Journalist Report – March 13th

Journalist Report :

This morning, the whole crew managed to wake up at the same time, at a reasonable 8am. This process was helpfully catalysed by Sophie’s uplifting music played on the loudspeaker, and before we knew it, we were downstairs, jumping, squatting and crunching on the first of many morning cereal (which is already starting to run out..), half the crew got ready for an EVA, travelling far to the north workouts to come. After the usual morning, where Max took some soil samples and Bastien made his first (an successful) attempt at drone mapping a patch of land. Meanwhile, the other four members got a head start on their day, beginning work on their experiments. Fred weighed, mixed and potted his Martian soil samples, added HydroGel in half his samples and then planted basil, mint and radishes in them. Michael worked on perfecting his scheduling program, and Max started taking pH measures on soil. On the other hand, Mario made big advancements on his hydroponics project, nearing completion of the first tower, whereas Ariane isolated her first bacteria, worked on her sourdough, and made some more bread prototypes. All in all, our SOL 2 has been the most productive yet, and this has been felt in the crew : the mood is becoming more productive and more exciting as we realise that our projects are finally taking place in the way we wanted them to.

Journalist Report – March 12th

Hi,

Here is today’s journalist report :

As the Martian sun rose on the Mars Desert Research Station, gently illuminating the station with its distant, white light, we woke up in our cramped dark rooms for our first real day on Mars. Like on any extra-terrestrial station, space is precious, and every area needs to be optimised to use as little of it as possible. Our rooms, while individual, are therefore barely a meter wide, and have beds that stack over or under the bed in the next room. In front of the doors of the rooms, the common room is where we spend most of our time, cooking, eating, relaxing and working on the central table and on the couches behind it.

While the common spaces are located on the first floor, all our utilities, including toilets and showers, as well as an engineering area and our exit vaults, are on the ground floor. In the back, a vault gives way to an over-ground tunnel which leads to the GreenHab, the Science Dome, and the Observatory. Apart from this, the station is completely isolated in a wide, hilly landscape coloured in red, brown and grey, and stretching as far as the eye can see.

It is in this epic landscape that we adventured on our first EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity), riding our electric rover and two ATVs north of the base, on an already well-travelled dirt road, up to the entrance of a small canyon on our right hand side. With a photographer and a drone operator, we adventured into the mouth of the canyon, the hot morning sun hitting us through our helmets. As we walked through the dry sands and rocks, we realised how difficult it is to explore our surroundings in full space gear, while carrying additional equipment and under a hot sun.

The remainder of the day was dedicated to the start of our
experiments. For the first time, we unwrapped our equipment, entered the science lab and the greenhouse, and began working on our respective experiments. Despite some delays in our supply of equipment, we have all been able to begin working on our projects. Our SOL1 (first day on Mars) has therefore been a success, and we can’t wait to continue it tomorrow.

Good evening,

Journalist Report – March 11th

As a warm midday sun baked the Martian regolith, the first four members of the crew 190 landed on a small patch of dirt, between a small hill and a trail in the red soil. As we exited our vehicle, we felt the soft martian soil beneath our boots and, walking around the hill, we laid our eyes on the station for the first time. Glowing in the strong martian sun, amplified by the complete silence surrounding us, the station appeared taller and wider than we had imagined it.

While we approached the door, a fleet of ATVs arrived in a cloud of dust behind us, carrying members of the previous crew. Our greetings were made simpler by our shared language – back on Earth, our two teams come from France and Belgium, two neighbouring countries that both speak French. Inside the station’s airlock, the cold dark air welcomed us to our new home, where we will spend the entire duration of our stay.

Inside, the rest of the French team welcomed us warmly. Soon enough, the other four members of our crew arrived, and we all ate together in the now cramped top floor of the station. We knew we would be alone again the next day, which made us enjoy the social mood even more, laughing and talking about our experiences on Mars.

In the morning, we were alone already – the French had taken off before the first light of day. With blueberry pancakes (made entirely from freeze-dried materials, of course) and powdered juice, our day of training began. After a tour of the station, a course in water supply management, a training in space suits, ATVs, mapping and teamwork, we were deemed ready to tackle the challenges of the next couple of weeks.

As the thick metal door closed on the outside world just before sunset, and we found ourselves locked in the station alone, we finally realised that this is it – this is what we’ve been waiting for – for over a year of preparation, training, and intense work, we had all imagined the moment when we would get here and live out our adventure.. and, now, as we sit inside the hab, I believe we only began to realise that our work had finally paid off, and that we truly are here now.

Mario Sundic

Journalist Report – March 6th

Journalist report, 03/06/18: CSI: MDRS

An unfathomable mystery arose in the Hab in the early morning. Benoît and Jérémy had cooked some popcorn chicken yesterday, yet Victoria did not want to eat her part on the evening, and spared it for today in her room. However, as she woke up, all the chicken was gone! Several people were suspected: mice at first, yet there were no crumbs around the bowl. Jérémy and Benoît then, as the first one was not in the Hab when she revealed her loss, and as the lack of food for the second is no longer a secret! However, Victoria would have certainly heard it if someone broke into her room to steal her chicken. The case is still open!

Today was quite a special day in the Hab, as we received two journalists from one of the main French television stations TF1. Presenter Axel Monnier and cameraman Bertrand Guez arrived short after 7am, right in the middle of our sport session. They could thus observe us sweat during our last burpees, such a nice start. After a small breakfast with a piece of French bread (well, rather bread with the French flag in it), it was time for most of us to go on EVA! Our both journalists were part of the mission: Axel even followed us in putting a spacesuit on! Gabriel, Jérémy, Victoria and I as their leader were completing the quite large team.

As it has now become routine, we made our first stop at Pooh’s corner to put the LOAC back in its place. It will yet not stay there long, as Jérémy wants to have the time to complete some measurements inside the Hab as well. We then went for the road of Lith Canyon. It seemed that Bertand sometimes needed a specific framework, as he liked to put himself in acrobatic positions on the rover, in order to be able to record us following the rover on our ATV. However, the road was rather smooth, and we arrived at Lith Canyon without any problem.

Our guests were glad to visit this place, which is probably the nearest to a Martian landscape we could get here. The walk was really pleasant, yet sometimes maybe a bit harsh for Bertrand, who had to bear his 30-pound 50000-dollard camera on his shoulder. As we reached another cliff, we decided to stop our way down: Axel and Bertrand could thus deploy their drones and take some aerial shots, after a short interview of the four of us. It was yet already time to go back to the Hab, where our journalists wanted to take some final shots.

They could question us deeper during our lunch, as they wanted to know what our thoughts about that kind of mission were. We finally could show them some of the experiments we had led for the last weeks, as LOAC and MegaARES’ ones, Laurent’s solar panels or Jérémy’s human factors one. But as the afternoon reached its end, it was already time for them to leave us, ready to reach Salt Lake City where another report awaited them. We still have a lot to do in the Hab before the end of the mission, especially with our rotation video, as we still have many shots to do.

Journalist Report – March 5th

Hello CapCom!

Here is my report of the day.

Best,

Journalist report, 03/05/18: The beginning of the end

While we were enjoying our evening off, a surprise guest made its appearance in the Hab: a small mouse showed up from under a couch, certainly looking for some food. It has yet certainly been scared by Louis and me, still awake later than our teammates. However, it succeeded in its quest: Gabriel was surprised to catch it eating a piece a chocolate bar he had left near its bed! He has been quick to act, and drove out our little friend, which has not been seen since.

It was even harder to wake up early today after our day off: fatigue is accumulating among the crew. Benoît has notably been unable to get out of bed for our sport session: he got up only when he felt the nice smell of pancakes. Our EVA of the day aimed to improve and test some of our experiments, the main one being the localization experiment of Benoît, which he has been working on in the Hab for a while. To model benchmarks, he had brought some balloons he had inflated with helium gas. Wearing such multicolored balloons, he looked like an astronaut who enjoyed some rides at the fair. Along with Louis, Gabriel and Jérémy, leader of the day, they then left the station.

As it has become a routine, the team started the EVA going to Pooh’s Corner, our instruments’ location. However, as both of the LOAC’s and MegaARES’ batteries had to be changed, it was decided to bring back the LOAC in the station until the next day, as we only have one spare battery. Unlike what we are used to, the team did not go on
exploration today, as they had a lot to do with the experiments. Unfortunately, Benoît’s one could not work because of GPS issues, which he will have to tackle later. In the meantime in the Hab, I started to work on our rotation video: I found the music, created a synopsis, and tried to begin to edit the video: there is yet a lot to do before it is finally completed!

Our afternoons are getting more rhythmic, as the end of the mission is in sight! However, as everyone wants to fulfill his own tasks which can evolve several members of the crew, it is sometimes hard to manage our time! Each member is indeed very busy: Gabriel managed once more our KTNE session; Louis put together a VR video of the Hab; Benoît made new solar observations, etc. There are now only 4 mission days left before our return to Earth, and one of them will be quite different than what we are used to. We will in fact receive two journalists from TF1 (one of the largest French TV station) tomorrow: the day is going to be full of events!

Alexandre Martin, Crew 189 Journalist.

Journalist Report – March 4th

Journalist report, 03/04/18: Second day off / Special edition 2: About the MegaARES

Our second day off was quite welcomed today after such a busy week. All the crew could catch up some sleep, and spent some time chilling in the Hab, around films and card games. As intended, I will talk today about our second large outside experience and its instrument: the MegaARES.

The Mega Atmospheric Relaxation and Electric field Sensor is an instrument developed by Grégoire Déprezand his team of researchers at LATMOS (French atmosphere and spatial observations laboratory). Several versions of ARES have been developed before, the most advanced being the MicroARES, which was part of a group of sensors on the DREAMS payload of the ExoMars Schiaparelli module which attempted an automated landing on Mars on 19 October 2016. However, the signal was unexpectedly lost shortly before the planned landing time, and Schiaparelli crashed. MicroARES was thus destroyed and could not take any measure on Mars.

This device is able to record the electric field in favorable weather conditions and is precise enough to catch electric field variations phenomenon known as Schuman and Transverse Resonances. On a planet, such electric phenomenon occurring in the atmosphere could indeed have a major role and link with the planet’s climate and chemistry. Being able to measure the electric field precisely is thus a quite interesting challenge for planetology. Utah Desert’s electric field matches Mars’ atmospheric one on several points. Interesting phenomenon hypothesized to occur on Mars could indeed be caught in the Utah Desert.

Scientists of the LATMOS team will have to wait for the next Martian mission to deploy their instrument, and want to use the time left to improve its performance. Analog mission are thus their best opportunity to work on the device. Through MegaARES, specially developed for Earth measures, data recording, data analyzing and hardware can be tested for a certain length of time at MDRS station. The instrument is used simultaneously with the LOAC, in order to study cross effect between sand and electric field dynamics. LOAC and MegaARES will thus give a large and precise database which could be used for future experiments on the MDRS.

We would like to thank Grégoire Déprez and his team for having accepted to lend us this instrument, and for their trust in us for its use.

Alexandre Martin, Crew 189 Journalist, with the help of Gabriel Payen, Crew 189 Engineer, in charge of the MegaARES experiment.

Journalist Report – March 4th

Journalist report, 03/04/18: Second day off / Special edition 2: About the MegaARES

Our second day off was quite welcomed today after such a busy week. All the crew could catch up some sleep, and spent some time chilling in the Hab, around films and card games. As intended, I will talk today about our second large outside experience and its instrument: the MegaARES.

The Mega Atmospheric Relaxation and Electric field Sensor is an instrument developed by Grégoire Déprezand his team of researchers at LATMOS (French atmosphere and spatial observations laboratory). Several versions of ARES have been developed before, the most advanced being the MicroARES, which was part of a group of sensors on the DREAMS payload of the ExoMars Schiaparelli module which attempted an automated landing on Mars on 19 October 2016. However, the signal was unexpectedly lost shortly before the planned landing time, and Schiaparelli crashed. MicroARES was thus destroyed and could not take any measure on Mars.

This device is able to record the electric field in favorable weather conditions and is precise enough to catch electric field variations phenomenon known as Schuman and Transverse Resonances. On a planet, such electric phenomenon occurring in the atmosphere could indeed have a major role and link with the planet’s climate and chemistry. Being able to measure the electric field precisely is thus a quite interesting challenge for planetology. Utah Desert’s electric field matches Mars’ atmospheric one on several points. Interesting phenomenon hypothesized to occur on Mars could indeed be caught in the Utah Desert.

Scientists of the LATMOS team will have to wait for the next Martian mission to deploy their instrument, and want to use the time left to improve its performance. Analog mission are thus their best opportunity to work on the device. Through MegaARES, specially developed for Earth measures, data recording, data analyzing and hardware can be tested for a certain length of time at MDRS station. The instrument is used simultaneously with the LOAC, in order to study cross effect between sand and electric field dynamics. LOAC and MegaARES will thus give a large and precise database which could be used for future experiments on the MDRS.

We would like to thank Grégoire Déprezand and his team for having accepted to lend us this instrument, and for their trust in us for its use.

Alexandre Martin, Crew 189 Journalist, with the help of Gabriel Payen, Crew 189 Engineer, in charge of the MegaARES experiment.

Journalist Report – March 1st

Journalist Report – Sol 11 03/01/18

Further, Faster, Stronger

For the second time of the simulation, there has not been a sport session this morning. But this time, that was not because we reached a break day. No, the team just was not able to wake up early enough. Yet we did not stay in bed until noon either! We indeed had an EVA planned at 9am, so we had to hurry! For the first time, neither Louis nor Victoria would be a member of the EVA. Laurent, Benoît and Jérémy made up the team, while I was their leader. We made our usual at our instruments to change the LOAC batteries. However, we realized that the batteries of the MegaARES were also at a dangerously low level. We had to go back to the Hab to ask Gabriel whether we had to change it too, yet he declined, as he believed that could be done tomorrow. We could then go on with the core of our EVA: exploration.

As we were going further north than we ever went before, we decided to ride the ATV: one of each one of us! These ones are indeed way faster and more pleasant to drive than rovers. As we did not bring any heavy material on EVA, there was thus no issue not having rovers. After a 20 minutes’ drive, quite longer than we were used to, we finally arrived to the canyon we aimed to visit today. This canyon was a bit special: he was divided in several stratums under the one we parked the ATV on. The entry of the canyon was decorated by a display panel about dinosaurs, whose fossils are likely to be found here. Not the most Martian of the things we have seen here, but it is yet quite cool to know that! We then tried to enter the first level of the canyon: it has been a bit hard to find a way down at first, but after some researches we finally discovered an easy one. This small trip is the canyon was really nice, even though it revealed to be tiring! We found some small caves where Benoît and I could take a break in, while Jérémy seemed to have borrowed Benoîts lure for small beautiful stones. Once we completed our trip to the depths of the canyon, it was almost time to ride our ATV back to the Hab!

The return trip was outstanding. To be able to drive a lonely vehicle in such a beautiful landscape, the sensation of the ATV rolling over rocks, everything was delightful. But this moment could not last forever, and the Hab quickly appeared in our eyesight, ready to welcome us. Or at least, that is what we thought. We indeed got no response from the Hab: Gabriel, today’s HabCom, remained silent. 10 minutes later, we decided to go back to the instruments to get the empty batteries we left there, not to be cluttered on our ATV. But as we came back, Gabriel finally responded! Yet, it was to ask us to go back where we came from, and turn off the MegaARES… This was however useless, as the MegaARES was already shut down because of the low battery. Gabriel was by the way worth some derogatory remarks because of this meaningless return trip. Remarks we finally regretted when we discovered that our communication issues were due to the walkie-talkies, which stopped functioning.

Our today session of KTNE was quite less successful than the previous one, especially for Benoît and Louis, which were not able to find a specific word in a list of 25 in 3 minutes, and they had several difficulties counting up to 4, which led to some loud funny shouting matches. And today was also the day I could (finally!) take my first shower! I also was able to beat the best score of the crew, going down to 1.2 gallons for my shower. It is hard to say that we had almost lost the habit to smell nice here. This shower was yet really pleasant, and my hair is at last not standing anymore on its own!

Alexandre Martin, Crew 189 Journalist

Journalist Report – February 28th

Hello CapCom !

Journalist report – Sol 10

Prepared by : Alexandre Martin (Crew Journalist) – 28 feb 2018

Here is my report of the day.

Best.

Journalist report, 02/28/18: Already mid-rotation!

Today is already our 10th day of mission, which means we are overpassing its half. Altogether, this pivotal day has been rather quiet. No EVA was indeed planned for today. After our daily sport, most of the crew went to the GreenHab in order to replace the tarp, which protects plants from the sun, as it was turned in the wrong direction. A task which was rather hard to achieve: the temperature inside the GreenHab is indeed 100°F in order to preserve plants health, sweating the team. In the late morning, both teams succeeded in each situation of KTNE, which seems to become too easy for us. Jérémy had yet less success in his own experiment: he suffered web connection issues, and Benoît could thus not drive the rover. While Louis and Victoria started an additional sport session, making the team question their sanity, Benoît and Gabriel wanted to live a new culinary experience and decided to mix bread dough with food coloring. The obvious result: bread sharing his color with Smurfs. A black market of food is also starting to be organized inside the Hab, through

As half of the mission is already over, it is time to draw a first review of our experience. Our daily life has indeed suffered a dramatic change since our arrival at the station! To take a daily shower: over. To do the dishes after each meal: over. To eat lavishly: over. To take a break outside anytime we want: over. To be able to contact our close relatives anytime we want: over. To be able to be totally isolated: over. We had to become used to any of these situations! Everyone seems to have its own hardest lack to deal with, yet the separation from friends and family is often he hardest, and then comes the food, then the lack of fresh air. We learned to save almost anything: from food to water, from our oxygen during EVA to our energy during sport session. For the moment, no one has for example taken more than one shower! And those were not the kind of shower that is usually had: we keep the falling water in a large basin to use it to rinse ourselves! The food rationing might be the hardest for the team: even each member of the team was near to come undone since the beginning of the mission! However, only 9 days of mission are remaining, it is up to us to continue to work along the same lines!

Alexandre Martin, Crew 189 Journalist.