Creative Report – March 9th

CREW 223 – 08/03/2020 Art Report – Aurélien Mure

What a hard job for a scientist/engineer like me to let the hidden artist take some space.

Photography can be a good bridge from technicality to art. I have started it a few months ago and it is really pleasant to see my progress. The technical aspect of photography is the first barrier but not too hard for me, considering my profile. Digging into art, personality and inspiration is a much harder task. I started with classical photos, wide angle, low modification in post treatment. MDRS campus is an amazing field of improvement for a beginner. The interesting subjects are so numerous that at some point I feel inspired to capture the essence of a scene.

To start with technical details, I use an old Canon EOS 1100D. I have a basic 18-55mm lens and a zoom. I like to work on deep pictures with multiple angles. That is why I use a 75/300mm zoom lens. I like how it emphasizes the details of an object like here with a dark picture of our battery test for the suits. I was working with Luc on the suits for a while and taking time to play with lights during the test charging phase helped me to enjoy the moment shared with Luc.

In EVA, it is not easy to frame the objects as I do not have always a direct view in my pointer. That is why well framed pictures are rare and then rewarding.

It’s hard not to be focused at 100% on moving moments and take time to think about the camera.

I am not satisfied with the lights and color results of the picture but I like the way it underlines the feelings of the situation as 222 and 223 prepared the mission all together, as a group of 14 friends instead of two 7 members crews.

In contrast to unveil the reality, photography can create the illusion, can make people think in front of a picture. Looks like a satellite view of dunes but in fact the whole picture covers less than 50x50cm. Once the reality fades away, the door is opened for the imaginary to give life to objects.

I did not notice at the first sight the shape of a turtle in the rock and it is through the camera that I saw it. I chose the best angle to make this turtle live and the result is satisfying.

I learned how to be ready, to react and observe. I wanted to show respect to the nature as I have to introduce to the public the beauty and fragility of the campus biodiversity without disturbing it. I cannot ask an antelope to pose for me and I cannot move a plant if the light configuration is not optimal.

Taking picture can be seen from the outside as a risk not to enjoy the moment, not to be here at 100%. But I truly disagree, it is a way both to feel things and to think beyond what we see. It makes me able to be focused on the scene, to take a step back on what I am currently experiencing and to dive deep into imagination and interpretation. I love to enhance the poor but amazing biodiversity of the campus.

I quickly realized that my best pictures, or the ones I prefer are those who play with alignment and geometry. For my first EVA I captured the alignment of the suits, which is satisfying for the eyes. I tried to take interesting angles, to find the hidden alignments and to play with perspective. It is helping me focusing in EVA, staying alert. I use LightRoom to work on the pictures to enhance the colors or the light. I try not to use it too much not to modify the experience I am living.

This is not something I would have done with my 206 mission, but I am truly happy to try a creative report. It made me think about my way of taking picture and I helped me defining my one style. I did not notice that I was found of geometrical alignment before writing this down. In a context of confinement, opening my mind out of the daily routine to take a step back on our experience here.

Jérémy, my commander at that time gave me the will to start photography, and I want to thank him warmly for that.

Creative Report Oct 22nd

Crew 197 – Special Report on HAL system – Sol 1 – October 22, 2018

HAL was a system created by Judd Reed, a former Director of Engineering of the MDRS project. It consisted of a laptop with a custom software stack which the early MDRS crews used to monitor their bandwidth, plan out EVAs, check the weather, and write their crew reports in a standard format. It was also intended to automate the crew report process.

Over the years, HAL fell into disuse because it was not being actively maintain, and at some point it stopped working and the laptop was lost. Judd Reed provided me the source code of HAL and I attempted to recruit volunteers to revise and maintain it. Several people suggested starting fresh with a Raspberry Pi-based solution using modern technologies. RPi is a very low cost linux-based computer that can run all modern applications and software stacks.

Starting in 2017, I began working with Josh Baldwin, Matt Hopson and (later) Ryan Watson to create a new HAL solution, including both hardware and software. What we have today is a custom-built Raspberry Pi powered touchscreen that will be wall-mounted and also has a standard monitor, keyboard, and mouse plugged into it.

Our crew and future crews can use the HAL system to write their daily reports and also for general productivity such as web browsing and office documents. The wall-mounted display is intended to show the most important information that the crew needs to be successful including their current bandwidth usage, their daily schedule, current time (Mountain and UTC) down to the second, current weather
conditions, and finally notifications from MarsChat which is a new time-delayed chat application we are also testing out as part of Crew 197.

An early concept image of HAL is visible on this Marspedia web page:

Future crew reports will have a photo or two of the HAL system in operation.

– James Burk, Executive Officer, MDRS Crew 197

Creative Report – February 1st

MDRS Crew 188 Creative Report 01FEB2018

Homo Ludens: Training for a Martian Olympiad.

Author’s name: Dr. Sarah Jane Pell @Aquabatics

As the MDRS Crew 188 artist-in-residence, I actively champion the support and integration of working tolerances for play and performance within mission architectures and EVA simulations. In preparing for this mission, I initiated a challenge to the ISU Crew 188 for the training and preparation for a Martian Olympiad event at MDRS to coincide with the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics on 09 Feb 2018. Prior research shows that play and performance is beneficial for individual physical and psycho-spiritual health and crew wellbeing on Earth. Future crews on Mars will be no exception.

Today MDRS Crew 188 – EVA 4 with Julia De Marinares, Dr. Ryan Kobrick, and I (Dr. Sarah Jane Pell) designed a series of tasks specifically for the purpose of encouraging exertion and teamwork [See EVA and Journalist report]. We discussed the parallels between training for an Olympic event, and training for a Mars Mission. During the pre-flight phase, Astronaut candidates undertake training for the acquisition and development of prerequisite physiological, psychological, psycho-spatial and human-factor benchmarks to perform in space, and manage pre-flight expectations. During pre-performance phases, Athletes undertake a parallel journey in the lead-up to a world-class performance event like the Olympiad. Pre-flight is a time for the rehearsal of the time-tagged performance maneuvers, learning NomOp, and balancing expectations. Astronauts also learn from the questions arising about the temporal proximity required for relating live action and collective action between positions, locations and communication networks, real and illusory, in the altered gravity environment of space. For example, practical Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) or spacewalk training prepares the candidates for new space/spatiality. Today, our EVA prepared for the marathon tasks of a long-walk with equipment, a mountain summit and safe decent, another long walk, and a ball game testing coordination, concentration and response-time after our exertion. The exercise was physically demanding as we anticipated, but our team-work, problem-solving, cooperation rather than competition, outlook and sense of adventure and fun, made it the best day out on the surface of Mars yet!

Here are my plans for experimenting with the Insta360 Pro over the MDRS Crew 188 mission:

(a) 31-JAN2018
Total Lunar Eclipse 360 Video 8K Panorama

(d) 03-FEB2018 (f) 05-FEB2018
Extra Vehicular Activity [EVA] Rover/ATVs – Maintaining Batteries 360 Video 4K

(b) 01-FEB2018 (e) 04-FEB2018 (g) 06-FEB2018
Spacesuit Glove Validation 360 Video 6K 3D

(c) 02-FEB2018
Green Lab, Hydroponics 8K Photo 3D Time-Lapse

(h) 07-FEB2018
Mars Desert Research Station 360 Photo 4/6/8K 3D/Pano

(b) 01-FEB2018 (j) 09-FEB2018
Martian Olympiad – training & opening ceremony 360 Video 6/8K 3D/Pano

(a) 02-FEB2018 (i) 08-FEB2018
Performing Astronautics – experimentation 360 Video 6/8K 3D/Pano

We respect that forms of play and performance in space differ from Earth-based activities due to the unique aspects of human-space physiology, perception and environment. Back at the MDRS Habitat, conversations continued with Engineer Zac Trolley about the challenge of sharing that kind of experience in the moment of discovery with an audience or end user so encourage them to want to take up the spirit of exploration, like a mantle, and to conceive of a life beyond Earth. We discussed how returning Astronauts go through a process of Space-Earth Adaptation. The encumbrances of returning to Earth including sources of stress such as gravity, motion, obstacles to and facilitators of adequate coping, changes in social interaction, the role of temporal factors relating to mission objectives quickly fade. After experience-rich engagements in space, post-flight Astronauts fill autobiographical accounts with a lingering sense of adventure and accomplishment, enjoyment and fulfillment. But in the many-to-many information-filled world, we had to find a new form, and a new story, to transform the lives of those who may not yet have the spark and fervor for space exploration. We talked about the inspiring works of game-developer and Astronaut Richard Garriott and his investment in SpaceVR. We are now exploring the potential for our Crew to play a role in developing a VR product.

Trolley reminds me that nothing we do here at MDRS is in isolation. Everything plays a role in the advanced life-support system sustaining us: even outreach activities, as simple as a game of catch, and a recorded conversation on the couch. My creative research today follows on from my prior collaboration with Prof. Florian Mueller of the RMIT Exertion Games Lab, however here I am specifically interested in how the applied results from these encounters may inform the design of terrestrial space adaptation strategies to address a range of conditions of spaceflight, and space habitability. Additionally, the 8K 3D 360 capture of our Mars Olympiad activities with the Insta360 Pro will be developed in collaboration with A/Prof. David Barns, Director of the Monash Immersive Visualization Platform, and it may lead to a VR experience. What we are looking for now, is the classic story arc, that helps us frame the experience for broader audiences, and helps to inspire our generation to reach Mars. That is why we are here. [end]

Creative Report – January 31st

MDRS Crew 188 Creative Report 31/01/2018

Bending Horizons: Eclipsed by technology, Enchanted by nature.

Author’s name: Dr. Sarah Jane Pell

This brief report is an acknowledgment to thank all of Crew 188, Mission Support, the Mars Society, Monash Immersive Visualisation Plaform, and project partners with their support for helping facilitate the live stream of the Super Blood Blue Moon Total Lunar Eclipse from the Mars Desert Research Station.

The Mars Society prepared a custom rtmp:// link for the live stream of the event, however the Solar storm reduced the data uplink from Mars to 1Mbps, when the lowest setting on the camera array was 4Mbps – however optimal was 50Mbps. I am very grateful for my crew and all those who tried to provide solutions to circumvent the limitations we had to work with.

The Insta360 Pro did however successfully capture the following data in 4K panorama video:

04:39:04 (MST) for 59:58.

An anomaly caused the system to go off-line, resuming at

05:42:37 (MST) for 22:03.

The data will need to be post-processed with custom-software, but I cannot wait to share it with you. It was an absolutely enchanting experience. Nature trumps all technology. We must remember that. Human-environmental interactions cannot never be replaced by our investment in human-digital interfaces…but that said, I’m sure the VR experience will share something of the majesty of this night.

Recorded stills and video will be available for collaborative purposes from mid-February from the artist, and Monash Immersive Visualisation Platform.

Please see attached a 4K pano photo of me in the Science Dome at 3:33am.

Creative Report – January 30th

MDRS Crew 188 Creative Report 30/01/2018

Bending Horizons: 4K 360 Live Stream Blue Moon Total Lunar Eclipse Author’s name: Dr. Sarah Jane Pell

I am very grateful that the Mars Society has a dedicated role for the artist-in-residence. As an experienced simulation astronaut and Crew 188 artist-in-residence, I have championed that “Every Space Project Needs an Artist” since attending ISU in 2006. Prior research has shown that an artist-astronaut in analogue simulations generates a unique feedback loop of research, invention, publication and application. With a background in extreme performance research, I will draw upon an established practice-as-research-in-performance [PARIP] methodology refined for high-risk operational environments, and hope to design opportunities for experimentation and collaboration to contribute a critical cultural and aesthetic suite of responses to the MDRS analogue experience.

In preparing for this mission, I began with thinking about new tools for artist-astronauts in the 21st century. In looking forwards, I glimpsed back to reference the long tradition of expeditionary artists and revolutionaries that shape my current view. Humans have carried tools with them to trace/track/mark the experience as an exercise in understanding what they see, and to share the mysteries and
discoveries of the journey with those to whom they return or discover along the way, and for future generations to learn from. Humans have also been curious and resourceful: they test and hack whatever resources they can find or use in-situ; and often reflect on the crew/tribe/species interactions to tell the human stories and our insatiable desire to understand our reason for being. Surely this is no different now that we have entered the era as a space-faring species. But what new approaches will we adapt for permanent settlement on Mars?

My MDRS Crew 188 project “Bending Horizons 360” is supported by Monash University with the provision of the Insta360 Pro Camera and collaborative partnership with the Monash Immersive Visualisation Platform [MIVP]. The aim is two-fold: firstly to support
collaborations with fellow crew researching EVA spacesuit validation, environmental interactions, science and engineering engagement, human factors and performance research. Secondly, to produce speculative fiction short films, new 3D artifacts and novel expressions of video data. In this light, I have packed novel – seemingly whimsical – play and performance tools into the mix: multi-coloured bubble light sabers, coloured post-it notes, costume masks, drawing tools such as the boogie board, whistles, sounds-tracks from nature… but more about that later.

It is only SOL-2 and I am really impressed with the Insta360 Pro capabilities and the potential for exquisite data capture and creative experimentation. At 8K resolution, 360 images are finally immersion- and production-level quality. MIVP’s camera, the InstaPro 360, can:

stream live 4K 2D and 3D video in H.264 and H.265 formats;
capture 8K 2D and 3D stills;
capture 8K 2D video; and
capture 6K 3D video.

The Insta360 has surround audio, real-time image stabilisation, and can be controlled from Mac, Windows or iOS devices. Images and video can be embedded on websites, viewed interactively on mobile devices, explored with VR headsets, and displayed in the Monash CAVE2. Recorded stills and video will be available for collaborative purposes from mid-February from the artist, and Monash Immersive Visualisation Platform.

Today, I used the Insta360 Pro to capture a panorama video in the Science Lab with MDRS Crew 188 Astronomer Julia De Marines. We introduced our first “Sci-Art” collaborative challenge to capture the Super Blue Blood Moon Total Lunar Eclipse from the perspective of MDRS observatory. The Insta360 Pro will be used to capture a unique perspective of astronomical phenomena – also known as the Snow Moon or the Hunger Moon – from within the spectacularly emotive Mars analogue site.

Tune in to the Mars Society YouTube site at 4:44 AM MST for live coverage of the Total Lunar Eclipse in 4K 360 Panorama from the MDRS Utah, USA.

Partial eclipse begins, Jan 31, 2018 at 4:48 am – Direction 266° Altitude 30.5°

Total eclipse begins, Jan 31, 2018 at 5:51 am – Direction 275° Altitude 18.5°

Maximum: Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 6:29 am – Direction 281° Altitude 11.9° : 1.32 Magnitude

We anticipate the Moon will set behind the MDRS Martian landscape by 6:33 am.

Tonight, I keep in mind the words of Astronaut Ron Garan and his work encapsulated by a book, The Orbital Perspective that movingly explains the impact of such a perspective shift—one that by no means occurs for every astronaut – and how that perspective is vital to solving some of the worlds grand challenges such as water, energy, poverty, education and conservation. As I share in the human experience of the Blue Moon Lunar Eclipse from the perspective of a Mars Analogue, I am conscious of all that I embody and how the artist’s role becomes a tool in itself to promote a collaborative, trans-disciplinary, creative and transparent approach to problem solving, reflection, imagination, desire and story-telling. An artists’ tool kit needs to be as sophisticated enough to support a transcendent pathway to the discovery of our human existence, and practical enough to extend the simplicity of my gestures in time, here and now under constrained simulation conditions, to reflect upon our collective whole. Here at MDRS we represent a microcosmic parallel to the entire planetary system. We are 6 people in a very small station in a seemingly vast Martian landscape: but a blip in the abyss of space beyond.

Tonight we prepare to enjoy the Blue Moon and Total Lunar Eclipse from the MDRS as an interdisciplinary, international, intercultural and united ISU Crew 188. We would like to thank the support of the Mars Society for hosting a special live YouTube “Event”, Dr. Shannon Rupert, Director of the MDRS for her support with the MDRS telescope and observatory, and the MDRS Mission Control for their role in enabling the infrastructure supporting the research objectives of the MDRS Crew 188.

The University of South Australia, hosts of the International Space University Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program, generously supports Dr. Pell’s participation in MDRS Crew 188. Outcomes will innovate on countermeasure design, initiate platforms for cultural arts engagement, and offer a critical and an embodied evaluation of commercial space life support system and future visions for Australia in space, and excellence in the teaching and learning experience.

Dr. Sarah Jane Pell’s MDRS research forms part of an Australia Council Fellowship project titled Performing Astronautics. Explored in parallel phases combining: 1) instrumental/speculative and 2) operational/performative experimentation and exploration through participation in space analogue training and human spaceflight mission simulations, the artist astronaut builds skills and transfers black sky thinking with transdisciplinary teams. For more information see:

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