Journalist Report – May 4th

Crew 265 Journalist Report, May 4, 2022

Sol: 10

Summary Title: The End is Nigh…

Author: Sarah Treadwell, Crew Journalist

Sol 10. Two EVAs today, with myself and Executive Officer Dave in the morning and Engineer Sergii and Mapping Texas Twins Benny and Isai in the afternoon. We all sense the end of the mission drawing close, with one final EVA set for tomorrow. Overall, our mission seems to have been a success, but I will certainly let our crew commander do a final briefing on that.

This morning Dave and I attempted to summit nearby Phobos Peak. Unfortunately, there was no easy way to ascend as the ground was far too loose. After we went as high as we could go, we took some time to just sit and really soak in the environment around us. Those who know me well know that I can cry at a drop of a dime; however, today felt quite different. There was more of a sense of reverence that I carried with me, rather than overwhelming emotion.

The other EVA crew did some comms checking in a different direction from the station than we have normally been wandering. The radios seemed to perform well. They returned for us to all enjoy an early dinner and we parted ways into our sequestered quiet spaces to do homework and reports.

Generally, I think we all are just tired and ready to return to our normal lives… and even more importantly, return to non-dehydrated food. Personally, I am extremely excited about this and have been fantasizing about what to eat when we are done.

Something I want to coyly touch on that I will talk about more once I get home is one of my biggest mental challenges I have had while here. I think everyone can understand how not being able to call or video chat with our loved ones can be a challenge. While here I missed my daughter losing her first tooth, my boyfriend’s birthday, and my son getting to experience very sweet firsts at his preschool. While not ideal, these are all things that any astronaut or explorer has to accept they may miss when taking on a mission.

Something I did not anticipate though was receiving really, really big news and dealing with that in this environment where I couldn’t use my usual coping techniques to deal with my myriad of emotions. Normally I go for walks, drive to loud music, call my closest loved ones, and go to a restaurant to check out for an evening in a situation like this. None of those were options here.

This is something I will need time to reflect on because this is an important part of what we do here and what I also came to do, which is to look at the psychological and sociological effects of our time here.

But I will process that later… because all I can think about right now is having a burger and Coke. And so to end this, a quote for my son, whom we nickname Moo:

“Fix your little problem and light this candle” – Alan Shepherd

Crew 265 Journalist Report May 3rd

Crew 265 Journalist Report, May 3, 2022

Sol: 09

Summary Title: Where the winds may blow…

Author: Sarah Treadwell, Crew Journalist

It is Sol 9 and our time here is rapidly coming to an end. We have two and a half Sol’s left and I think I can officially say that the crew is running a bit low on energy. We have done a lot of EVA’s and the terrain, in combination with today’s windy and cool weather, has seemed to really have an effect. I think it can be compared to somewhat of a “senior slide” feeling and I expect everyone to head to bed early today.

I want to solidly brag here and say that if we could add “excellent at making meals from dehydrated food” on our CV’s and that it would carry some merit, most of us here should do so. Lunch was prepared by Engineer Sergii of a hearty soup, while multi-tasking as Capcom, and I prepared dinner of Shepherd’s pie. Executive Officer Dave was also station bound, taking a relax day as well as doing his best to stay warm in his multitude of layers.

Our fearless Commander Marc and mapping tech Texas Twins Benny and Isai ventured out on another EVA and had the fortune of visiting some stunning areas with spectacular sedimentary rock formations. As a geography and paleontology fan, I am very jealous of these time capsules they got to observe. Rocks truly are the keepers of great secrets.

The hab is quite chilly today as I type and the wind rattles the frames of the structure once again. Mission fatigue is obviously setting in. Today we discussed over dinner what our mentality would have to be if we were on a longer mission. Would our personalities start to clash? Would we need more projects? Would there be enough space for us to find escape from each other? Obviously these are all hypotheticals.

Truly, the mental game may be one of the biggest challenges to this entire experience. You have to find purpose, first and foremost. I suppose this really applies to life in general. I have also learned you must find your own temporary internal systems of support, as you cannot just quickly make a video chat to see a familiar loving face for encouragement. This probably doesn’t affect others as it does as much to me, which is another thing I’m going to spend some time post mission reflecting on.

However, I truly hope that when I walk away from this research station, I have learned just a little more about myself. They say with age comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes experience. Experiences like these aren’t something that many have an opportunity to participate in and there is much to be gleaned from it. I have been honored to have gotten to know my crewmates over this past week and a half. I hope they too have gained something from this adventure and themselves.

“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”

― Carl Sagan, Contact

Crew 265 Journalist Report April 30th

Crew 265 Journalist Report

April 30, 2022

Sol: 06

Summary Title: To the Moon and Back

Author: Sarah Treadwell, Crew Journalist

Today is Sol 6 and we are halfway through our mission now. As the radio tests continue to prove successful, many of us continue on our personal projects and goals for our time spent here. Today’s EVA was to achieve one such goal. Executive Officer Dave has long wanted to explore the nearby moon of Phobos to take samples. Myself and Isai joined him on this expedition to fulfill a dream he had carefully planned for.

Our skill sets as a team were ideal for this mission. Having Isai along brought the knowledge base for successful mapping of uncharted terrain, as he is finishing up a mechanical engineering degree. Dave also has an engineering background, but his energy and focus is largely now on space exploration, hence his desire for this mission. He also brings experience to ensure this is executed safely, having served on four prior missions. I was asked to join along as a professional communicator and as a fellow space enthusiast to document this exciting first.

We set off on our adventure, armed with maps and GPS units to also continue to test the radio systems. Phobos is the closest known satellite to any planet in our solar system, 6,000km (3,700 miles) so the journey was fast, relatively speaking in space travel. We arrived at the moon overlook viewpoint to take our first steps. There, ceremoniously, the first step imprint in the regolith was captured for documentation purposes. The views were dramatic, with rolling peaks and a pale, gray regolith. Then it was decided to take some samples.

Using an extended pole with a scoop at the end akin to the methods used by Apollo 11, Executive Officer Dave collected some samples of the lunar regolith, carefully placing it inside a bag to be sealed for further analysis. After finishing collecting samples, we explored around for quite some time. Phobos orbits Mars every 7 hours and 39 minutes, so we only had a limited amount of time before we needed to depart. Similarly in the spirit of the Apollo astronauts, there were some personal moments had in honor of loved ones that will remain private. It should be clarified that nothing was left behind, preserving the stunning beauty of Mars’ nearby neighbor.

It will be interesting to see what our samples tell us about Phobos and its formation. Perhaps this moon will be helpful in some way for further expansion around the planet Mars. Or maybe it will serve as a useful fueling station for further exploration of our solar system. Whatever secrets it may hold, we were honored to get to explore its surface and hope our work will continue with future crews.

As we headed back towards our station on Mars, I was reflective on the surreal landscape that surrounded me. I have had the pleasure of getting to see many amazing places back on our home Earth, from the highest mountain on the planet, Everest, to diving under the ocean with coral reefs and sharks. Yet, no matter where I go, I am always struck by the beauty that surrounds me, recognizing that every place has its own unique story. This place, with its layers of sediment that serve as secret holders of time, is no different.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity. Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives”. – Albert Einstein

Crew 265 Journalist Report May 2nd

Crew 265 Journalist Report

May 2, 2022

Sol: 08

Summary Title: Not all who wander are lost…

Author: Sarah Treadwell, Crew Journalist

Sol 08 brought us another beautiful day with another long EVA. These EVA’s last about 4-5 hours and they are quite tiring. Today Commander Marc and I stayed back, while the rest of the crew went out to push the limits again of how far the radio systems will go. They also continue to test the maps and maps to check how accurate they are. Commander Marc explained to me the GPS units and showed the amount of satellites they pick up at any given time and, frankly, it is incredible. May this serve as a reminder how space exploration helps humanity.

While the crew was out, back on base the commander and I spent the day recharging our mental batteries and doing our own personal projects. I have become extremely fond of doing video editing and writing work in the science dome. I have also discovered that the acoustics in that dome are so much fun, and I spend far too much time singing and being silly. Frankly, being here and staying back is the much needed respite I have required for quite some time.

I also prepared the much anticipated and always talked about “Mars pizza” while they were away. Luckily for the crew, one of my specialties is bread making so we had amazing pizza, with a crust that was perfection, and with zero hopes for any leftovers. Making food for others is quite satisfying for me and the added challenge of dehydrated food makes it just a little bit more rewarding.

I know my reports are getting a bit repetitive, but in reality, this is what our days are like. The simple rhythm and routines are flying by and there are equal parts of me that want to be back home, but also want this peaceful simplicity to continue. I am sure my fellow crew members also feel the same way, especially as they enjoy trekking in the outside world, despite the hardships. A fellow expedition member, on my trek to base camp 1 on Mount Everest, said this to me so succinctly, “Often, the most difficult things to endure make the most beautiful memories.” I know there will be a lot to process about this experience upon my return. I end with, not a space quote, but a very notable and personal one to me nonetheless.

“All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Journalist Report – May 1st

Crew 265 Journalist Report, April 30, 2022

Sol: 07

Summary Title: A Day of Rest

Author: Sarah Treadwell, Crew Journalist

Today was our first day where all the crew stayed hab bound for the entire day. Personally, even though the day was filled with less activity, it still seemed to pass by quickly. Most of us slept in and then took showers, a luxury around these parts in order to conserve water.

We spent our day cleaning and sharing videos and memories from other experiences. Commander Marc spent some time at a research base in the South Pole and shared photos from that expedition. It is obvious this was a significant experience for him and he does not tire of sharing the stories of his time spent there. If you ever get a chance to meet him, ask him about the 300 club.

We are now prepping for dinner and a movie, a meal that is nicknamed “The Watney ” which is baked potatoes that Commander Marc brought with him. I suppose you can take a wild guess at what movie we are watching while we eat it. Executive Officer Dave shared a favorite show and an antique radio that he collected while we waited for them to bake.

Everyone else continued with their own projects and personal studies today. I was able to capture some extra interview questions with the Commander, one of which is a simple explanation of the radio system and how it is being upgraded. We then had a chance to have a one on one talk for a bit about lessons learned from the past and how to apply it into the future.

He asked me what I have noticed about myself in this experience thus far, and it made me want to end this report by sharing what I personally have noticed. I have learned that in an environment such as this, my insecurities and imposter syndrome feelings become a bit more amplified. I know so many others struggle with this and I wanted to share that I feel it often as well. But instead of believing that little voice that tells me I’m not enough, I think about the challenges I have overcome, the amount of work I have put into myself, and the example I am setting for my children. They will likely never read this report, but I hope I will make them proud.

“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.“ – Carl Sagan

Journalist Report – April 29th

Sol: 05
Summary Title: Sweet Emotions
Author: Sarah Treadwell, Crew Journalist

Today is Sol 05 here at the Mars Desert Research Station. It was another day with an EVA consisting of Commander Marc, Mapping Tech Benny, and Engineer Sergii. This was one of the longer and further tests of the new radio system thus far, and we are pleased to report that it is working in even the most challenging of areas.

With challenges comes rewards and for our EVA team today they certainly had that. To say the views they were treated to were stunning may be an understatement. The landscape here is dramatic and the emotions and reactions the crew returned with was that of awe and gratitude. Upon return, commander Marc removed his helmet and reported that he now could die a happy man.

Back at the station, the rest of us took turns operating as Capcom and preparing lunch. We also watched the maps and tracked the direction our EVA crew was heading. Mapping tech Isai flexed his culinary skills and made tortillas from scratch for lunch, which we made into chicken quesadillas. Needless to say, now no one is very hungry for dinner.

I’m noticing that this time is causing many of us to have time to reflect on where we currently are in our lives professionally, and where we would like to direct that going forward. It’s a familiar feeling for me and I often find that experiences like this give me some breathing room to process a wide range of ideas and emotions.

This experience has certainly for me highlighted how spotlight our emotions can be here as there is no place to completely bury them. We are all surrounded by people whom we haven’t ever met in person before arriving. Personally, I started this mission with some pretty low moments and now came back up with some pretty high moments. It’s unusual to have so much vulnerability without much rapport, which really is a challenge that really any randomly selected collaborative group must overcome.

Humans are undeniably sloppy, emotional, and prone to making mistakes. But we are also cognitive, intelligent, and inquisitive. All the puzzle pieces that make us who we are don’t have to be perfect. We simply must strive to do our best, help others, and enjoy our brief blip of moment of being alive.

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”

Journalist Report – April 27th

Crew 265 Journalist Report, April 27, 2022

Sol: 03

Summary Title: Breaking Bread.

Author: Sarah Treadwell, Crew Journalist

It is Sol 3 here at the Mars Desert Research Station. The days seem to pass slowly, yet quickly in a paradoxical way. Today’s day was filled with a lot of work on projects, largely independent of each other. The balance of personalities of our crew continues to compliment each other; with punctuated moments of interaction and stretches of solitude.

After reviewing maps for strategic areas to venture to, the day started with an EVA continuing to test different distance points for the new radio system. I acted again as Capcom, which is a role I enjoy filling. This likely comes as no surprise to those who know me, as I love to talk. During this time, Engineer Sergii worked on his project, which was installing smart lights within the habitat.

I began conducting interviews with my fellow crewmates in the beautiful science dome. I am by nature a people person and I’m always interested in hearing others’ stories. What I love about being a science communicator is connecting an audience to the minds behind the science. Though we are not a scientific-based mission, there are humans behind the work being done here and I’m inspired to see what motivates this crew.

Commander Marc seems pleased with the progress being made on the radio project and continues to map out future locations for testing. The EVA crew arrived back at the hab today just in time for lunch and for high winds to move in. As we settle into the evening, the wind continues to howl outside the habitat, reminding us what a sanctuary we get to share here to keep us safe from the elements.

Tonight, we made our most complex meal so far: Spaghetti with a meat and veggie sauce sided with homemade garlic bread and brownies for dessert. There was much excitement to gather together and share this meal, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all and accompanied by robust conversations.

It made me reflect on this time-honored tradition; the gathering together around food. Historically, on Earth, the hearth has long been the central point for human activity. According to archeologists, the oldest one ever discovered dates back to 300,000 years ago. Hearths haven’t merely served as a point for cooking food: it has been a place for humans to come together and share stories, past history, and impart wisdom. This is a place where thoughts and ideas are stirred together, while also fulfilling the biological needs of nourishment and warmth.

Today, though we may be explorers in the cosmic ocean, we are not that different from the humans who crossed the oceans to explore the Earth before us. Whether we gather around an ancient hearth, or at a table inside a Mars habitat, it will always be our shared humanity that connects us, no matter where we may roam.

“Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.” – Carl Sagan

Journalist Report – April 26th

Crew 265 Journalist Report, April 26, 2022

Sol: 02

Summary Title: A Walk to Remember.

Author: Sarah Treadwell, Crew Journalist

After another restless night’s sleep for this crew journalist, I awoke to the comforting smell of coffee brewing and the bustling of my fellow crew members preparing their breakfasts.

The day was off to a strong start, as our Commander Marc, Engineer Sergii, and Mapping Technicians Benny and Isai were scheduled for the very first EVA. This one was an important one, as they planned to hike to a nearby ridge to set up a new radio transmitter. This is a crucial first stage in our overall mission, which is to improve the communications systems for the station.

The energy was high as they left, with myself and Executive Officer Dave staying behind to act as CapCom (or as we call it, HabCom). However, upon return, the look of pure exhaustion was evident on their faces. Shortly after removing his helmet, Commander Marc exclaimed, “That was one of the hardest EVAs I’ve ever been on.”

The climb, while also carrying equipment, was strenuous and pushed all involved to their limits. The question soon became, was this first EVA worth the effort? Will the new transmitter access radio dead zones that the previous system has not? This question was soon to be answered with EVA number 2, consisting of myself, Executive Office Dave, and a, fairly exhausted, but still willing to go Engineer Sergii.

After we traveled around to different distant points, it seems clear that there is much promise for this new system, but some hiccups to work out. I personally enjoyed seeing the various rock formations and obvious evidence of water erosion in the canyon we walked around in. Further fine-tuning and testing of the radios will continue through the duration of the mission.

As we returned to the station and gathered back together for dinner, subtle reminders of home permeated our conversation. Some of us are still working on degrees and have studies to attend to and we talked about recent exams. We pondered how our choices have led us down paths we never expected while wondering how different our lives could have been having we picked a different route.

It’s a funny thing, wondering how much of our fates really are in our control. I have found that opportunities sometimes come when you least expect them and that other thing slips past us for the best. Our time here together at MDRS will certainly be a moment stamped in time. Hopefully, that will be a memorable part in the stories of our lives that we write.

“We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh. We will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere.” – Alex Mather, winner of the Name the Robot Essay contest to name the Mars 2020 Rover (Perseverance).

Journalist Report – April 26th

Crew 265 Journalist Report, April 26, 2022

Sol: 02

Summary Title: A Walk to Remember.

Author: Sarah Treadwell, Crew Journalist

After another restless night’s sleep for this crew journalist, I awoke to the comforting smell of coffee brewing and the bustling of my fellow crew members preparing their breakfasts.

The day was off to a strong start, as our Commander Marc, Engineer Sergii, and Mapping Technicians Benny and Isai were scheduled for the very first EVA. This one was an important one, as they planned to hike to a nearby ridge to set up a new radio transmitter. This is a crucial first stage in our overall mission, which is to improve the communications systems for the station.

The energy was high as they left, with myself and Executive Officer Dave staying behind to act as CapCom (or as we call it, HabCom). However, upon return, the look of pure exhaustion was evident on their faces. Shortly after removing his helmet, Commander Marc exclaimed, “That was one of the hardest EVAs I’ve ever been on.”

The climb, while also carrying equipment, was strenuous and pushed all involved to their limits. The question soon became, was this first EVA worth the effort? Will the new transmitter access radio dead zones that the previous system has? This question was soon to be answered with EVA number 2, consisting of myself, Executive Office Dave, and a, fairly exhausted, but still willing to go Engineer Sergii.

After we traveled around to different distant points, it seems clear that there is much promise for this new system, but some hiccups to work out. I personally enjoyed seeing the various rock formations and obvious evidence of water erosion in the canyon we walked around in. Further fine-tuning and testing of the radios will continue through the duration of the mission.

As we returned to the station and gathered back together for dinner, subtle reminders of home permeated our conversation. Some of us are still working on degrees and have studies to attend to and we talked about recent exams. We pondered how our choices have led us down paths we never expected while wondering how different our lives could have been had we picked a different route.

It’s a funny thing, wondering how much of our fates really are in our control. I have found that opportunities sometimes come when you least expect it and that other things slip past us for the best. Our time here together at MDRS will certainly be a moment stamped in time. Hopefully, that will be a memorable part of the stories of our lives that we write.

“We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh. We will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere.” – Alex Mather, winner of the Name the Robot Essay contest to name the Mars 2020 Rover (Perseverance).

Journalist Report – April 25th

Sol: 01

Summary Title: And so it begins…

Author: Sarah Treadwell, Crew Journalist

Sim officially started today at 12:00 p.m. and the crew was prepared and eager to begin. After spending the morning and the previous half day training and settling in, we began our mission preparing for the busy two weeks ahead.

Battery tests were performed on the EVA suits. In addition, current radio systems functions were briefed to us by Commander Marc and Executive Officer Dave. Maps were reviewed and plans were made for destinations for upcoming EVA’s that will test new radio systems that may eventually replace the old.

Our crew so far is very cohesive. None of us knew each other prior to being assigned to this mission and we all come from varying backgrounds and experiences. The scent of our dinner cooking accompanies quiet conversation as I type, and I’m certain that these two weeks will ebb and flow with few difficulties.

Everyone is looking forward to a warm up in the weather over these next couple of days. Personally, I am looking forward to a good night’s rest as the past week and the journey of getting here to Mars was extremely stressful and I had a hard time sleeping last night adjusting to all the new noises of the station. I will be giving some thoughtful interviews amongst my crew members and hope to highlight the hopes and goals they have for themselves and our group as a whole.

To finish and inspired by the crew journalist that preceded me, I decided I wanted to share some favorite space themed quotes over the course of these two weeks:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” – Carl Sagan