MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION

Commander Report – March 1st

Dear Earth,


We are now on Sol 17, really close to the end of our mission, which is
planned on Sol 19 in the afternoon.

As we begin to feel the fatigue, we decided to postpone the physical
training to the evening. Mouâdh led the EVA of this morning, which was
dedicated to the deployment of the balloon for the next 24 hours.
Simon, Louis Maller and I joined him to handle this quite voluminous
experiment. We anchored it about 200m north of the Hab, where we could
monitor it from the kitchen’s window. The Optinvent AR glasses were
also tested by Louis during the EVA, and worked well during the
engineering check: he could take pictures from inside his helmet and
Victoria was able to see from inside the Hab what he was seeing
outdoors.

The balloon experiment was unfortunately aborted after lunch, when we
noticed that we could no longer see the black 5-meter wide sphere. We
have two explanations for that: either the balloon was tore apart by
the nearby rocks when the wind pushed him to the ground; or most
likely the balloon escaped its anchor and flew away to its heavenly
destiny. Luckily, at the end of the EVA we had recovered the GoPro
that was filming from inside the platform. The only device that was
lost with the balloon is our Arduino, dedicated to atmospheric
measurements. On tomorrow’s EVA we will investigate the cause of this
loss, and hopefully we find the platform crashed somewhere around the
Hab (I have doubts about it though).

In the afternoon we did an important briefing concerning tomorrows’s
EVA, because it will be a little particular: we will do the entire EVA
without using the walkie talkies, to test our non verbal communication
protocols inspired by scuba diving gestures. Thus, we need to know by
heart how and when to perform our tasks, since it will be nearly
impossible to explain complex ideas. Quite a challenging EVA in
perspective!


Ad Astra!
Arthur Lillo
Commander of the balloon-liberating Crew 175

Commander Report – February 28th

Dear Earth,

Today we broke the routine and planned a short EVA in the afternoon.
Thus, there was no need to wake up at 7 AM: we began our physical
training two hours later than usual, after a long and restful night.
For the rest of the morning, we did some work, took time for ourselves
and cooked.

The EVA began at 2 PM and lasted only one hour. Its purpose was to do
the engineering check and take more pictures of the emergency
positions that we rehearsed two Sols ago. Simon and Xavier did the
first-aid moves while Louis Mangin was holding the camera.

After the EVA, there was a studious mood in the Hab. Louis Maller
managed to control the Optinvent AR glasses using head movement,
Simon and Xavier selected the pictures for the abstract they are
writing, Mouâdh installed the CCD camera on the telescope and got
familiar with all its operation, Louis Mangin edited the video
presenting our rotation, Victoria helped him and wrote down a set of
suggestions about what could be added or changed in the station, and I
worked on my internship report.

We have three Sols left on this beautiful but deadly planet, so we
have to finish our experiments quickly, before our departure. Luckily,
the wind will be low enough tomorrow to deploy the balloon, it was
right about time!

Ad Astra!
Arthur Lillo
Commander of the serious Crew 175

Commander Report – February 27th

Dear Earth,

Sol 15: The 8th Passenger

Today, a famous physicist sent by the BBC space station (Betelgeuse
Broadcasting Company) honored us of his presence. He joined the crew
for our typical tasks: morning EVA to check the seismometer and
explore the vicinity, engineering check, cooking, EVA debriefing,
experiments in the GreenHab and the Science Dome… Luckily, we had
enough stock to feed eight crewmembers, and our guest could even enjoy
our daily Belgian chocolate (Xavier’s gift to the crew).

The 8th passenger left our little haven in the middle of the
afternoon, since he had more martian bases to visit along his trip. It
was really nice to see a new face after two weeks confined with the
same people. Moreover, he brought with him some news from Earth, and
introduced new subjects to our conversations (which otherwise would
work in closed loop). Not a bad thing, since we are almost running out
of complains about the imperial system.


Ad Astra!
Arthur Lillo
Commander of the CelebriTeam 175

Commander Report – February 26th

Dear Earth,


Yesterday’s misadventures made us realize that we needed to take a
break. We had been doing our thirty-minutes physical training every
single Sol since our arrival, at 7 AM before breakfast, and almost an
EVA every morning. It was maybe too much, so today we decided to wake
up later: on Sol 14, no early workout, some sort of brunch, and an EVA
planned for the afternoon instead of the morning. That is what a
Sunday on Mars should look like.

The EVA was dedicated to emergency procedures. After a quick briefing
on lower deck, Xavier led his four EVA buddies outdoors. Mouâdh, Louis
Maller and I tested a set of first-aid positions on Xavier who was
supposed to be a fainted or injured astronaut, while Simon was taking
pictures of the scene in order to make a tutorial. The most difficult
part was to put the unconscious body of Xavier on the rear of the
rover, but after some unsuccessful tries using ropes, we managed to
put him in recovery position and carry him around the Hab’s parking
area.

Later, we did a general cleaning of the Hab, for it to be ready when
our guest astronaut from the BBC arrives tomorrow. Indeed, we have the
privilege to have the british physicist Brian Cox joining our crew for
one Sol. We are eager to meet him!

Ad Astra!
Arthur Lillo
Commander of the emergency-ready Crew 175

Commander Report – February 25th

Dear Earth,


The Hab is definitely not made to host a crew for more than two weeks:
we spent the first 12 Sols of a typical two-week rotation perfectly
safe in our little haven, and now that we reached the fateful Sol 13,
it seems that the Hab is trying to kill us all… some say that it was
built on a Martian cemetery. Moreover, we feel like a small family
that would take care of an isolated hotel in the middle of the winter,
if you see what I mean.

This morning, Simon, Mouâdh, Louis Maller and I deployed the balloon
north of the Hab and then visited the grey landscapes of the Moon-like
area. Meanwhile inside the Hab, Xavier, Louis Mangin and Victoria
faced a rather critical issue: no water flowed up from the exterior
tank to the upper deck tank, and we only had 15L (4 gal) left in the
latter. In our referential, it represents 2 showers, or 2 flushes, or
a little less than what is needed to cook and wash the dishes. Water
is everything for us, particularly since most of our food needs to be
rehydrated… Fortunately, just before twelve, nature stopped playing
with our nerves and pushed the ice cubes out of the pump.
Unsurprisingly, the night was so cold that the pipes were frozen. The
melting happened just in time for the return of the brave explorers!

In the afternoon, Simon and Xavier established a set of emergency
procedures for medical issues happening outdoors. Indeed, we want to
try some first-aid moves during later EVAs, after having adapted them
to our spacesuits and vehicles.

The obscure force that seems to inhabit the Hab struck again later in
the afternoon. When one of us climbed to the loft to take a look at
the water counter, this unfortunate fellow fell violently off the
fourth bar of the ladder, because of the lack of an upper bar to hold
on to. Everyone else rushed to the injured crewmember and moved him to
the sofa. We were quick and efficient, and did not go easy on
anti-pain medication and ice. Luckily, the Fallen Astronaut is now
safe and sound. The Overlook Hote… sorry, the Hab will not trap us so
easily!

Ad Astra!

Arthur Lillo
Commander of the Shining-proof Crew 175

Commander Report – February 24th

Dear Earth,

Sol 12 was particularly cold.

This morning, Louis Mangin, Louis Maller and Simon did an EVA under
the lead of Xavier. Our Executive Officer was equipped with the
augmented reality glasses “Optinvent”, so that Mouâdh could watch on
his computer inside the Hab what Louis was seeing outdoors. However,
this helpful technology was only usable in the vicinity of the Hab
(for instance during the engineering check), because of the short
range of our WiFi connection. The rest of the EVA was dedicated to
exploration, heading to the remarkable landscapes beyond Tank Wash. An
area east of Factory Butte looked a lot like the grey hills around the
Apollo landing sites. Our four brave astronauts came back
freezing-cold and were overjoyed by the hot meal they encountered on
upper deck.

The afternoon began with card game time (the main debate here is about
what game should be played after lunch, between “la coinche”, “la
belote” and “le tarot”). Today “la coinche” won the fight, and was
followed by the usual partition of the crew in the different modules:
Victoria in the GreenHab, the two Louis and Mouâdh on the upper deck
of the Hab, Xavier, Simon and I in the Science Dome. In the meantime,
we tried to revive the 3D printer which is still reluctant to our
efforts. I am optimistic though, given the inventivity of my team.

Ad Astra!

Arthur Lillo
Commander of the cold-resistant Crew 175

Commander Report – February 23rd

Crew 175 Commander Report 23Feb2017
Dear Earth,

We began Sol 11 with the usual physical training on lower deck, followed by a generous breakfast. Despite the rationing of the food, we insist on absorbing as much energy as possible during the first meal of the Sol, particularly for the crewmembers going on EVA, since they are performing physically exhausting tasks outdoors.
Victoria was an excellent EVA leader this morning, taking initiatives, showing commandership and caring for her EVA buddies Xavier, Mouâdh and I. We discovered a very interesting area north of the Hab, at the crossing of Main Road and Tank Wash, full of gorgeous red hills. We took measurements with the sextant to determine our position on the map afterwards.
In the afternoon, we did a second work out inspired by Louis Mangin’s rowing training, and everyone worked on his experiments. Simon and I did some DIY: we recycled the only raw material we have large amount here, which is empty cans of dehydrated food. In the end, the cans were turned into winches for the balloon’s ropes and into a compass to report the sextant measurements. No rest for this crew of engineers!

Ad Astra!
Arthur Lillo
Commander of the enthusiastic Crew 175

Commander Report – February 22nd

Dear Earth,

Yesterday, we agreed to take a day off for mid-rotation: Sol 10 was
the first Sol without EVA.

As usual, we woke up at 7 AM to do our physical training, but for the
first time we had breakfast without the hurry of the EVA preparation.
The idea behind this day off was to take time for ourselves. We played
card games, watched TV series, baked bread, took a nap after lunch,
wrote personal e-mails… Despite the weekend-like frame of mind, we
could not resist the inertia of the mission, so at the end of the Sol
everyone had worked on his experiments.

We are now on the brink of the second half of our mission here. I feel
that everyone has taken his marks, and the different personalities
seem to be more in accord than in the beginning. Indeed, the splitting
of the team during the EVAs was sometimes used as some sort of
confessional, where we talked freely about our relationship with the
other crewmembers. It allowed us to steer clear of tensions before
they happened, and to maintain a very friendly atmosphere in the Hab.
I am always pleased to see how we manage to abandon ourselves in
passionate debates, on the deepest subjects (geopolitics, religion…)
as well as the most trivial questions (TV series, imperial VS metric
system…). Definitly the best crew ever!

Ad Astra!

Arthur Lillo,
Commander of the friendly Crew 175

Commander Report – February 21st

Dear Earth,


We are currently living our ninth Sol on Mars, and fortunately the
weather was kind enough with us to allow a three-hour EVA.

Louis Mangin, Louis Maller, Victoria and Simon went out at 9 AM and
began by looking for a good place to anchor the balloon (this maneuver
being planned for a later and less windy EVA). The plan is to let the
balloon fly during an entire Sol, at about 80 meters of height (260
ft) and attached to a heavy rock. During the night, it will slowly go
down, and we will pick it up on the next morning to recover 24 hours
of atmospheric data. To conduct that experiment, we need a long period
with less than 10mph of wind, so we keep our fingers crossed for the
next Sols.

The EVA team finally found the right place, in a plain North-East of
the Hab, visible from its windows. After that, they took two ATVs and
a rover to explore and take pictures at White Rock Canyon, which was
discovered during yesterday’s EVA. Meanwhile, Xavier learned by heart
the datasheet of our electric supply, Mouâdh prepared a delicious rice
with tomato sauce (rice is the only food we have in large quantity,
beside the tremendous amount of snacks of all kinds), and I made a new
funnel from cans, for the refilling of the ATVs’ oil.

The wind rose around 11 AM and went on during the whole Sol. It was as
if the Hab could be blown away at any time. Sometimes the noise
covered our usual musical ambiance, but the work continued,
undisturbed by the elements. We had an important debate in the
afternoon, about our rationing of the breakfast, until we found a
brand new jar of active yeast well hidden on the shelves (our previous
jar vanished with yesterday’s bread). We are saved!

My report was almost over when we realized that the sky was finally
Mars-like: the orange-red clouds in the evening sky were spectacular
and gave us an impression of fireworks’ grand finale, after the wind
storm.


Ad Astra!

Arthur Lillo
Commander of the stunned Crew 175

Commander Report – February 20th

Dear Earth,


Sol 8: we have been here for an entire week now, and this morning we
woke up with the foggiest weather we had since our arrival.

Mouâdh took the commandership of our morning EVA, leading Louis
Maller, Xavier and I to the southernmost part of our map: White Rock
Canyon. The mist was nearly gone when we arrived there, but on the
inside part of the helmet glass, the fog was terrible. We could only
drive at a very low speed to stay on the Main Road. Despite its not so
impressive size, the canyon was stunning. We discovered orange-red
water when walking along the valley, and lots of colored strata with
various orientations.

Then, the plot thickened: deep inside the canyon, Xavier realized that
its backpack had stopped sending him fresh air. Mouâdh reacted quickly
and wisely by taking the decision to recover to the rovers and to head
back to the Hab. Xavier and I agreed on a solution inspired by our
scuba diving experience to provide him with air: I plugged one of my
air-supply tubes to his helmet, keeping the other one on my own
helmet. That way, Xavier could not only breathe fresh air, but also
see through his helmet, the fog being cleaned by the airstream. We
walked side by side on our way back to the rovers, and then the EVA
team came back to the Hab after almost two and a half hours outdoors,
with the sun finally showing up. This experience was quite inspiring,
indeed afterward we defined some emergency protocols regarding this
kind of situation, likely to happen again if we forget to turn off the
backpack when they are recharging.

In the afternoon, we tried a new physical training proposed by Louis
Mangin, inspired by his usual rowing training. Demanding, but we felt
good after this physical effort, and it was an excellent teambuilding
activity. I am glad to see that even after a whole week in here the
crew is still dynamic and motivated! Ahead of us, we still have about
twelve Sols of mission, which is the typical duration of a rotation at
MDRS.


Ad Astra!

Arthur Lillo,
Commander of the sportive Crew 175