Crew 218 Commander Report 26-12-2019
Sol 4 – Boxed Day
In what is Boxing Day on Earth, we feel a little “boxed” or “caged”. Still too much snow on the ground and a foggy and cloudy weather kept us indoor again. Most of our projects are based on EVAs and outdoor observations and data or sample collection, which leaves us with plenty of spare time while waiting until we will finally have appropriate conditions to don our space suits and venture outside. We now therefore have mixed feelings: a very Martian-like situation that gives us a personal challenge and the chance for self-evaluation for what concerns our capability of spending time inside the habitat, and at the same time a little concern and sadness for all the research projects we are eager to perform (with much hope that the weather will improve soon). Overall, though, I am extremely pleased with the crew’s attitude towards this disruption. Though we are all putting up weight because a little boredom brings us often towards snacks and food, we are having a balanced mix of work, crew time and team activities, and personal time, and the morale is still high and full of hope! On a final note, yesterday we had a movie night and the crew selected (without any push from their commander) the favorite movie of Purdue Fencing Club, of which I have been a member since 2011: The Princess Bride!
Crew 218 Commander Report 25-12-2019
Merry Christmas, Earth. This is my first Christmas at MDRS, and it has been quite an emotional day. Still stuck inside because of a 4 inches thick blanket of snow, we made the best of our day. Christmas is by far my favorite holiday and my favorite time of the year. I like the idea of warmth, love, and togetherness. Therefore, I would lie if I said that I did not miss my family and friends. But this is part of the experience and the hardness of simulation. Here at MDRS we woke up a little later than usual and, while having breakfast, I treated the crew to a couple of surprises: first, a little Christmas gift under our tiny trees. Second, a lot of Christmas cards from all over the world, that nice Earthlings sent in response to a call I posted on social media for cards for our crew. The crew and I rejoiced at the nice thoughts by so many people! After breakfast we swept our tunnels from snow, then while working on completing a Mars puzzle and on the few parts of research that do not require EVAs, we prepared a festive lunch that we shared with visitors from the adjacent habitats. Great time together, followed again by social activities and personal time. I miss good old Earth, but I strongly believe in what we are doing here, and I know that the thoughts of many people are with us. See you all when we will be back, and Merry Christmas again.
Cesare Guariniello, Commander
Happy holidays to all people on old good Earth!
This year I am having a brand new experience here at MDRS. We had heavy snow precipitation today. Snow is not a first for me here on the polar cap of Mars, but the amount is something that I have never seen, and that caused us to be stuck in the habitat. This is a great new experience, getting to see the crew at a more relaxed pace after waking up a little later, to the notes of the song “Vienna”, picked by Ben. Following a Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle tradition, still going on onboard the ISS, I use the crew’s favorite songs as a wake-up call!
After beginning the day with yoga and a pancake-based breakfast (yes, dehydrated eggs and milk worked perfectly), I introduced the crew to the geology of MDRS, and then we had a relaxed time building a puzzle and beginning a research project.
Meanwhile, the snow became to fall on our campus, and the hearts are warmed by a white Christmas which we will have here in isolation, far from our friends and families, but proud to be part of the endeavor to support the exploration of Mars.
A nice day awaits us tomorrow. Ad Astra.
Cesare Guariniello, Commander
In sim, finally!! This morning, after a few crew photos, we entered simulation. This does not mean that we are “playing pretend” or just enjoying a nice hab in the desert. This means that we are now performing research that we know will enhance and support human exploration of Mars. This means that we are testing and challenging ourselves into keeping isolation, following operational procedures, living in close quarters, and thinking like a Martian. As of today, we are all analog astronaut.
The crew was extremely excited today at performing our first EVAs, including all the difficulties of climbing in the rovers and driving around with all the limitations of the space suits. The feeling is amazing, though. I cannot believe I am here again and I feel so comfortable donning my air pack and helmet once again. Marble Ritual makes us follow a tradition, and I am glad to be part of it and to see my crewmates following it too. Walking over this red, white, brown clay soil inflames the imagination and many times I found myself stopping, looking at the desert landscape and imagining to be on some red remote planet.
Simulation is not only EVA, though, and after coming back and preparing mushroom risotto for the crew, I went around the building checking operations and facilities, before deciding to use my spare time with a short nap, while the rest of the crew was enjoying a well-deserved break after tough days of training.
The news tonight is that we will have precipitation that will make our EVAs impractical, but it also means that we will have a white Christmas, which makes me feel closer to our friends and families on Earth.
Commander, MDRS 218
Another long day of training, the rhythm much faster that what we will have once we settle down in our Martian habitat. Today we had a full tour of the habitat, and it was interesting to see how many little things have been improved in our simulation, the RAM, the habitat, the ScienceDome, the Greenhab. The crew is beginning to show signs of excitement and awe, and we are all ready to delve into simulation tomorrow. All our briefings and crew discussions today gave us all the tools to make this a successful and amazing mission!! Boiler up and on to Mars.
Commander, MDRS 218
There is no denying it, I cannot resist the call of Mars. And until we will reach the red planet, I cannot resist the call of a good analog mission.
So for the third time I have the pleasure of being hosted by The Mars Society at the Mars Desert Research Station. Crew 218, "The Next Giant Leap", composed entirely of students and alumni of Purdue University, is getting ready to begin their two-week analog mission. As commander and only veteran, I feel a mix of emotions: proud of my crew and happy of being able to support them throughout the mission while they test themselves like I did two years ago; conscious of many aspects of the mission and of all the responsibility I carry; curious to experience a rotation which will cover not only New Year's Day (as in the last two years I participated) but also Christmas away from our family and friends; interested in the development and outcome of our many research projects.
The eyes and the heart never get tired of the landscape surrounding us, those rocks and clays that we will walk upon and work amidst during our EVAs. It is incredible to be here again! Here is to another successful mission!
Commander, crew 218
12 Dec 2019
Today I had the fifth grade experience I never had when I was in the
fifth grade. I make a Space War alarm using a circuit set. I planted
a plant in Martian soil. And I made a rocket. A real one. That
worked and everything. I needed a hell of a lot of help to get it
fashioned out of the bits and pieces of paper and plastic in the kit,
and I got glue on my fingers and remembered how much I hated that, but
in the end it was a stylish retro rocket with a shimmering copper body
and a silver cone on top. At the end of the day I watched as it
soared straight up, fire lighting its way. It was very satisfying, and
even though I’m not a fan of the STEM movement, I have to admit I am
grateful now that kids get to experience these things, because I would
have loved them as a fifth grader, and I’m not going to lie, I loved
It’s been an inspiring week. For years, I have wanted to develop a
program to support and foster relationships among K-12 teachers here
at MDRS. I wanted to be able to bring them here and give them the
opportunity to explore new ways to connect themselves with space, and
in an extension of that, connect their kids with space. Thanks to
support from the Utah NASA Space Grant Consortium I was able to do
that, when they funded my proposal for a NASA Spaceward Bound Utah
(NSBU) program. And then, as a bonus, it all went better than
I couldn’t have asked for better teachers to inspire me and confirm
that there is magic when you bring together good teachers. Hope, Jen,
Teresa, Cynthia, Ann and Kevin have the right stuff. Amazingly
generous, filled with enthusiasm for space and a love for teaching,
they made me realize how good the world really is, that these people
are the ones working, against all odds really, to inspire this newest
generation to touch the stars, to not only dream about becoming a
space-faring species, but to understand that is it possible, and that
they have within them the tools to make it happen. Really good
teachers are the most valuable asset our children have. And this team
of Alpha-T, first cohort of NSBU, are the best!
11 Dec 2019
It seems strangely familiar. Although I haven’t suited up for an EVA
in over a decade, the routine is the same. Slide flight suit on.
Well, this one doesn’t quite fit the way the last one I had put on
did. Instead of slipping into the oversized suits of the past, I pull
and tug and grunt as I squirm my way into a flight suit one size too
small. It was either this or steal the larger one from Atila, and
pride keeps me from doing that. Once the flight suit is on, I add the
radio. Earpiece, check. Radio with good battery, check. COMMS
check, check. I am ready. I chose the prototype for the one piece
suits, sometimes called the milk carton suits, for this EVA. It takes
three people to adjust it to fit me, because one shoulder strap,
incorrectly threaded, just keeps popping over and over. I can’t see
them, but I can feel them as they work on the suit. Finally, I feel
the strap tighten and stay that way, and I know someone has found a
way to fix it. Thumbs up. I’m ready now. Into the airlock. This too
seems familiar, something I am comfortable with. We wait until the
light goes off and are given permission to exit. I open the heavy
door and lift one foot, looking down. For one panicked second, I
hesitate, because this now seems strange. Whether from age or from
lack of practice, I worry that I won’t be able to walk. But I do. I
get to the rover and bump my suit a few times on the frame as I settle
in. I find myself in a reclining position as Jen starts the drive to
our EVA destination. I laugh as I sit there, getting flung from side
to side like a damn ragdoll. I spend the next twenty minutes trying
to get comfortable. I ignore the incredible Mars-like landscape we are
passing through. That I know like the back of my hand. What I don’t
know is how to get comfortable in this damn suit. Finally, I lean
forward and realize that there is a way to sit up straight. But it
comes at a price. When I sit up, the helmet pummels the hell out of
me. First my lip, then my teeth, then my lip again. And all the time
I am laughing, because what the hell do you do in that situation?
Finally, after what seems the longest rover ride of my life, we arrive
at the Moon overlook. I realize with delight that I am small enough to
just slither right out of the rover seat, and I’ve got my feet on
solid ground. We take a few fun photos, and then I head up the road to
scout for gypsum. I find a promising mound, then stop. I radio my
team “Do you think if I get down on my knees I will ever be able to
get up again?” I plop onto my knees and remember in a flash how hard
it is to collect samples when your vision is limited by the helmet and
your gloves make it difficult to pick things up. We gather some
gypsum and my team holds my hand so I can get up. We have two more
sampling sites, and as we head to the next one, I wonder why the sun
is getting so low in the sky. At the final sampling site I realize
that I had screwed up a long held rule at MDRS and I have scheduled
our EVA to end at sunset and not one half hour before sunset. That’s
what Atila had been trying to tell me, when I insisted the EVA go
until 5. We travel back to MDRS at a fast pace. Jen is enjoying the
hell out of driving the rover, but I am distracted by the way my
helmet keeps trying to punch me in the face. We park, enter the
airlock and in a few minutes I’ve put the murderous suit back on the
shelf. Both it, and I, will live to fight another day.
Crew 216 Commander Report 06-DEC-2019
Summary Title: End of sim
Author: Marc Levesque
With a mixture of sadness and anticipation, the crew wound down its activities and prepared to go out of sim this evening. In some ways it seems like we have been at MDRS for a very long time, yet here we are nearing the end of our mission. I didn’t quite know what to expect when I was selected as commander of this crew, but being around this collection of bright and interesting people has been worthwhile and personally rewarding. We were all strangers prior to meeting for the first time almost two weeks ago. Now, that is definitely not the case. While some of us will likely never see each other again, I am sure we will stay in touch via email as we did before the mission. I am most anxious to see Evgenia’s final film production and Michael’s educational presentations. There will also be the Roker Entertainment science series episode to look forward to next spring. It will be most interesting to see how we all appear in these productions.
Crew 216 Commander Report 06-DEC-2019
Summary Title: End of sim
Author: Marc Levesque
With a mixture of sadness and anticipation, the crew wound down its activities and prepared to go out of sim this evening. In some ways it seems like we have been at MDRS for a very long time, yet here we are nearing the end of our mission. I didn't quite know what to expect when I was selected as commander of this crew, but being around this collection of bright and interesting people has been worthwhile and personally rewarding. We were all strangers prior to meeting for the first time almost two weeks ago. Now, that is definitely not the case. While some of us will likely never see each other again, I am sure we will stay in touch via email as we did before the mission. I am most anxious to see Evgenia's final film production and Michael's educational presentations. There will also be the Roker Entertainment science series episode to look forward to next spring. It will be most interesting to see how we all appear in these productions.