck, and making dinner. The day has been very action oriented. Despite just a few hours of sleep, I remain vigilant, committed and very hopeful for a strong finish to the Mission – I expect that from myself and seek insight from XO Delisle and my crew so that I can be my best. I also commit to guiding the Crew to reach their potential by end of Mission – not as a conclusion, but as inspiration to fly higher and expand beyond.

Commander Hanacek

MDRS Station

Commander Report – January 29th

Crew 220 (MAU) Commander’s Report 29Jan2020

Author: Shawna Pandya, Commander

Title: Some Sol-Searching…

We had an extremely productive day at MAU today. We hosted our first-ever MDRS Ambassador, MDRS Science Officer Kainu, overnight at MAU as our first-ever guest, and had a delightful exchange of ideas and competencies. All in all, I would call this first exchange a success, and am keen to continue to host ambassadors during the rest of the mission to continue the exchange of skills, competencies, and cultural aspects of the two stations.

On the operations and upkeep side, the MDRS and MAU Crew Engineers whipped up some Mars-gic and reinforced our power grid with our online and back-up power systems. The MAU Engineer reinforced the structural integrity of the station, while the MDRS Engineer worked on establishing a wireless station-to-station data link, and will continue to do so over the next ensuing Sols. The MAU Crew as a whole came together to reinforce the station flooring, reorganize the station, and scrub it down. It was hard work, but incredibly rewarding to see our station shine from our labours!

The day ended with a MAU exploratory EVA to Cowboy Corner, a special little part of Mars that affords views of dazzling expanses of marbled reds, whites and greys that rise to meet the eye to show off their grandeur in full force. Not many humans are privy to such a grand yet secret spectacle, and we are indeed privileged to count ourselves amongst them.

The Sols, they wind down now, and we will make the most of every last Martian minute.

Until my next communication,

Commander Pandya
Callsign: Nightowl
MAU Station

Commander Report – January 28th

Shawna
Commander
MAU Crew 220

Title: I Saw the Science, and It Opened Up My Eyes

Author: Shawna Pandya, Commander

Today, in a word, ROCKED…and I am not just saying that because it was our geological EVA and sampling day. MAU and MDRS stations sent out a joint science team consisting of myself, XO Svensoy, MDRS Engineer Wise and MDRS Science Officer/Journalise Kainu. The day was a productive one, with our team managing to collect 5 samples across two site, including Kissing Camel Ridge and North Ridge – no small feat consider the North-South spread of these two sites. We were lucky, as the Sol was sunny and beautiful, and the beauty of the Martian diaspora with its red marbled landscapes stretched out to greet us. Words do not do it justice. One does not just describe Mars…one must experience it.

On a lighter note, XO Svensoy delighted and amazed us all by juggling while on EVA (is this the first time this was done on Mars?). Of course, one cannot be too impressed, everything is easier in 1/3rd gravity!

Tonight marks two additional happy occasions.First of all, MAU Engineer Waipiti returns from quarantine. Next, we begin our MAU Ambassadors program, wherein we host a visiting MDRS officer overnight to learn more about Station’s programming, culture and operations. We begin by hosting MDRS Science Officer Kainu, and cannot wait to welcome her to our humble little station. Tomorrow will be day of station operations and maintenance, followed by some afternoon EVAs.

Looking forward,

Commander Pandya
Callsign: Nightowl
MAU Station