MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION

Commander Report – April 18th

Today was a rather common day in the schedules. Breakfast at 8 am, followed by an EVA from 9 to 11:59 am with Mathieu, Calogero and myself to install my telecommunication relays and continue signal tests and recordings, and to collect new soil samples for the Mathieu’s experiment, together with the logistic help of Calogero. Unfortunately, winds were too strong to work properly on the top of the hills with the telecommunication relays. This part of EVA is then reported to tomorrow. About Mathieu, he was still able to collect his new soil samples. Back from EVA, we enjoyed culinary talents of Calogero to taste rice with vegetables and a home-made pizza. During the afternoon, every crew member continued to work on his experiment in the Hab for the last EVAs of the next days.

Commander Report – April 13th

We started our Sol 3 with our Coach Nathalie putting on “Feeling Good – Muse” at 8AM, a good reason to wake up happily. After a common breakfast, I spent an hour to fix some software issues on two of the crew’s laptops, while our Crew Astronomer continued to deploy his equipment in the science lab: a scintillator and its control unit. In the meantime, our HSO, Nathalie, launched her physical evaluation exercises for her experiment with, again, a swinging music. At noon, our Master Chief (and Crew Astronomer) Quentin got a genius idea to prepare a lyophilized American cheese fondue, which remains quite fat but still good. Again, this meal was accompanied by our favorite bread, prepared with love by our well-known “full star” baker Math(ieu), the Crew Scientist. In the afternoon, Damien (Crew Engineer) and I continued to prepare tomorrow’s EVA by finishing some welding, program the frequencies of telecommunication devices and testing the repeaters and the sound beacons. Our HSO took charge of her regular sport group, a good way to stay dynamic for the rest of the day

Our third EVA was led by the Second in Command, Calogero, accompanied by our Crew Geologist, Elke Mergny. The sunny and very windy weather conditions allowed them to stay cool. Calogero continued to build his 3D map with a programmed drone by exploring a new area in the North, while Elke succeeded in collecting three different geophysical profiles with her ground penetrating radar, transported in the PEV.

Finally, the Crew Engineer tried to fix the faulty water heater but was stuck with an error code, an issue that will be adressed during the next CapCom. We all finished the afternoon by fulfilling our daily surveys for the “Using Analog Missions to Develop Effective Team Composition Strategies for Long Duration Space Exploration” NASA experiment.

Ad astra!

Aurian d’Avernas – Crew Commander

Commander Report – April 11th

Journalist report Sol 0 and Sol 1 – 170411
Mathieu « Mitch » Vander Donckt
Crew Journalist and Scientist
Crew 178

“Let it be” echoes in my dreams, and my eyes open. I’m in a small dark room. The light ray radiating from under the door illuminate the simply furnished room – a bed and a shelf – in which I was sleeping. My numbness is quickly replaced by excitement: I’m on Mars! The music was the wake-up signal given by Aurian aka “Boss”, the Crew Commander. The rising thrill is fed by the memories of yesterday, when we landed and saw the station with our own eyes for the first time: a circular habitation module connected by tunnels to a greenhouse, a laboratory, and a telescope. Of course, we saw photographs and sketches back on Earth during our training, but no media can pass the global picture or the feeling of this outpost in the middle of nowhere – or let’s say at the boundary of human influence.
We’re not the first crew to have the extraordinary opportunity to settle in this station, built a decade ago, but still we see ourselves as pioneers, eager to explore and analyse this hostile new world. The previous crew should have welcomed us and guided us before going to the departure station, and then home, our Earth. Unfortunately, they did go away a week ago in great urgency, which is really unusual – actually this is a first – for an interplanetary mission, where everything is planned for years and costs billions. But everyone is happy to be here and don’t want to think about that.
The absence of a previous crew brought its own difficulties. Such a station needs a maintenance every day. This is the job of Damien or “Hoover”, the Crew Engineer, who is charged with the upkeep and reparation of all systems, one of the most important being our water supply. When we penetrated the station for the first time, the communication indicators flashed red, indicating a major problem. We had no link with Mission Control on Earth, which was indeed a problem. There is no colony on Mars, just a few scientific installations half-dependent of Earth like ours. Mission Control is of great support, can give us technical advice, supply us with food from orbital reserve if need be, and guide us from day to day. Without them we could run out of water or get caught in a deadly dust storm during Extra Vehicular Activity. The first task of Hoover was to repair the antenna linking us to a satellite, allowing us to communicate with Earth. An easy assignment for an experienced engineer, and a relief for all the crew.
Today all our systems are nominal – except hot water but it is not seen as an urgency –  and we are ready to accomplish our mission here. That begins with the exercises of Nathalie, “Coach”, who keeps us in shape and studies our muscular loss here where the gravitational field is a third of Earth’s. An amusing exercise for some, a torment for others. Anyway, a good physical condition is important.
Now, everybody is unpacking or preparing the experiments. We can’t anticipate what will come next, but we are all eager to make discoveries in our respective domains.

EVA Report – March 31st

EVA Report:  EVA #9
Filled by Otsmar Villarroel, Crew Commander
Crew members: Pitchayapa Jingjit, Esteban Espinoza, Caleb Li, Otsmar Villarroel
Location:
12 N 518524 4249129
12 N 518172 4250624
12 N 518158 4253775
12 N 517738 4254864
12 N 518230 4250725 (outside the hab)
Time: departure at 3:00 pm. Estimated return at 5: 30 pm
Duration: 2 hours and 30 minutes approximately
Vehicles: 2 ATV’s and 1 Rover
Purposes:
The purpose of this EVA is the collection of soil samples surrounding the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) to bring back to McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas in order to find bacteria producing antibiotics to combat antibiotic resistance crisis.
Summary:
Twenty one soil samples, 5 g each approximately, were collected to bring them back to McLennan Community College to begin soil dilution process. Samples were collected from five different places around MDRS. The goal for this research is to find unique and effective antibiotics available to cure resistant bacteria.

Commander Report – March 31st

Crew Commander Report by Otsmar Villarroel/Crew 177 Commander
March 31st/2017
Today, March 31st is our mission’s last day.  This week has been definitely unique.  Thanks to McLennan Community College, Mars Desert Research Station, and my crewmates for this opportunity.
Today afternoon was used to conduct an EVA led by Pitchaya Jingjit.  She collected twenty-one different soil samples from five different places of interest around the MDRS location with the purpose of bringing back to McLennan Community College, in Waco-Texas in order to find bacteria producing antibiotics to combat antibiotic resistance crisis.  Jingjit was accompanied by Caleb Li, Esteban Ramirez, and Otsmar Villarroel.
Geologists, Espinoza and Li, worked in the science lab during the afternoon.
They use the regolith samples collected during geology EVAs and performed Sieving analysis on each of their samples.  They use different trays, each with a different mesh size.  Back on McLennan Community College campus, they are planning to perform spot test analysis for the following: Carbonate properties, oxide, iron, Uranium, and Potassium.
Dinner consisted of salmon and mashed potatoes.  After dinner crew members started cleaning the MDRS facilities and already started to pack and getting ready to return to Earth with the satisfaction of being part of this experience.
See you later Mars! And one more time, thanks to everybody that makes it an awesome experience.

Commander Report – March 30th

Sol 5/March 30th, 2017
Crew Commander Report by Otsmar Villarroel, Crew 177 Commander
Although today was not as beautiful as previous days with a beautiful blue sky and calm wind, it was a great day for the crew’s mission here on the red planet. After breakfast, a group consisting of Parker, Li, Espinoza, and Jingjit left the Hab to conduct some geology experiments.
The main goal of this EVA was to study the terrain from a geological point of view and thus collect some geology data of interest.  The location for this EVA was chosen in order to study different kinds of geologic structures and the methods by which they were created. The pattern of lithification in the sedimentary rock field was unique and interesting to the crew.
Former evidence of a vigorous fluvial environment was observed at the second location. Determination of width and height were performed during the EVA. After collection of the data, the Geology EVA group returned to the Hab.
After enjoying lunch, at about 2:30 pm, Martian time, Crew members LaBarre and Espinoza, had the opportunity of testing her Emergency Medical Service Rover (EMRS) outside the Hab. The EMSR is a robot designed and programmed to retrieve an injured astronaut out on an EVA at Mars and bring him or her back to the Hab for medical assistance. During the test LaBarre and Espinoza detected some operational/mechanical issues.  However, they plans correcting them and a new test, pending approval, will be performed tomorrow.
Engineer, Espinoza, completed their daily routine without anomalies to be reported.  Greenhab officer, Ramirez, worked on taking care of plants as well as on his individual project, the bike generator.  He is planning to collect final results tomorrow to be analyzed back in Waco, Texas.  Our microbiologist, Jingjit, began and finished the gram stain process for the bacterial samples taken previously and attempted to use the microscope. Crew member, Li, spent part of the afternoon working on his clock.
After dinner, crew spent the crew spent a few hours helping coming up with a marketing plan to promote MDRS at our community college, McLennan Community College.  Tomorrow, pending approval, an EVA is planned. The purpose of this EVA is the collection of soil samples surrounding the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) to bring back to McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas in order to find bacteria producing antibiotics to combat antibiotic resistance crisis.
Last night, our crew astronomer, Becky Parker, used the telescope, with the main goal of completing a two-star alignment as well as a four- star calibration procedure. Unfortunately, while she was able to have the telescope working properly, she could not get the telescope to focus as expected.  We are planning to contact Mission Support looking for recommendations.

Commander Report – March 29th

Commander Report
Sol 5
March 29,2017
Otsmar Villarroel, Crew 177 Commander
Although today’s temperature was slightly higher than previous days, the day here on Mars has been beautiful with a spectacular blue sky.
All six crewmembers were up by 0700 local time as requested by the crew Commander the night before.  The crew enjoyed together scrambled eggs with sausage and biscuits for breakfast.  A few minutes after breakfast, a group consisting of Espinoza, Espinoza, Li, and Parker was sent out to Candor Chasma for a second attempt of looking for the presence of water.
 While during this effort, as the first one few days ago, the presence of water was not detected, the crew found the presence of moisture in some areas by Candor Chasma.  It was noticed after digging into the sand in the bottom of the chasma. Also, the presence of moisture was observed underneath some rocks.  Results are promising and further research regarding this topic has to be done.
After 2 hours 30 minutes, approximately, by noon (Martian time) the expediters returned to the Hab.  All eight crewmembers enjoyed lunch together.  Lunch was prepared crew members Quaas and Jingjit.
Part of the afternoon was used by the crew members to work on their independent projects.  Crew members have found some difficulties with their projects and they are making plans to solve them as soon as possible before rotation is over.  Also, crew member Jingjit continued working on her microbiology experiments.
As usual, dinner time was used to spend time together and discuss tomorrow’s plans.  Today it is crew member LaBarre’s birthday and we celebrated it with a birthday cake. The crew is planning to complete the geology EVA, pending approval. This would be the second half of EVA #4 that was shortened due to NPR reporter.

Commander Report – March 28th

Four sols have passed since The McLennan Community College Highlanders Crew 177 arrived to Mars.  For sure, four sols full of challenges and amazing experiences.  Every activity around here is designed with the main purpose of providing us a unique experience other than that offered by a traditional classroom environment.

After all eight crewmembers took breakfast together, at about 0845 local time; Crew 177 got visited by Rae Bichell from NPR.  Rae Bichell spent most of the day with us learning about our routine here on Mars. She is was very interested in knowing about our experiences, projects, our college as well as all related with the MDRS program.  After giving her a short talk about our goals followed by a tour around the MDRS complex, she was invited to escort us during our morning Geology EVA.

After the daily routine of getting suited followed by the depressurization  process before going out of the Hab, the Geology EVA crew departed at about 1045 local time.  The EVA group consisted of Elijah Espinoza, Pitchayapa Jingjit, Esteban Espinoza, and Becky Parker. The geology experiments conducted today consisted of assessing many different regolith characteristics in the area around the Hab. Understanding what this material is made out of helps to determine what resources could be available. Also, crew members learned about the use of a Brunton compass to measure as strike and dip, both useful geological parameters which provide valuable information about what angle a particular geological formation has been uplifted.

While EVA team were collecting samples and taking geological measurement outside the Hab, remaining crew stayed in the Hab serving as communication support.  During that time they also prepared lunch which was enjoyed by the crew members and guest.  Menu included delicious teriyaki chicken, rice, corn, and red pepper.

During the afternoon, Pitchayapa started working on her microbiology experiments.  The point of her experiments is to swab the Hab for the presence of Gram negative and enteric bacteria and Gram positive staph bacteria.  Both have health implications.

Engineer completed their daily checking routine without major anomalies.

During dinner time the crew discussed the plan for tomorrow.  While some crew members showed some signs of fatigue during the day, Crew 177 members are looking forward to keep doing their best in order to successfully complete this mission.  The challenges make us stronger!
Tomorrow, pending approval, will consist of a morning chemistry EVA with Elijah, Esteban, Caleb, and Becky.  Rest of the afternoon will be spend working on individual projects and microbiology experiments conducted by Pitchayapa.

Good night from Mars