Journalist Report – January 13th

Title: Country Roads, take me home…

Author: Oscar Ivan Ojeda Ramirez

Extract from Commander’s log, Sol 1

We’re finally here. After months of preparation, planning, after rising expectations, we’ve made it. Those alien-like red hills, and geometric shapes of cylinders, hemispheres, and cubes, worthy of a Dali painting, are finally a real place, a place to call home. A whole mission is now ahead of us, a mission full of challenges and rewards, of personal and professional growth, and at the end of it, we expect to come back home to share what we learned, so that others may follow the path.

We venture into the unknown not just to discover it, "it", but most importantly to discover ourselves. Ourselves as individuals, as a crew, as a community, and in our particular case, as a nation, is it the first time a 100% Colombian crew takes the station.

Any doubts I might have had to be on this mission were cleared as soon as we made the turn and the habitat appeared on sight. At that moment it was clear to me that the efforts and sacrifices we are taking are going to be worth it.

And they won’t be few. Amongst others, we have for the better or the worst, the eyes of many people upon us, and we’ll have to perform to the best of our abilities, just to match what they expect from us. And living in a desert, far away from everyone, comes with a toll. But each one of us must not forget why we volunteered to be here, and that being here is the most important thing for our lives right now. We’ve had a history behind with most of the crewmembers and I trust each one of them as a perfect fit for their role within the crew.

Despite its beauty, Mars is definitely not the most welcoming place, it’s cold, it’s dry, and when it’s not dry, it’s muddy. Mars wants for many secrets to stay unveiled, and sometimes will put up a fight on that.

With 14 sols worth of challenges, lessons, laughter, probably tears, but for sure growth, on both a personal and professional point of view, we have to be up for it.

We are now on it together, and as a famous Aristotle quote goes, "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts". It was once a dream, now it is our reality, and soon it will be a memory. It better be a wonderful memory.

Per Aspera Ad Astra.

Journalist Report – Jan 12th

MDRS Crew 202, Journalist Report

Sol 14 – 01/12/2018

Name the space movie (or show) given the following quote. Answer at the end of the Report:

Mankind was born on Earth … it was never meant to die here.

This mission began with six individuals who vaguely knew each other, tied together by a common alma mater. Each crew member from a different walk of life, a wide variety of backgrounds, and unique research goals. After two weeks of being locked in a corn silo with little to no interaction with the outside world, I can honestly say I love these people so Dodge Ram much!

Paraphrased from our Director, Martian time moves different than Earth time, and this statement could not be more true. Our time here feels much longer than the mere 14 days, and our outside lives still seem lightyears away. Today, it became a little more real that we would be returning home tomorrow as we drove into town, on a paved road, ordered food in a restaurant, and sat down for a meal someone outside of the crew had prepared for us. Our eyes bigger than our stomachs, we gorged on burgers, shakes, and fries and laughed the night away. Giggling at inside jokes you had to be there for. Enjoying each other’s company.

Reflecting on my time at MDRS, I could not have predicted all the wonderful things I would take away from this experience. As Crew Journalist, I could not be more fortunate to have the role of listening to everyone’s incredible story and translating it into written words, videos, or sketches.

I always believed there was a place in space for all backgrounds – the vast and creative arts, all types of engineering, the full spectrum of sciences – but hearing our Chemistry major describe discovering her place in space, how she is finding ,through this trip, that there are roles for people outside of just aerospace majors and how she is just as valuable as anyone else in the crew was incredibly inspiring and is a message I will carry with me through my own career in the space industry.

You have a microbiome and plants have a microbiome and environments have microbiomes and all these microbiomes interact and affect each other. Sometimes those effects are nice, and sometimes they carry pathogens. This is incredibly important to know for Mars!

Space exploration is more than just the amazing data we collect about the planet, it will also push our minds and bodies to new extremes. This stress could have a long-term impact on decision making, which could be the difference between life and death in deep space exploration. I was always told stress is bad for you, but now I know a little more about the science behind why it is bad for you!

Look up at the Night Sky. What do you see? With the naked eye, we see a portrait of stories from long ago, a shimmering display of lights in different depths, a beautiful Milky Way splitting the sky in two. It is at the MDRS observatory where we captured close up images of these blinking lights and discovered these stars were not stars at all, but gigantic galaxies, colorful nebulas, and complex celestial bodies. Billions and trillions of celestial wonders that will appear simply as stars to astronaut eyes from both Earth and Mars.

ROCKS. Wow. Have you taken time today to appreciate the rocks surrounding you? The boulders you step on every day and their magnificence and importance to science? While my head will always be in the stars, after this mission I will take more time to appreciate the amazing and unassuming wonders at my feet.

Most of all, the people. This last paragraph is just for Crew 202. Brett. Yust Yoking. 82 years to 3000. 5 minute planks. Atila this is Hab. You’re Welcome! Nutella. Engineering. TP, peeps, and naps. The most rewarding part of this adventure was getting to know you wonderful people. As our Crew Engineer said, “Well I guess we all just have to live in the same place now”. I will miss each and every one of you as we begin to part ways, and I will forever be laughing at things no one else will understand. You have all given me an incredible appreciation for your backgrounds, your science, and simply you as a human being. Don’t be strangers. Keep in touch. My door is always open. I wish you all the best when you return to your adventures on Earth! Yeehaw!

Movie (or Show) Answer: Interstellar

Journalist Report – January 11th

MDRS Crew 202, Journalist Report

Sol 12 – 01/10/2018

Name the space movie (or show) given the following quote. Answer at the end of the Report:

At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.

Holy smokes. It’s Sol 13. SOL THIRTEEN. Can you even believe it? It is our last day of simulation. Our last day of donning the suits for an extra-vehicular activity (EVA). Our last day of asking ourselves: “Is this what would happen on Mars?”

Today’s agenda: EVA #12 crewed by the Executive Officer, Engineer, Geologist, and Journalist, wrap up the final touches on research projects, and prepare the habitat for the next crew. Our last EVA as a crew was one for the books. Behind the habitat, there are these humongous rolling hills. Our Geologist needed a few final samples from the top of the hills, a mere 500 foot climb. With no feasible way to use the rovers, we set off on foot, finding grips through dried waterways where the snow had melted earlier that week. The 20 pounds of life support were definitely felt during the climb, but once you got to the top of the hill… It was breathtaking. Large plateaus appeared as castles overlooking their expansive plains which melted into rolling hills striped beige, reds, and browns. The hills are a maze leading into the scenic point mountain, the entirety of its peaks in view and the partially cloudy sky forced rays of light to illuminate its white peaks. Our habitat, our home, visible, nestled within the hills. A speck of life on the colorful terrain. No photo can do it justice. It was an incredible end to our Martian adventure.

It is our last day as just Crew 202 in the habitat. Upon our return from the EVA, work kicked into high gear. We conserved enough showers for each crew member to cleanse one last time before departing. This was a merciful act for the poor people on the plane home who have the unfortunate pleasure of sitting next to our mud-caked boots and dry shampoo spiked hair. We even had enough soap to do “laundry”. It was detergent filled water that reached two inches of a bucket, but (hopefully) the black color of the water after washing means our clothes are now clean. We swept the habitat, science dome, and green house, kicking up Martian dust storms that will inevitably settle back onto the floor when the new crew steps through the door. Final food inventory, taking note of how quickly all the semi-edible dust disappeared in the first week of the habitat. Strawberries finished on Sol 7. Oreos finished Sol 10. Salt… RIP Sol 12….

Tomorrow will be a strange day. The end of simulation means the end to our current way of life. We can step out of the habitat without a mic taped to our face, breathe in the Martian air, and feel the rays of the sun on our actual skin. We will show the new crew the ropes of living in the habitat and walk them through their new roles as Martians. It will be exciting to introduce strangers to this new world and reflect on how we felt first stepping in the habitat, a time that feels so long ago. There is tradition at MDRS of eating a final Earth meal for the incoming crew… and a first Earth meal for the current crew. Cheeseburgers, fries, and milkshakes await us tomorrow. REAL CHEESE. Cheese that doesn’t come from a tin can. Cheese that doesn’t become a horrifying glob in hot water. Creamy, luxurious cheese.

Tomorrow are our last reports, our last day on Mars, our last day as Crew 202. I’m sure the finality of it all will set in. Tonight, we discuss what we most look forward to returning to.

Movie (or Show) Answer: The Martian

Journalist Report – January 10th

MDRS Crew 202, Journalist Report

Sol 12 – 01/10/2018

Name the space movie (or show) given the following quote. Answer at the end of the Report:

If we ain’t out of here in ten minutes, we won’t need no rocket to fly through space!

Lights! Camera! Action! It was an exciting day here at Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS). We saw other people for the first time in two weeks, and these Earthlings were out of this world! A television crew from CBS Innovation Nation visited us to talk about the amazing work being done by The Mars Society at MDRS and our wonderful crew! We toured our guests through the MDRS campus, showing off our cozy home, the golf ball shaped Science Dome, and our colorful Green Habitat. Alie Ward, science correspondent, led the Crew through the limelight as the behind the scenes team of Stephanie, the producer, Andy, the cameraman, and Nate, the audio technician, ensured the story of the Crew and our temporary home was told in the best possible shots. We were very proud to show off all the work we have accomplished these past two weeks and it is incredibly rewarding to see others excited to be here!

At first, it is very strange having a camera in your face. The television crew came with all the gadgets and gear – a large shoulder camera, standalone lights, and even a boom mic. There is positioning, re-positioning, mic checks, and sound check claps. We needed to fit a lot of information in a short period of time. It was Go, Go, Go, Go! Through all the chaos though, the television crew made everything feel comfortable and easy. The hardest part of the day is when the cameraman would turn to you with his huge camera lens and ask “Could you repeat what you just said?”. Your brain simply stops and any words you have ever said escapes your memory. As you scramble to remember what English is, the camera starts rolling again and it’s showtime! This journal is purposefully short. No spoilers here (even though every journal is essentially a spoiler). Tune into CBS Innovation Nation to get an inside look at the Mars Desert Research Station! We can’t wait to see the final cut!

It is setting in that our time here is almost over. Our lives back on Earth feel eons away, but tomorrow is our last simulation day. We must prepare for the next crew to take over our home and carry on the research that is necessary to successfully make humans a multi-planet species. The next few days will be a whirlwind as the new crew moves in Saturday and we say our final goodbyes Sunday morning. It is hard to believe this adventure is almost over. Tomorrow will be bittersweet.

Movie (or Show) Answer: Alien

Journalist Report – January 9th

MDRS Crew 202, Journalist Report

Alexandra Dukes, Crew Journalist

Sol 11 – 01/09/2018

Name the space movie (or show) given the following quote. Answer at the end of the Report:

I’m just a simple man trying to make my way in the universe.

Aromas of basil, tomatoes, and pesto are filling the habitat tonight as our Italian born Commander crafts homemade pizza for a crew movie night. With 3 days to go before our departure, we are making the most of the dehydrated ingredients that are left in the pantry. Freshly made pizza dough and a choice of tomato or pesto base with previously dehydrated mozzarella cheese, sausage, chicken, and fresh basil from the Green House come together to make a special treat that future Martians would be able to craft and enjoy. A well-deserved meal after the long duration Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) our Commander, Geologist, Engineer, and Executive Officer made to Lith Canyon today.

Lith Canyon is an incredible expanse of deep red canyons and high piled beige rock formations. Our Executive Officer was especially excited after returning from this EVA! He found an area with a high amount of radioactivity. A spot he has been looking for since his first EVA on Sol 3! On each EVA, our Executive Officer carries a black briefcase from which he pulls out a funny looking tan box with 80’s styled stickers and a coiled wire hooked to what appears to be a karaoke microphone. This device measures the radioactivity of an area, an important measurement for future crews on Mars. Astronauts are exposed to high levels of radiation in space travel to the point where NASA sets a threshold for the amount of radiation an astronaut can absorb in their career before having to retire.

While on Mars, the Martian atmosphere is thin and the astronauts will be exposed to cosmic radiation while on the surface. Cosmic radiation cannot be avoided, but we can attempt to decrease the amount of radiation the astronauts are exposed to by identifying areas on the Martian surface where there is a higher amount of radiation. The work performed by our Executive Officer investigates the feasibility of taking radioactive measurements during an EVA, while wearing a big bulky suit, trying to press tiny buttons and write down numbers in large, padded gloves.

Microgreens, geology, and radiation are all important scientific aspects of learning how to survive on the Red Planet, but what about the psychological aspects? During this incredibly risky endeavor, how can we ensure the crew is psychologically prepared? A second research project being pursued by our Executive Officer is investigating if stress affects the amount of risk astronauts are willing to accept when making decisions during an EVA. On average, people who make decisions under stress tend to make riskier decisions. EVAs will be a high-risk activity while on the Martian surface. Every movement will need to be practiced, calculated, and precise to ensure the safety of the crew. The increased risk of decision making by the crew due to stress could be the difference between a successful day and a tragedy.

Stress is a biological response to unknown situations. Short duration stress is what we’re most familiar with. The adrenaline rush of fight or flight. The stress our Executive Office is most interested in, though, is the long duration stress. If our brain stays in fight or flight for more than a half hour, it starts preparing the body to experience stress for an extended period of time by releasing a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol remains in your body for almost an hour after the stressful event and can be measured in our spit. Using a combination of games whose software measures our aversions to risk and a machine that measures the cortisol levels of our spit, our Executive Officer hopes to answer the question of whether stress causes the crew to make riskier decisions. These tests are given to the crew after an EVA and considered a “natural” stressor. A simulated “lab” test is also performed in the habitat, requiring the subject to stick their hand in 2 degrees Celsius water for 2.5 minutes. If you have never jumped in a river in Antarctica, your hand after 30 second begins to feel pain. The next minute is spent going from pain to numb, and after staring at the clock for the last minute, you feel much more awake and alert as the adrenaline rushes through your veins. Luckily, your hand warms up in time to play the stress games and not fumble through the buttons. Our Executive Officer’s wonderful research on radiation and stress will work to improve crew survivability in future Mars missions. Great job Executive Officer! We can’t wait to see the results of your work!

Movie (or Show) Answer: Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Journalist Report – January 08th

Sol 10 – 01/08/2018

Name the space movie (or show) given the following quote. Answer at the end of the Report:

Science fiction. You’re right, it’s crazy. In fact, it’s even worse than that, it’s nuts. You wanna hear something really nutty? I heard of a couple guys who wanna build something called an airplane, you know you get people to go in, and fly around like birds, it’s ridiculous, right? And what about breaking the sound barrier, or rockets to the moon? Atomic energy, or a mission to Mars? Science fiction, right? Look, all I’m asking is for you to just have the tiniest bit of vision. You know, to just sit back for one minute and look at the big picture. To take a chance on something that just might end up being the most profoundly impactful moment for humanity, for the history… of history.

Have you ever tried celery in eggs? Next time you make scrambled eggs, add in some fried up sausage and celery. It adds a lovely crunch I never would have thought to try before becoming a Martian! This breakfast was especially important since the Commander, Geologist, and I were heading out to our most ambitious Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) to date, an area called “Skyline Rim” which is nearly 7 miles driving from the habitat. Unfortunately, our wonderful rovers cannot go that distance so we geared up and headed out on the ATVs (arguably way more fun to drive). With most, if not all, EVAs, we have been sent off on a quest to find geological samples, but why are these samples so important? What is so great about collecting a bunch of rocks?

I sat down with Ellen Czaplinski, our Crew Geologist and a PhD student in Space and Planetary Science at the University of Arkansas, to get the scoop on why we should all have a greater appreciation for the boulders that make up our home planet and planets beyond. As Crew Geologist, Ellen came into the mission with the research objective of collecting geological samples of sand or rocks near existing or previous areas with flowing water. The samples are valuable because the clays near MDRS are similar to those found on Mars. They will be grouped based on their location in the field and analyzed through infrared spectral analysis. Infrared spectral analysis involves taking a science fiction looking, construction yellow, light gun about the size of the average human forearm and shining its light onto the rock samples. The light projected from the gun bounces off the rock and back towards the gun which measures the light that has been bounced back and tells the user what minerals the rock is made from. After measuring and collecting the samples in the field, they are sent to a lab for further analysis. This work will be important for future Mars missions, and future planetary missions as a whole, since it allows us to practice sample collection in the field in a relatively easier environment than Mars. Additionally, it provides a platform to identify differences in analyzing samples in the field versus studying them in the lab. These differences will help us better analyze sample returns from missions such as the Mars2020 rover, OSIRIS-REx, and Hayabusa2 who all plan to send geological samples back to Earth from Mars, Asteroid Bennu, and Asteroid Ryugu, respectively.

On top of the valuable lessons we will learn from Ellen’s research, we’ve also made surprising finds outside of the expected samples! We’ve found banded iron formations, salt formations such as gypsum, and evaporites. The banded iron formations are some of Earth’s oldest known rock formations. They were abundant in the time of “The Great Oxygenation”, an event nearly 2.4 million years ago when the first organisms began photosynthesizing and creating the world we know today. The rock is approximately the size of a closed fist and is a deep black color with red, iron stripes running through its center. Salt formations and evaporites are the minerals left when water evaporates. For example, if you collected sea water and waited for the water to evaporate, the salty residue that is left would be considered an evaporite. The gypsum in the field appears on the ground like ice shards shattered in the clay. These samples not only add to the diversity of the study but are simply very neat finds while walking across the Martian plains.

Rocks are not just a story of their current environment, but a history book of evolving environments that could date back to the beginning of our home planet. Rocks could start as one mineral, millions of years ago, and evolve through heat and temperature to be redeposited, continuing to record the environment’s history until our Crew Geologist discovers it and translates its pages. Additionally, not all rocks are created equal, and together, they tell the evolution of our planet. Great work Ellen! You’re a ROCKstar!

Movie (or Show) Answer: Contact

Journalist Report – January 7th

MDRS Crew 202, Journalist Report

Sol 9 – 01/07/2018

Name the space movie (or show) given the following quote. Answer at the end of the Report:

Astronauts? You mean, sit on top of a rocket and launched into space? Sounds dangerous; when do we go?

As we catapult into our second week on Mars, the crew cannot believe how fast the days have flown by! How is it possible that our time is almost over here on the Red Planet? It seems like yesterday we had just arrived as a fresh, wide eyed and bushy tailed crew. In a mere week, we are old veterans, working through the routine, a family of determined Martians still bent on completing our ambitious mission goals. Making sure every day counts towards our research and our life as a Crew.

It is at this approximate half way point that we reflect on our key simulation question: Would this be done on Mars?

Mars is approximately one tenth the mass of Earth and one third the gravity. Unfortunately, science has not found a way to simulate different celestial body gravities for long durations of time. Get on it science. It takes from 6 to 8 months to travel to Mars from Earth when Mars is near its closest point to Earth (~55 million km away) which occurs every two years. Imagine how Mark Watney felt while waiting for his Crew to make the journey all the way back to Earth and circle back around to rescue him from Mars! We are very thankful to have more than potatoes in our pantry. This equates to a maximum of a 22 minute delay in communication one way, 44 minutes round trip to send a message and receive a response. This will force future Martians to be heavily independent when it comes to all aspects of their life including habitat maintenance, research, and emergency procedures. Here on Mars Desert Research Station, we are given a two hour communication window with our “CapCom”, with whom we transmit reports about the state of our campus, extra-vehicular activity requests, and summaries of our research progress. This is all performed through email and is received spontaneously during these two hours. Not quite like Mars, but we do our best to simulate the communication by having limited internet (~500 MB per day) and transmitting text messages similar to those that would be used on Mars. Mars is desolate, isolated, and magnificent. Check, check, and check. While we cannot simulate the gravity, and the communication isn’t a perfect fidelity, we feel we have truly experienced as close to on Mars as we could achieve in our 2 week mission and could not be more excited about what our last week holds.

While confined in a small space with six people, in a sitcom-like environment, there are several lifestyle debates that have risen from the crew. Two of which we would like to invite our fellow Earthlings to weigh in on: Which way does the toilet paper hang? What is defined as a nap? These seem fairly trivial – It depends on the person. No. Not in this crew. These have been heated topics for several days and we are determined to debate it until we perish and turn to dust with our gravestones eternally making our arguments.

On the toilet paper front, everyone is an over the roll hanger expect our Crew Engineer. She prefers an under orientation… which is wrong. This has turned into a war of flipping the toiler paper back and forth in the small, motorhome sized bathroom for the duration of our mission.

Naps are common on Mars because it is exhausting being a Martian! Carrying 20 lbs backpacks on 2-3 hour extra-vehicular activities typically leads to crashing on the couches in the living area to recharge before continuing the research projects or preparing to cook dinner. Our Crew Engineer has been known to take 2-3 hour naps after strenuous activity. Our Executive Officer feels this is far too long to be defined as a “nap” and considers this “falling asleep”. The Commander has sided with the Executive Officer. The Geologist and Journalist are on the side of the Crew Engineer, defining naps as sleeping during the day for any duration of time. Our Health & Safety Officer is usually asleep during these debates.

We are in a stale mate on both fronts, and would like to hear Earth’s opinion. Should future Martians place their toilet paper over or under? How should naps be defined in the Martian schedule?

Movie (or Show) Answer: The Right Stuff

Journalist Report – January 6th

Sol 8 – 01/06/2018

Name the space movie (or show) given the following quote. Answer at the end of the Report:

“Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

Morning Song: Someone New by Hozier.

Morning Routine: Stretching.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with Brown Sugar and Blueberries.

EVA #7: Collect. More. Rocks.

But none of that matters today. The routine, the unbelievably scenic views, the amazing science being done during this mission. None of it… Because today, after eight days… Eight long, dry shampoo filled, wipey scrubbed, hair stiff as uncooked spaghetti noodles days. I. Finally. Took. A. Shower.

While on Mars, water is a limited resource just like anything else. It’s hard to find on Mars; therefore, it must be conserved. Our mission instructions allot us a 2 minute Navy shower every 2-3 days. The instructions for a 2 minute Navy shower: Step 1: Turn on the water. Step 2: Jump in the water. Step 3: Rinse and jump out. Step 4: Turn off the water. Perform Steps 1-4 in under 45 seconds. Step 5: Scrub your body with soap in 15 to 30 seconds. Step 6: Repeat Steps 1-4 to rinse the soap off. It is a stark change from my 45 minute showers back on Earth, and it is not particularly pleasant, but it gets the job done.

But why did I wait 8 days? Our habitat holds enough water for 1-2 people to take a shower per day. Added bonus, our water heater has a mean personality and rarely works, no matter how nicely we ask. Our Engineer caved first. She described her shower has having a brief moment of warmth. Our Commander and Executive Officer experienced the same sensations of freezing water, pleasant warmth, and scalding, burn your skin off, temperature, then back to freezing cold. Our poor Geologist only felt the ice chattering cold. There was one common reaction to taking a shower across the crew, we have been reborn. It is as if you are a new person, slipping into a fresh skin like a recently molted lizard. Nobody particularly smells on this crew (or maybe we have just gotten used to each other’s smells), but in an effort to conserve water, I endured the dry shampoo and baby wipe scrub downs until I couldn’t possibly take it anymore! And I swear my hair has never felt so soft as it does today. In fresh clean clothes. With my fresh clean body.

That’s it for today. That was the highlight. We are always thinking of our loved ones. We hope they don’t miss us too much, and we want them to know that we are having a fantastic time on the Red Planet. We can’t wait to share all of our adventures with them when we return… And take a 45 minute shower. With working warm water. And ice cream.

Movie (or Show) Answer: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Journalist Report – January 5th

MDRS Crew 202, Journalist Report

Sol 7 – 01/05/2018

Name the space movie (or show) given the following quote. Answer at the end of the Report:

I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you. (Hal 9000)

A folky electronic song by Young the Giant started today’s morning along with meditation and chocolate chip pancakes. Dreams of ice cream are not going away anytime soon, but we’re going to add sweet to everything in a hopeless effort to curb the cravings.

Our 6th Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) was crewed by our Commander, Geologist, Engineer, and Executive Officer. Their mission: Find more rocks (there is a theme through these EVAs). The original plan called for a longer EVA to the East in an area where the canyons open up in search of “fluvial” samples, or rocks often found near former riverbeds or water. Unfortunately, winter has not been kind to Crew 202 and the snow covered most of the trail. No matter. On Mars, you must be adaptable and expect the unexpected. In lieu of the canyon view, the crew stopped along three waypoints on the visible road. The first, a large plain with several short and stout hills. A fairly standard view here on the Red Planet. The second stop was at the base of Mt. Nutella. The mountain has no known affiliation with the delightful hazelnut spread, but it is a good place to collect sand. From our south facing window in the habitat, there is a tall mountain peak in the distance poking out between two hills. While on the trail between Stop 1 and Stop 2, the entire mountain range was in full view. A beautiful sight to behold as the Crew attempted to navigate to Stop 3. Attempted being the keyword here. Have you ever used Google Maps and no matter how many times it says “recalculating”, you still can’t find the location? This was the case with Stop 3. The stop was not a complete loss as our Commander tested various risk scenarios on the crew and the Executive Officer took radioactive measurements over the area. Our Executive Officer is originally from Ukraine and an Army drill sergeant back in the U.S.A. It takes a lot to shake this man. The only comment he made towards this EVA was, “This was the coldest EVA so far”… That means it was absolutely Artic out there. I can’t say I envied my fellow crew members, but it does sound like they found great samples for our geological studies and witnessed beautiful views.

Back at the habitat, our Health & Safety Officer has been hard at work on his own research projects! Jake Qiu is our Health & Safety Officer and our Green Habitat Officer in Crew 202. In short, he keeps the people, and the plants, healthy. Jake is a biological engineering student at Purdue University back on Earth and is working on a project which analyzes how the microbiomes of people affect the microbiomes of the sterilized plants we plan to bring to future Mars missions. A microbiome is a community of bacteria that thrive on both living and non-living objects. When we talk about microbiomes on people, this could refer to the community of bacteria on your skin, in your gut, or various other places on the human body. You are COVERED in “cities” of bacteria. If your body was a bacteria population map, your belly button would be Los Angeles. When we send plants to space, we “sterilize” the plants meaning we kill any existing bacteria living on the plants. Unfortunately, we cannot completely sterilize the humans, so our microbiomes travel with us to space. Jake is growing sterilized microgreens using hydroponics to determine how the crew’s microbiomes will affect the microbiomes of the microgreens. Pretty neat right? Hydroponics is simply a plant growing system that does not use soil. This method is also used on Earth and is a popular system for growing plants inside buildings. Our method uses two gardening trays stacked on top of each other. The plant seeds are placed on top of a cloth made from wicking fabric and laid across the top gardening tray. Water is poured into the bottom gardening tray, absorbed through the cloth, and Wala! Microgreens are sprouted! Microgreens are not only great for this project since they grow quickly, they are also great for Mars! They provide essential vitamins and nutrients that are difficult to find in the shelf-stable “food” that will be the main feature of most Martian cuisine. Additionally, Jake intends to answer whether the interaction of our microbiomes will affect the physical being of the plants (i.e. the size of the plant leaves)? Are there pathogens, or diseases, present in the microgreen microbiomes and could that transfer to humans? This is just one of the many incredible research projects in work by Crew 202. Keep up the great work Jake!

As a final note, Martians should definitely consider bringing Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits. Shelf stable and a wonderful change of pace from the soup heavy Mars diet!

Movie (or Show) Answer: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Journalist Report – January 4th

MDRS Crew 202, Journalist Report

Sol 6 – 01/04/2018

Name the space movie (or show) given the following quote. Answer at the end of the Report:

I sometimes catch myself looking up at the Moon, remembering the changes of fortune in our long voyage, thinking of the thousands of people who worked to bring the three of us home. I look up at the Moon and wonder, when will we be going back, and who will that be?

Our morning went from 0 to 100 when we chose to start the day with an ab workout. The Engineer and Executive Officer have been betting on whether the other could hold a 5 minute plank which has evolved to various competitions of exercises. While their physical prowess is impressive, the aches and pains of my sore bones are looking forward to leading a meditation tomorrow instead of full blown P90X.

The Geologist (GEO), Health & Safety Officer (HSO), and Commander (CMD) went on the 5th Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) of our mission while the Executive Officer (EXO), Engineer (ENG), and I (Crew Journalist = JOU) stayed behind to work through our own projects and relax after going on the previous two EVAs. This was a big day for GEO and HSO since they haven’t left the Habitat in three days. Three days of living in a two-story Corn Silo. The only relief coming from the sun shining through the four windows in the living room, all no larger than a beach ball. Needless to say, they were excited to pretend to breathe the fresh air through their suits and touch the ground through their heavily padded hands and feet.

It is not the large parts of living on Earth you miss, such as the scenery or restaurants. It is the little things you miss as your brain teases you with cravings and wishes. An innocent thought popping up like “ice cream sounds nice”, and then quickly realizing there’s no possible way to concoct anything even related to ice cream from the dehydrated, shelf stable dust we’ve been given to live off of…. Or standing in a hot shower. Steam filling the room. The water gently rolling down your face without using a wash cloth to place it there…

Ok. I’m back. Daydreaming for a minute about that shower. And ice cream. Maybe both at the same time. It’s difficult to plan what to indulge in first once we get back to Earth. As a gentle reminder to the reader, myself, and the crew, it’s our 7th day on Mars, nearly a full week after leaving Earth. We ran out of fruit today. The canned spam is taunting us from the cupboards. Let us hope we never reach that point of desperation.

Speaking of food, our CMD and GEO have never had ramen. You know, the $0.29 plastic packaged sodium bomb that you lived off of in college because you blew what little money you had on Insomniac cookies the night before. So… after a long day of trekking in the Martian snow, boots soiled, and noses red, our EVA crew returned to nice warm pot of noodles in bouillon cubes. Their verdict was “It was better than I expected”. That’s essentially a 10/10 review for ramen.

The second floor of the habitat is always filled with laughter. It’s a good thing we live on a desolate planet because we would wake the whole neighborhood with the joy, conversation, and howling echoing through the walls. Even through the dehydrated food dirt and dreaming of creamier bites and cleaner days, the overall mood of Crew 202 is bright. It’s another wonderful day on the Red Planet as we enter day 2 without a major crisis. Yes, I did knock on the wood planked floors before sending this journal.

Movie (or Show) Answer: Apollo 13