Journalist Report – March 30th

Hi CapCom,

this is our Journalist Report on sol 6.


Miho XO crew191

MARS is a harsh, (and) cold world.

MDRS is a harsh, (but) cool time tunnel 🙂

Journalist Report

The First Shower and The First Coolness

MARS atmosphere is about more than 100 times thinner than Earth’s. And without a “thermal layer”, MARS can not retain any heat energy. On average, the temperature on MARS is about minus 80 degree Fahrenheit (equal : minus 60 degrees Celsius). And the next question is, why we “able” to feel cold?

Two thing that make me interested to find the answer of this question, first we feel cold because of Iron Level in our body, means that Iron is a critical part of the blood. It helps red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body, ensuring each cell can function properly. Equally, iron deficiency can impact this process, and it is believed that this can lead to feeling cold all the time. A scientific study aimed to identify the relationship between iron levels and body temperature. Other reason is Heat Transfer. , and remember that there are three ways that heat can transfer: conduction, convection and radiation.


How we can know that we have a feeling about things HOT or COLD then?

“Hot” and “cold” are relative terms that we can use to compare how things feel when they have more or less of a certain kind of energy we call heat.

Our Commander, Yusuke Murakami : took the first shower in the 2nd day of the mission, with “out of service heater” 🙂 Cold as hell he said,

Like a… “Mars ain’t no kind of place to raise your kids; in fact it’s cold as hell” sang the legend Elton John : “Rocket Man”!, and although the song was released in 1972 — four years before our robotic machine from earth was the first successful landing on MARS Planet. Once Again, MARS was our long period of the imagination on science fiction history before crazy scientist create a rocket. And MARS Isn’t as Earthlike as it might look.

MDRS is on Desert,

And Fact that ; In that way MARS is like an Earthly desert; even after a blisteringly hot day the temperatures can plummet at night, leaving an ill-prepared camper shivering beneath the cold glow of starlight. Except on MARS, where the Sun is only 50% as bright as on Earth and the atmosphere only 1% as dense, the nighttime lows dip to Arctic depths. Our experience here on MDRS took us into one journey of other side of imagination about MARS look like, and perhaps one project from Wataru Okamoto ; DIY machine called PM2.5 – a measurement instrument as for : Environmental Monitoring System will make complete. And in this mission, he can tell us about Calculation of Mass Concentration in the air and develop from Stand Alone instrument into wider range type of measurement tools that we can explore more to be aware about our environment.

“Deserts on Earth have very extreme temperature ranges,” says Mars Science Laboratory Deputy Project Scientist, Ashwin Vasavada. “So if you take a desert on Earth and put it in a very thin atmosphere 50% farther from the Sun, you’d have something like what we’re seeing at Gale Crater.”

Then we are here ! 🙂

So, how cold is space? That’s a nonsense question. It’s only when you put a thing in space, like a Space Ship, rock, MDRS space suit, or an astronaut, that you can measure temperature.

To the next our curiosity ; Are we ready for the COLD WORLD up there? MDRS is one of the option to test and to learn how to stay and focus on the rules and practicing MARS space protocol. Lots of impression and keep us warmer with those chaotic and activities. Like we sucked up into an alternate Time Tunnel 🙂

Journalist Report (Japanese) March 29th


29th, March 2018 MDRS time













Journalist Report- March 22nd

This morning’s EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) was a bit of a special one. Four of our crew members exited the vault, armed with a camera and a drone, and entered the 4×4 electrical rovers. They drove them south and stopped a bit further than the formation known as Zubrin’s Head. There, they exited the vehicles and walked west, towards the base of a single, conical, towering red mountain. At around 100m (300ft), it stood out as the tallest rock formation of the area, and they were ready to climb it. Despite sharply inclined slopes on either side, and protruding rocks near the top, the team was keen on making it to the top. With the drone, they circled the mountain, and determined an optimal path that went around the back side. On they went. This wasn’t the worst climb any of them had seen, but with the heavy space-suits on their backs, restricted vision, lack of water and limited supply of oxygen, it sure felt like one of the bad ones. Despite the difficulties, after half an hour of huff ‘n puff they finally reached the top, from which they could see the whole valley: snowy mountains far in the south, the Skyline Rim in the west, and the Martian plains stretching all the way to the horizon in the north, well past the MDRS and the area we have had the luck to explore these past two weeks.

This was their last EVA. On Saturday, they will embark on the shuttle which will take them away from this red land, away from the dry sand, the storms and the burning sun, and take them back home, back to Earth. Seeing, from above, the area they have spent these last two weeks in was a touching moment for them, and they felt the incoming goodbyes.

Back at base though, there were still things to do before departure. For starters, today was Michael’s birthday, and the whole team celebrated with birthday cake, board games and a custom-made paper tiara for Michael. The rest of the day was devoted to finishing up our experiments, and slowly beginning to clean up the base before the incoming crew gets here on Saturday. Indeed, there is only one day left for us here. And we’re trying to enjoy it as much as we can!

Journalist Report Sol 10 – 21st March

Slowly but surely, our stay at the MDRS is coming to an end. What seemed like a daunting two weeks at the beginning has passed right by us, and we are now only two days away from the moment our shuttle will take off from Mars and head back to Earth. Our experiments are slowly coming to an end, and we can all feel the end approaching.

Our commander, Maximilien, has been the cornerstone of our project since the beginning, a year ago, when we first began searching for funds and planning this very unique voyage. He has managed the team’s efforts with great precision, while at the same time giving more of himself than anyone else for the success of this project!

He is an industrial engineering graduate currently pursuing a PhD in organic synthesis (more specifically cyclopentane and 1,4-diene formation), and his experiment at the MDRS was centred on the characterization of physico-chemical properties of soil. His plan was to measure different characteristics of soils sampled at various locations on the Martian landscape, testing them for the factors which are most important for plant growth. These included pH, conductivity, B, total N, P, ions and macroscopic texture. Some of these factors are easy to measure with the basic instruments available locally, others with the spectrophotometer that we brought with us, and some needed more complex methods, requiring rare chemicals and solvents. These supplies were on the same shipment as Ariane’s culture media, which had an accident on its way to Mars and had to reverse directions and head back to Earth. This prevented Max from performing some of his planned experiments, but nonetheless, he has managed to isolate significant results with what was available locally. Still, this has freed up a bit of time for him, and so he has been able to share his extensive knowledge of chemistry to help others with their experiments – Mario to test the conductivity and pH of his hydroponic solutions, pH testing for Fred’s and Ariane’s bacteria, and calibration curves for Martin. As so, his time has been well used despite the unexpected outcome of his experiment!

Tomorrow, we will celebrate Michael’s birthday with an EVA in the morning, and some cake and board games or a movie in the evening! He sure would have liked some good beer on the side, but unfortunately there is a very strict policy on alcohol on Mars – it is completely forbidden! He will have to wait until we get back to Earth to enjoy a cold one..

Journalist Report

Life in our small Martian community is passing quicker than most of us probably thought it would. When you realize you’re about to spend two entire weeks locked in a cylinder of 8 meters of diameter (with a common room of just 25 square meters), it is hard not to feel a bit of anxiety. In the MDRS, the space is located so that all the rooms give directly on the common room, with very little privacy. The ground floor is entirely dedicated to engineering. The outside parts are either reserved to scientific work or are too dangerous to stay in due to cosmic radiation. It is therefore almost impossible to ever be alone. For most people, this is a recipe for disaster. Our crew, however, has been quite lucky. We knew we worked well together as a group, and enjoyed each other’s presence during our brief meetings over the past year. Nothing, however, guaranteed that these feelings would pass the test of time (and in our case, the test of proximity) – but they did! Over the past ten days, we have functioned quite well as a group – there have been no fights, few tensions and many moments of laughter, and so, the time has passed us much quicker than we had thought possible.

One could say that our days at the MDRS all closely resembled each other, and this isn’t necessarily untrue. A typical day like today started with breakfast, another EVA for half the team, and a combination of scientific and academic work. Lunch, delicious as always, was once again cooked by Ariane from the dehydrated ingredients we are now well used to. It is always surprising to see how this unappetizing looking powder magically changes into the food we know so well from back on Earth. We always end up eating just like at home thanks to our dedicated cooks!

Time has indeed passed quick, but we still have work to do. Experiments are not finished and we still have three entire days to go! Thankfully we have received a brand new food shipment from earth, as well as a fresh harvest of tomatoes and greens from the GreenHab, so we are ready to go!

Journalist Report – March 18th

The Mars Desert Research Station is an ever-expanding project. Initially composed of only the main Hab and a GreenHab, new modules have since been added. A solar observatory (the Musk Observatory), an automatic night telescope, solar panels, the Repair and Assembly Module, as well as the Science Dome which has allowed the laboratory to be moved from the restricted lower deck of the Hab to a brand-new area with lots of space to work. Among our researchers working in the Science Dome are Ariane and Fred, both experts in microbiology.

Ariane is a molecular biology graduate, currently beginning her doctorate in the field of genetics. Her experiment, despite being centred on microbiology, is of great importance to the whole crew: she is making Martian bread! Indeed, we may imagine a situation in which we would run out of yeast on Mars, leaving us unable to make one of our favourite staple foods. To keep the bread production sustainable, we would need to get the yeast, lactobacillus, from elsewhere, and that is exactly what Ariane is doing: she is isolating it from human saliva! This is no easy task. First, she sampled saliva and cultivated the many microorganisms it contains in Petri dishes. These Petri dishes were supposed to be filled with what we call a selective medium – a substance which only allows for the growth of a specific microorganism, in this case, lactobacillus. Unfortunately, the shipment from Earth which carried this medium has had an accident, and hasn’t been able to reach us in time. Ariane therefore had to rely on her knowledge of microbiology to manually isolate and cultivate only the required yeast, and no other micro-organism – no easy task, given their very close resemblance! She is currently very close to achieving her goal, and the rest of the crew very close to eating our first true Martian bread (made, in part, from spit)!

Fred, on the other hand, is a biotech and pharma graduate, currently pursuing a doctorate in bacteriology. His fist experiment, concerning plant culture in Martian regolith, has been covered below. In addition to this, he is also working on a microbiology experiment, aiming to evaluate the survival capacity of bacteria in the harsh conditions that exist on Mars. He is using the bacterium bacillus subtilis, a very common microorganism, and placing it in small quartz vials (a material which allows UV rays to pass unhindered), in different conditions around the station to see how many of them will survive. At the end of the experiment, these bacteria will be counted and their numbers compared to a standard sample which will have been staying in the safety of the Science Dome. This experiment is especially interesting because it sets out to answer many questions about the ability of earth-born bacteria, which are therefore adapted to earth-like conditions, to survive in an environment that is literally alien and extremely aggressive. If conclusive, a positive result could mean that the Martian environment is suitable to harbour Earth’s microbes, which could mean many things for agriculture, human life, development, terraforming, and generally our future on the Red Planet.

Journalist Report – March 17th

Apart from each crew member’s experiment, there are many things to do at the MDRS. Cooking, cleaning and the usual chores are of course part of the job, like in any shared living space. But the MDRS being quite a special place to live, as it is, after all, located on Mars, there are additional and essential tasks that need to be completed every day. Taking care of the GreenHab and its plants is an essential one – indeed, they are our life support, producing both our food and our oxygen, and they therefore require exceptional care. However, the MDRS is a complex system, with many variables. If one of them fails, the whole station’s well-being is compromised. The role of the crew engineer, Bastien, is therefore also essential : every day, he checks all the systems, machines, reservoirs, electrical devices, batteries and engines, inside and outside the station, that allow its optimal functioning. His is truly a full-time job. And despite this, Bastien has been involved in quite a serious and time-consuming project of aerial 3D cartography. With his drone, and a computer program designed for this purpose, he has been criss-crossing rectangular areas of terrain, taking dozens of pictures from all angles, which are then automatically recombined in a tedious hours-long process, giving a 3D map of the area, which can then be assembled with surrounding maps to create maps of whole regions.

Michael, our XO and an operations research specialist, has also been working quite hard : his main project concerns something called robust planning under uncertainty, which means that he has been working on a dynamic, adaptable, and predictive schedule for the whole crew. This planning program, coded on his computer, has been designed by Michael from scratch and is still getting improved day by day. Indeed, the point of such a program is to adapt the schedule to unpredicted (and unpredictable) events that slow down or accelerate a particular crew member’s experiment. Since all experiments are related in some way (by equipment, place and/or time), a change in one experiment will often impact many other experiments – this makes for quite a complex system, which needs to be updated daily. Michael has therefore been taking daily notes of our progress, and integrating them into his program to generate the next days’ improved schedule.

As you may think, Michael is quite the computer enthusiast. You can imagine his delight when he realised that the small remote-controlled linux-powered rover called Phoenix, made by members of the NorCal Mars Society, didn’t work and needed troubleshooting. Yesterday evening, he got down to understanding where the problem was, and started working in a trance-like state, measuring voltages, connecting cables and reading and writing code that seems like gibberish to the untrained eye. In the end, he understood that the problem was two-fold : on the one hand, the rover’s internal clock was unsynchronized with the clock of the computer which controlled it, a simple but hard to detect error. On the other hand, there were some battery issues which needed to be resolved, and after 24 hours, the rover was finally set free in front of the base this afternoon, where it performed some test loops.

We are now fully equipped, with Bastien’s drone and NorCal’s rover, to inspect the station from the outside without having to go through the tedious process of getting fully suited up and going through a decompression period in the exit vault. Another step forward for our Martian colony!

Journalist Report – March 16th

The MDRS’ GreenHab is an extremely lush, green place. Filled with large amounts of tomato plants, as well as many other plants in smaller amounts, it is an oasis of life in the middle of the Martian desert. The tomatoes have been yielding generously – currently over a hundred cherry tomatoes are on the path of ripening, soon to be ready to be enjoyed by the crew, and other vegetables and leafy greens are growing well. However, all the plants are growing in soil, a medium that has had to be brought over from earth at large expenses. Our two botanists, Frederic and Mario, are both working on improving the disadvantages that come from soil as a medium for growth. On the one hand, Frederic is focusing on growing plants in Martian regolith (the dusty, iron-rich sands that make up most of Mars’ surface and give it its red colour). His research focuses on the advantages of different types of regolith, mixed in various amounts, with or without HydroGel. HydroGel is a man-made substance, an acrylate polymer, which has the incredible propriety of being able to absorb over 100 times its own weight in water, and release it slowly. This is extremely useful in dry climates back on Earth, as well as on Mars, where water is extremely precious.

On the other hand, Mario is working on a project that is somewhat the opposite : a hydroponics system. In such a system, plants are growing without soil, or any nutritive medium. Instead, their roots are hanging in a recirculated flow of nutrient-rich water, feeding them without wasting any water. In such a system, the nutrient composition of the water, as well as its pH and other factors, can be controlled with great precision to suit the plants. In addition to this, no water is wasted since it is recirculated, and the vertical format of the towers allows for minimal waste of space, also a precious resource in an extra-terrestrial station.

Both experiments are well underway! Fred has finished planting all his seeds and is waiting for them to sprout to start taking measures, whereas Mario has finished building the last of his three towers today.

All other experiments are also well underway ! Time is passing fast, and we are soon approaching the middle of our stay in the MDRS, even though we feel like we just got here. On Sunday, as a middle mark of our stay, we are planning a break day in our experiments, and a small celebration (with more cake!). In the meanwhile, we’ll keep on working hard, as there is no shortage of things to do here on Mars.

Journalist Report Sol 3 – March 14th

After a long day working on our experiments yesterday, we slept like babies. Our nights at the MDRS have generally been quite good, despite the thin mattresses and the out of control heating cycles, which have been pumping hot air into some rooms while others have been left to freeze. Well rested, we woke up in music again (Kanye West’s Mercy this time) and headed downstairs for a work out, this time lead by our biologist Mario who made sure no one missed a single push-up.

Immediately after, four members of our crew embarked on a EVA which took them to the northernmost part of the territory. In this zone, called The Moon, a wide variety of landscapes succeed each other rapidly, going from red striped hills to riverbeds and from sweeping white dunes to areas of sprawling Martian vegetation in just hundreds of meters, which makes for an extremely beautiful (and photogenic) ride. We therefore used this EVA to take more pictures, as well as to collect some samples of these varied soils for Max’s soil testing experiments.

At noon, we had one of the very earth-like, and therefore very delicious meals that Ariane has gotten us accustomed to. This time it was ‘hachis parmentier’, a specialty made with tomatoes, beef, potato mash and grated cheese, cooked in the oven until golden. All of this, of course, was made from freeze-dried foods, but Ariane’s magic touch made it feel right like home.

The rest of the afternoon was dedicated, as usual, to working on our experiments. Mario, with the much welcome help of Max, finished his first hydroponics tower in the greenhab, and planted mint and coriander in it. Sophie managed to find the source of parasites in her muon detector, while Martin dosed the API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) in a drug. On his side, Bastien made a 3D model of the Musk Observatory before embarking on the task of modelising the whole station.

By now, the crew has grown quite accustomed to the daily routine of the MDRS, and things are starting to work smoothly. Despite our confined environment, the mood is still great, and we are organising small events in the evenings, like a karaoke night, game nights, as well as round tables to talk about our experiments and our vision for the project.

See you tomorrow !