Journalist Report – March 3rd

Crew 223 Journalist Report 03Mar2020
Author: Clément Plagne, Crew Journalist
Sol 2
Title: Quick Thinking

“I’m getting no air from the suit”

“Marion, you’re taking command of this EVA”

“If this weren’t Earth I’d be dead right now”

“We need to head back to the Hab immediately”

It’s essential to have a plan – and we do. What’s even more important is
to know how to react when things start to go off the rails. Yesterday’s
EVA started off like the previous one: Aurélien, the veteran, leading
Florian, Marion, and Valentin, three rookies on their first time out.
And, much like yesterday, one of the suits began having issues with its
ventilation systems. Aurélien was the one affected, but unfortunately
this time the problem could be solved neither quickly nor easily by the
remaining crew. A routine battery replacement had suddenly turned into
an emergency situation, as the EVA leader’s helmet began fogging up from
the lack of extra air.

Outside, three Marstronauts with only minutes of EVA experience, needing
to take over from their only experienced companion. Inside, the HabCom
and the other two of us, listening in helplessly to the radio, waiting
for them to make their way back. After the cloud of confusion lifted
from the EVA team and they got control back over the situation, all
seven of us focused on how to make sure the EVA could carry on with
minimal losses. Time was indeed of the essence: there’s only so much
that can be spent outside. As two EVA members rushed in the airlock for
pressurisation, all hands were on deck to give Aurélien another suit and
help Valentin from losing his Comms headset. As quickly as they came in,
they were back out through the airlock, and the EVA carried on
nominally, only with little less time to be spent on exploration.

After a debriefing session to go over the morning’s events, time was
needed for a bit of well-deserved relaxation. Following a hearty lunch
of vegetable curry and improvised cake (powdered butter makes me sad),
we moved on to our respective experiments. Valentin was back to his
ever-relaxing GreenHab, and Florian was busy at the observatory, taking
advantage of the good weather for solar observations. Later on in the
afternoon, Blandine introduced us to a positive psychology experiment:
amongst a myriad of cards showing character strengths, we had to chose
two and explain to the others why we felt it described us well. It was a
great time for introspection, and for learning about our crewmates. Team
cohesion is paramount in missions like this one, and being reminded that
we all have great things to bring to the others is fantastic for the
rest of the mission.

Journalist Report – March 2nd

Crew 223 Journalist Report 02Mar2020
Author: Clément Plagne, Crew Journalist
Sol 1
Title: Baby steps

After years spent on Earth, with the comfort of modern technology and the plentiful Western lifestyle, seeing ourselves so limited is as refreshing as it is a shock. We’re like born again on Mars, having to re-learn everything as we move along in our new home. And, as newborns, even our first steps weren’t so easy. Today was EVA day, and it was time for four of us to step out into the (nearly) unknown, making our way into the hills after a first run to replace the batteries of our atmospheric experiments. Between the heat outside, the weight of the life support system and the little air we got from it, it was no walk in the park. Still, with every heavy step, we discovered beautiful features of the terrain, and it was like facing a brand-new landscape every few meters. Deserts are not boring, that’s for sure.

Like the explorers of old, we were on our own, too far away to communicate with help of any kind, and having to figure things out ourselves if anything went wrong. During the EVA, Blandine’s suit had issues with its ventilation systems – while she was perfectly safe in earth’s atmosphere, this could have proven problematic or even critical in real conditions. We had to react quickly, and solved the issue even with our unwieldy gloves. It’ll be up to Luc, the Crew Engineer, to figure out what is wrong and solve the issues.

While we were out, something possibly even more important was going on: Valentin, our botanist and resident cook for the day, was starting to get busy in the kitchen. For lunch, he was preparing homemade pasta with pesto, made from basil harvested this very morning in the GreenHab. As a side, zucchini flowers dipped in batter and shallow fried. An absolute success! And, as if that wasn’t enough, bread was rising for tonight’s dinner. Food: truly the best morale booster for an all-French crew!

Scarcity breeds creativity, so here’s to many more days of delicious food and creative problem solving!

Journalist Report – March 1st

Crew 223 Journalist Report 01Mar2020
Author: Clément Plagne, Crew Journalist
Sol 0

Title: Out with the old, in with the new!

How lucky it is to wake up among friends! As we had taken our new
quarters in the Hab’s bedrooms, our fellow students from Crew 222 spent their last night in the MDRS on the Lower Deck, and it does look like a good night of sleep was had by all. It’s hard to imagine the level of excitement from both crews: one satisfied to have completed their mission, and one eager to finally start living on Mars.

Alas, while we had spent a year planning our missions with Crew 222, it was time for them to go. After a great many hugs and sweet goodbyes, they took off as the sun rose on the Martian desert. As the soft roar of the CrewCar began to quiet down in the distance, it dawned on us that we would be on our own for the two coming weeks.

Farewell, Crew 222! We wish you a safe trip back to Earth, and we promise we’ll take good care of the Station.

There was only one final step before we could finally be in isolation.
We needed to be briefed and trained by Shannon, the Station Director, on how to operate the spacesuits and the vehicles available to us for EVAs. Driving with the desert wind in our hair was a pleasant experience – sadly for us, we will all be wearing cumbersome suits from now on.

After a quick look through the GreenHab, the training was done. And, as simple as that, we were ready to go.

We spent our last moments of freedom on a quick run near the Hab,
enjoying for the last time the touch of the sun and the bite of the
freshening air on our bare skin. Finally, with the metallic clang of the
heavy airlock door, the simulation began. There was little time for us
to ponder over our newfound confinement, as it also meant there was much work to be done.

Valentin was busy at the GreenHab, making his first harvests for tonight’s meal; Luc, our Crew Engineer, had to make his first EVA check on the Station’s support systems. Meanwhile, in the Hab, the sounds of EVA comms clash with the clacks of our many keyboards, working in unison to type up the many reports needed by the
Mission Support.

Soon enough all of today’s work will be done, and we will have dinner
and some rest as a crew in the solitude of the Martian desert. A
comforting thought crosses my mind: on Mars, the sun sets just the same as it does on Earth.

Journalist Report – February 29th

Crew 222 Journalist Report 29Feb2020
Author: Marie Bochard, Crew Journalist
Sol 13
Title: A taste of home

We woke up very early this morning to see the sunrise. At 6am, we were
all outside climbing on the Ridge wall in the pale light of our
flashlights. The view from above was stunning: the sun rose over the
small hills in the distance, illuminating the mesa and the snowy
mountains minutes after minutes. Finally, the sun rays shone through the
atmosphere… What a way to end our stay here.

At 1pm, we met with Crew 223 at the Rock Shop. It was so crazy seeing
new faces after two weeks in isolation! Especially since we know them
from back home, it feels like they brought a taste of home with them. We
cooked lunch and shared our experience here with the new crew. We’ve
been preparing this mission for more than a year, so being here together
is long awaited! We were really excited to tell them all about our
mission and transmit our newly acquired experience. We had so much to share.

Before the sun was setting, we all got together outside to take the crew
change photos. We are leaving early tomorrow morning, so we needed to
finish all our transmission of knowledge before we went out to eat. Once
that was all done, we headed out to have our first meal and their last
meal outside the station: the iconic “last burger” in Hanksville.

It has been a pleasure writing everyday about our life in the station.
It’s been an incredible experience for all of us, and we would love to
spend the next two weeks here again (granted we can take a shower
before…). I hope I could transmit my passion for this mission through
these reports, and I hope they made you aspire to being a marsonaut,
like it inspired me!

Journalist Report – Feb 28th

Crew 222 Journalist Report 28Feb2020

Author: Marie Bochard, Crew Journalist

Sol 12

Title: First breath of fresh air

To enjoy fully our last simulation day, we started the day off with a long EVA. Nina, Eishi, Valentin and I each took an ATV and headed North to the Moons and Copernicus Highway (a dust path, as the name doesn’t suggest). The landscape was incredible. Every step we took, the ground was a different color. It really felt like we were exploring an alien planet. We found plenty of fossils of oysters, proof that there was plenty of water here a long time ago. There were glass-like shards on the floor, possibly made by lightning hitting the sand… that’s our guess. We surely walked where no one has every walked before, and it

created a very unique mix between feeling special and feeling small. After a couple hours of exploring, we headed back on the ATVs and everyone enjoyed the ride to the Hab.

The rest of the day was mostly spent cleaning. We collected our belongings and started packing.

Then it was over. We opened the Hab door at 5:30pm, finally breathing fresh air after two weeks here. How lucky are we Earthlings to be able to breathe outside and to walk freely without having to wear a pressurized suit!

This mission has gone by tremendously fast. It feels like we just got here, and yet it’s been ages since we thought of the world outside. Everyone enjoyed the stay here, and we feel closer than ever. Missions like this one can create ever-lasting bonds, sometimes more than years can achieve. It will be forged in everyone’s memory for the rest of our lives, I can guarantee that.

Crew 222 Journalist Report February 27th

Crew 222 Journalist Report 27Feb2020

Author: Marie Bochard, Crew Journalist

Sol 11

Title: Candor Chasma’s Charisma

For this morning’s EVA, we headed out towards Candor Chasma and the surrounding area by ATV. As scary as it is driving these beasts, the drive was fun and we all arrived safely at the end of the road. We even saw some antelopes that crossed the path in front of us! There were about 7 of them fleeing from the noisy quads. It’s strange seeing another form of life here, in this region considered to be so hostile to life! We walked down to the canyon, with the high snowy mountains in the background.

It was a beautiful walk through the canyon. We could see layers of history on either side of us, layers of colored stone forged by the ages. Red, white, green, all the colors were visible one after the other. We walked until the time forced us to stop, soaking in the beautiful canyon walls and the traces of antelopes on the path.

The walk back was rather exhausting as we had to climb back the way we came down, so we were glad to be back in the Hab. Riding the ATVs was definitely a fun part of the stay here.

This afternoon, Nina finished setting up the AeroSpring tower. The seeds planted last week in the moss grew enough to be transferred in the culture tower. What an exciting day. We filled the water tank below the tower with water, so that the pump can spray water inside the tower and water the plants. Lots of water involved. We turned the power on and hurray! It works. She will now come twice a day to turn on the pump that waters the plants, in hope that they will grow big enough to be harvested by the next crew!

Before dinner, we decided to play cards for our last evening together in the sim. We discovered new games and new rules, and had a lot of fun. Tonight, for dinner, the menu is red bean burger with chili and homemade bread! Spicy and delicious.

Journalist Report – February 26th

Crew 222 Journalist Report 26Feb2020
Author: Marie Bochard, Crew Journalist
Sol 10
Title: Pale white dot

Today’s EVA team headed North to the Ridge by foot. They found a way up the hill and had a long walk back to the Hab. It was fun seeing them in the distance from a Hab window! They looked like tiny ants walking along the edge. Seeing the white Hab from far away was impressive: it’s the only man-made building in the visible region around us. It feels like we are alone in the universe. During the climb, what struck them the most was the red, unfertile sand that really looks like Martian soil. There are no animals to be seen, and the few plants that grow don’t look like a sustainable life form.

After lunch, Eishi showed us his solar observatory. He calibrated the telescope, and we could see clearly the Sun in the visor! Unluckily, we are right in the middle of the “low activity” period of the sun, so all we saw was a giant red ball. The red comes from the filters that allow us to look directly at the Sun, without them it would burn our retina instantly. In a few years, Astronomers will be able to see prominences, sun spots, or even flares and filaments! Judging from the photos on the manual, it looks impressive. We might come back in 5 years to see it with our own eyes!

Valentin and I almost finished working on his LCVG on his afternoon. We finished joining together and waterproofing the tubes through which the cold water will run. The whole system works well, and we found no leak! Tomorrow, we will test it out and see if the suit truly makes a difference when outside on EVA.

We only have a few days left here, and we really feel like we have grown up during our time here. Our organization improved, we all get along great, and we have created a routine that suits all. It will be very strange to face the real world again.

Journalist Report – February 25

Crew 222 Journalist Report 25Feb2020

Author: Marie Bochard, Crew Journalist

Sol 9

Title: More exploration!

This morning, Valentin, Nicolas, Benjamin and I went on EVA to Reservoir Dam up North and Cowboy Corner. After the rain on Saturday night, we wanted to see if there was any damage done to the terrain. We took the rovers Curiosity and Spirit up the path, after re-installing the LOAC experiment close to the Hab. We stopped near the reservoir and discovered that there was barely any water left. This reservoir was man-made to help animals nearby find water, as we deducted from the regularity of the hill. But it hadn’t rained enough to fill it up at all, so we decided to explore the other side of the road. We went down into a small canyon, a tiny replica of the Grand Canyon we visited before coming here. There was a small lake there, with water redder than the sand around it! We found traces of life: there were some antelope footprints on the ground that had dried up after the rain, and leftovers of a cow’s passage (as a reminder, the main road here is call Cow Dung Road… for a reason). My camera’s battery died on me during the EVA, but thankfully we had brought a GoPro to film the landscape, so we got beautiful videos of the exploration.

It felt great being able to leave the Hab again to go exploring. These past few days, we have all been stuck inside because of the mud, only leaving the Hab to change MegaARES’ battery. Tomorrow, it’s Eishi, Nina and Bleuenn’s turn to head out!

For lunch, we had our most anticipated meal: the only pasta we have for the whole mission. We always try to satisfy everyone’s culinary taste, and pasta with pesto was one of the easiest meals we cooked. It brought a taste of home! Now, back to baking bread.

Bleuenn and Benjamin planted new seeds in the GreenHab, and harvested another batch of tiny carrots! The menu keeps improving day after day.

Journalist Report – February 24th

Crew 222 Journalist Report 24Feb2020
Author: Marie Bochard, Crew Journalist
Sol 8
Title: Cold wind blows

The wind today has been very loud. There is no visible movement outside
the windows, because there is no vegetation that bends and moves in the
wind. There is only sand and hills that stay still even when the wind
blows. We were impressed by the sheer speed of it: from our weather
station, we recorded a maximum speed of more than 15 m/s! This is rather
good news because wind dries out the mud that the snow created.
Hopefully, we will have dry ground soon, because going on EVA in mud is
very slippery and dangerous.

Today in the GreenHab, Bleuenn showed us a cucumber that’s almost ready
to be harvested. It’s going to be amazing to have a fresh, crunchy
vegetable! Her spirulina experiment is going well, the algae is growing
and will be harvestable in a few days hopefully. Nina’s aerospring moss
is also growing: out of the four plants she chose, three have grown
significantly and she will be able to transfer the moss into the
vertical garden in a few days. All this is very promising!

For a human factor experiment, we played a game called Keep Talking and
Nobody Explodes, about diffusing a bomb. One person has the bomb on
their computer, and they have to work in collaboration with an expert
who has the manual to diffuse the bomb. We are almost becoming competitive!

We ended the day with a delicious spinach pie staring a stunning “Crew
222” decoration by Nina, and watched Kaamelott all together to have a
good laugh before bed.

Journalist Report – February 23rd

Crew 222 Journalist Report 23Feb2020

Author: Marie Bochard, Crew Journalist

Sol 7

Title: White land

It’s snowing outside! Here, the temperature easily drops below 0°C, staying at about -12°C for the majority of the night. The landscape feels changed, and it’s lucky that this change happened today since it is the middle of our mission. We started the simulation on Sunday, it’s been exactly one week since we started the mission, and there is one week left. We now have new sights to discover and new areas to explore in a different light!

Today is rest day. We’ve been working hard and going on EVA every day for a week, which has been tiring. We focused on ourselves today. We had new discussions, we read new books, we started putting together a summary video of our trip to get here… and of course caught up on sleep. Waking up at 6:45 to do sports every morning isn’t easy, even if it is worth it.

At the end of the mission, I can assure you that everyone will be able to solve a Rubik’s cube, thanks to Benjamin’s help! We also discovered space chess and battled hard.

We also took time to reflect on our mission so far. The beauty of the landscape is unanimously what we will remember most. Living with and only seeing six other people for a week has been a new experience for the majority of us, and so far, so good! We get along great.

Cooking has brought us closer: we bake bread daily, and sharing recipes between crew members makes us discover new tastes… and cooking abilities.