Journalist Report – November 14th

Thurs 14 Nov Sol 4
by Guy Murphy
This morning I undertook my first extravehicular activity (EVA) of this Crew rotation.
Steve, Larissa and I took a pair of small 4 wheeled electric rovers out along the road
to the south on the campus where we are sampling for micro-meteorites. The simulated
EVA space suits restrict the line of sight, requiring the wearer to orientate their
body to look to the side rather than turn their head. This is most noticeable driving
the rovers, as you cannot easily see behind you from the driver’s seat. The suits
include gloves, which remove the sense of touch that would normally inform contact with
surfaces and objects around you. The enclosed helmets create a void of silence, verbal
contact only possible using radios.
We spent an hour and a half at the sample collection site. Radio dialogue with the
others was supplemented by hand signals. Space suits can get hot when you are working,
despite internal air conditioning and cooling. If your face gets itchy, you cannot
scratch your nose. But its very beautiful being outside in this landscape and an
opportunity for some physical exercise. Working together we completed nearby 1/3rd of
the mission’s planned sampling at this site before returning to the Hab.
On Mars, humans are inherently more efficient than robots when it comes to field
research, and engineering requiring human cognition and dexterity. This is why we need
humans there. EVAs will only be done when strictly necessary, as any venture outside is
inherently dangerous. Exposure to background radiation will discourage individuals from
logging up too much EVA time. People will never go out by themselves, only in pairs or
more. Living indoors for many months on end, any chance to be outside under open skies
will be highly valued.
A restricted Martian pantry need not result in a bland diet. This morning Larissa
served freshly baked croissants, produced with dried butter and flour. We have been
making blocks of hard cheese by filling tins with dried grated cheese, pouring in hot
water, pressing the cheese with forks, then draining and refrigerating. Once taken from
their moulds and aired, the sliced cheese is great to serve on dry biscuits with pickles.

Journalist Report – November 12th

Tues 12 Nov Sol 2
by Guy Murphy
Shane Usher and Steve Whitfield undertook their first EVAs today, on a morning excursion led by our geologist and Mission Commander, Andrew Wheeler. Larissa and Jennifer helped them get ready. The process starts with the donning of flight suits and hiking boots. The astronauts then select and test radios, and put on headsets. They are helped into their single or double piece space suits, which have internal ventilation fans that need to be activated. Once ready, the crew stand in the intermediate airlock space as a 5 minute simulated decompression occurs – a patient wait for those on each side of the airlock door. The explorers then step through the outer airlock door and onto the dusty surface to begin work.
As Greenhab Officer for the mission, I spent spent some of the day working in the outside of the main Hab. The Greenhab is a freestanding greenhouse connected by a simulated pressurised tunnel which is large enough to partially complement the diets of crew with vegetables at peak harvest time. Utah is very cold in winter, but during the day the cloudless skies quickly warm the Greenhab interior. Lights and heaters come on at night.
The operational season for the MDRS has just begun, so we are still at the planting stage. Seeds for kitchen herbs have germinated. Larger plants are in terra cotta pots. Strawberries have begun flowering. Today I planted carrot and radish seed, and soon I will sow tomatoes, capsium and rocket. Given our diet of shelf storable dehydrated food, fresh greens are a luxury on Mars. While labour intensive, it is worth the effort of cultivation. Tending the plants is an enjoyable, relaxing activity. The presence of a Greenhab Officer in each crew should ensure continuity in plant care over the operational season of the campus.
We started lunch with Larissa’s entree of vegetarian pulled pork. (Ingredients included shredded banana skins.) Steve helped prepare a pesto pasta for dinner. Soon crew will be enjoying pasta with pesto made from Greenhab grown Basil.

Journalist Report – Nov 11th

Mon 11 Nov Sol 1
by Guy Murphy

This morning we woke up on Mars. We emerged from our sleeping quarters at 7 am to views of the Sun rising across an alien landscape through the upper-level Hab windows. For the next 12 days, we are in full simulation mode (sim). We do not go outside of the designated pressurised areas of the campus unless wearing space suits and following a depressurisation protocol. We have to make do with the supplies we have, and undertake our research projects and Hab maintenance while not breaking sim.

The crew is following a set daily schedule over the course of the mission, which includes rising at 7 am and lights out at 10 pm. This is to keep everyone working together on the same sleep cycle, and get the most of the available daylight hours.

We are fortunate to have relatively warm, clear and dry days forecast for the next fortnight. Typically in this part of Utah it is much colder at this time of year, with greater odds of precipitation.
The first EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) onto the Martian surface was completed this morning, with Larissa and Jennifer taking their first steps on another world.

The 11th of November is Remembrance Day in Australia and New Zealand. As is customary, the crew stopped while out in the field for a minute of silence at 11 am to honour Australian and New Zealand service men and women.

For lunch, we consumed the remaining spaghetti Bolognese from last night. Early afternoon, I showed the new crew how to make butter, cheese, and bread from the various dry ingredients in our stores. The bread machine is proving its worth.

On a long-duration mission with a limited pantry, we both crave novelty and must avoid wasting food products. Larissa is experimenting with creating a vegetarian mock pulled pork dish derived from banana skins. She has candied some orange and mandarine peel to include in a fruit bread she will bake tomorrow.

Journalist Report – Nov 8th

Journalist Report Nov 8

Journalist: Sandy Dance

Crew 214 Sol 12 Journalist Report

by Sandy Dance

We’ve done the EVAs, we’ve done the science, its all over now bar the shouting! Well, actually the cleaning! Yes, we spent the morning vacuuming, mopping, inventoring, and general tidying up! Otherwise its all pretty quiet today.

Last night we had great success! Using the bread maker to make pizza dough, we then used the brand new pizza pan to create a remarkably genuine pizza using the dehydrated tomato, capsicum and cheese, and spam, salmon, and herbs. Probably one of our best evening meals so far!

It has been really interesting exploring how to do field science under the restrictions of wearing space suits, communicating by radio and commuting to the field by electric rover. The other important aspect is how to live in a small group under very constraining circumstances, eating a quite restricted diet of long life foods, and remaining functional. Albeit our 2 or 4 weeks is quite short compared with the 2 or 3 years of an actual mission. In summary I think what we are doing here can genuinly contribute to understanding what will be required on Mars itself!

Its been a great two weeks, we’ve learnt a lot. I’ll never look up and see Mars the same again!

Journalist Report – Nov 6th

Wed 6 Nov Sol 10
by Sandy Dance

Another day, another EVA! But we are not so blasé. T

his morning Guy and I went out to the micrometeorite grid to gather more magnetic particles. We motor along the road in our space suits and buggies, turn a corner and there is a large collection of vehicles. Oh no, our patch has been invaded!

Closer inspection reveals a film crew with all you would expect: catering, equipment, props. We wave as we pass, and get multiply photographed in return. They seemed to take the sight of Martians motoring by in their stride.

The micrometeorite gathering was a success, having done a couple more rows of the grid, dealing with the footprints left by an unknown interloper the other day by noting which squares were contaminated and carrying on.

Then back at the Science Dome Andrew begins analysing yesterday’s gypsum by heating it and seeing the water condensation on a beaker, then finding the weight difference: 0.4g of water from 17g of rock.


Later that afternoon we spot a couple of strangers walking on the hill near the Outpost. After failing to raise Shannon on the radio, we break sim and investigate. Turns out they were heading to the film crew up the road but got confused by our rather SciFi setup here. The film, they tell us, features futuristic Native Americans in a post-apocalyptic dystopia.

Last night we were successful spotting Saturn with the Celestron telescope: great sightseeing the rings!

Journalist Report – November 05th

Tuesday 5 Nov Sol 9
by Sandy Dance
Its Sol 9 and we are starting to think: Wow! the end of our time here is coming up (at least for Dianne and me, Guy and Andrew are continuing into the next rotation). Consequently Dianne is checking through the supplies to see if there are any food containers that are nearly empty and should be replaced.
Guy spent some time in the GreenHab helping Shannon, David and Atila water the recent plantings, and sowing herbs. It will be great to have the greenhouse going, a terrific resource for those weary of ultra low humidity and temperature, and those hankering after the colour green!
Today we started a new experiment: Dianne and Andrew beetled off in the two rovers to ‘White Moon’ (there are some really wacky place names round here) further north from our micrometeorite grid to collect gypsum and associated soil. This is so Andrew can see how much water can be baked out of the soil, which is of potential interest on Mars, where there is known to be quantities of gypsum. This would be another resource for ‘in-situ resource utilization’ there. They returned with four kilos of soil and 9 gypsum samples (which look crystaline to the untrained eye), and will trial the baking tomorrow. Exciting stuff!
This afternoon I took out the Celestron astronomical telescope from the Science Dome to see what’s involved in using it at night. This is not to be confused with the Musk solar telescope, or the remote access telescope situated somewhat off campus. The Celestron is an equatorial mount, so it needs the mount axis pointing to the North star, not something I can do in the day, but I was able to calibrate the finderscope against the local hills. Very nice piece of equipment, looking forward to using it later.

Journalist Report – November 4th

Mon 4 Nov Sol 8
by Sandy Dance

The two science experiments proceed apace. Dianne’s work happens at each meal, busy weighing and analyzing the food data. Meanwhile, this morning Andrew and I went on an EVA back to the micrometeorite grid, and collected 28 squares worth of particles. We got through more squares today because we had more time, and just went to the site and did one thing without diversions. We may also just be getting more skillful at the complex process of waving the magnet, carefully bagging the collected particles, and attaching the next bag onto the magnet. Very satisfying, but nevertheless, after our return I was quite exhausted.

Tonight the Melbourne Cup runs at 9pm, so we have been preparing special food: jambalaya, sauteed vegetables, and mashed potatoes. To be followed with freshly cooked brownies and a bottle of sparkling, not wine, but Perrier mineral water. Oooh, fancy! Whether have the stamina to stay up for the actual horse race is as yet unknown.

Journalist Report Nov 3rd

Journalist Report Nov 3

Journalist: Sandy Dance

Crew 214 Sol 7 Journalist Report

by Sandy Dance

Today is our well earned day off, so I was determined to have a good sleep in. However, I slept until the window became light, check the time, and lo, its still before 7am, our usual wakeup time. I had forgotten about last night being the end of daylight saving time, so I got my extra hours sleep, and stayed on time!

So really, not much to say about today. We took things easy, lazed around, washed ourselves, our clothes, the floor (sound a bit workaholic here!). But its interesting how therapeutic an unstructured day is, running at a different pace. Moreover, the hab is a benign space, easy to let time slip by within, especially with the staterooms providing personal space.

Tomorrow we are back into the fray, with a long EVA scheduled for the micrometeorite experiment. And now we have only 5 full days left, so we will have to schedule our activities carefully to use them well.

Journalist Report – November 2nd

Crew 214 Sol 6 2 Nov 2019
by Sandy Dance
Following our water scare the other day, we decided to delay the pumping of water from the low tank to the high tank for as long as possible. Consequently, despite the CapCom advising that we pump the water up last night we decided to wait until this morning. Mistake? Yes and no. When we came to pump this morning, nothing happened. So we contact the engineering team. The problem is likely that the pipes froze overnight, hence the caution in the MDRS Handbook on page 24 advising that the pumping happen in the evening. So we wait until noon. Still no water. This time the engineering team find that the actual(?) problem was that the hot water system was plugged into the same circuit, overloading it. Now we have water! And the lesson: this hab is complex, and needs to be treated with respect.
Today the EVA expedition went out to continue the micrometeorite experiment, scanning the square metre plots for micrometeorites. They were able to complete another 10 plots, finding more fine magnetic dust in each.
This morning we inspected yesterday’s findings with a 40X optical microscope, but we are still unable to determine the origin of the particles. We may need to use an electron microscope back in Australia for this.

Journalist Report – November 1st

1 Nov 2019 Sol 5 Journalist Report
by Sandy Dance
Last night was a very warm night, largely due to the filter in the heater having been changed yesterday, allowing it run far more efficiently. Today is a very normal day, we have settlled into a routine, the various science projects now proceeding apace.
For instance: at breakfast, lunch and dinner, Dianne our nutrition scientist is beavering away studying the total nutrient loss from food waste. Consequently she carefully weighs our dirty dishes and cooking pots, and again after they are clean and finds the difference. Its a remarkably painstaking task, and also requires a lot of data entry. Its really interesting how much food is wasted, in preparation, plate waste and spoilage. So far total waste is 31 gm per person per day. Total calories wasted all up is 400 calories per day for the group! This would be a significant loss on Mars.
The other major science project, the micrometeorite study, had a big step forward this afternoon. Andrew and Dianne went on EVA and finished the 10 metre grid installation, and began the magnetic sweep. They managed the first two squares (2 m^2) and got a lot of magnetic particles. We are cock a hoop with this development, although since the particles are so tiny, its hard to tell whether they are volcanic magnetite or micrometeorites. It requires a microscope to make the distinction: the meteorites should be spherical, the magnetite shards. We await the chance to have a look.
So after a relaxing meal of chicken, kidney beans, rice and vegetables, we settle back for the evening.