Journalist Report – January 13th



Crew 272 Journalist Report 1-13-2023

Sol: 12

Author: Kenny Pritchard, Crew Journalist

Title: Lakshya (“Aim”)

For our final crew breakfast on Mars, despite rumors of lasagna, Adriana whipped up some biscuits and rehydrated butter. Our EVA this morning was planned for an early 9:00 a.m. departure, so we had little time to dilly dally – we ran an oxymoronically compacted stretching session, and four of us suited up for the EVA with biscuits still in our mouths.

The mission today was a real search and rescue to find and retrieve the Boiler Transmission Station (BTS) which had been deployed to a ledge near the Hab (we deemed it Boiler Ledge) on a previous EVA. After a few powerful dust and wind storms, the crew was concerned that it may have been blown far away from its last known location and lost to the sands of Mars. Mason, Arly, Megan, and I took the rovers to a good stopping point, walked up a familiar hill, and began scouting toward the expected location with the drone. This cycle of walking and scouting repeated a few times until we got close enough to where the drone camera could almost make out our target and we could walk over to Boiler Ledge. Lo and behold, the BTS sat serenely waiting our arrival, if a little waterlogged, and missing its original housing box. We collected the treasured transmitter and took some good drone videos and pictures hoisting our Purdue “Boiler Up” flag near the edge of Boiler Ledge. Having made excellent time to the Ledge and finding the objective easily, we made it back to the Hab before noon, where the rest of the crew sat working on the final tasks of our rotation: finishing up research, cleaning up, packing, and a writing a whole slew of end-of-mission reports.

With our time at MDRS coming to an end, it’s a good time to reflect on the progress we made. Although our crew had been meeting and planning for months leading up to our rotation, we had only just seen the tip of the iceberg of each other’s personalities and life stories (and flaws) (just kidding). Living together in an enclosed space on an inhospitable planet for two weeks was a quick fix! We’ve voiced our pet peeves, become adept with our equipment, endured exhausting EVAs, overcome unexpected challenges, been sim-resurrected from several sim-deaths, formed alliances and fought wars over board games, and we can proudly say that every crew member has achieved at least the minimum objectives of their research. The difference between our first steps and what we’re capable of accomplishing now is night and sol.

One common theme of each sol has been abundant references to the 2004 Bollywood movie Lakshya, shared with us by our fearless commander Kshitij. In this film, the main character asks himself “Main Aisa Kyun Hoon” – “Why am I like this?” and struggles to find his aim in life. I’d compare our first meetings and our final sols here with the beginning and end of the film, our crew taking a dynamic arc from inexperience and lack of direction to a resolute sense of purpose and efficiency, thanks largely to Kshitij’s wisdom and leadership (and humor). It’s been a good run here on Mars, but today we end our simulation to prepare for the long ride back to Earth! On behalf of the entire crew, thank you sincerely to all the loved ones who followed our journey and kept in touch along the way. Your support means… the world!

Signing off from Mars,

Adriana “Rocky” Brown, Arly “Maple” Black, Kenny “Hemingway” Pritchard, Dr. Kshitij “Chai” Mall, Madelyn “Sprout” Whitaker, Mason “Scout” Kuhn, and Megan “Xerox” Rush

Journalist Report – January 12th



Crew 272 Journalist Report 1-12-2023

Sol: 11

Author: Kenny Pritchard, Crew Journalist

Title: Cowboys on Mars

A balanced breakfast of coffee, cookies, and cinnamon rolls baked by Mason set us up for an efficient and exciting sol. It was kind of him to cook for us after we literally woke him up to tell him the septic tank needed flushing. Megan led us in stretches, which, as the sols go on, only seem to get harder. Adriana wrapped up the morning routine with an overview of the EVA plans.

After finishing preparations and enjoying Mason’s performance of some classic Mitch Hedberg jokes in the airlock, Arly, Adriana, Megan, and I took a brief rover ride to a location called Cowboy Corner. Yeehaw! We tied up our horses, secured our hats, kicked our spurs in the dust, and allotted upon exploring the area. The crew collected some ace-high geologic samples as we trekked around the base of a large mound. Along the way, Adriana documented paleoflow indicators in the formations we passed, which she will compare to the data collected at Kissing Camel Ridge. Unfortunately, her rock hammer broke all to pieces out of nowhere! Megan had the foresight to bring along some 3d-printed replacements, which were additively manufactured back at the Hab in a pinch. Although these plastic hammers struggled a bit to shatter harder stones, they were real handy for digging and prying soft sediment. Once we had our fill of hiking about the alien formations and taking in views of the big rock candy mountains in the distance, we burnt the breeze back to camp, where the rest of the crew was hard at work.

Kshitij roamed among different parts of the Hab today, filming outreach videos for his YouTube channel. Space outreach is important to promote interest and inspire the next generation of Martians! We’ll be filming more videos tomorrow to answer questions sent in by K-12 students. For Madelyn, this sol was defined by a final harvest and data collection of her research greens, with which Mason assisted. She meticulously measured the sprout length, leaf length, volume, and mass of hundreds of her daikon radish samples – this data can be later investigated to compare the performance of differently treated plants. After data collection was finished, the crew performed a blind taste test of both fertilized and unfertilized samples. We rated them on factors including vibrance, crispness, and even spiciness! Ultimately, the crew preferred the fertilized radishes, much to Madelyn’s relief. For dinner we’ll supplement our fresh radishes with Aloo Gobhi (a spicy vegetable dish) made by Kshitij. We lack both Aloo and Gobhi in our food stores, but we trust in our commander to come up with a good Martian solution. We’ll see what happens – tomorrow marks the last sol of our simulation!

Journalist Report – January 11th



Crew 272 Journalist Report 1-11-2023
Sol: 10
Author: Kenny Pritchard, Crew Journalist
Title: Kissing Hab Ridge

We set off Arly’s CO2/air quality monitor early this morning thanks to breathing exercises led by Kshitij — Anulom, Vilom, and Pranayama, which had the entire crew huffing and puffing (and blowing our noses in between exercises). After the breathing exercises, we engaged in some yoga asans including Shav-asan (corpse-pose), which felt fitting considering the unfortunate quantity of sim-deaths to this point. For breakfast, Madelyn revisited the crew-approved egg casserole recipe from a previous sol. Due to an intense Martian dust storm and some unfavorable ground conditions, one of our two planned EVAs was cancelled today, but four lucky Martians still got to feel fresh air (or at least EVA-suit air) when a new plan was set.

With veteran experience in gearing up for EVA, Adriana, Madelyn, Megan, and Kshitij were out of the Hab in no time, and they followed a road northwest to reach an overlook called Hab Ridge. From this Ridge, they were able to overlook the Hab. Compared to Kissing Camel, this is nomenclature I can get behind! The trip was an exploratory EVA which the crew completed entirely on foot, employing their best map-reading skills to tirelessly traverse the tricky terrain (or masterfully maneuver the merciless ‘marrain?’). Along the way, they happened upon some Gryphaea fossils or ‘devil’s toenails’ – extinct oysters from several hundred million years ago. I reckon they collected enough for a hearty seafood dinner, but nobody seemed to have the appetite for it. From the top of Hab Ridge, the EVA crew had a great view of the Hab (as I mentioned) and the surrounding topography. They got some great pictures from the vantage point and a better navigational understanding of the area, and Adriana will use this practice to plan out the final EVAs for her research.

Once again among the Hab-rats, I took some video documentation of our crew and the Hab to be compiled later. Mason toiled away at fixing the air circulation system in EVA suit #7, to great success! On-site repairs are highly preferable to service shipments back to the manufacturer, which can take years to return. Arly packed out to the Science Dome to clean off petrified wood and other samples she’d gathered, then set to preparing a popular baked-feta pasta recipe from TikTok. With only two full sols remaining before we depart from MDRS, home is on everyone’s minds! Until then, we will make the most of the time we have here.

Journalist Report – January 10th



Crew 272 Journalist Report 1-10-2023
Sol: 9
Author: Kenny Pritchard, Crew Journalist
Title: Saving Private Chewy

Our morning stretches this sol were followed by a freshly baked bread-and-toppings breakfast thanks to Megan, who woke up early to start the process. Many of us elected to adorn our bread chunks with Nutella, which is somewhat of a coveted resource out here. There’s air, water, Nutella, and shelter. It’s Martian gold!

The EVA of the sol brought Kshitij, Mason, Madelyn, and Arly back to Kissing Camel Ridge for the competitive showdown of a lifetime. Mason’s research includes a search-and-rescue scenario, where the high-speed, high-tech, high-flying drone was to be pitted against two valiant, scrappy, underdog humans to see who could first locate a lost and incapacitated (hidden) astronaut (box containing colorful t-shirts and an uninflated, inflatable Grogu/Baby Yoda). Who will win? Get your tickets while you can! Pay for the whole seat, but you only need the edge! Back at the Hab, we eagerly awaited the scores, serving as a point-of-contact for the EVA crew as usual. Kshitij hid the boxy astronaut (henceforth referred to as Private Chewy), and the athletes were off to the races. Private Chewy was first hidden on the East side of the region, in a flatter area, where humans and the drone should have a fair fight. He was next hidden on the West side of the region, where the obstructive hills should provide an advantage to the drone. For the first attempt, Madelyn and Arly planned to attack the perimeter of the area from both sides (within line of sight of each other). For the second, they moved together through the hills in their joint mission. Mason flew the drone out with a grid-pattern search. Ultimately, the humans were victorious in both trials! But some complications place an asterisk on their claim to the trophy. In a post-game interview, Mason cited strong winds and connectivity difficulties. Several times, the AI-driven drone lost connection and flew back to its launch site. The drone even did pass over the target first, but Private Chewy was invisible in the resolution available for live video feed. Also, Kshitij, not known for his tight lips when it comes to secrets he’s excited about, may have accidentally tipped off the humans in round two. No boxes were harmed in the making of this production.

Those of us stuck indoors (the Hab-rats, per Adriana), engaged in the traditional pastime of cleaning and sorting geologic samples. Upon her return, Madelyn collected a fresh harvest of carrots and beans in the GreenHab. Next, on tonight’s episode of the Great Martian Baking Show, Adriana and Kshitij are making another cake to celebrate the birthday of backup crew GreenHab Officer Ian Rimer. Happy birthday Ian, from Mars to Earth! Madelyn will be collaborating with Ian on research when we return to Purdue, but tonight, she is collaborating with the stove top to make some quesadillas. Mm mm mmm!

Journalist Report – January 9th



Crew 272 Journalist Report 1-9-2023 Sol: 8
Author: Kenny Pritchard, Crew Journalist
Title: Gift Camel

Rejuvenated and well-rested from the previous sol, we began this morning observing a serene, colorful sunrise from the wide window in the Science Dome. Actually, I began the morning by slamming my head into the ceiling while trying to turn off the alarm in my space-conscious room, but that doesn’t sound as good. I threw together some chocolate chip pancakes for the crew after our regular stretching session, and we were all set to go. Adriana covered a brief overview of the EVA as usual, which was planned to be a simple trip to Kissing Camel Ridge to collect geologic samples, observe ancient flow regimes, and test out some more drone scouting.

Kshitij, Mason, Adriana, and I started suiting up for our EVA about a half hour before the planned departure time. Typically, the whole crew heads down to the lower deck to help prepare. The suits are bulky and much easier to don with a helping hand. We gathered all of the equipment we needed, performed radio checks to make sure we’d be able to communicate clearly, adjusted our suit straps as necessary, and stepped into the airlock to prebreathe. Mission Support has presented us with new headsets courtesy of a recent interplanetary cargo shipment, and they worked great! A brief rover drive led us to Kissing Camel Ridge, where we found a surplus of interesting rocks, minerals, fossils, and paleoflow indicators, but a shocking lack of kissing camels. We’re pretty sure we know which formations earned it that name, but it’s still hard to see… Maybe if you squint… Mason did his usual business with the drone and scouted out locations for search & rescue tests he’ll attempt to run in the coming sols. Adriana collected more samples and found some useful info for her research. Kshitij supported Mason’s drone efforts, and I picked up an oversized pocketful of the petrified wood chunks that littered the ground in that area. We finished our objectives and made it back to the Hab with time to spare!

In the GreenHab, Madelyn is in an important phase of her research. She’s pulled some samples of her sprouts to analyze how quickly they’ll wilt after being harvested – part of her investigation is to test claims that the fertilizer she uses will promote longevity and better shelf-life in the plants. She’s also planning for her ultimate harvest on Sol 11 when she will conclude her data collection here at MDRS. Megan was unfortunately forced to scrap a failed hammer print (Pima the 3d printer is a fickle contraption), but luckily, she has already finished printing two others that will be sufficient for the field-testing in a few sols. Lastly, Arly introduced a mid-mission component of her cognitive survey which identifies major contributors to workload on EVA. Because my making breakfast this morning was a schedule adjustment, I also happen to be on dinner tonight, but the crew is generously sparing me from double duty by taking a chunk out of our leftovers instead. Or maybe they just don’t want to eat more of my food? I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth! Or… a gift camel?

Journalist Report – December 28th

Sol: 10

Author’s name: Helen Eifert, Crew Geologist

Title: Pie in the Sky

This evening, we were graced with our first bit of snow on Mars. A martian snowfall consists of carbon dioxide rather than water and the flakes are cubical! This snow only occurs at the poles, where human presence would be difficult, so how we managed to wind up here is a gosh dang mystery. Hopefully we find our way back towards the equator by the morning to squeeze in our final space walks on the red planet.

I am happy to report that Crew 271 has made it one full day without any injuries. A true feat with the IMARS team apparently, particularly in the lower leg region. At this point in the mission, we’ve all found our comfortable routines in close quarters with each other. Today was largely uneventful due to poor weather in the forecast and no scheduled EVAs as a result. In space we always prefer safe over sorry. A productive start to the mission afforded us this leisure as we wrapped up many of our research projects indoors.

Grete started building her amateur movie making career in putting together the feature length film titled “Pain! Pain! Pain!: An Astronomical Accident.” Eifert took the excitement of watching dirt dry indoors, this time baking it an oven. This ordeal is 100% less fun than baking cookies because despite the geologist inclination to taste samples, there’s no sweet treat to eat at the end. Levesque and Guariniello took to writing today. Marc tell me edting is keY. Iakymov ensured the Hab stayed standing and everything was operational. Meanwhile Kaosaar set up cameras around the Hab to observe us all day.

It’s wild that we are almost ready to return to Earth, just in time for the new year. Cesare treated us to pizza for dinner tonight. We literally enjoyed pie in the sky. We’ll be returning to Mars in 2023 to start an interplanetary franchise of planetary pizza parlors. Cesare will be the chef, Alicyn will source the greens and run marketing, Sergii will maintain the appliances, Andres will be our designated fly on the wall, and Marc will get stuck doing the dishes again as usual. As for me, I guess I will just watch the pizzas bake in the oven and jot some things down.

Journalist Report – December 29th

Sol: 11

Author’s name: Helen Eifert, Crew Geologist

Title: Clayke

CONTENT WARNING: Dad jokes ahead. 11 days is a lot of days to come up with witty food puns and similes. I refuse to discard this bit, so buckle up for all the creative juice I have left.

Today was our last day on Mars! Crew 271 enjoyed a slow morning while all the dirt outside dried. Naturally, I watched the whole ordeal from one of the small windows in the Hab. By 1200, Guariniello, Iakymov, Kaosaar, and Eifert suited up one more time for the last EVA on Mars. We took a pleasant 8 km stroll from the Hab to Skyline Rim for spectacular views. Here, we gathered Mancos shale samples for Cesare’s research.

As we ascended towards Skyline Rim, we encountered thin beds of white sandstones like frosting between layers of cake. In this case the proverbial cake is clay. Clayke. Here we see more influence of water in the form of potholes where groundwater makes its way through cracks in the clay, creating vertical channels. A hazard for astronauts, but if you think of it in the clayke context, that light fluffy texture would impress the likes of Paul Hollywood. Once we topped Hab Ridge (Amazonis Planitia), Skyline Ridge ahead displayed magnificent mass wastings, which could also be used to describe the activity of Crew 271 devouring cake. Along with large colluvial fans, there were gullies, and thin layers of shale towering above us. Source shale we shall.

All the while, Andres filmed us, not for studying our behavior, but this time for Estonian TV. Just to paint the picture fully, this involved him scuttling ahead in the bulky EVA suit, plopping down the tripod, filming us walk by, and then scurrying ahead again for another shot. We look forward to our inevitable rise to super stardom in Estonia.

Upon return, Levesque and Grete had baked goods waiting for the four hungry astronauts. There was bread, obviously, but also cake to celebrate our last day on Mars. We completed one final jigsaw puzzle and reflected on the successful mission behind us. Tonight we will go to sleep on Mars and wake up back on Earth, where I am positive my jokes will be significantly less funny. To those who aren’t slap happy from living in a tin can on Mars for two weeks I say, let them eat clayke.

Journalist Report -January 8th

Crew 272 Journalist Report 1-8-2023

Sol: 7

Author: Kenny Pritchard, Crew Journalist

Title: Give us a Break!

Although every minute counts on an extraterrestrial surface mission, our time is not devoted entirely to work. In the evenings and during downtime, we often read books, play games, or communicate with our friends and family to pass the time. Currently, we’re taking an entire sol off to do so! This kind of recreation time is important to preserve the mental and social health of astronauts, especially on longer missions. Mars has plenty enough sun and sand to resemble a vacation destination, sans the water, and also the breathable atmosphere. Kshitij kicked off our sol-off with a lovingly made Poha and Tapri chai breakfast. This was a unique and delicious treat for our crew, and I seriously doubt any of our other breakfasts will beat the effort involved. Lacking an appropriately sized colander to drain the chai, we thought like Martians and improvised a tedious yet effective solution: pouring the chai through one half of a metal tea ball.

The rest of the sol was spent exerting ourselves on books, naps, and word puzzle games around the upper deck of the hab. Madelyn caught up on journaling and watered her plants as usual (they’re sprouting nicely!), Adriana cleaned off her desk and read several maps of various locations, Megan collected her finished rock hammer 3d-print, Arly finished her book (Brandon Sanderson – The Way of Kings – she does recommend it to fans of fantasy), Kshitij partook in a photo-op in the commander’s bedroom, Mason organized his room and took out the trash, and I reached some chilling revelations about the Dark Lord Voldemort in my Harry Potter read-through. After all these exhausting activities, we took turns ferrying geologic samples over to the Science Dome for cleaning and expert analysis: another rock party. A few of us took turns swinging the hammer to crack rocks. Everyone celebrates when a sample is identified as petrified wood or an interesting mineral, and laments when it’s something more common. Poor feldspar…

We’ve named just about every inanimate object in the Hab – psychologists need not comment. The radio transmitter is BTS, the drone is Garud, the 3d printer is Pima, our 3d-printed rabbit is named Linus, the geology hammer is Little Rocky, and Adriana’s giant petrified wood chunk is Petri. We’re only missing Wilson the volleyball. Megan put together some chili mac for a relatively early dinner, and we’re 2 for 2 on banger meals for the sol. I can’t believe this didn’t win the recent chili contest she entered it in! Over dinner, we’re writing our sol-ly reports as usual, and planning out EVAs for the coming week. Afterwards, we’ll continue our recreation by playing some Monikers and watching the movie ‘Lakshya’ per Kshitij’s glowing recommendation. Though it still feels like we’ve only just arrived, we’re now just about halfway through the rotation. It’s go-time for the rest of the mission!

Journalist Report – December 30th

Sol: 12

Author’s name: Helen Eifert, Crew Geologist

Title: Bob’s Burgers

Often in confined environments, groups find some type of unifying inside joke. It’s usually some reference that comes up during the time together that gets funnier the more time spent together. I’m going to use a reference to call this the “hi bob” tendency. In a TV series called “For All Mankind,” an astronaut crew of three spends three months on the moon. Throughout their isolation, they start greeting each other with “hi bob.” An inside joke that spawned from only having access to three episodes of the Bob Newhart show on station. We weren’t in short supply of movie references with the likes of Marc Levesque as commander; and luckily, MDRS had much more than 3 episodes available. We had quite a few movie nights as a result. One of which was Galaxy Quest, a parody of the Star Trek franchise. Shortly after, we found our own “hi bob” in a rendition of the thermian alien’s way of clapping. Visual provided below.

Crew 271 completed a successful mission to Mars, conducting important work, exciting research, and truly enjoying each other’s company. Despite the risk of throwing that all to the wind, this evening we made an ill advised attempt to beat the space snake game, Space Escape. I am happy to report that with the addition Guariniello, we did indeed manage to escape the scary snakes! Perfect timing as we “touched down” on Earth this morning, concluding our simulation on Mars. We had one last stroll up to North Ridge this morning, still continuing Levesque’s radio communication work beyond our formal mission close. With most of our gear packed and the station nearly cleaned and ready for departure, we enjoyed one final meal together at Stan’s (not Bob’s) Burger Shack in the nearest town of Hanksville, UT. One more sleep in home sweet hab and these six astronauts will head their separate ways.

A big thermian round of applause for MDRS Crew 271, the International Mars Analog Research Simulation (IMARS) mission, and our mission support on the ground. Eifert signing off, Happy New Year and Ad Ares.

Journalist Report – January 7th

Sol: 6
Author: Kenny Pritchard, Crew Journalist
Title: Candor Chasma 3: The Return of Candor Chasma
A clear sky last evening allowed us the opportunity to stargaze from the Musk Observatory in MDRS, affording bright glimpses of twittering constellations through the thin, dry Martian atmosphere. The views were incredible, save for the full spectrum of stars being obscured by light pollution from the full-phase Martian moons. We’re hoping for another go towards the end of our rotation! This morning, Adriana made the crew oatmeal, and Kshitij continued (trying) to teach me Bollywood dance moves.
For the EVA of the sol, Megan, Adriana, Arly, and Mason made a return journey to Candor Chasma. It started off with some communication issues that had to be fixed before departure – even slightly sub nominal equipment is plenty enough reason to take precautions in this harsh environment. We’re starting to run out of good dad-jokes to pass the 5-minute required suit prebreath and depressurization time spent idly in the airlock, so if you’re reading this, please send ideas via the appropriate channels. We’re begging you, spare us from more of our sorry attempts. After those communication problems were fixed, the crew set out for their destination. They took the same route as our previous EVA but traversed deeper and more deliberately into Candor Chasma. Mason had another chance to show off his piloting skills, flying his drone through the canyon like Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing down the Death Star’s meridian trench, only with more video navigation and fewer proton torpedoes. This EVA was geology-heavy, to say the least – each crew member collected a small hoard of interesting rocks and minerals, and Adriana hauled in a behemoth of a petrified wood sample, citing an emotional attachment she’d developed to it on the way back.
A mostly uneventful sol at the Hab, Madelyn continued to treat her plants against the high temperatures the GreenHab is experiencing. Kshitij and I were excited to flip the script on Arly and remind her to start her cognitive performance tests immediately upon her return from EVA. Ha! The joke’s on us, I’m pretty sure she achieved her best scores yet. One notable detail is that this sol marks the crew’s first showers since arriving at MDRS. We’ve been subsisting on wet wipes and dry shampoo thus far, but our recent efforts to conserve water supply have earned us this luxury. Finally, I can take off this clothespin I’ve been pinching my nose shut with! Madelyn will take the lead on bread and quinoa power bowls for dinner to restore the crew’s spent energy. Tomorrow, we rest!

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