Crew 176 Commander’s Report 13 March 2017
13 March 2017 – Sol 2
Dear Mission Support,
This morning we woke up a bit earlier, that is around 8:00 am. We had a
quick breakfast together and we started ATVs training at 9:30 under the
supervision of Shannon. After explaining us all the rules regarding how to
use the AVTs and rovers as well as where to go, we were given some free
time to explore the surroundings and better familiarise ourselves with the
vehicles. We truly enjoyed it and viewed it a useful team-building
We came back around 12:30 and had lunch together. All of us find it
interesting to try different powder-based foods. During the day, we were
also extremely happy to find a way to flush the toilet efficiently (if the
solution proves to work in a long run, we will pass it to the crew who
will come after us).
After lunch, I proceeded with collecting some geological samples. We also
successfully worked with Shannon Rupert on fixing the tunnel. Moreover
Shannon give our Green House Officer additional instructions on planting.
Then we took photographs of the entire crew with the Polish and Martian
flags to announce the opening of the full isolation that will start
This evening, we are planning to retrain ourselves on how to use medical
devices we brought for testing. The testing will start tomorrow, along
with the EVA activities.
In conclusion, it was another busy and very interesting day for us at MDRS.
Commander, MDRS Crew 176
There is no such thing as silence.
Sometimes it is good to take a break from all the noise inside the
Hab: we are constantly surrounded by the deep hum of the diesel
generator, the regular drop hammer of the water pump, the proverbial
quarrelling of the card game (“why on earth did you throw away that
ace of spades?!”), the occasional scratch of the walkie talkies, the
hunger-triggering rotation of the bread machine…
That might partly explain why Xavier wanted to perform Sol 18’s EVA
with the radios turned off. Other explanation: it allowed him to take
notes on how natural is the set of gestures we established, based on
scuba diving. The EVA had three main objectives: first, I tested the
newly-implemented vocal recorder of the AR glasses during the
engineering check, given that we could not transmit the measurements
to the Hab.
Then, Xavier took the lead to investigate the area where the balloon
was last seen. Still silently, Mouâdh, Xavier and I recovered the
anchor and the rope that had visibly been violently pulled out of the
balloon’s platform. No more evidence have been found on the balloon’s
destiny, but it is likely to have fallen down at night when the air
inside could no longer be heated by the sun. Given the wind direction
yesterday, it must have gone south of our settlement, many miles away.
The final task we performed was to recover the seismometer before the
end of the mission. The briefing we did yesterday was precise enough
to allow us to pack everything silently and go back to the Hab with an
ATV and a rover. In the end, it appears that we were perfectly able to
communicate instructions with gestures only, if we were correctly
prepared. Normally in such a situation with all the radios off, the
safest decision would be to abort the EVA and go back to the Hab, but
it seemed important to test it and improve our protocols.
At noon we figured out that we had just enough dehydrated eggs left to
mix them with flour, sugar and milk, following the traditional French
recipe of crêpes. The psychological effect was overwhelmingly
positive, in these times of end-of-mission food shortage.
The afternoon was very calm, everyone working on his part of the
Mission Summary Report, listing the results of our experiments and
repairs. It seems that we have been very inspired: now we have to cut
half of the text to meet the format required!
Commander of the silent Crew 175
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
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
Commander of the balloon-liberating Crew 175
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
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!
Commander of the serious Crew 175
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.
Commander of the CelebriTeam 175
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
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!
Commander of the emergency-ready Crew 175
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
Commander of the Shining-proof Crew 175
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
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.
Commander of the cold-resistant Crew 175
Crew 175 Commander Report 23Feb2017
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!
Commander of the enthusiastic Crew 175
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!
Commander of the friendly Crew 175