MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION

Commander Report – January 15th

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 😉

Dr Michaela Musilová

Greenhab Report – January 13th

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.

 

Ad astra,

Patrick Gray – GreenHab Officer, Crew 172

Commander Report – January 8th

A weeks is gone.
The Hab is surrounding by snow and ice, since a couple of days. Although the landscape is stunning, this beautiful snow is a challange we are facing. I dare to say an emergency.
EVAs are not possible and a few projects are stocked. The soil is slippery and icy, even the engineering check is hard to perform. I am constantly reminding my Crew that safety has the priority.
A few might think that the life in an analogue environment is not that different,  probably just a stage to act as astrounats. Then, we have all the resources and emergencies are only part of the show.
This Society is organised to let us practice and training for the Mars mission. There are rules to respect but we must rely on our skills, otherwise we are missing the whole point fo the analogue missions. Self-discipline is a fundamental key in this expedition. My Crew is made of different talents and it is my responsibility to explain and teach them what to do in case of a real emergency.
Iced water has a lot of implications. Showers, washing up and cleaning are suspended; then, the water is frozen in the pipes, hence flushing and washing are suspended as well. And cooking is also affected.
Even though this Society is aware of that, I have set a few extra-rules to be sure we have enough drinkable water while we are waiting for the raining of temperature. Mission Support in helping us to control situation, as always.
Although this situation is critical, it helps us to get together as a unique entity. There are lots of rules and sometimes is hard for my Crew to keep up with everything. I was planning to simulate emergency but the snow change my schedule!
Facing a real emergency makes us feeling we are a really a team!Yesterday during the engineering check, we were so happy the pump of the water was fixed, that we celebrated it! There is no need to go very far away during EVA to find us, as Crew. Mars is always around.
My Crew is doing the best, above all now that they are asked to be very flexible in all the situations and leave their habits behind. A few of them change attitude and are working without too many reminders. Each of them knows what to do for the benefit of the overall mission. This is the positive side of the emergency!
I believe this is possible because of their personal goals  and because of my role. Commanders must lead every situation 24h/7 without creating panic in the Crew because they are our priority.
Ad Astra!
Ilaria Cinelli Commander

Commander Report – January 2nd

Sol 1
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
mission.
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
really exciting.
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.

Goals:
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
Mars.


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
ways.
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.

Sol Summary – December 31st

Crew 171

SOL: 13
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
EVA: None
Reports to be filed:
– Sol Summary
– Science Reports
– 6-8 Photos
– Operations Report
Support Requested
– None

Commander Report – December 29th

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.    

Ad Astra!

Alison Gibson

Commander, MDRS Crew 171 (SEDS)

Crew Photos – December 26th

Crew Biologist Sean turned 26 on Mars today and was treated to colorful decorations and a feast of desserts.

 

Terribly chasm-like.
Connor points majestically at the horizon.
Chief Scientist Connor prepares to place a time-lapse camera during an EVA
Beautiful scenery along this convenient Martian road. Mars would make an excellent rally stage.
The EVA heads for a nearby chasm.
The EVA crew pauses for a photo at the edge of the chasm.
Exploring the chasm on foot.
Beautiful scenery along this convenient Martian road. Mars would make an excellent rally stage.

Science Report – December 26th

Geology/Mars Climate Report: The camera that was on during the night to track stars ended up making a decent video and some stars were visible. I reprogrammed the camera and left it outside to take another exposure tonight. However, the camera will be pointed use above the horizon instead of straight up in the sky.

Another camera was repositioned to look due West toward the Lower Blue Hills and the sides of the cliffs.

 

Max/Min: Outdoor Temp – 20 F – 39 F

Outdoor Humidity – 22% – 53%

GreenHab Temp – 27 F – 93 F

GreenHAB Humidity – 18% – 32%

Barometer – 29.43 – 29.89 inHg

Wind – 5-10 mph, gust – 20 mph

Solar Rad. Max – 387.5 W/m^2

UV Index – 756 uW/cm^2

Recorded Precipitation today – 0.00 in

———————— —

Mars Self Sleep Study Report:

The new dynamic sleep schedule we set out to adhere to has broken down somewhat. I am now back to sleeping in one big chunk at night. Anselm has been taking a nap during  some of the days though.

Other sleep schedule ideas for Mars:

  1. Uberman Cycle = ~4 x 45 min naps at equal intervals throughout the day. Hardest for the body to adjust to initially. To slowly adopt this schedule you can gradually reduce your nightly chunk of sleep and replace part of that lost time with small naps. May only work for people that need 4 hours of regular sleep per night.
  1. Biphasic  Cycle = One chunk of sleep at night for ~4-5 hours followed by a nap during the day. This cycle has some research supporting its cognitive benefits.
  1. Daylight Cycle = This is a little different than the regular biphasic cycle but still involves two blocks. You are sleeping all at night when it is dark but your 8 hours total is broken up with a two hour awake/working period in the middle of the night.

Whatever gets the work done on Mars!!

——————————

Philosophy of Colonizing Mars Report:

The initial steps of mankind on Mars will be for scientific and exploratory purposes but eventually businesses and politicians will be mounting their campaign on the Red Planet as colonization continues. For example, how will land be divided on Mars and what will the long-term governmental structure look like?

At first there will be only a handful of people on the surface and as a crew they will be subject to mission objectives and goals from NASA and Earth-based institutions. However, as more and more people migrate to a city on Mars there will be autonomous political institutions which can act by themselves. In the long term future of Mars colonization, will cities and civilization emerge just as it has done on Earth? These are the aspects of Mars colonization that need to start being addressed now as they will become more and more critical over time.

Submitted by Connor Lynch – Crew Geologist/Astrophysicist

Commander Report – December 24th

Alison Gibson

Commander Report

24 Dec 2016 – Sol 6

Mission Support,

We’re officially halfway through our mission. While it started out feeling slow, the days are going by much quicker now that we’re accustomed to our Martian schedule. We have been looking forward to Christmas all week as a chance to take a break and relax. We each brought a wrapped mystery gift in order to have a Yankee Swap (a.k.a. White Elephant Gift Exchange) on Christmas Day. I think we’re all hoping to end up with a gift that can provide some sort of entertainment in the coming week. We have a few makeshift decorations around the Hab to help get us into the spirit. Happy Holidays!

With the help of Mission Support, we have resolved our internet connectivity issues. We’re all able to use the internet for approximately 3 hours a day before hitting our data limit, which seems to be sufficient for maintaining brief email communications with Earthlings and CapComm each evening. The facilities are all fully functional and crew spirits are high. We have a lot of work to do in the coming week to finish our mission goals, so will have a full schedules between the holiday and the end of the mission. We look forward to welcoming the next crew in a week.

A Sol Summary, Engineering Report, Science Report, and photos will follow.

Ad Astra per Aspera!

Alison Gibson

Commander, MDRS Crew 171 (SEDS)

Commander Report – December 21st

Alison Gibson
Commander Report
21 Dec 2016 – Sol 3

Mission Support,

We’ve been on Mars for 3 sols now, and are forming a strong crew
dynamic. Everyone is doing their best to ensure a productive and
successful mission. Three of us went on an EVA today (Connor, Anselm,
and myself) out to the Dinosaur Quarry to explore the area and get
comfortable on the rovers while suited up. It’s been a cold and cloudy
day, so the ride out and back was frigid. On our way out to the
quarry, we set our pack rat (Bernie) free in the middle of the Martian
desert. After returning, we all ate lunch together and discussed our
plans for baking holiday treats this weekend.

We are generally staying warm and hydrated; although, while the
facility issues have been addressed, we are disappointed with the
internet access. Many of us were relying on internet access to
complete tasks during our mission, and I personally need wi-fi to
complete my research project. We cannot receive email or even navigate
to a page on a browser about 90% of the time. This has made evening
communications with CapComm, Mission Support, and Shannon Rupert very
difficult. We also cannot track our package of mission patches or
flight suits without the internet. Due to access settings put in place
by the previous Crew Commander, we cannot utilize the other two
routers at all. We’ve been monitoring our bandwidth, have turned off
all Bluetooth devices, taken turns using our computers, and reset the
router numerous times. Nothing has helped. This issue is causing
seriously impediments to our mission goals, and we hope there is a way
to resolve it with the help of Mission Support.

A Sol Summary, Engineering Report, HSO Report, Science Report, and
photos will follow. There is also an EVA Request for Sol 4.

Thank you for the weather report and your support.

Respectfully submitted,

Alison Gibson
Commander, MDRS Crew 171