Journalist Report – December 12th


Crew 217 Journalist Report
12 Dec 2019

Teresa Hislop

Rockets, river beds, and rodents….

Our final day of sim started with a raucous rocket assembling party.
The four rocket experts (Ann, Cynthia, Kevin, Hope) tutored the four
rocket novices (Shannon, Atila, Teresa, Jen) and, in the end, four
rockets were assembled, painted, and ready for an afternoon launch.

The morning EVA took the six teacher explorers along a dry river bed,
up a winding road, past Badlands-esque geologic vistas, and onto a
plateau of literally littered with 150 million year old Devil’s
Toenail (Gryphaea) fossils. The teachers took many fossils and more

After dusting the hike’s soil from their boots, the crew got their
hands dirty when they planted succulents in pint jars. Each of the
eight crew members made a mini-terrarium using a small cactus, 5-10 ml
white gravel, and about 200 ml Mars simulant soil.

From mini-terrarium to full size greenhouse, from Martian simulant
soil to Earth-origined planting soil, the crew moved from the Hab to
the greenhouse to plant, re-plant, and repair. During the night
something ate all the zucchini, most of the peas, and several
tomatoes. The once healthy plants disappeared at ground level. We
suspect a rodent with a green tooth. Cynthia and Teresa replanted the
munched plants, transplanted herbs, acorn pumpkin and peppers, thinned
basil and cilantro, and planted lettuce and more cilantro. Atila
hung planter pots out of reach of the rascally rodent, Atila and Kevin
hung a shade screen, and Shannon crashed through an old bed.

The day’s adventures ended with a BANG. Every missile was
successfully launched and every missile was successfully recovered.
Shannon’s happy dance reflected everyone’s happy mood. Life is good
on Mars!!

Journalist Report – December 11th


Crew 217 Journalist Report
11 Dec 2019
Author: Teresa Hislop

“Failure is not an option” was today’s theme.

There were no petri dishes in the science dome. Our research plans
call for plating samples from two separate collections: gypsum
samples collected at Moon Overlook and green sediment samples from the
Morrison strata in Lith Canyon. Not be be deterred, we made “petri
bags” by mixing agar and pouring it into zip log bags. Success!

EVA One (Ann, Cynthia, Kevin, Teresa) journeyed to Lith Canyon. One
of MDRS’s absolute rules is that one stops when the Rovers’ battery
reaches 60%. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Do not take the
Rover further afield when the battery reads 60%. About two-thirds
the way to Lith Canyon, Spirit’s battery read 60%. Not to be deterred,
the astronauts continued with their mission, one Rover down. Failure
was not an option.

They successfully collected water samples from three separate
potholes. They also took measured pH and temperature and took
salinity readings They also scaped rock samples from four samples from
the green sediment in the Morrison strata: one from above the green
layer, one from the green layer, one from under the green layer, and
one from a group of crystalline structures in the layer above the
green layer. Finding themselves with over 60 minutes left in their
EVA allotment of time, the group also collected gypsum samples at the
Cow Dung Road/Moon Overlook Road junction.

While waiting for the radios and Rovers to recharge the group ground
and plated the Morrison strata and gypsum samples. The gypsum
samples were plated on 20% saline agar; the Morrison strata samples
were plated on nutrient agar and incubated.

EVA Two drove to Moon Overlook, stopping at three different locations
to collect gypsum. They went out and back without incident but not
without adventure. It was the first time in over 10 years Shannon had
been in a space suit and the first time ever that she has ridden in a
Rover in a space suit.

Lesson and idea sharing continues. Today’s highlight is Jen’s
Flipgrid app. She posts videos that her students view and respond to.
She can see and respond to their responses. It is a fabulous way for
asynchronous communication from “Mars” to Earth and back again. 

Journalist Report – December 10th

Crew 217 Journalist Report

Teresa Hislop

Sol Two

First day of full simulation. SUCCESS! No deaths, infinite
enthusiasm. One could say our experiences were out of this world.

We spent the morning sharing ideas, lesson plans, and educational philosophies. Everyone’s approach to Mars education differed but none were alien. Kevin’s students create to scale Mars habitats, Jen uses Mars to hook ELA readers, and Hope takes students on a Mission to Mars for an entire semester. Ann’s Space Colonization curriculum is on her website and Cynthia shared NASA and Teacher-Pay-Teacher resources. Unquestionably, one of the most valuable NSBU outcomes will be the networking and sharing of resources and ideas that occurred this morning.

The afternoon took us outside for our first EVA (extra vehicular activity). In two sets of four, we suited up, drove the Rovers, and explored the Martian landscape. Except for a minor delay when the first crew had to return from airlock to correct a communications glitch, the EVAs were without incident.

The Internet continues to be the most non-stellar aspect of the experience. Yesterday it took 15 attempts to send the journalist report. None of the other officers were able to submit reports. Today connectivity continues to be spotty and bandwidth thin.

Kevin and Jen created an amazing mission patch. Jen, as Health and Safety Officer, has checked every fire alarm and carbon monoxide monitor in the complex. Ann completed tomorrow’s EVA requests. Kevin created and completed a science report. Yesterday Cynthia watered plants and planted lettuce. Teresa thinned the radishes and Ann used the radish greens in the evening’s stir fry. Tomorrow’s EVA adventures will take us gypsum hunting, pot hole sampling, and green stone collecting.

Journalist Report – December 9th

NASA Spaceward Bound UT
9-13 December
Submitted by: Teresa Hislop, Crew Journalist

Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS)
Sol One

We learned how to be Martians. It’s simple really. Stay inside. Suit
up when going outside. Or die. And we don’t want anyone to die.

Sol One and MDRS Crew 217 is already a well-functioning team. “I
know you all will exceed expectations,” our Commander confidently

Team members:

Crew Commander: Shannon
Executive Officer: Atila
Health and Safety Officer: Jen
Crew Engineer: Hope
Greenhouse Officer: Cynthia
Crew Journalist: Teresa
Crew Scientists: Kevin and Ann

We are the 217th crew to occupy MDRS and the first cadre of NASA
Spaceward Bound UT (NSBU) teachers. NSBU is the result of a NASA grant, written to give UT teachers (and vicariously their students) a Mars-like experience. We are NSBU pioneers.

Welcome to Mars!

MDRS is one of only two permanent Mars simulation stations in the
world; the other one is in the Arctic. It is the only station that
allows analog astronauts to do independent research. While we are
here, we will research halophiles, pothole ecosystems, and green
sediment formations.

Today, Sol One, was our last day on Earth; Tuesday through Thursday we will engage in a full simulation experience. While in sim, water is limited–550 gallons per 2-week mission– but energy is not.

After discussing regulations–like no TP in the toilets and separate
burnable trash from non-burnable– and responsibilities–like
submitting nightly reports and getting COM approval for all excursions, we explored Lith Canyon, licked fossil bones, and collected a few gypsum samples.

Dinner, writing bios, and to bed. The sun will come up tomorrow…ON MARS!!!

Journalist's Report – December 6th


Tonight’s report is not a journalist’s report, it is a filmmaker’s report, my personal report.

When you make a film in which you put your heart, it becomes more than a film to you, it becomes your mirror. This collective portrait of five men loving space became a portrait of myself. This is why it is so painful to imagine our paths separate in several hours. I know how those men breathe – I’ve put mics on them for the EVAs. I know what kind of food they enjoy – I filmed many cooking sessions. I learned every little trait on their faces – I did a lot of close-ups. I recognize the sparkles in their eyes when they talk about Mars. Their stories are forever with me. One of this man said in his interview to me that the greatest thing about space exploration is that it unites nations and people. Thank you MDRS for giving us the opportunity to meet each other. And I hope my film will be up to the mark of these wonderful people I had a privilege to share this experience with.

A good-bye anonymous post-scriptum:

How to say the time has come

The sun has passed the river run

We’ve loved our life in this small Hab

The thought of leaving is quite sad

Though yet these memories shall remain

Like martian red, our minds it stains

All strangers once but now a crew

Onward to Mars, and homebond too

Crew 216 Journalist report 05Dec19

[title Journalist Report– December 05th]

Crew 216 Journalist Report 05-DEC-19
Sol 11
Author: Evgenia Alexandrova

How to get a morning panic attack? I have a good recipe for that. Wake up early in the morning at MDRS and realize that you have only two more days left in sim and too much stuff to finalize before it’s over. Time is too long when we’re waiting and there never enough time when we are late. But let’s not talk about time, we’ve already covered this subject in our previous editions. Let’s talk about space. In all of its meanings.

How do we appropriate spaces? What do we call home? Or better: when do we start feeling like at home in a place?

It is hard for us in the crew to imagine there were crews before us and there will be some after. The MDRS belongs to us now. But according to the King Solomon “Everything goes by. And this too shall pass”.

Early today in bentonite bay, a dark fog was all around.

It shimmered and quivered and easily clouded the mound

Us all inside we had to hide from feelings of leaving forlorn

Going home soon the sadness does loom, that our red home we will morn


Crew 216 Journalist Report 04Dec2019

[title Journalist Report– December 04th]

Crew 216 Journalist Report 04-DEC-19
Sol 10
Author: Evgenia Alexandrova

Mornings begin really early in the Hab. Usually around 5am one can see the glimpses of light under the doors of certain crew members. Jetlag doesn’t give up on me so at this time I usually read. This morning’s reading brought this insight to me. There are two main things that are really important in life. First: quality of our relationships with other people. Second: whether or not we will have enough courage to admit who we really are and make our dreams come true. At MDRS we practice both. While we play board games and when we climb a rock on an EVA. When we cook diner and when we try to contact the ISS. When we water the plants in the GreenHab and when we work on gypsum in the Science Dome. Even when we just wait in silence the end of depressurization in the Airblock.

And traditionally a new poem for the audience:

Walking on the sand to roam

We found an ancient blackened bone

Further still were polished stones

By wind and moving water born

We reached the mighty Phobos peak

And all around saw majesty

The ground was smooth and rough between

We marveled at the things we’d seen

Journalist Report – December 3rd

Crew 216 Journalist Report 03-DEC-19
Sol 9
Author: Evgenia Alexandrova

Long martian days are about discussions and getting to know each other. We are basically six strangers who happened to love space and applied for MDRS over a year ago. We keep steadily learn from each other and our discussions become more and more profound and personal. But in the end, it all comes down to a human factor no matter on which planet you are. People is all we have and hopefully we won’t end up talking to furniture here, and as one of the crewmembers stated today:

“When you start giving anthropomorphic characteristics to a piece of equipment, life gets harder”

And another crewmember wrote this today:

Martian landscape burning bright

In sol system, 4th small light

What untold view of human eye

Could scry thy red ‘neath open sky

In chasms gasping towards the skies

Burnt out cones of ancient fires

Within our heart such dreams to beat

Of Martian dust on human feet

Journalist Report – December 2nd

Crew 216 Journalist Report 02-DEC-19
Sol 8
Author: Evgenia Alexandrova

On Mars you have all the time in the world to think through the philosophical questions that you never have time to explore on Earth. Notions like happiness and meaning of life are the most perplexing ones. What comes first? Meaning or happiness? Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl survived concentration camps during the WWII and wrote a book based on his experience. He states that meaning is the crucial thing that drives a human to continue living through a whatever challenge. The faith in ultimate goal, the hidden or obvious sense in life can lead you through the darkest times.

People who will colonize Mars will definitely have a profound sense of meaning. I felt a glimpse of it during the three interviews with the crew members I conducted during the past days. What about MDRS? Is there a meaning in this place? Definitely. But to me, it goes back to happiness. Happiness is meaningful just by itself.

New anonymous poem of the day:

Today we saw amazing things

And felt the wonder that it brings

To feel what it is like in space

But not forget this special place


Journalist Report – December 1st

Crew 216 Journalist Report 01-DEC-19
Sol 6
Author: Evgenia Alexandrova

Solitude VS. Intimacy

We suppose that living on Mars will imply a lack of intimacy: you are closed up in a very limited space with strangers or close to those. Our commander Marc has experience in isolation at the American polar station in Antarctica. He states that “the confined setting tends to force people away from each other”.

Paradoxically, the lack of intimacy creates solitude. And solitude can drive people mad. To preserve astronauts from feeling lonely, we need to create enough psychological space for them. So far ARES 216 crew managed very well in establishing a comfortable and respectful environment for every crew member.

Today we had a TV crew visiting and filming. Strangely their presence felt like an intrusion. We’ve witnessed our intimacy being shaken. This is probably the best proof that we managed to see MDRS as our home.

Anonymous haiku of the day:

A stark red vista
Compelling, yet alien
Home is far away