Journalist Report – November 30th

Crew 216 Journalist Report 30-NOV-19
Sol 6
Author: Evgenia Alexandrova

How does the time work on Mars?

Time flies when half of the mission is already behind.

Time is really long in the airlock during the five-minute depressurization.

Time flies when it is already the Capcom window and you haven’t written your report yet.

Time is really long when you wait for the bread to be cooked.

There is this film “Room” by Lenny Abrahamson in which a 9-years old boy, who was born and grew up in a 16 square meters room, finally gets out of this room and discovers the rest of the world. Excited, he shares with his mother, that the time in the rest of the world flies much faster than in the room because the same amount of time has to be spread on a much larger surface.

Following this logic, time on the EVA flies faster than in the HAB. So the two halves of the crew experience very different sensations during this moment.

All I know is that time is not linear, the greatest minds have proved it long ago.

Anonymous Haiku for this Saturday night:

Steady pulse of pump
Soft hum of battery bank
Voices talk of space

Journalist Report – November 29th

Crew 216 Journalist Report 29-NOV-19
Sol 5
Author: Evgenia Alexandrova

Do you believe in miracles? Yes or no? If you can’t answer straight to that, choose between these two options: most likely yes or most likely no? What you answer actually describes how much you trust life. I think coming to MDRS was a choice of faith. In return today, we were gratified with a real space miracle: snow on Mars. It was bewitching and relaxing to watch the snowflakes smash the window in the science dome. Most of us find it cozy and enjoyable staying indoors and meditate while the weather gets angry outside. This is interesting, because almost each crewmember describes himself as an “outdoor person”. So how come a bunch of intelligent, communicative, OUTDOOR people decided free willingly to isolate themselves in a 75m2 Hab? The answer was found: Mars is definitely outdoor to Earth and to us it means adventure. This is the best incentive.

The freshest poem from an anonymous crew member:

As we wait and look outside

And watch the storm without

The mix of snow and rain abide

And dark clouds hang about

Journalist Report – November 27th

Crew 216 Journalist Report 27-NOV-19
Sol 3
Author: Evgenia Alexandrova

Light goes up and the water pump notifies you that the new day on Mars has just began. You have your dehydrated breakfast and hurry to spend next 20 minutes dressing up and preparing the gear for an EVA. Here you are: spacesuit on with the ventilation whispering in your ear and your back telling you why on Earth (oops on Mars) would you want to go out today. You spend 40 minutes climbing with your spacesuit that hides your feet from your sight of view, with your gear (and here you start considering downshifting) and you slide, and you almost fall. Once on top you can’t even breath, neither see anything because of the fog from your breath. And suddenly… You get a stroke. A happiness stroke. You see that view and just realize you are exactly where you wished you were at that very moment. Happiness is a choice. And ARES 216 chose MDRS.

So our EVA was quite enough

To the top of the ridge it was tough

She filmed us all three

For a documentree

And she carried a boat load of stuff

Journalist Report – November 22th

Crew 216 Journalist Report 27-NOV-19
Sol 3
Author: Evgenia Alexandrova

Light goes up and the water pump notifies you that the new day on Mars has just began. You have your dehydrated breakfast and hurry to spend next 20 minutes dressing up and preparing the gear for an EVA. Here you are: spacesuit on with the ventilation whispering in your ear and your back telling you why on Earth (oops on Mars) would you want to go out today. You spend 40 minutes climbing with your spacesuit that hides your feet from your sight of view, with your gear (and here you start considering downshifting) and you slide, and you almost fall. Once on top you can’t even breath, neither see anything because of the fog from your breath. And suddenly… You get a stroke. A happiness stroke. You see that view and just realize you are exactly where you wished you were at that very moment. Happiness is a choice. And ARES 216 chose MDRS.

So our EVA was quite enough

To the top of the ridge it was tough

She filmed us all three

For a documentree

And she carried a boat load of stuff

Crew 216 Journalist Report 26Nov2019

[title Journalist Report – November 26th]

Crew 216 Journalist Report 26-NOV-19
Sol 2
Author’sName: Evgenia Alexandrova
Today’s report is all about numbers. It’s Sol 2 on Mars and many things happened for the first time today. Two crew members accomplished their first EVA, while another rinsed seven handfuls of the gypsum collected the day before. There was a first Martian shower (quantity of hot water needed – 3 boiled kettles), calculation of the airlock volume (175.94 cubic feet), and 3,000 words written for the new paper. Ending report with a new poem, this time only numbers (to be read out loud):
1 11 25
25 11
6 13 and 1025
7 7 7

Journalist Report – November 25th

Crew 216 Journalist Report 25-Nov-19

Sol: 1

Author’s Name: Evgenia Alexandrova

After months of travels you finally arrive on Mars, your first day has just began, what do you do? I suppose in life every hour of the mission will be planned years ahead. At the MDRS we woke up this morning with an idea what each of us had to do, still we had to figure out the best way to organize our day. There were two EVAs planned, and we kept ourselves busy the rest of the sol. There was some GreenHab work, observatory testing, and film equipment adjustments. This made me think of whether there is a place for inspiration in space exploration. Or is it only pure discipline that reigns everything there? My guess is during the Mars colonization, discipline wouldn’t work without one thing you need to bring to any great idea to life – motivation. Motivation makes you get up at 0600 before sunrise. Motivation makes you carry 16kgs with you on an EVA. Motivation makes the shower-free days less unbearable. And what is motivation? It is when something constantly occupies your mind, gives you goosebumps, and creates an energy flow within your body. Sounds exactly like inspiration.

Here is a recent creation by one crew member to illustrate what kind of inspiration you can get on Mars:

How to describe a day on Mars

It was our first down from the stars

We went in search of rocks of note

And fixed the solar telescope

We have so much to do and test

We’re glad we’re at MDRS

Journalist Report – November 22th

Fri 22 Nov Sol 12
by Guy Murphy
Like Mars drying up after the Hesperian, the dark red wet areas and
puddles around the
Hab are receding and the dry paler new crust is taking over. And so we
finish our last
day of Expedition Boomerang in full simulation mode, and prepare to hand
over the
campus to the new incoming crew and move to the next phase of our
travels
As with a real crew on Mars preparing their base for a new mission, we
have been busy
cleaning the interiors of each of the buildings and making sure
everything is in order.
As Greenhab officer, I planted my final batch of seeds, carefully tidied
and swept the
greenhouse and wrote up some guidence notes for the next crew. An
inventory of the Hab
pantry has been forwarded, as well as final reports on the various
campus systems. The
emphasis on crew reporting here reflects a very real need for accurate
ongoing
reportage from the Mars surface if shortages and breakdowns on a distant
world are to
be avoided.
For me, it has been deeply rewarding to return to the MDRS after 16
years. I have
enjoyed introducing a motivated and talented team of people to a Mars
analogue
simulation. I am very impressed at how the campus has evolved. A great
deal of
sustained experiment and thought has gone into many different aspects of
the campus
infrastructure and its operational protocols. The analogue space suits
are very
sophisticated. The MDRS begun as a speculative concept in the early
2000s, and, that it
continues to operate, reflects both the hard work of many people and the
deep value of
the project.
Expedition Boomerang has been the first Australian led MDRS mission. It
has brought
together individuals from across Australia and New Zealand. We have
completed research
projects across various disciplines, and learnt to live and work
together in harmonious
teams in constrained conditions. The MDRS provides a physical platform
in which to
experience the issues associated with deep space exploration. This is
complemented by
the mindset and mental resources crew bring to it. Crews 214 and 215
brought a wide
range of talents to the expedition, and all involved have benefited
greatly from the
experience. We have appreciated the work of Mission Support and the
Outpost crew. We
are sad to leave.
We look forward to meeting and assisting Crew 216 tomorrow.

Journalist Report – November 21st

The white structures of the campus are overlaid on a primordial landscape of pink, grey, orange and white. The Hab accommodates 6 crew in its upper level, but one of the
reasons it feels psychologically comfortable is the views out of the 5 upper level windows. These help us keep in touch with the daily cycle. We don’t worry about the neighbors looking in.

Above the top stair landing facing south is one of two large circular windows. This
looks directly down across a flat parking area in front of the Hab enclosed by mounds
and hillocks to the south and east, where the rovers and other vehicles park and can be
monitored. The RAM can be seen off to the right. This window is located above the main
entry airlock and stairs, though these are not visible from here. Looming above the
adjacent mounds on the distant horizon is Mount Henry. This is the highest landform
visible from the Hab, and has a blueish tinge, now capped by snow.
The second large window in the upper level living space faces east, and is located over
the couch. It overlooks the Greenhab and Science Dome, and also the approach to the
MDRS from the public road heading northwards into the wider adjacent public lands. This
allows us to monitor our EVA’s departing and returning to the campus, and also any
other traffic that may be in the area. A hill on the far side of the road has a
distinctive square rock at the summit and is known as ‘Zubrin’s Head’. The land in that
direction is generally flat, though accommodates large eroded, rounded mounds of
varying sizes and colors. Through this window we enjoy beautiful sunrises.
Two small square windows are located above the kitchen bench. One facing north-east provides a view of the tunnel to the Science Dome and to the Musk Observatory. The separate forms of the second observatory and solar array are also visible. The flat
plain continues north and west, with large hills on the horizon in the far distance,
and medium sized hills with distinctive colored sedimentary striping and curved
silhouettes in the middle distance to the north. We can see the rovers driving off the
north through this window too, and pick up their radios as they return. It was through
this window we saw the flashes of Andrew’s heliopgraph during our tests the first week of the expedition. The small square window above the sink catches a fuller view of the striped hills to the north, with the adjacent section of plain in the foreground.
My stateroom on the far right of the row of 6 is the only one to have a window. Its
square frame floods the room with natural light and allows views of the adjacent low
rise where the Musk Observatory formerly stood. Looming behind this is the side of the escarpment above, topped by a layer of sandstone that was once a seabed, as attested by the surface layer of fossilized shells.
Windows will be prized on Mars.

Crew 215 Journalist Report 20Nov2019

[title Journalist Report – November 20th]

Wed 20 Nov Sol 10
by Guy Murphy
Water is important out here in the desert, but it is not always in the right place.
Crew maintenace of the MDRS campus includes regulating and monitoring its use, given
all water here needs to be brought in. It is rationed, and used thoughfully, in the Hab
and the Greenhab. Water can be in the wrong place when it rains, and as anticipated,
there was heavy rain last night. In the morning the pot holes, depressions and cracks
in the ground were filled with water, the clays acting as aquicludes, forming an
impermeable barrier preventing it from draining away. The crusty surface had become
slipperly mud, the landscape looking more like the liquid methane-drenched surface of
Titan than dry, dusty Mars.
Water is the focus of the in situ resource utilisation (ISRU) research we have been
undertaking during Crews 214 and 215. ISRU is a key concept for pioneering Mars. It
involves producing key products needed for human survival using resources available on
the Martian surface, rather than bringing them from Earth. These may include water,
oxygen, fuel, energy, building or industrial materials but most importantly water. It
is possible, but extremely costly to launch these things from Earth, and then it needs
to be delivered on site to exactly where it is needed. Why import your water, if you
can obtain it on site?
Andrew Wheeler’s ISRU experiments involve extracting water from the gypsum that we have
been collecting from surrounding localities whilst on EVA. This is a hydated mineral
similar to those found in surface deposits on Mars. Heating the gypsum causes the water
to be released, and today Andrew and Larissa collected over 10 millilitres from the
formerly dry, crystalline rock. This demonstrates a process which could, in principle,
be used to obtain water on Mars. This is important for human consumption, plant
production and for creating secondary products such as oxygen and hydrogen for further
processing.
Larger settlements of more than a temporary character will need Martian manufactured
building materials. To this end, its should be possible to make bricks, concrete, glass
and metals using available surface resources. Today we tested a potential Martian
technology. Andrew and Larissa used a dehydrated gypsum (called anhydrite) and sand mix
to create small cement tiles for strength testing.

[end]

Journalist Report – Nov 10th

Sun 10 Nov Sol 0
by Guy Murphy

Today marked the completion of the changeover between Crews 214 and 215, with Andrew Wheeler taking over as Crew Commander. The first fortnight of Expedition Boomerang has been different from most crew rotations, in that it comprised 4 people. Early Mars mission plans generally call for crew sizes of between 4-8, so this was not an unrealistic scenario, though MDRS crews usually comprise at least 6. In practice, this meant sharing Hab duties and report writing requirements amongst fewer hands, while also trying to complete our research projects over the fortnight.

The crew bonded and worked together extremely well. We rose to a series of unforeseen challenges along the way, including a shortage of food in the first week. Crew 214 demonstrated that a smaller crew can run a mission successfully if it contains the right mix of skills, motivation, and temperaments.

At around 10 am Dianne and Sandy carried their luggage downstairs and farewelled the MDRS after 15 extraordinary days here. Andrew and I are staying on for Crew 215, so we’re very sad to see them leave, but knew they would be soon enjoying the comforts of Earth life back at Grand Junction. Their departure left the 6 team members of Crew 215 together at the campus.

After lunch, Atila and David came over from the outpost to train the new crew members in the use of radios, space suits, and rovers. Shannon Rupert provided further briefings about other issues.

Relative to the beginning of Crew 214, the Hab pantries are now abundantly stocked with a variety of foods, including some treats the new crew members brought up from Grand Junction. Larissa and Jennifer prepared a magnificent spaghetti bolognese for dinner.

Unfortunately, communications were down in the evening (possibly due to another solar storm?), but we were able to submit mission reports via a secondary channel.

Tomorrow morning we will enter full simulation mode. We will wake up on Mars.