Journalist Report – January 5th

Journalist Report

Robinson Raphael, Crew 219 Astronomer,

Sol 0,

The Beginning of New Potentials

Crew 219 has officially arrived on Mars! Upon arriving, we
familiarized ourselves with Crew 218 and overall had a joyous and
welcoming experience. Alongside me, the crew geologist, commander,
HSO, LSO all slept in the science dome. It was quite frightful to wake
up this morning as I was the only person in the science dome. At
first, I was so confused questioning. Did my crew leave me? Did I
oversleep?? Was I still in a dream??? After giving myself some time, I
arrived back at the Hab to see a long line to use the bathroom. Some
things never change….. I slowly found out that each crew member woke
up at different times and just left. Keith, our HSO, journeyed to the
GreenHab at 2am only to find out the heater stopped. Oh boy that story
made all of us laugh and was a wonderful way to the start the day. As
the morning progressed, we all said our goodbyes to Crew 218 and
wished them a safe journey back to Earth.

As each member of Crew 218 left, we were filled with sadness as their
company was well appreciated. At the same time, we were also filled
with motivation, as we reminisced on the research projects they were
working on. A little bit after, we all took a written quiz which both
filled our guts with anticipation and a bit of nervousness. One by one
we all handed our quizzes back to be graded and slowly waited for
results. After each quiz was graded, we let out a burst of excitement
to find out that the crew passed and was able to carry on with their
day.

The day was quite adventurous as it consisted of training with the
rovers and learning how to put on the flight suits. For the rover
training, I was paired with Alejandro and we drove all to the starting
point of Galileo Road. Man, oh man it was so cold; my face felt like a
brick. Definitely going to bring more layers next time! The scenery of
Mars was gorgeous and breathtaking that I couldn’t just help but stare
all around me. As Alejandro was driving for the first half of the
journey, we kept singing to help the time go by and it was a wonderful
moment. When it came to the flight suits, we all took pictures posing
for the camera and admiring the feel and look.

As the day began to grow darker, the whole Crew 219 spent a majority
of time doing their own thing and helping out with daily tasks such as
washing dishes, cleaning the rooms, cooking, etc. I can’t wait to wake
up to our first Sol on Mars tomorrow morning!

Journalist Report Jan 04th

Journalist Report

Ben Durkee, Crew 218 Journalist

Sol 13

This morning started off soothing and somber. We crawled out of our sleeping bags to the gentle ukelele of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Depleting our remaining hot chocolate supply, we watched the sun scale the hill east of the Hab. Without sharing any words, we lamented this being our last Martian sunrise together. Once we had fully woken up and sufficiently mellowed out, there was an immediate paradigm shift and we launched straight into our jam-packed itinerary.

First on the docket: Hab cleaning. Since we had done most of the cleaning yesterday, we knew exactly what still needed to be done and we each splintered off to tackle a different task. I took mop duty. Our pipes still hadn’t thawed, so mopping became a struggle between refreshing the water as little as possible without slathering the floor with a muddy sludge. I spent a period in a seemingly unending sine wave between cleaning a region and then painting it brown, back and forth ad infinitum. Eventually, we sent Jonathan outside with pots of hot water to pour on the pipes in an attempt to thaw them. In light of this effort and the many gallons of water we had remaining from the mission, we considered water conservation a bit less of a concern. As a result, we got our Martian housekeeping done just in time for our guests to arrive.

Our metaphorical doorbell (the Habitat radio) rang and we invited Crew 219 through the airlock. They are a squad assembled of Florida Tech students and alumni, 8 people strong. Considering there are only 6 state rooms and 1 loft, it’s going to be a bit of a cozy Hab. I get the impression they’ll handle it well, though. They seem like a very tight-knit group and more than ready to face this mission together. I have only good things to say about these guys and training them today has been an absolute pleasure.

It’s weird to be the jaded survivors tasked with passing down knowledge to our starry-eyed successors. I’m almost jealous they now get to live this incredible experience that we’ve just concluded. It’s like when you finish a great book or television show and wish you could just erase your memory of it and live it again. But we’ve had our fun and the time has come to pass the torch and hand these folks the keys to a shiny new Mars Habitat.

Tonight is going to be a bittersweet night, full of reminiscing about our time on the red planet and breaking bread with our new Floridian friends. All in all, this has been an unbelievably enriching experience.

Were we packed into tiny, overheated sleeping quarters like a can of sardines in an oven? Yes. Did I have to painstakingly scrape beans from all the dishes with my fingernails and a bean juice-soaked sponge? I’ll never be able to forget. Was I forced to put up with these 5 lovable scamps for two whole weeks? Yep. Would I do it again?

In a heartbeat.

Journalist Report – January 02nd

  

 Journalist Report
Ben Durkee, Crew 218 Journalist

Sol 11

We're gonna be famous!

We had an extra sugary breakfast of cereal and cookies this morning while we waited for the film crew's spacecraft to arrive. The overload of carbohydrates in our bodies may have made us a little antsy as we marked time in the Hab. Our food supplies are beginning to run on empty, but we still have a surplus of flour and sugar, so Pat and I woke up at 6 AM Mars time to make our confectioneries. Hey, calories are calories. I'll get diabetes on Mars before I starve on Mars.

Our Earthling guests were a tad late - the entry, descent, and landing phase was a little rockier than they expected, I reckon. We in the Hab were worried about our potential acting careers falling through, but it was actually a blessing in disguise as it afforded us more time to prepare for our first EVA of the day. We got everything in order for Pat, Shefali, and Jonathan's excursion, and then our otherworldly visitors knocked at the airlock.

We discussed their desires and our own related to the filming, the most important thing being that the mission is priority one, cinematics are in the passenger seat. We hammered out both party's expectations for the day, and then the crew accompanied our three EVA musketeers to their nearby destination. Their EVA site was just within visual range of the Hab, and it was very entertaining to watch our astronauts walk up and down the same hill for the cameras. They got some footage of Jonathan's meteorological surveys and Pat's seismic tests, and then promptly returned to the Hab.

Since they consumed very little rover charge on their excursion, there was a quick turnaround between EVAs. Those three tagged in the other half of the crew - namely Cesare, LuzMa, and yours truly - and we set off to our new, considerably farther, goal. We had a good spot in mind that was both useful for data collection and photogenic for the cameras. It was the perfect spot, the only issue was the terrain being too harsh for the camera crew's Chevy Spaceship. They had to disembark their craft nearby and walk to the site.

Once we all convened at the picturesque bluff northeast of the Hab, we began analyzing and they began filming. I got some solid radiological data and some fun pictures of the filming crew in action. They were very appreciative of the photos, as they hardly get any shots of themselves behind the scenes. Photographers/videographers are this world's unsung heroes, that's for sure. By far the best thing to come of this EVA, though, is the drone footage of me wiping out in mud while carefully descending the hill. Don't tell the crew (because I am a broke college student), but I would pay good money for that video.

We returned to our rovers and they to their spacecraft. I was very impressed with how they were able to hold their breaths for the entire EVA. We complimented their lung capacity and proceeded back to the Hab for an end-of-day recap and very late lunch. Stories were shared between crews and before we knew it, the time had come for their orbital window back to Earth. We saw them off and lamented how we will be departing the same way soon.

I've started to get sentimental about this place. We've only been here sub-two weeks, but Mars has a way of sucking you in and making you wanna stay. And I'm not just talking about gravity. This mission seems like it has gone by quicker than it took for our dried mango supply to perish. That is to say: very fast.

I have a powerful cognitive weapon at my disposal, though. Any time I start reminiscing about the elements that make this place so grand, I just have to think about the beans. Oh, the notorious beans. We had beans and jambalaya for dinner last night and it was a delicious meal - we also cooked a large surplus of beans for future meals between now and our departure. All in all, a great time. The problems arose when I realized I was on dish duty that night. I looked at the culinary carnage around the table and my stomach dropped - both from the beans eaten and the beans uneaten.

See, beans have an uncanny ability to adhere to dishes. Not only that, but they spread to any dish they even remotely come in contact with. If you take some bean water (yum) and transfer it to other dishes, no matter how heavily you dilute it, the water will somehow always potently remember its bean history. It's like it has Post Traumatic Bean Disorder. It's a nightmare for dishwashing, especially when you are trying to conserve water to the best of your ability. Soon enough our whole kitchen reeked of bean. It propogates like the Bubeanic Plague. I spent multiple hours cleaning those dishes, and still had to call in backup to cleanse them of their blight. It was unbeanlievable. Not to mention our fridge full of leftover beans. Opening that thing is opening Beandora's Box. Don't do it.

I realize I have spent upwards of two paragraphs discussing beans and bean related anguish, but this is the only outlet myself and the rest of the crew have for our deep-seeded pain.

Tomorrow, we have one more EVA before beginning to wrap up.

Tonight, I count beans instead of sheep.

But, you know, other than that our time here has bean phenomenal.

Journalist Report – January 1st

Journalist Report
Ben Durkee, Crew 218 Journalist

Sol 10

The Roaring Twenties: Episode Two

Happy New Year, all! It will be very interesting to see what Earth is like in the new decade when we head back a few days from now. Are there flying cars? Jetpacks? Can we speak Dolphin yet? The
possibilities are endless!

Meanwhile, we are having a blast one planet farther from the sun! We hosted the two MDRS assistant directors and together indulged in a wonderful meal courtesy of Chef Cesare. Streamers were popped, games were played, raucous laughter was shared, but most importantly we partook in some juicy controversy.

Favorite movies were discussed (good and bad), alongside whether or not water is wet, which way the toilet paper roll should hang, how the “g” in “gif” is pronounced, and many more that got progressively stranger as midnight approached. As far as I’m concerned, nothing brings people together quite like witty banter and inconsequential conflict. We entered the new year with stronger friendships, streamer debris all over the Hab, mild headaches from the paper trumpets, and smiles on our faces.

The only downside of New Year’s Night is waking up at the regular time the next morning. Our wake-up train chugged a little slower today as Sol 10 came to fruition. Double digits! Two calendar-based milestones today; the stars truly aligned. We made up for our lack of energy with a breakfast of biscuits and gravy, the recipe for which was sent from Earth by a friendly Mars veteran.

After devouring the edible southern hospitality, our hive was back to full operational capacity and buzzing to prepare Pat and Cesare for our 8th EVA of the mission. They finagled their EVA suits into our loyal rovers and took them beyond range of the Hab’s communication capability. The sun crawled across the cloudy Martian sky and soon enough they were back with plentiful geological data and samples. We were gracious enough to let them and their new pet rocks back in the airlock, which proved to be a mistake as the coveted Nutella supply seemed to drastically deplete with their re-entry.

To recharge the rovers and ourselves, we all ate lunch and recapped the EVA. After a short break, it was time for the second EVA of the day, featuring LuzMa, Shefali, and yours truly. We strictly adhered to Shefali’s new EVA checklist (likely inspired by the infamous shoe incident) and were outside in record time. We saddled up our rovers only to find that they were still tired from lugging the other guys and their equipment.

Unfortunately the recent sustained Martian cold has been hugely detrimental to the rover batteries. They now discharge rapidly and inconsistently, and recharge at a snail’s pace. Too bad it couldn’t have been vice versa – I guess that old adage about batteries lasting longer after refrigeration might not be valid on Mars. Myth busted. We rolled with the punches and turned our roving EVA into a walking EVA around the Hab. We gathered what data we could (redundant data is far better than no data!) and enjoyed the snowy walk back home together. Although it was a bit disappointing, Mars is a fickle creature and we must do the best we can in spite of variables beyond our control.

Speaking of which, the consistent negative temperatures are still preventing our pipes from thawing. We now consider our water assembly line a charming team-building exercise, so we put on some tunes and got to bucketing. Faster than ever, we had the loft tank back to full. Plenty of water for drinking, dinner, dishes, and desperately – showers. We may or may not have a filming crew flying in from Earth tomorrow, and we gotta look (and smell) good for the cameras!

As crew journalist, these guys are kinda threatening my job security. But on the other hand, this could be my big break!

Journalist Report – December 31st

Journalist Report
Ben Durkee, Crew 218 Journalist

Sol 09

Today began like any other day on Mars: awoken dim and early by the blasting of a select song from the Futurama soundtrack. We stirred ourselves some hot chocolate – the only dehydrated food we seem to have an abundance of – and gathered around the window to watch the sunrise. Once the sun peeked out from its azimuthal hiding spot, it seemed we were already in a rush to eat breakfast and prepare for our first EVA of the day.

With this being our 6th EVA, we were already pros at the process. Myself, Shefali, and Cesare were suited up, depressurized, and revving up the rovers in 15 minutes flat. Our goal for this EVA was to head south of the Hab. Not for warmer pastures, but for a signal analysis experiment. My research involves measuring ambient radio signals around the Hab, so we were testing whether or not the ridge between the Hab and our destination would have a dampening effect on such signals.

The ridge in question is called Kissing Camel Ridge, supposedly named because the rock formations look like two titular camels face to face. However, I adamantly believe that anyone who claims to see two camels there is either a fraud or suffering from terminal "Emperor’s New Clothes" Syndrome.

We accomplished our own personal research goals in the area and spent our remaining time capturing pictures of the grandiose landscape. Admittedly also a few (hundred) pictures of each other in fabulous poses. We loaded back up the rovers with our cumbersome equipment and slogged back to base. The roads today are swampy concoctions of mud and slushy ice under the facade of neatly laid snow. We returned home cold, muddy, and accomplished.

As soon as we escaped our life-saving mobile prisons (that we are very grateful for), we tagged in the next EVA crew. Pat, seismologist extraordinaire, and LuzMa, dehydrated mango connoisseur performed an engineering maintenance EVA while they waited for the rovers to recharge. Once T and Custy had drunk their fill of our precious electricity, they valiantly carried the two Marstronauts to their goal. That goal being: south. Just slightly farther south than we had ventured. Always one-upping us, those two.

After performing a long series of geophonic tests that we Hab-dwellers could intermittently hear over the radios, they too braved the earthy sludge on their homeward bound. They got back to breathable air just in time to join the sequel to yesterday’s fire brigade! We had waited a majority of the day to ferry water in the hopes that the pipes would thaw, but no dice. On the bright side, since we had used some of yesterday’s water to wash the dishes, we had a multitude of clean pots and other water receptacles for our thirst-fueled operation.

1000 rotations of dumping pots and slamming my head into the low ceiling later, our water was at a more than acceptable level. We filled it up a bit extra so that people had the opportunity to shower before our New Year’s festivities if desired. A few people seized the hygienic opportunity, and then we spontaneously dove into a viewing of Shrek. As a neutral journalistic observer, I must report that tensions are beginning to rise. There may be a formation of factions between those who want to watch Mulan next and those who would prefer Hot Fuzz. The first Martian Civil War breweth.

The other thing beginning to rise is our rosemary bread for the great New Year’s feast! Very soon we will put aside our differences and eat the vast majority of our remaining food supply. It’s strange to celebrate the anniversary of the Earth’s revolution around the sun from its planetary next-door neighbor. There’s no way I’d rather spend it than breaking Hab-made bread with my fellow crewmates.

What a fantastic way to usher in the new decade. Happy New Year, everyone!

Journalist Report – December 28th

Journalist Report
Ben Durkee, Crew 218 Journalist

Sol 06

I swear these morning workouts get more and more intense every day. Sitting up has now become an ordeal, and don’t even get me started on descending our glorified ladder of a staircase. I feel like a 21-year-old going on octogenarian – perhaps we age faster on Mars? I may have to request some dentures in the next cargo resupply craft sent from Earth…

In spite of our body aches, we spent a good chunk of time today sweeping the snow from our inter-Habitat tunnels again. We still haven’t been able to locate that pesky leak that’s allowing the precipitation in. I suspect it is the Martian mouse from Sol 04 trying to take us out one by one. We haven’t been able to track him down, yet, but have affectionately named him Marvin.

It’s very interesting the way the mind wanders when given the time and space to do so.

“When Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson studies his family history, is it considered genealogy or geology?”

This is the question Pat (the crew geologist) and I pondered over lunch. After involving the rest of the crew in our whirlwind debate, the general consensus became the latter, but we welcome outside opinions on the matter.

After discussing our philosophical quandary, the curtain of clouds parted for the first time in days to reveal unfettered, unfiltered sunlight. Not only does this imply the most snow melting power we’ve had yet, but it also means the sun was finally ripe for observation. Cesare rushed out to the observatory to carpe this rare diem.

Once he had methodically set up all of the instrumentation, he invited us in individually to join in his observation. Eventually my turn rolled around, and I removed my glasses and peered into the gauntlet of mirrors and lenses. We fiddled with the knobs until I got a view of the sun. Circular, as expected. A bit more adjustment yielded better focus, and I was able to watch the surface of the sun subtly pulsate and squirm, like a colossal heart of nuclear fusion.

Cesare spent some time adjusting machinery and software far beyond in an attempt to capture some solar activity. We weren’t able to observe any sun spots or granulation, but in hindsight that may be a blessing considering Mars’s lack of shielding against such radioactive tumult.

The sun soon escaped our grasp and retreated behind the horizon, so we too retreated to the Hab. A dash of Smash Bros. to wind down, a pinch of pepper on our dinner, and the evening had escaped us in a similar fashion. We’ve a cold night ahead of us, but hopefully the sun will return unobstructed to thaw our Martian landscape. If the stars align, we may even be able to go on EVA tomorrow and launch our scientific discoveries into full swing. Fingers crossed!

style=”font-size:12pt”> Report – style=”font-size:12pt”> 27th

Journalist Report

Ben Durkee, Crew 218 Journalist

Sol 05

Today we awoke to find our pump to transfer water from the static tank to the loft tank was non-operational! The static tank is our outdoor water reserve containing all of our liquid life for the entire mission, whereas the loft tank is the tank in the Hab that supplies all of our utilities with water directly. In short, this anomaly meant we had to strictly ration our water usage (even more so than usual) because we only had access to the water remaining in the loft tank until we could sort this out.

It’s a sobering reminder of the hostility of our surroundings when something goes awry that threatens our Martian livelihood. Admittedly, we have slowly slipped into complacency over the past few days, and this was a stark wake-up call. We troubleshooted as much as we could without going on EVA and came up with a few theories for the malfunction. We decided to give it some time and minimize our aqua consumption in the meantime.

It’s also important for us to remember that EVA is a privilege, rather than a right. Our main goal is to survive on this deceptively deadly planet – the work of thousands back on Earth rides on our perseverance.

In light of this, the crew has taken our lack of EVA-ability in stride! We spent a lot of time today planning our GreenHab reshuffle and did some preliminary reorganization of the plants. We only made the urgent changes today – namely moving the shriveling sprouts out of the path of the heater. That unit throws out heat to the point where our snow peas were starting to look like the plant equivalent of the guy who opens the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Now they are happily hanging above the spices. Hopefully they turn around and recover from being blasted by the industrial-size hairdryer!

We may have committed an OSHA violation or two while working in the GreenHab, but that’s alright – there’s no rules on Mars! (Sarcasm – we are using our best judgment and staying safe, don’t worry!) However that begs the question: are there laws on Mars? If there are, it probably adheres to international maritime law. That means our Hab is technically a naval vessel! I must spend some time over the next few days coming up with a good nautical name for our trusty ship. But I digress.

Once we headed back to the Hab, we tested the pump once more and it worked with flying colors. Turns out the pipes had frozen overnight – all we needed was a little patience and a lot of sun to remedy our drought. Those little rays traveled millions upon millions of miles from the center of our solar system just to reestablish our access to drinking water. We are eternally grateful. Now to do all those dishes that we let accumulate…

The biggest bright side of our time indoors is it offers us the opportunity for heaps of crew bonding over chores, movies, and games. Synergy is critical for efficient operations in any context, and we are becoming a tight-knit bunch. When we do receive a window for EVA, we are going to be the most productive, well-oiled machine of a crew on the entire planet. In hindsight, I suppose that’s a pretty easy benchmark to reach seeing as we’re the only people on the planet… but nonetheless I’m confident that we’ll exceed expectations.

And not a moment too soon – the meteorological powers that be have predicted quite a few consecutive days of sun. Just the medicine we need to clear up the white blanket covering our landscape. If all goes well, we may be lucky enough to get some EVA time on Sunday! Regardless, priority number one remains the same: survive. We conquer this unforgiving Martian frontier to improve life for those on Earth.

Journalist Report – December 26th

Journalist Report
Ben Durkee, Crew 218 Journalist

Sol 04

It’s sol three of being trapped in the Hab. Our first sol without the puzzle to keep us
sane. The snow shows no intention of melting in time for us to be able to EVA tomorrow.
My crewmates have reported seeing a mouse-sized Martian creature in the Hab. It may very
well be a mirage. A fire alarm went off in the RAM (Repair & Assembly Module) and we
rejoiced having something interesting happen. Luckily, it was a false alarm.

Sanctuary has been found in the digital realm. The six of us rotated around playing
Super Smash Bros., abusing our four controllers with incessant button mashing. It’s
strange how much release can be derived from those random AABB button combos – but hey, I’d rather we take it all out on Jigglypuff than on each other.

However, contrary to the picture I’ve just painted, we aren’t completely aimless.
Shefali and LuzMa both have research projects that can be performed from the confines of the Hab. The rest of us have been helping out as much as we can, but one requires taking readings over long spans of time and the other is a psychological study, so they are both slow boils.

Jonathan also has big ambitions for us to reorganize the GreenHab tomorrow if we are
inhibited from EVAing. It appears the current agricultural arrangement is inefficient
and even detrimental to the growth of a few of the young plants. I’m excited because
the Save the Sprouts Initiative offers the rest of us something to occupy our hands and
minds.

The sun has decided it’s had enough of tag-teaming our retinas with the snow and has
begun to hibernate behind the Martian hills. We are winding down with our reports as the
aroma of dinner being assembled fills the air. I think we can rest easy tonight knowing
we have been the most productive we possibly can in spite of the red planet’s attempts
to keep us constricted. You can stop us from stretching our legs, but you can’t stop
science! If nothing else, we have survived another day on this alien world, once thought
unfit for human life.

Journalist Report Dec 25th

Journalist Report

Ben Durkee, Crew 218 Journalist

Sol 03

White Christmars

The dulcet tones of a yuletide choir slipped under my door and roused me from my sleep at exactly 8:30 AM Mars Standard Time. White sunlight radiating off the powdered terrain outside permeated through the fog outside and met my eyes. The smell of cinnamon and

peppermint swirled ’round the Hab and lifted sleepy spirits. I can’t think of a better way to wake up on Christmars day.

We assembled our own breakfasts and dove back into the puzzle to get our cognitive gears

in motion again. During our half-focused small talk, we learned that our fearless leader, Cesare, was a member of the very choir that woke us up. We learn something incredible about one another every sol. Once we had finished eating and had puzzled the sleep from our eyes, we began our holiday festivities. Cesare, our operatic Martian Santa Claus, had gotten all of us Xmas candy and individual gifts that revealed themselves to be adorable snowman fridge magnets.

As if that wasn’t charming enough, he went into his quarters and came back out with a handful of Christmas cards for us that he had stealthily collected back on Earth. There were so many lovely greetings from writers all around the world, including a card from the entire Class 9EW of the Queen’s School in Chester, UK. It seemed that for a moment the mist from outside had somehow gotten in my eyes.

Once our first round of festivities concluded, it was time for some Habitat maintenance. It appeared that the snow had found a few leaks in the tunnels between our buildings and collected on the floor. Myself, Cesare, and Pat held our breaths and set off to sweep the tunnels clean and locate the leaks. We had the tunnels spick and span (and safe to traverse) in no time.

Or so we thought. In reality, by the time we were done it was time to begin preparing Christmars lunch! While we were working in the tunnels, Jonathan, Shefali, and LuzMa

were collecting a very plentiful harvest in the GreenHab. While they took the mass of the greens, we prepared some spaghetti, mashed potatoes, and assorted feast necessities. The GreenHabbers returned with their bounty and turned it into a delicious fresh salad that tasted like summer. A nice culinary reminder of home!

We invited some friendly Martian visitors (the Assistant Program Directors) for our Christmars banquet. If there’s anyone who deserves to join in our festivities, it’s the folks who make all of this possible! It was an incredible meal that had all of us on the border of going comatose; for the first time, the worries of the hostile Martian landscape melted away.

We saw our guests out the airlock, and returned to the puzzle whilst tagging each other in and out for Hab chores. By sunset, we were all gathered around the table as Jonathan theatrically placed the final piece. We were awash with relief as we had finally vanquished our collective nemesis… until we realized we had to delicately flip the whole thing over to sign our crew number on the back. We bounced a lot of (frankly ridiculous) ideas off of one another until Pat took charge and finessed the entire cardboard mass over without unseating a single piece. I may be on Mars experiencing a one-in-a-million interplanetary adventure, but that takes the cake for the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.

Signing our crew as the 5th of 218 crews to complete the puzzle felt like a monumental accomplishment. Watching Cesare draw the Purdue “Block P” was akin to how I imagine it felt to watch Julius Caesar lead his army across the Rubicon River. Satisfied and exhausted from our arduous accomplishment, we began drafting our reports to CAPCOM.

So here I sit now, buoyant from a perfect White Christmars on the red planet, documenting this day so I may never forget it. Thank you to everyone who wrote us a card and Happy Holidays to all reading this from Earth!

Journalist Report – December 24th

Journalist Report

Ben Durkee, Crew 218 Journalist

Sol 02

The meteorological crystal ball predicted some nasty weather for today, so we were unauthorized to have any EVA’s to avoid being caught in it. On the bright side, this meant we were able to sleep in a bit today.

We metamorphosed from our sleeping bag cocoons toasty and well-rested this morning. Since we were to be cooped up in the Hab all day, we began our morning with some yoga and breathing exercises to stay in shape. After following our rigid Excel spreadsheet of lethargic calisthenics, we tackled our day in a meditative state.

This zen didn’t last long, though, as the heavens promptly opened and proved the forecast right. Apparently, when it rains on Mars, it pours (in a solid-state). Albeit destructive to our scientific progress, we couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of a Martian snowfall.

Since we had already warmed up our bodies, it was time to sharpen our minds. We whipped out a puzzle to pass the time and may have bitten off more than we could chew. This Mars-themed jigsaw has proven very difficult, what with it being 60% non-descript black space. After a while we all started getting lost in the void of ebony puzzle pieces.

We only have two personal research projects that can be performed without EVA, so LuzMa and Shefali peeled off to work on those as we decided we needed a break from the puzzle. I’m genuinely unsure and impressed at how they had the mental fortitude to be productive after all that – at that point the puzzle had sapped me of all my (admittedly scarce) brain power. Unfortunately Shefali’s research met an untimely roadblock due to computer issues, but I gather that LuzMa’s work is going well!

As I write this, we are finishing dinner and preparing to dive back into the mind-bending cardboard abyss. The snow is slowing, but it has accumulated more than enough to keep us in here for another Sol at a minimum. Though we are confined to the Hab tomorrow, we can only embrace the variables out of our control and enjoy a lovely White Christmars on the red planet.

I’m sure the audience on Earth are waiting with bated breath to hear how the puzzle saga continues, so I will be sure to keep you posted. Consider it a Christmars gift from me to you.

Happy holidays!