Journalist Report – February 20th

Journalist report, 02/20/17 – Sol 8: First shower.

Today’s EVA was led by Mouadh, followed by Arthur, Louis, and Xavier. They left at 9:00, refilled the water tank, checked the seismometer, and went to White Rock canyon to explore it. The weather was once again foggy, but it was clearing when they left. The seismometer had moved a bit, because of the rain from the past few days, making the ground softer. Having picked up the USB key full of data, they went back to their rovers and went to the canyon. It was very wet in there. Louis took beautiful photos from above, before Xavier’s backpack stopped blowing air (due to a bad reload as we discovered after). He was almost blind, and more important, suffocating if we were on Mars. That is why, to respect the simulation constraints, they applied a common protocol in diving: Arthur shared one of his pipes with him, on the way back, forcing them to move as Siamese twins. The EVA stopped thirty minutes earlier because of this failure, but the good point was the quick reaction of the team.

This afternoon, we did for the first time another sport session I brought from my rower’s training, to keep the crew fit. Then, I had my first shower after eight days. We managed to save water as much as possible and Xavier and I were the last two ones having had none. We were trusting last crew’s recommendation about it, that was: “take a minimum number of showers”. But now that we are monitoring more precisely our water consumption, the conclusion was clear: it was ridiculous, as a (quick) shower uses less water than a flush… So that one represents around 3% of one day consumption, while flushing represents between 35% and 40%.

Anyway, I now am clean, and already motivated for the next 11 sols that remain! We already have great plans for the following ones, and I am not in a hurry to leave. I will lead tomorrow’s EVA for the first time, which goal will be to find a place to deploy the balloon for a whole day.


Louis MANGIN, crew journalist MDRS 175

Journalist Report – February 18th

Journalist report, 02/18/17 – Sol 6: Aborted EVA.

Today’s EVA was supposed to be short. We had to check the seismometer, to make sure that it didn’t move yesterday because of the wind, and then to collect its data. We were not able to use the balloon, because of the wind and the possibility of rain, so that we planned to explore a new area, and to take ‘official’ pictures, with flags and banners. I was going out along with Louis, as EVA leader, Xavier and Mouadh.

For the first time, we used two ATVs, along with a rover. After having reached the seismometer, we quickly saw it hadn’t moved. The panels we put over it must have done a great job yesterday. We picked up the USB key containing our seismic data, and left. This is when the first problem showed up: Xavier’s headband went down to his eye, making him almost blind. Of course, it seems trivial, but back then, we had no solution to help him, and having a headband is nearly essential, to keep our earplug in place. He tried to rub on the sides of his helmet, with no result. It was not too dangerous already, so that we kept going, I just had to take the wheel on the rover.

The weather was more and more cloudy, but there was no rain at the time. We kept going on the main road, to reach the canyon we were supposed to visit. After ten minutes, we stopped, cows were near the point where we had to go. We had to take a decision. Louis took it, briefly, we will head back, and find another place. Once again, the problem wasn’t that simple. Walk next to a few cows acting as if they were not there, with our suits and a half blind man could put us in a tough spot if cows decided to join us… We had nothing essential to do here, that is what we stepped back. Rain was coming slowly, and fog accumulating on our glass because of humidity. We tried to climb a hill on our way back to track potential future EVA locations, but fog was so handicapping for everyone that we just decided to go back to the base.

It was kind of a disappointment, because we remained no more than one hour outside, but it taught us something important. We have to react quickly in those situations, and stick to the leader’s order, in order not to put us in a difficult spot. At the same time, in the hab, the first sprout of lettuce showed up in our indoor vegetable garden Vegidair, two days after having been seeded, while Simon, Arthur and Xavier tried to fix up our broken radios.

Tomorrow, for the first time a junior crew member, Simon will lead us an EVA, in which we will test our radio system, hoping it happen better.


Louis MANGIN, crew journalist MDRS 175

Journalist Report – February 18th

Journalist report, 02/18/17 – Sol 7: Rainbow over fog.

For today’s EVA, we had to go by foot: the ground was wet so that most roads were not practicable. We had two goals: test the radios and the sextant. The weather was cloudy, and rain was close. We had planned a short EVA, and I left with Simon, Victoria, and Arthur.

To begin with, we went as far from the hab as possible before losing the radio signal. Once here, a first pair stopped, and a second kept going. The first pair was holding a homemade radio relay (see pictures), done with walkie-talkies, in order to test the advantage of splitting, to reach the hab easily. At the same time, Arthur was using the sextant to locate us precisely, to help us get more accurate values. Both experiments were disturbed by the weather. Radio communications were very bad, and particularly unstable, and the sextant decalibrated, probably because of temperature changes. Arthur did not manage to calibrate it again with his gloves, so that we had only the first values. He will have to customise it to make it possible. To end with, fog was an issue once again, so that after one hour of tests, with very difficult communications, we decided to go back to the base, having done everything we were able to with both experiments.

In addition to casual work and reports, Xavier and I decided to track more precisely the use of water, counting showers, flushes, greenhab use, and drinking water. Simon gave us a personal feedback on our morning sport program he manages, Victoria will be able to get spinach from the greenhab tomorrow, and Arthur got the results from his test on our drinkable water, using the Aquapad experiment. The more impressive result we had was between boiled water and regular or filtered one. Boiling water kills almost every germ and the experiment shows it clearly.

As a conclusion, the Sun showed us a beautiful rainbow during sunset, ending our first week officially in sim.


Louis MANGIN, crew journalist MDRS 175

Journalist Report – February 17th

Crew 175 Journalist report Sol 5

Journalist report, 02/17/17 – Sol 5: Seismometer, storm and fresh bread.

Today was my first day following an EVA from the hab. Moreover, I was its habcom. After breakfast, I was in charge of checking everyone’s radio, backpack, timing the pressurisation, and giving tasks to the crew members outside during the check-ups at the beginning of the EVA. Then I was following their actions by radio when they were in range.

Today’s EVA included Arthur, as leader, Mouâdh, Victoria, and Simon, who had taken the camera, so that today’s pictures of the outside would not be mine today. Their first objective was to install the seismometer where we planned to two days ago. It went well and was finished quickly. The balloon remained in the hab, because of the wind blowing too hard. That is why, after half of the EVA, the team started to explore the surroundings, went up to hab ridge road, then back, training on how to use the map in situation.

At the same time, in the hab, I was busy working on interviews for French medias, Xavier was working on the energy supply of the station, and Louis was busy with the EMUI. The afternoon started quietly, with almost everybody taking a nap, but after a couple of hours, wind started to blow very strongly. The whole station became very noisy, parts moving everywhere, we had the strange feeling that we could take off at any minute… Our brand-new wall was moving dangerously, but went through it. Xavier and Louis had to go out on an “emergency EVA” to check if nothing was damaged, and to pick up stuff that flew away.

For dinner, Simon had baked fresh bread for us. He now masters the art of using the bread machine well. It might seem simple but it is the only way for us to get fresh food. And for French people, being able to eat fresh bread even if it isn’t baguette is priceless…


Louis MANGIN, crew journalist MDRS 175

Journalist Report – February 16th

Journalist report, 02/16/17 – Sol 4: Martian birthday.

I woke up today with a strident but nice “happy birthday” from Victoria, late for the awakening as usual. It is a bit special to celebrate your birthday so far from home. I wouldn’t be able to gather a lot of friends, or to phone anybody for a long time, just a couple of mails from well informed relatives, who knew how to contact me. But anyway, everybody here was happy to wish me a happy birthday, and it was a pleasure to spend it on Mars, going around for my second EVA. I didn’t regret at any time being here instead of being at home.

Our preparation was more efficient than yesterday, everybody knowing what to do, so that we left on time. We were going to explore a canyon called Candor chasma, and left the base by pairs in our electrical rovers. After twenty minutes, we reached the entry of it. The place was absolutely stunning. Along with my crewmates, Louis, Xavier and Victoria, we walked in the bottom of it, for about an hour and back, in a beautiful landscape. Sadly, I had a lot of trouble with fog during this time. Because of the heat, and the sweat, it accumulated on the helmet, forcing me to shoot most of my photos blind at the time.

Hopefully, back on the rover, it went better. We climbed a hill, giving us a nice view on the surroundings and the MDRS, got lost, travelled a bit on the rovers, and finally had a little time left to shoot photos and videos. Then, we went back to the hab, to have lunch, and eat the beautiful birthday cake Simon had cooked for me.

The afternoon was more quiet. Everybody working on his own. Mouâdh prepared for the deployment of the seismometer, planned for tomorrow. Simon repaired the balloon, Arthur launched the first water analysis with aquapad… And to make this day happier, Mouâdh just learned he was accepted in CalTech for next year!

Next day, I will not be part of the third EVA, which goal is to bury the seismometer in the hole we dig yesterday.

Journalist Report – February 15th

Crew 175 Journalist Report 15Feb2017

Journalist report, 02/15/17 – Sol 3: First time outside.

Today was the day of our first EVA. I was going to go out with Arthur, our Commander, and today also EVA leader, Mouâdh and Simon. We had two goals: find a place to bury the seismometer and if possible dig in there, and try our first use of the balloon. The EVA was planned from 9:00 a.m. to noon. In order not to start late, we had a quick breakfast after the sport session, before suiting up.

Preparing for the EVA was more challenging than expected. Everything that seemed trivial before became a problem. For instance, the only fact that we had to block our earplugs to be sure that they would never fall from our ears during three hours was not that simple, and no earplug means no radio contact, that clearly doesn’t help on the outside. That is why we tried different styles of earplug fixation methods. Mouâdh went straight forward: a cap under the helmet. Arthur used his head lamp. Simon used his engineering skills, building a headband out of bubble wrap. Then, I went through the pragmatic way: tape. Anyway, this small crew, after having dressed up properly, went in the airlock a few three minutes late. Good for a first time.

Our first steps outside were pretty disturbing: the backpack is heavy, the gloves restrain us from any precise movement, and fog accumulates quickly on the glass of our helmets. We had to begin the EVA by different checks: water and fuel level, battery of the rovers, etc… And to refuel what needed to be. This whole time, we were guided on the radio by Xavier, our engineer, in charge of this overseeing this task. I also realised very quickly that having a reflex camera and a video camera around my neck would not help in moving outside. More than this, using the camera was very hard. I prepared before, configuring it to be usable without the visor, but the fact that it was attached to my neck, kept away from my eyes by the helmet and its fog made me shoot more than half of the photos blind, even if the result wasn’t that bad as I discovered afterwards.

After a quick rover trip, we reached a plain in which we deployed the balloon. It went almost surprisingly well for a first shot. The balloon after having been filled up, went up as high as the rope let him. We just did not anticipate the wind that was blowing 20 meters high, preventing our balloon from going straight up. The result was impressive and we had our first graph of pressure and temperature, along with a beautiful shot. We also found the right place for the seismometer, in a dry river bed, and started to dig the hole, in which we will deploy it.

At the same time, in the hab, Victoria managed to start growing the freshly received lettuce in the Vegidair. Louis take a first shot at cooking pancakes and the second at baking bread. We might live abroad, but already have to eat, and cooking will help in diversifying our meals.

Tomorrow will start by another EVA in which I will take part for the second time, with Louis as leader, Victoria and Xavier.


Shot from balloon
Crew picture
Simon walking
Victoria and her plants
Balloon Floating
Crew Walk
Filling up the balloon
Rover coming home


Louis MANGIN, crew journalist MDRS 175

Journalist Report – February 14th

Crew 175 Journalist report 02/14/17 – Sol 2: Valentine’s Sol.

Today was our first day lonely: even if yesterday was Sol 1, we saw Shannon and her dogs in the morning, breathed the fresh air, felt the sun… Today was our first day locked in. No EVA was planned for today because of our gloves missing (that arrived late this evening in the engineering airlock, brought by Santa Shannon, along with seeds and fertilizers for our brand new Vegidair, the autonomous vegetable garden), so that nobody left. But this time was precious: we now were able to launch our experiments for real, having lots of time, and being able to spend time together, to set the bases of our routine.

As meant to become usual, we started our day by a sport session, easier that yesterday, real business being planned for every other day. We started the morning by a series of tasks we never had time to do before: I checked with Xavier the life support system, helmets and walkie-talkie for future EVAs, Victoria while taking care of her plants in the greenhab, collected our first lettuce, grown by the previous crew, Simon and Arthur worked on the balloon acquisition system, while Louis and Mouâdh worked on the EMUI (Hud simulation by connected glasses).

For lunch, we enjoyed eating our first native Martian lettuce, along with what was supposed to be “premium ham”. As usual, both were very convincing, talking about taste, even if the contrast of charisma was shocking: one being overly attractive, because of its freshness, the other being stored in a can, just to look more like pet food. Anyway, to end up talking about food, we gave us our first shot in trying to bake bread. It just tried to run away from its bread machine, looking for freedom, after having tripled of volume, but did not manage to escape from us.

This afternoon, we had a briefing with Xavier, our crew engineer, about all the equipment we will use from tomorrow in EVA, and about all the check-ups to do while in it. We also had a brainstorming about the video blog, filmed some shots, worked on the preparation of our experiments for EVAs… To sum up, we now know what to do and are kept busy.

I am very excited about tomorrow, probably like at least the 3 colleagues that will follow me in the first EVA, which goal is to explore the surroundings to find the right place to bury our seismometer, operated by Mouâdh. But for now, I must leave you, to go enjoy our re-hydrated Valentine’s dinner…


Louis MANGIN, crew journalist MDRS 175

Journalist Report – February 6th

Weekly Journalist Report
Prepared by: Arpan Vasanth (Crew Journalist)
Sol: 08
Earth Date: 02.06.2017
For many, a space trip begins with the launch and ends with the re-entry footages of the launch vehicle. But this merely is the tip of a spear. The reality is every manned mission is a complex and intertwined operation!
Dick Costolo (CEO, Twitter) quotes “Timing, perseverance and ten years of trying will is all it takes to make you look like an overnight success”. Astronauts are the perfect example for the amount of practice and dedication that goes into before each and every mission.
We had set out for such an epic experience to Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) to seek perfection and it has been already a week here on Mars. As the time progressed the team has mastered the approach for Martian life, be it simple things like covering plates with aluminium foils to save water or walkie talkie operations. The life on Mars so far has taught us the hard way to live and made each individual stronger in the way we approach bigger issues. I still recap struggling to suit up for the first EVA and the ease with which it’s been done now. Thus the odds of us being able to last or outlast are greatly improved over our chances of survival for this week as well.
Although the first week did not start with all the team members on board/test kits not arriving on-time, it ended on a good note! The team coped up well with the surprises and now most of the things have fallen into place. The botany experiment is promising and we have started to observe good shoot and root growth. The sample collections for the geology research is progressing amidst the difficulty of getting in and out the exact Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) site. The planetary protection experiment comprises of two parts, the first one is to observe the contamination outside the hab and the second one is to find out within the hab. The first part has been successfully completed and the team is planning to wind up the second set of activities towards the end of this week.
Apart from technical work, the team had a very good time be it early morning briefings/breakfast preparation/breakfast discussions/recalling previous day blunders/EVAs/lunch time laughter’s/debriefing/evening cup of tea/usual deny of physical fitness activity from our biologist Sneha/7PM – 9PM intense CapCom sessions wherein commander will be glued onto chair like an idol/dinner preparations/planning next day activities. Although Martian day is slightly longer than that of the Earth’s day, the time here passes quickly and we have entered the final week of our mission.
Last weekend was a special one as our commander Mamatha celebrated her orbital anniversary on Mars! The whole team had planned for her special celebration, the master chef Sneha had baked a delicious pineapple cake! The midnight celebration was supposed to be a surprise one however, around 11 PM the crew scientist Saroj almost woke up Mamatha by bursting a balloon while decorating the hab. Somehow we managed the celebration as planned and the crew savoured the cake!
Sunday was the most exciting day as I planned my first drone experiment along with Sneha and Mamatha to help understand EVA scenario beforehand, after months of preparations to get the right equipment I was very eager to fly it on Mars for the first time! Luckily the drone could connect to a lot of satellites, after careful pre-flight checks it was time to fly! Two beautiful ladies were up the small hill for a couple of high elevation footages and photo sessions towards the end of the EVA!
As Nick Woodman (CEO GoPro) quotes “I feel like in a world where we all try to figure out our place and our purpose here, your passions are one of the most obvious guides”. Following our most obvious guides, we are here to absorb the most of the Martian life!

Sol Summary – February 1st

Journalist report Sol 03

It has been just corn flakes for the breakfast ever since we
landed on Mars, so we started our day with pasta for a change which
happens to be one of my favourite dishes! I appreciate the extra
efforts Italians put to get the perfect recipes and how particular
they are with the cooking. I recollect our commander Mamatha’s
experience with her Italian friend who accidentally spotted the over
cooked pasta during lunch break and presented mamatha a timer clock
the next day with a tag just 10 minutes!!! The breakfast discussion
was about our geologist Arun and scientist Saroj’s previous night star
trail photo session inside tunnel which turns out to be hilarious! We
had a laughter riot when Saroj recalled how Arun was scared of Martian
cats attack!! Yes we heard stories of the Martian cats spotting from a
very close source 😉 They did also spot a beam of light near the solar
panel area, it must be of an alien spaceship!! Amidst chaos and in the
verge of getting to the hab quickly, Arun had his heart in the mouth
after dropping his camera. He was relieved after finding out just the
UV filters was shattered!
Post breakfast crew biologist Sneha sowed the germinated
seeds in pots. She will be studying the effects of Vitamin D on the
growth of plants. Each set of pots have been placed in misian Martian
lamp and greenhab area. By noon, Arun and Saroj left for the planned
EVA, the primary goal was to collect rock samples with mineral
composition to help Arun with his geology research. We were expecting
quite a lot of pictures of the activity but sadly it turns out the SD
card was forgotten!!! I guess there is a camera curse and the team
intends to remove the same using age old Indian technique “kala teeka”
(removal of bad omens).
Sol 04 is going to be an exciting day, as our commander will be
joining us. Can’t wait to start the planetary protection studies.

Journalist Report – January 31st

Journalist Report
Reported by: Arpan Vasanth
Stars are magical, it has a power to attract, helps us to rethink and reimagine. It also imbibes in us a passion to reach out for it, they are the most influencing objects helping one develop a quest for space exploration. The Team Planeteers (MDRS Crew 174) consists of a special blend of individuals who have been influenced at a very young age.
Our crew commander Mamatha shares that she was fascinated by our solar system and the never ending universe. She credits her high school teacher largely for all the information provided by taking a step away from the usual syllabus. She adds that her zeal to become an astronaut led her to purse further studies in space domain. Mamatha also shares her undergraduate experience of building the first Indian Pico Satellite (STUDSAT – STUDent SATellite), the challenges faced and the determination of the complete team to make it fly in a limited time slot. She now works for lunar path and mars pathfinder mission by taking the game to a whole new level! Way out of Lower Earth Orbit (LEO), where STUDSAT was placed. She believes Mars analog mission will help her to develop key field tactics required for future manned missions.
A book on our solar system with a cover page of space shuttle launch caught our executive officer Saroj’s interest in space during his grade six, During his schooling he would collect the articles on space missions which he has preserved it till date. Having gained enormous knowledge about mission plans during Project STUDSAT-2, he is now working on nuclear fusion propulsion technology for deep space inter-planetary missions. He believes in not just designing but also flying in one, hence he feels MDRS would be a perfect platform to get a glimpse of his childhood and future aspirations to eventually land on Mars one day.
To be able to colonize on MARS it is important to have a good understanding of the Martian atmosphere and geology. This brings to our next crew geologist Sai Arun, who says his biggest inspiration to get into the MDRS mission is, India’s first women astronaut Kalpana Chawla and expresses his desire to follow similar path. He adds that the citizen science radio astronomy group played an important role as well and wish to pursue research in Planetary science.
Coming to crew biologist of our team, Sneha’s (also lead chef of our mission !) journey, regular visits to planetariums and other space museums triggered the interest in her. The opportunity she got to work as a team member in Project STUDSAT paved the way for her to pursue her childhood interest. The passion she has for space leads her to work on research related to space communication. When approached with the opportunity to work on a Mars analog mission, the idea of living an astronaut life excited her. She adds that she is here to push her boundaries, live the astronaut life to the fullest and try her level best to support the mission and learn how to make the red planet a place to live for future humans.
Last but not the least about myself, I am fascinated with deep space missions and MDRS pushes the envelop in developing the skills required for such missions. After having worked in STUDSAT, I feel this is an excellent opportunity to reunite with old team mates and recreate the old magic!
Now coming back to life at Mars! The weather has been excellent ever since we landed here and it perfectly replicates the summer of Mars with temperature hovering around -10degree C to +5 degree C. Crew members Saroj and Sneha carried out their first EVA today. The goal was to collect different samples of Martian soil for greenhab experiment, both returned to the hab safely. Arun is lost with the Martian map trying to figure out key areas for his research. He is also planning for a night photo shoot session shortly! We are planning to wind up the day with botany experiments.