Commander’s report Sol 12
Vangelis. The 1492: Conquest of Paradise theme. That is what is going through my head now and has been all day. All week. All mission actually. It all started with Idriss, our crew engineer, playing the song at the start of our mission many sols ago. Then one by one each crew member has been humming the song while working, cooking, in the shower, in the toilet… Basically all the time. Today Roy, our crew geologist, hummed it a number of time into our walkie talkies during his EVA and now my crew are all listening to it while preparing for dinner. This fairly powerful and inspirational music gets to us not just because it’s catchy, but because it resonates within us. It awakens the explorers, the adventurers, the scientists and visionaries in our souls. It symbolises what has united us all in going to Mars in the first place. The music’s power fuels our desires and makes us feel invincible in reaching our dreams.
While I hear my crew singing the song together by the dinner table, it also fills me sorrow and nostalgia. How many more times will be sing the song together? How many more times will we share the “cancer” juice over dinner? How many more times will we start all of our walkie talkie calls with “Bla bla bla, this is Roy” and end them with “over”? I cannot even imagine now not hearing the loud pump go off while I pour water into the kettle to make tea. I will probably spend the next few weeks being paranoid about using the wifi and will turn all my devices on airplane more when it is not time to communicate with Mission Support.
I will definitely not miss praying to the “toilet god”, as we call it, each time we want to flush the toilet, just so that we do not have another toilet-clogging problem. It will be very refreshing to take a shower more than once a week and I cannot wait to bite into a juicy apple. I will also enjoy not checking on the crew all the time and trying to solve the mystery of the Gigabyte Hobgoblin, who has been eating Gigabytes and Gigabytes of our data. My body has been craving a good run and exercise out in the nature. Not to mention my family, friends and colleagues, who have been writing to me almost desperately, barely getting a message from me all the way from Mars.
Nevertheless, none of these things would make me want to leave Mars any sooner or at all to be honest. I have become a Martian and so has my whole crew. We have adapted to our life here and it will be painful for all of us to prepare for the journey back to Earth. We will miss working together, sharing stories, cultural nights, music to hum together and silly walkie talkie conversations. We have all caught some sort of Martian sickness: from regularly making strange animal noises, obsessive-compulsive cooking or cleaning, and simply laughing our heads off all the time. I have not cried from laughter so often, perhaps ever in my life. Our strange way of life may seem crazy to the aliens observing us here or our fellow Earthlings back home. However, for us our laughter has been our source of energy, our medicine and the key to our successful mission here on Mars.
We will be Martians forever in our hearts and the bonds we have created here will remain with us for the rest of our lives. Our experience here will be the fuel for our passions, just like the Vangelis song. We have made the conquest of Mars. Now it is time to achieve the rest of our dreams.
Mars Crew 173 Commander
This is how our first few EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activities) sounded like. We would all roar with laughter when we would listen to our crewmates walking around in their spacesuits over our walkie talkies. All you would hear is “from Roy”, “Hab, from Roy” and “do you copy???”. Until we developed our new and improved method: mumbling something for a few seconds, then trying to contact someone, saying “over” and then waiting for a few more seconds before the next person tries to respond. Our conversations now sound like this:
“Bla bla bla bla. Hab, from Roy. Do you copy? Over.”
[5 second pause]
“Bla bla bla bla. Roy, this is the Hab, we hear you loud and clear. Over.”
[5 second pause]
“Bla bla bla bla. Hab, the aliens have taken our generator. On a positive note, they refuelled the gas container. Over.”
[1 second pause]
“What???. Ohh oops, he won’t hear that…”
[5 second pause]
“Bla bla bla bla. Hab, from Roy. I did not copy that. Over.”
It is not just the communication language and methodology that we have gradually improved while on Mars. Every day we seem to face new challenges and have to brainstorm to find ways to overcome them. As I philosophised about in my Sol Summary yesterday (Sol 3), Mars is trying hard to get rid of us. We are a tough bunch of Earthlings, so we will not give in that easily (or at all ideally). However, Mars is not just a struggle for survival, as it may seem from our reports. On the contrary, we are all greatly enjoying our mission. The problems bring us closer together, rather than shaking up our bonds. I think Mars is bringing out the best in each of us. It us waking up our inner children, explorers, adventurers, but most importantly our inner passion to make a difference. Whether on the Red Planet or our Pale Blue Dot home. I feel so energised spending all this time with everyone radiating with positive energy.
Personally, just a glance out the Hab window is enough to start my day recharged like a Duracell bunny. The gorgeous red Martian landscape calls to me. I love being here. It has always been my dream to be an astronaut and ideally to go to Mars one day. Now, I am living that dream, at least to a certain extent. No problems could get me down. Even aliens stealing our power source or clogged up space toilets are just a tiny bump in the road. If Mark Watney could make it alone, then our crew most certainly can cope with anything. Except perhaps a full on alien attack. This makes me realise that we have no weapons on Mars. Oops, minor detail. We could always try to charm them with our amazing cooking skills – at least those of my crewmates. We have been having so-called culture nights every other night, when each crewmember presents their culture/country to the rest of the crew. It usually involves cooking some typical national dish, singing a national song and/or playing a popular game from that person’s country. I am dreading the Slovakian culture night (Sol 7), as I have no idea what I could possibly conjure here from the freeze-dried food that could represent my country in a positive light 😉
As I sign off, I cannot help but smile at the fresh memories of the last few sols on Mars. Every bad memory is washed out by a happy memory of laughter, succeeding in our scientific projects or our EVA adventures. It was the same last time I was here. When reminiscing about Mars, I could not remember any of the discomfort, the obstructed vision and difficulty in walking or generally doing any kind of movement when wearing a spacesuit. All I could feel was the joy that I experienced when out on an EVA, exploring the Martian landscape and looking for signs of alien life. Now that I am back on Mars again, I was hit with the hard reality of wearing spacesuit. Literally. I still have a bump on my head from the space helmet hitting me during an EVA on a Martian rover. Nevertheless, I forgot about it instantly. Such is the magic of this place. It does not matter how difficult or uncomfortable it might get to live in these confined spaces, isolated from the world, with limited amounts of water, food, etc. We feel like we were meant to live here. The desire to help make humans become a multi-planetary species is stronger than all of us.
Per aspera ad astra!
Commander’s report Sol 0
My heart started racing as we were driving through the red Martian landscape. I was re-living the excitement of arriving on Mars the first time. My mind kept being flooded by flashbacks of my first journey to the Red Planet. No surprise, as my whole journey this time was a „deja vue“ of the previous time: my space shuttles kept on being delayed, I got stranded in the space city of Denver for hours after hours, only to be told just before midnight that there will be no more flights that day. As in 2014, I had to overnight in a foreign, very cold space city, before resuming my journey the next day, desperately hoping to reach Mars finally.
This time, however, I was not alone. My crew 173’s geologist and health and safety officer, Roy, was stranded in Denver as well. Upon arrival on Mars, we both laughed that the mere couple of hours of sleep we got were worth the amazing views we had from the shuttle flying over the Martian mountains in the morning. Indeed, even though I got a grand total of 8 hours of sleep over 3 days, I could not take my eyes away from the shuttle window and drool over the spectacular landscape.
Not even my illness could dampen my spirits. Ironically, I also had a cold last time I travelled to Mars and I was in a similar sleep-deprived physical state. The coincidences between my two trips to Mars seemed almost surreal. They kept making me think of my previous mission with crew 134 and what a great time we had on Mars together. I became nostalgic: “it’s not going to be the same”, I thought. We were such a great crew and we had so much fun together. It felt like I was returning home, but with a different family. As I entered the MDRS Habitat, I could not help myself but release a sigh. I kept seeing the different funny moments we had together before my eyes. Their ghosts waved at me from their rooms and I longed for another shared meal or EVA together with crew 134.
While I admit my heart sank a bit with nostalgia, my state of mind instantly changed to excitement as I came back to reality. My crew on this new mission is made up of an amazing group of people. We have been working together for the past 1.5 years to get the most out of this mission and to make it be as fulfilling as possible for all of us. Most of us met at the International Space University’s Space Studies Program in 2015 and we have been great friends since. I have been really looking forward to spending this time together.
Though we arrived on Mars only yesterday, I have already been laughing my head off regularly with my crew. I also really enjoy that I’m not the only one getting carried away with admiration over the Martian landscape, geology and potential biology. I was the crew astrobiologist and geologist of crew 134, so I could not really share my excitement over the science of this wonderful environment with anyone. On the contrary, it was often used as something to tease me about. And now we have a geologist and another astrobiologist on the crew. We can “drool” together during our mission, just like Roy and I did when flying over the gorgeous mountains together from Denver 😉
The best bonding experience to start our mission with was a particularly funny, though quite crude, operation nick-named „poopgate“ 😀 Our Martian toilet got clogged today upon the departure of crew 172 and we have spent the whole day trying to solve this issue. I would never have thought that a toilet could be such an important element for the colonisation of Mars. Luckily enough, my crew is very creative and we came up with a myriad of original ways of troubleshooting the problem. There is not a better ice breaker than discussing the appropriate configurations to
do one’s business in these circumstances. We all cried with laughter when Roy and Niamh, our crew artist and journalist, demonstrated their special methods to the crew. The cherry on top of the cake was Roy pulling off a yoga type move and shouting: „look, no hands“! I haven’t laughed so much in ages 😀
We would also like to thank crew 172 for a great collaboration pre-mission and for a very nice welcome on Mars yesterday. We wish them very safe travels back to Earth and we hope to work with them again in the future, whether on Earth or on Mars.
Stay tuned for more news from Mars – hopefully with a less “sh*tty” update 😉
Crew 172 Final GreenHab Report
GreenHab Status: at the moment the GreenHab is not a suitable place to grow any except the hardiest plants (succulents, lichen, etc.). Within a 24-hour period temperatures have gone from 25F to 101F. Once the A/C + heater are fully functional and both controlled by the thermostat and grow lights are installed, it will be a great space for plant growth and experimentation.
Advice for Upcoming Crews: if you hope to grow plants before environmental control is established in the GreenHab you should grow them in the main Hab. The Science Dome, even with the grow tent and grow light, is far too cold for most plants to survive during the winter.
Near-term Recommendations: beyond environmental control and grow lights, general work lights should be installed so crew can work in the GreenHab after dark, some sort of humidifier should be installed (though the full aquaponics system may add some much needed humidity to the dry desert air), and my inventory (or some version of it) should be shared with future crews:
If I had known, even a subset, of what the GreenHab had in stock, what its dimensions were, and its general state of affairs, I would’ve arrived at MDRS much better equipped to succeed. Fortunately I was able to get some useful information on current plant growth from the outgoing GreenHab Officer (Crew 171) and I did my best to provide that same service to the incoming crew (Crew 173).
Longer-term Recommendations: a future GreenHab Officer or MDRS should build some sort of ongoing environmental monitoring system (temp, humidity, sunlight, pressure, etc.), MDRS should establish standard forms that allow GreenHab Officers to pass forward information about current plants and request specific items to be planted by a preceding crew, and MDRS should make clear the overall goals of the facility (growth for consumption, testing strains resistant to harsh conditions, crew psychological benefit, etc.).
Summary: Once basic systems are up and running, such as environmental control and the aquaponics system, the GreenHab could be of great use to future crews and a major asset to MDRS. Until that time it is little more than a storage facility lacking accessible information on its current state, long-term purpose, and potential to facilitate crew research. For the sake and success of future crews I think solving these communication and information issues should be a high priority.
Patrick Gray – GreenHab Officer, Crew 172
Commander Report Crew 172
Ilaria Cinelli – Commander, Crew 172
Sol 1: Finally, we did it!! Let’s rock this mission!!
Today it is our first day on Mars (Sol 1). This mission is a two-week simulation during which we will be
training for the Mars mission in an analogue environment, here in the stunning Utah desert. You
might think is a short time. Believe me, this mission has started six months ago!
MDRS selected six young enthusiastic space talents as my Crew members and me as Commander.
Being Commander is a full-time job that starts as soon as MDRS gives you the approval for the
The quality of the mission depends on the quality of the remote training before getting in the Hab. I
have been spending six months training my Crew in remote teaching them their duties, the analogue
life rules and learning about their goals and personalities. The human-side of the mission should not
be neglected considering that we are an international team of strangers.
The goal of this training is to teach them that we are a unique entity and that their actions has
consequences for each member. As Commander, I must make sure that each of them is on the right
track both in their duties and as individual.
My goal is training in leadership for long-term mission. I have been spending all my free time to learn
leadership and practice it at my best. A Commander without a competent Crew is a lost soul. I am
honoured to cover this role and proud of my Crew!
Although the considerable number of responsibilities I have here, I am not going to step back for any
bloody reason! I will rock this mission to its unique goal: successful!
Because we are a unique entity, below the ambitious of each member. They are part of what I am
now, and I would like you to read their view as well!
Pierrick Loyers – Crew Scientist, Crew 172
Personal point of view:
I have been waiting for 8 months for this mission, so I am really excited to be here. My first
impressions here are really positive. Being at MDRS is well immersive. Landscapes, EVAs and protocols
are challenging and I really like it. I am happy that we are going to be out of our comfort zone, this is
Being in a crew makes me feel really comfortable. Everyone is happy to help for the daily tasks and
that’s pretty good. There is a good atmosphere here, we are joking with each other and this is a good
point as well. I feel like everyone is very much involved in their roles. I’m sure that we are going to be
a great crew, productive, efficient and soldered.
Technical and personal objectives:
Gwendal and me are going to evaluate the possibilities for astronauts to do a 3D cartography of Mars.
We have designed and engineered a device that takes altimetry measurements in regards to the
position of the astronaut on Mars. The position of the astronauts is measured thanks to signals
triangulations and altimetry measurements are performed with a barometric sensor. Measurements
are done during EVAs. The astronaut has to carry the cartography system on him and measures are
taken while he is moving during the EVA. Once the EVA finished, a file containing all the X, Y and Z
coordinates is transferred on a PC and results will be investigated on Matlab. A 3D map will then be
produced on the software called Blender.
We have developed a HUD that is displaying all the useful information on the right eye of the
astronaut, a bit like the Google glass. This allows the astronaut to visualize measurements and his
position hand free.
This device is also able to communicate with a PC at the Hab thanks to a long-range radiofrequencies
communication system that we have developed. The PC is receiving real-time information about the
astronaut on EVA like position, altitude, outside temperatures. The Hab would also be able to
communicate in RF with the astronaut by sending short messages through our system in case of radio
failure. Messages are displayed on the HUD of the astronaut.
The second objective is to investigate possibilities for astronaut to search for underground water
thanks to a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). We are going to probe the soil near zone where we
believe there are water sources.
My personal objectives are to understand and feel what are the protocols, goals and difficulties that
astronauts will face on Mars at the horizon up to 2030. I am happy to live in a harsh environment
during two weeks and that was part of my personal objectives as well.
I would like to work within the manned space exploration field after my studies and that’s why I
applied to be part of the MDRS experience. Specialized in Applied Physics and passionate by space
since I’m young, it would be great to combine these two specialties. But I have also a strong interest
for space structures. I would be proud to take part to the international efforts to take humans to
Anushree Srivastava – Executive Officer and Crew Biologist, Crew 172
I am on Mars, again! It feels wonderful saying that.
I recently completed the first phase of a 160 sols simulation of a Mars mission – Mars160 – an
ambitious and unprecedented endeavor of The Mars Society. Now, I have joined the Crew 172. For
this mission, to my great delight, I am the Executive Officer and Crew Biologist for another 15 sols.
It is Sol 1. Before coming here as Crew 172, I was asked many times that why do I want to do this
rotation when I had already been part of a mission like Mars160 which had its historical culmination,
even in its first phase. My answer has always been simple – there is no obligation, of course; but I still
want to do it. It is important for me. When you don’t wear the spacesuit, when you don’t live under
the constraints of a Martian life, you miss it. As I keep saying, it’s a privilege that not everyone has the
opportunity to have. I was appointed to be the Crew Biologist for Mars160 mission and Crew 172 at
the same time. And I had decided that I will come back to join the Crew 172. The first phase of
Mars160 mission was intense. In summer 2017, we are initiating our second phase at FMARS in the
Canadian Arctic, which is going to be the real test of living in a simulated Martian condition that
involves lots of preparation. Having said that, for me, Crew 172 is an important attempt towards
exposing myself to the inherent discreteness of the nature of two different missions. This mission is
also my attempt to test the flexibility in my approach towards the crew and the overall mission
objectives. I say this because I realized the emotional intricacies involved in this transition. You came
back to live in the same place for 15 sols, where you recently completed 80 amazing sols, but with the
different crew. You keep missing the presence of your previous crew, who actually became a family.
Then you have many conversations with yourself, reminding yourself that this is what it takes to be
able to live on Mars – it tests your preparedness and patience.
The members of the Crew 172 are young and enthusiastic! They are equipped with advanced
technology that they intend to test in the simulated Martian environment. What exhilarates me the
most is their eagerness and excitement to experience the adventure of extra-vehicular activities
(EVAs) for the very first time in their lives. I am happy to see them getting carried away by the
spectacular landscape. I echo their emotions. At the same time, I am learning from them in so many
From the perspective of science operations, I intend to continue my work on documenting the
pattern and diversity of halophilic microorganisms that started during Mars160 mission. Shannon
Rupert, the principal investigator of the Mars160 mission, and I are interested in isolating highly salt
tolerant microorganisms from soil samples collected during multiple strenuous EVAs during Mars160
mission. We intend to perform the molecular analysis of those peculiar salt-loving microbes using
MinION. So, as Crew Biologist, this is the objective of my sojourn on Mars! Additionally, I am engaged
in different human factor experiments proposed by my fellows of Crew 172.
Patrick Gray – GreenHab Officer, Crew 172
Plans and Ambitions:
My project goal while at MDRS is to have a harvest in the GreenHab, document the GreenHab
facilities to set future researchers up for success, and share all possible information with the
GreenHab crew to bring in their expertise. My personal objective is to maximize the experience and
learn from my fellow crewmates, I am interested in doing longer term research analogs and
expeditions in other environments in the future and thus want to thoroughly document any issues
and key observations that I can carry forward both for myself and to share with the Mars Society.
Finally, I want to document our adventures and share our story in an educational outreach capacity
over the next year. This work feeds directly into my professional work and ambitions. My long-term
goal is to build a bridge between scientific marine exploration and space science to push forward life-
seeking exploration on and off Earth.
Gwendal Henaff – Executive Officer & HSO, Crew 172
I am French student pursuing a Master of Science in Applied Physics. I am passionate about space
exploration since the childhood. I am looking forward for this mission : at first, we have scientific
experiences to carry, which are quite new for MDRS : we have a Ground Penetrating Radar, and that
allow us to scan the subsurface, 2D and 3D, up to 15 meters deep. I have two objectives here : first,
get enough data to precisely localize the water lenses under the surface, as well as work on the
human factors linked to the use of a GPR on Mars, which is quite challenging : we have 20 Kg
Antennas, and a heavy control unit, which is not easy to use with a space suit.
My ambitions for the simulation is to be the closest possible to a real Mars mission, an objective that
the all crew is sharing. Being the closest possible to real conditions will be good for our scientific
experiences and will be personally rewarding. As a Emergency First Responder on Earth, my role as
HSO makes sense : We will work on first response training and practice with the crew.
I am looking for an intern position in the US, in space engineering. Being part of this crew will be
definitely by useful : years after years, I have more and more space related experiences (Internships in
French and UK’s space laboratories, working on space instrumentation and nano engineering), Space
international competitions and the latest CNES / ESA scientific Parabolic Flight campaign I was part of.
After graduation, I plan to work 14 months as an engineer in Antarctica, and being part of this crew
will allow me to know if I am ready for such a long isolation mission in a harsh environment.
Troy Cole – Crew Engineer
Personal Point of View of MDRS: I think MDRS is an awesome opportunity to get some real field
experience in a realistic environment and I am grateful for being selected for this crew. Speaking
specifically as a working professional I greatly appreciate the shorter duration missions that are more
conducive with my work schedule.
Personal Technical Objective: My personal technical objectives are to test myself to see if I have what
it takes to be an effective field engineer working in a remote location and to see if I can handle the
psychological stress of being out of communication with civilization.
Goal: My ultimate goal is to do my part to make space travel available to everyone on this planet and
setting the stage for humanity becoming a multi-planetary civilization. I intend to do this through
continued work on propulsion technologies.
Nicholas McCay – Crew Journalist, Crew 172
My objectives for this MDRS analog simulation is to document as much of the mission as possible. My
role as journalist is to communication to the outside world about the importance of our mission.
Taking photos and videos, interviewing each crew member about their motivations and projects, and
eventually compiling all the mediums for distribution.
My goal from this analog mission is to leverage my MDRS experience to get back into journalism –
specifically Science & Space. Writing and covering the industry full time is my ultimate goal.
Person filling out Report: Anselm Wiercioch, XO
Summary Title: Endgame
Mission Status: Complete
Sol Activity Summary: Met and trained new crew, Prepared for departure
Look Ahead Plan: Return to Earth
Anomalies in work: None
Weather: High 45F, Low 21F, Humidity 28-60%, Wind avg 2mph, Gust
5.4mph, Clear and sunny
Crew Physical Status: Alive and well
Reports to be filed:
– Sol Summary
– Science Reports
– 6-8 Photos
– Operations Report
Today we officially concluded our mission activities. While research efforts in the GreenHab had impediments, the process provided insight on potential future improvements to growing facilities at MDRS as well as complications that may occur on Mars. Data collection pertaining to the Astronaut Obstacle Avoidance project was successful, and results may provide implications about spacesuit design and the potential for built-in interfaces in future spacesuits. Tomorrow we plan to spend the sol cleaning the facilities and will spend all of Sol 13 training the next crew before departure on the morning of Sol 14.
The past couple of weeks have been quite an adventure for all of us. We’ve become close and are grateful for having been a part of such a compatible group dynamic. Each of us brought a unique perspective, personality, and set of skills to the crew. We all did our share in keeping the Hab organized and functional, supporting mission objectives, and keeping each other well fed and entertained. Our experience here has provoked thought on the complications involved in a manned mission to Mars, both technical and psychological. We are thankful for being given this opportunity, and will never forget our unique experience at MDRS.
A Sol Summary, Engineering Report, Science Report, and photos will follow.
Commander, MDRS Crew 171 (SEDS)