MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION

XO Report – April 26th

Crew 179 XO’s Report 04.26.2017
Sol 3

There is nothing like a Martian sunrise.

The crew got up a little earlier than usual and were treated to a crimson solar breach over the red desert outside the Hab. Photos through the portholes never do it justice but always provide a warm reminder at some point when you look at them again.

Morning lectures started on time at 08:00 and covered radiation and visual impairment in space. EVA mission brief was at 10:00. The objectives of today’s mission were to establish a comms relay south of the Hab at Tim’s (or Thomas) peak and to test Mars Mound and 3 other test relay sites due south of that location. The mission proceeded well with Tim’s Peak relay established with Mars Mound and test site 1 and 2. Time constraints resulted in aborting the search for test site 3. On the return, one crew member suffered a serious injury which precipitated a delta evacuation to base. The team arrived at Hab with casualty at mission time + 25 minutes with all team members on oxygen reserve. Patient was stabilized in Hab by the medical team. The EVA (sim) was terminated when patient was stable inside the Hab. Debrief has held afterwards over another Rick Cole special meal: enchilizza (an enchilada with pizza toppings). Strange, yet delicious.

In terms of the debrief itself, we felt the team performed well under the circumstances with good initial relay and exploration of test sites as well as prompt medical evacuation and treatment of the casualty.

Some fine tuning of our approach was made during the debrief. After the debrief we continued with lectures with ‘Virtual Dana’ giving two lectures: contingencies on EVAs in Mars environment and spatial adaptation in zero gravity and space flight.

During the virtual lectures, we received a priority message from Shannon. She informed us that the water delivery person had run off with a woman ‘from Venus’ and was non-contactable. She stepped up and went to fill the water and delivered it to us. We duly informed her that she was our Obi-Wan and was indeed “our only hope.” It’s a relief to know that our water situation has been resolved.

Following VD’s (Virtual Dana’s) lectures Sarah led several (punishing) exercise sessions which earned her the monicker, Sarah Connor (of ‘Terminator’ fame).

Of note, CO Ben appears to be having some difficulty with color differentiation in the yellow-orange spectrum. We are hoping that this is a transient visual condition. He has no other symptoms of note, but we will continue to monitor him.

In the evening, we were treated to a great potatoes-au-gratin courtesy of Kevin and Adam. To feed the holes left by Sarah Connor’s (punishing) workouts we had a few supplementary side plates of tuna cheese wraps which hit the spot.

The plan for the evening is a group discussion of an excerpt from Bryan Burrough’s ‘Dragonfly’ and then chocolate brownies… of course.

XO Report – April 25th

Crew 179 XO Report: 04.25.2017 SOL 2
 
It was an early start for the crew after a somewhat chilly night (with Ben downstairs suffering the brunt of it.)  After breakfast, we assembled at approximately 09:00 for lectures on Decompression Syndromes and Urological Problems in Space.  After which we were briefed for our second EVA.  It was a complex mission with three main objections and one ‘get-ahead’ task.  The first mission was to locate the crash site of a Chinese satellite and retrieve the remains of the canine passenger that was launched aboard it.  The second objective was to locate the satellite relay station and test its function.  The third objective was to collect geological samples of three rock types from a rock fall drainage.  The ‘get-ahead’ task was to test comms from Ambush Alley and a nearby hill.  (We had also one conservation ‘too-cute’ task of releasing the resident martian life form which was live trapped in the Hab last night-a.k.a. pack rat- back into the desert.)  Kevin was lead and took the team through this complex mission which overall went well.  (EVA start 11:30).  The first three objectives were achieved and the ‘get-ahead’ task was aborted due to medical issues with the team doctor, Alicia.  She had experienced progressive back and hip pain.  
 
Despite the absence of an obvious leak in her suit, decompression illness could not be out-ruled so a delta evacuation was called and the ‘get ahead’ task was aborted.  We returned to the Hab at approximately 13:20 with the patient and she was evaluated in-suit after repress and then in sick bay.  Graded opening of her suit was performed and full physical exam done after suit was doffed.  Ultrasound ultimately showed a left kidney stone and the diagnosis of renal colic eventually given.  A treatment plan of oral NSAID and IM opiod was prescribed. The EVA (sim) was concluded and we debriefed over ‘breakfast-as-lunch’ which consisted of blueberry pancakes, eggs, Spam, and hashbrowns courtesy of ‘chef de mission’- Rick Cole.  Gastronomic delight aside, we were able identify several issues with our EVA today from the debrief, namely: communication etiquette, adherence to tasks, off-nominal ops (i.e. hard landing of drone today in high winds making it non-functional and unavailable for further use), and visual identification of crew members by role while on EVAs.  We made a team decision to revisit these issues in a separate meeting this evening after dinner.
 
(By the way, in case anyone is interested: our conservation mission was successful.  The mouse was returned safely to the wild.)
 
At 15:00 hours, we were treated to a few more lectures: Capsule Landing in Water, Atmospheric Conditions and Toxicology, Study on Congestion and Headache Correlates in Space.
 
The Hab water situation was discussed after lecture as we appear to be pretty close to our last indoor tank full.  The plan is to pump the outside tank to max out the indoor tank and try to press Sharon to expedite the water delivery.  Failing this we will need to decide whether or not to slowly dry up like prunes and be buried under piles of our own festering dishes (true to sim) or possibly break sim and collect water from Hanksville.  If we learned nothing else from today, space if full of complex decisions.
 
Crew physical training is scheduled before dinner to be led by Sarah, crew fitness trainer.
Submitted by Dana Levin, Crew 179 XO

3D Printer Activity Timelapse Video

Creative Report – January 21st

Mars money
By Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist Crew 173
Is it really Saturday already? It’s hard to imagine that only a week ago we arrived at MDRS, and that we are essentially halfway through our time here. It’s all going too fast and yet in other ways, it feels like we have always been here. Our lives back on Earth seem a lifetime away now. Roy went looking for something in his room last night and came across some US currency and brought it out to show us.
Money. So strange now, when you look at it on Mars. Only seven days ago back on Earth, we couldn’t do any-thing without money. Breakfast $10.00. Batteries $4.00. Coffee to go $3.00. Now we can do nothing with it. Except perhaps to rub some mud off your boots as you re-enter the airlock post-EVA.
That’s the interesting thing about being here on Mars. When you strip your daily routine back to simply surviving the elements and completing the daily tasks, life gets a whole lot easier. And you can’t help but reflect on life back on Earth. And all the stuff. The hoards of books, that I probably haven’t opened in years, the wardrobe of clothes, shoes, and odds and sods, bed linen, bed, carpets, cushions, throws, scented candles, bicycles, houses, meetings, cafes, office blocks, buses, trains. All useless here.
High-value products on Mars: thermals, boots, camera, internet, ATVs, heat, the solar generator, water, a functioning toilet, food. Chocolate. And coffee. Lots of coffee. Tinfoil, to cover our plates at mealtimes, and cut down on washing up. Movie night. Sunrise. Sunsets. The spice drawer. Laughter. Sharing stories. The crew. That’s our currency now.
Irish culture night went alright. The Shepherds pie got eaten, which is a good sign I think. We had a guessing game about pronouncing some Irish names, which is always difficult for non-native ‘gaelgoirs’ (people who speak Irish). And ‘Pass the Pigs’ continues to entertain, or frustrate, in equal measure!
I hope our next 7 days ahead are just as challenging and rewarding as the week we just put down. And then it will be time to return to Earth. Back to money. And bedlinen, and carpets, and buses and office blocks. And also to family.
CREW 173
SIGNING OFF
by Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist

Creative Report – January 13th

When you are on Mars… a short note after my 92 sols’ “mission”

By Anushree Srivastava

Crew Biologist – Mars 160 Twin Desert-Arctic Analog Mission

Executive Officer and Crew Biologist – Crew 172

 

You are on Mars.

When you are on Mars, life is unpredictable (just like on Earth, but on Mars, it’s a little bit more). I have always written about the beauty of this place; how those small portholes of our Martian cylindrical home let us gaze the surreal backdrop, make us immerse into our own sense of awe and appreciation. How our home stands tall against all the oddities of Mars. Living in this place, sometimes you feel that you are getting interviewed by your own sensibilities. You think that you are searching Mars, but instead, Mars searches you.  I felt so. Why? because, it showed me, a new me (I keep saying that).  It gave me space (but outside the small habitat 🙂 to emerge beyond me. That’s true.  Even inside the hab, it gives you a wide space (really!!). I mean a wide space inside the very you. You learn to stabilize your emotional fluctuations by inevitably diving into the situational intricacies. Actually, it is a subtle process. And on Mars, you love being in this process, because then, you can see, that you are growing.

But, while witnessing all these nuances of living on Mars, something else dawns on to you at the same time. You come to know that Mars limits your extensions in so many ways. These limitations are accompanied by the fact that “it’s Mars, not Earth” – obviously 🙂 What I mean to say here, is that sometimes you feel helpless in absence of required supplies, breakdown of a system, inconsistencies in the communications and coordination with the team based on Earth, merciless whether preventing you from exploration and many more. As I said, because it is Mars, not Earth. It will pose its extremeness on you in some way or the others. You may think that we do have similar limitations on Earth, but they may not be curbed as swiftly and feasibly on Mars, as on Earth. Encountering these limitations is also part of this process of humans going beyond the human frailties – on Mars – I think. You rise. This transition is important. When you are on Mars, it may not be a picture perfect. And, when it is not, you have to live with it. So when you have all these lemons, you definitely learn to make good lemonade J

Here, my words are carrying the reflections of my own experiences during a long-term SIMULATION. I have not been on Mars, of course J but if ever I am part of a real Mars mission, I think these experiences will foster my time there.

Thee go to Mars, when Mars calls thee

 

SRIVASTAVA

MARS 160 AND CREW 172

SIGNING OFF

 

Figure 1: (Image Credit: Anastasiya Stepanova – Crew HSO Mars160)

Creative Report – January 11th

My Sol 86 – “HabCom, HabCom, This is EVA Team… Over” – An unforgettable EVA

By Anushree Srivastava

Crew Biologist – Mars160 Twin Desert-Arctic Analog Mission

Executive Officer and Crew Biologist – Crew 172

 

It was Sol 86. Actually, for Crew 172, it was Sol 6, but I would call it Sol 86 because for me this mission is an important continuation of Mars160 science operations. So, we all woke up at 7 am and got ready for breakfast by 7:30 am. This was going to be a busy Sol for me because at 8:30 am, I was supposed to meet with an Earth-based Microbiologist Dr. Rebecca Merica and in the afternoon I was to be part of an Engineering EVA. So, after about 2 hours meeting with Dr. Merica, I performed my cleaning duties both in the Science Dome (which my crewmates call “Anushree’s Lab”. And I love it :), and the lower deck.  We had rehydrated spinach pasta with quinoa in lunch at about 12 pm. After one and a half hour, we started Space Nap wearing a mask as part of Photic Sleep Enhancement study in simulated Mars mission. Space Nap usually lasts half an hour. We woke up at 2 pm and started gearing up for the EVA.

The EVA team consisted of Troy Cole, our Crew Engineer, Patrick Gray, our Green Hab Officer, and I. This EVA was basically focused on the routine engineering check. We usually consider the engineering EVAs – short and sweet, but after this EVA, our Crew Engineer Troy (a person who talks to himself and we call him Mr. Helpful because he can fix almost everything 🙂 decided to stop calling it so J The reason is interesting, believe me!

As soon as we got ready in our spacesuits, we did the radio check and commenced three minutes depressurization inside the EVA airlock. After three minutes, we egressed the habitat, being oblivious of the fact that the 15 minutes EVA is going to be the two hours procedure. We opened the front hatch and exposed to a beautiful milky white landscape, entirely covered with a sheet of snow.  The temperature outside was as low as minus 5 degrees C. So, we started with diesel and propane level check and notified the HabCom Nicholas McCay, who is our Crew Journalist.  After finishing the fuel check, we proceeded to the water tanks. We were supposed to check the present level of water in the static tank. The static tank is the source from which the water is pumped to the loft tank inside the habitat for daily usage. First, we were not able to see the level of water inside the static tank because our helmets were fogged up due to the extremely cold temperature outside (sometimes we get icicles formed inside our helmets). But anyways, we had to perform our duties as EVA team as best we could. Somehow, we managed to see the level of water and notified the HabCom.  The water in the static tank was supposed to be transferred to the loft tank. However, we found the pipe attached to the pump as well as the pipe that goes inside the hab was completely frozen and blocked. Now, the adventure began!

During all that, we were constantly in conversation with our HabCom through radio transmission.  We decided to break the ice inside out the pipe, somehow. We requested HabCom to provide us few tools and equipment, such as hammer and screwdriver. One by one, we all three tried our hands with these tools. We were succeeding. However, the ice inside the pipe was still as hard as a rock. We thought only hammering and scraping will not work and we need some hot water to melt the ice. We had to be cautious to not to damage the pipe in this process as well. So, we requested a bucket of hot water.  Usually, engineering airlock (rear hatch) is used for these operations.  Once we received the hot water we started pouring it inside out the pipe many rounds. It took us 20-25 minutes. But, to our delight, it worked! Little chunks of ice remained in the pipe, but we decided to attach the pipe back and tell the HabCom to turn on the pump to see if it works. We did the same.  But as soon as the pump was on, pipe got detached and thrown away by the flow. It was not screwed properly (our helmets were fogged up and barely could we see anything). So, we lost almost a bucket of water, which means a lot on Mars. We told the HabCom to stop the pump immediately. We repeated the procedure but this time with a great care. In the meantime, I noticed that one of the pipes attached to Patrick’s oxygenator got dysfunctional. So, again our Crew Engineer Troy – Mr. Helpful – stepped in and fixed his suit on spot!

The pump was about to on and we crossed our fingers. This time, it worked! Buuut… we found a leakage in the pipe. Complications seemed to be unending. We had to stop the pump again and requested duct tape and scissor. We secured the pipe with the duct tape and turned on the pump.

Finally, our “operation water” was successful!

I would say this EVA was the best example of a great team work. I had been part of many such EVAs when I put myself into precarious situations and challenged my physical and mental strength; having said that, this EVA gave me a new perspective of living on Mars. I learned that on Mars, you are not just a scientist, an engineer, a doctor, or a journalist. On Mars, you have to be everything. It’s not only about performing herculean tasks or conducting field science, but also, using the presence of mind to solve household puzzles. It is also about taking care of your home and ensuring a smooth life for the people living inside that home.

On Mars, you may not have similar issues but your attitude towards those issues would have to be the same. I think that’s the essence of being part of a simulation.

When we entered back into the front hatch for re-pressurization, our Crew Engineer Troy (Mr Helpful) screamed with joy – “Oh I got a new job! Now I’m a plumber as well!” 🙂

Creative Report – January 10th

My Sol 86 – “HabCom, HabCom, This is EVA Team… Over” – An unforgettable EVA

By Anushree Srivastava
Crew Biologist – Mars160 Twin Desert-Arctic Analog Mission
Executive Officer and Crew Biologist – Crew 172

 

It was Sol 86. Actually, for Crew 172, it was Sol 6, but I would call it Sol 86 because for me this mission is an important continuation of Mars160 science operations. So, we all woke up at 7 am and got ready for breakfast by 7:30 am. This was going to be a busy Sol for me because at 8:30 am, I was supposed to meet with an Earth-based Microbiologist Dr Rebecca Merica and in the afternoon I was to be part of an Engineering EVA. So, after about 2 hours meeting with Dr Merica, I performed my cleaning duties both in the Science Dome (which my crewmates call “Anushree’s Lab”. And I love it :), and the lower deck.  We had rehydrated spinach pasta with quinoa in lunch at about 12 pm. After one and a half hour, we started Space Nap wearing a mask as part of Photic Sleep Enhancement study in simulated Mars mission. Space Nap usually lasts half an hour. We woke up at 2 pm and started gearing up for the EVA.

The EVA team consisted of Troy Cole, our Crew Engineer, Patrick Gray, our Green Hab Officer, and I. This EVA was basically focused on the routine engineering check. We usually consider the engineering EVAs – short and sweet, but after this EVA, our Crew Engineer Troy (a person who talks to himself and we call him Mr Helpful because he can fix almost everything 🙂 decided to stop calling it so J The reason is interesting, believe me!

As soon as we got ready in our spacesuits, we did the radio check and commenced three minutes depressurization inside the EVA airlock. After three minutes, we egressed the habitat, being oblivious of the fact that the 15 minutes EVA is going to be the two hours procedure. We opened the front hatch and exposed to a beautiful milky white landscape, entirely covered with a sheet of snow.  The temperature outside was as low as minus 5 degrees C. So, we started with diesel and propane level check and notified the HabCom Nicholas McCay, who is our Crew Journalist.  After finishing the fuel check, we proceeded to the water tanks. We were supposed to check the present level of water in the static tank. The static tank is the source from which the water is pumped to the loft tank inside the habitat for daily usage. First, we were not able to see the level of water inside the static tank because our helmets were fogged up due to the extremely cold temperature outside (sometimes we get icicles formed inside our helmets). But anyways, we had to perform our duties as EVA team as best we could. Somehow, we managed to see the level of water and notified the HabCom.  The water in the static tank was supposed to be transferred to the loft tank. However, we found the pipe attached to the pump as well as the pipe that goes inside the hab was completely frozen and blocked. Now, the adventure began!

During all that, we were constantly in conversation with our HabCom through radio transmission.  We decided to break the ice inside out the pipe, somehow. We requested HabCom to provide us few tools and equipment, such as hammer and screw driver. One by one, we all three tried our hands with these tools. We were succeeding. However, the ice inside the pipe was still as hard as a rock. We thought only hammering and scraping will not work and we need some hot water to melt the ice. We had to be cautious to not to damage the pipe in this process as well. So, we requested a bucket of hot water.  Usually, engineering airlock (rear hatch) is used for these operations.  Once we received the hot water we started pouring it inside out the pipe many rounds. It took us 20-25 minutes. But, to our delight, it worked! Little chunks of ice were remained in the pipe, but we decided to attach the pipe back and tell the HabCom to turn on the pump to see if it works. We did the same.  But as soon as the pump was on, pipe got detached and thrown away by the flow. It was not screwed properly (our helmets were fogged up and barely could we see anything). So, we lost almost a bucket of water, which means a lot on Mars. We told the HabCom to stop the pump immediately. We repeated the procedure but this time with a great care. In the meantime, I noticed that one of the pipes attached to Patrick’s oxygenator got dysfunctional. So, again our Crew Engineer Troy – Mr Helpful – stepped in and fixed his suit on spot!

The pump was about to on and we crossed our fingers. This time, it worked! Buuut… we found a leakage in the pipe. Complications seemed to be unending. We had to stop the pump again and requested duct tape and scissor. We secured the pipe with the duct tape and turned on the pump.

Finally, our “operation water” was successful!

I would say this EVA was the best example of a great team work. I had been part of many such EVAs when I put myself into precarious situations and challenged my physical and mental strength; having said that, this EVA gave me a new perspective of living on Mars. I learned that on Mars, you are not just a scientist, an engineer, a doctor, or a journalist. On Mars, you have to be everything. It’s not only about performing herculean tasks or conducting field science, but also, using the presence of mind to solve household puzzles. It is also about taking care of your home and ensuring a smooth life for the people living inside that home.

On Mars, you may not have similar issues but your attitude towards those issues would have to be the same. I think that’s the essence of being part of a simulation.

When we entered back into the front hatch for re-pressurization, our Crew Engineer Troy (Mr Helpful) screamed with joy – “Oh I got a new job! Now I’m a plumber as well!” 🙂