MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION

Journalist Report – March 27th

Victoria LaBarre, XO and Chemist for Crew 177, on March 27.2017

 

Today four crew members went out on EVA to Candor Chasm and collected five rock samples to conduct chemistry experiments on, later this week in the lab. The most significant geological feature noted on this EVA was the large strata of Gypsum at the bottom of Candor.

While four members were out on EVA, the rest of the crew spent their time delegating tasks. Caleb swept the floor and cleaned the kitchen to provide more useable counter space. Estaban set up his manual bike generator in preparation for testing and hung up the McLennan Community College flag.

After receiving a radio message from the four crew members out on EVA that they were on their way back to the Hab, the rest of the crew began cooking lunch together. Hot bread, beef stew and a strawberry-jam crumble were served still-steaming as soon at the four crew members were helped out of their space suits.

After lunch, the five rock samples were taken to the lab and prepared for testing later this week by breaking them down into 2 gram samples. Estaban then had Pitchayapa test out his generator by having her petal on the bike to produce enough voltage to recharge a battery, which was measured with a multimeter. Elijah and I then took some time to reassemble our robot and solder together wires. I later gave other members of the crew who were interested a tutorial on how to properly use a soldering iron.

Joseph our cook, decided to delegate cooking duties in a rotation in to promote fairness when assigning who cleans the dishes and kitchen afterwards. Today, Pitchayapa and Caleb cooked a potato casserole and chicken fried rice. This was a new experience for Caleb, who has trouble reading in English (his second language) and cooking American food, instead of Chinese. Overall, Caleb mentioned that he genuinely enjoyed cooking American style food and that he was very proud that everyone enjoyed his cooking.

During cooking, a storm started with 20 mile and hour winds. The roof cap blew off and Elijah, our engineer, was kept busy pulling it back down into place, securing it and then going outside to adjust the satellite when we all noticed that the lights on the wi-fi had gone out.

After dinner, the crew sat down to brainstorm solutions for fixing the toilet and how to remove waste in the meantime after some crew members discovered that it was near to overflowing and would not go down. A report on the situation has been sent to CapCom, but due to the internet cutting in and out, we are still waiting for directions.

Note: pictures are by our photographer and microbiologist, Pitchayapa Jingjit.

Discussing how to get to Candor Chasma.

 

We made it to Candor Chasma.

 

Trying figured out the best way to Candor Chasma.

 

Posting at the Candor Chasma.

 

On the way to Candor Chasma.

 

Filling up with gas for the next EVA.

Journalist Report – March 24th

Crew 176 Press Officer // 24 March 2017
Krzysztof Jedrzejak
24 March 2017 – Sol 13

Dear Mission Support,

I am sending you my journalist report. This time it concerns the last three days at MDRS which focused on the following activities:

•    Video interviews conducted with 2 out of the 5 crew members, namely Crew Commander Natalia Zalewska and Green Hab/Human-Robot Interaction Officer Karolina Zawieska. These recordings were one of the most important parts of a documentary movie we are working on. In the interviews, crew members shared their subjective experience related to the two weeks spent at MDRS.

•    Preparation of the documentary photography and video session while conducting field tests of the rover Ares.

•    Preparation of the Social Media content.

These are the last days of our simulation. Right now, we are focus on taking last video shots of our crew and spectacular landscapes. Moreover, we are preparing MDRS for the upcoming rotation and a new Crew.

Best regards,
Krzysztof Jedrzejak

Press Officer, MDRS Crew 176

Journalist Report – March 20th

Dear Mission Support,

I am sending you my journalist report. It concerns the last five days at MDRS. The journalist activities we undertook over the last few days include the following:

  • Video-photo sessions during different EVA. The goal was to document both geological sites as well as the crew members and their work. We also wanted to document the prototype versions of black space suits we have brought with us.
  • Preparation of audio files for the Programme 1 Polish Radio Station.
  • Preparation of the Social Media content.

As far as daily activities are concerned, we attach all the required photographs along to individual reports dedicated to Operations, Green Hab and EVA.

Best regards,

Krzysztof Jędrzejak

Journalist, MDRS Crew 176

Journalist Report – March 2nd

Journalist report, 03/02/17 – Sol 18: Completing tasks.

Today’s EVA had two purposes: find what happened to the atmospheric balloon we lost yesterday, and recover the seismometer, now running for more than two weeks. Xavier was EVA leader, and decided to lead a new human factor experiment, following up on his emergency procedures research: the EVA was conducted without any radio contact, using scuba diving gestures to communicate, and limiting drastically communications. This situation is of course caricatural: a scene in which every member of the team would have a radio failure, is not only very unlikely, but also the scenario where it happens immediately after leaving the airlock and keeps going on during the whole EVA does not exist for the simple reason that real astronauts would just have moved back immediately into the station, aborting the EVA.

The point was here to exaggerate the problem, in order to test the worst-case scenario, at every stage of the EVA. In this kind of situation, having had a strong briefing before going out is essential, to minimise the need of communications afterwards. It is also crucial to always watch his teammates, not to let somebody alone, or to lose visual contact. This is why moving in the vehicles also required frequent stops, to check if everybody was following, a thing we usually do by radio. The engineering check was done assuming that the crew received today’s habcom, Victoria, but only her, in order not to forget something. Louis, staying in the hab also could remotely monitor what Arthur was seeing, from his Optinvent glasses.

After having completed every task they were asked for by Victoria; Xavier, Arthur and Mouâdh first went North by foot to check the balloon site. They only found the rope and its attach, supposed to be inside the balloon platform. This is how it failed: the connection between these two piece must have been too weak to endure the wind force. The irony is that the camera we removed yesterday was precisely in this gap, so that without removing it, we might have preserved both of it. But I’m not sure that Xavier, the video camera owner would have liked to give it another try… To end with the EVA, my three colleagues had no trouble removing the seismometer from its hole. They came back early, after one hour outside.

The afternoon was quiet, as everybody was working on his final reports or productions. Tomorrow is (already ?) our last day in simulation, so that we were all focusing on trying to end our work properly. It is strange to realise how short the simulation seems to have been, whereas we are already feeling at home in this little hab already. It surely will be strange to leave on Saturday to go back to reality.

 

Louis MANGIN, crew journalist MDRS 175

Journalist Report – March 1st

Journalist report, 03/01/17 – Sol 17: R.I.P little balloon.

Today’s EVA was all about the atmospheric balloon. It was forced to remain on the ground for many days, and finally, we were supposed to let it fly for 24 hours, in front of the hab, to have a look on it, even if we would not be able to intervene in case of any problem happening. Simon, Mouâdh, Arthur and Louis (who shot today’s photos) left at 9:00 am by foot to deploy it. After some time spent to attach it properly, it was time to inflate it. It is always the trickiest part: three crew members have to run together, holding it, to let air fill it up. It was not very successful at the beginning, being troubled by the wind. But after about half an hour, it went straight up, to reach its maximum altitude. This time, Simon had fixed the camera on the side, so that with a little luck, we would be able to have a picture of the hab. We now know that we had this luck, and the shot is absolutely stunning.

The balloon being settled, the crew went up the hill next to it, to have a god view on the balloon’s area, being able to check it during its few hours up. It was supposed then to go up and down following temperature changes, so that it will land at night, then go up again with the sun. We had determined a whole area, in which it was not supposed to be damaged to hard if it touched the ground, and did attach it well to the ground. The team left it at 11:00 after having removed the video camera from the balloon, as it would have lacked battery and memory long time before the next day, and we ate at noon.

It is only after lunch that we noticed it was missing. We had no visual of it from the hab, even if the area was chosen to allow us to check it. We received no other sign of its presence in the following hours. Different scenarios are possible: the balloon had a leak, so that it lost air, then altitude and fell on the ground, there is areas we cannot watch from the hab because of the terrain and it might be here. The rope might have broken, being cut by friction on a stone we used as the base, then is has gone far. The pod above the balloon might have broken, then it is more complicated, we might find it tomorrow, but the balloon might be lost, or we could find both parts of it. Anyway, even if it is not good news, we have another balloon, all the equipment (because we removed the camera), is not very expensive. We bought everything in double as we considered a potential failure.

To end with, I spend yesterday’s evening with Mouâdh on the observatory. It was the occasion for me to shoot some videos of him using the telescope for the mission video, and to learn a bit more about astronomy, while observing Orion’s nebula or Jupiter and its moons. I also brought the camera, and took some shots, just to make sure that Earth was rotating, while freezing in the desert night, waiting for my long exposition time shots to be taken.

 

Louis MANGIN, crew journalist MDRS 175

Journalist Report – February 28th

Journalist report, 02/28/17 – Sol 16: Mardi gras.

Today, no EVA was planned in the morning, so that we decided to wake up one hour late. After our sport session, we celebrated Mardi Gras in the American way: eating blueberry pancakes. The day was supposed to be studious: everybody has realised that we now have only three days left, and we all want to end the simulation well. Everything that we wanted to be done by the end of it is now supposed to be well advanced.

Personally, I work hard on the mission video (you may notice a name change). I want it to be quality work and try to do my best on it. Video is probably now the best and fastest was to reach a very large audience, to achieve my journalist goal: make noise, spread the idea that it is possible to work for space exploration without being a 45 years old engineer hidden in a lab, or to make it simple: promote our project and the Mars Society’s. The problem is, I don’t really master video editing, and even if I learn as fast as I can, I am not very productive, even if my efficiency increases every day. It is a pleasure to discover the tools we use to create quality projects, and I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a good video camera from a student association from my school, so that I am very well equipped. I now have already hours of work, and absolutely want to be able to release it before leaving, that is why I will have to lock me in for a couple of hours during the days to come.

At the same time, Xavier and Simon are writing a paper on emergency situations on Mars, and how to deal with it. Xavier is comparing it to sub diving, and Simon to alpinism. This is why, this afternoon, during a short EVA, in which I took part with both of them, after a quick engineering check, I was mandated to shoot new photos of them showing how to assist a victim, while being in EVA, to illustrate their explanations. I was also sent by Louis to test our Optinvent glasses. He was following me from inside the hab, using their video camera, and I was able to record my voice during key moments of the EVA, by using the accelerometer, triggered by a head movement.

Tomorrow, Simon would probably be able to deploy his atmospheric balloon, according to the meteo. This is why we planned a long EVA in the morning. At the same time, I will stay in the hab, filming my last missing shots, and editing our video.

Louis MANGIN, crew journalist MDRS 175

Journalist Report – February 27th

Journalist report, 02/27/17 – Sol 15: Becoming TV stars.

Today was surely very special: we were going to spend the day with a journalist, living in simulation with us, while his four-men crew was shooting images of us, in situ. After our sport session and breakfast, we waited for the whole crew to arrive. The reporter was the only one to completely follow the simulation rules: he arrived in spacesuit, spent the regular three minutes of pressurisation in the airlock, and was then supposed to follow us till the afternoon.

The first encounter with the team was very reassuring: they were science reporters, knowing why they came here, filming a whole documentary on the subject, being well informed, so that they did not just want to film us as animals in a cage, to gain audience. They were very respectful with the rules of the station, did their best not to disturb us, even if being twelve in the tiny hab was a bit oppressing. After a quick talk, some shots of the hab, Arthur, Louis and Mouâdh left with the reporter in EVA, the journalist crew following them in a big SUV. They first went to the seismometer, checked it, took shots while Mouâdh presented it, and then, headed North, to reproduce yesterday’s experiment of the sextant, on “the Moon”. Like during most of the simulation, the wind preventing us from using the atmospheric balloon.

We spent a long time having lunch, as it was the scene the producer chose to interview all of us at the same time. The reporter was leading the conversation, and while eating we discussed about a lot of various subjects, about space exploration, our motivations, how we imagined a trip to Mars, etc. He was very attentive, and raised interesting points. I clearly found this exchange very productive, I hope this satisfied them too, so that it will be released in an authentic way. The fact that the shot was taken during a meal was clever, and clearly helped us remaining natural, as we had something to keep us focused, instead of looking directly at the video camera or one of the four people surrounding us…

The following was a bit more disappointing, as we spent the beginning of the afternoon shooting videos in the different modules of the station, but it was less about science, as the journalists were also looking for some good images. Most of our experiments are not very pretty, so that only some of it had their moment of fame, and had to act a bit to be convincing.

To conclude, it was a very exciting experience, even if we had to sacrifice about half a day to let it happen. We met very respectful and well informed people, not here to try to create something, but really to learn about what we do and understand our goals. It was surely deeper than almost every interview we had had already, those ones focusing more on what we eat and how many times we have showers…

Louis MANGIN, crew journalist MDRS 175

Journalist Report – February 26th

Journalist report, 02/26/17 – Sol 14: Emergency simulation.

Today was a bit special: Simon as health and safety officer declared it a rest day. We woke up 2 hours and a half later than usual, didn’t do our morning sport session, and had a brunch at 10 a.m. The EVA that was planned for the afternoon was also supposed to be special, as 5 people would take part to it, led by Simon and Xavier, to prepare us for emergency situations.

We all went downstairs for the EVA briefing at 1:30, where Simon and Xavier showed us how to react in case of emergency outside the station. In case of a medical emergency, the first thing to do is to notify the hab, and to put the victim in a safe posture: sitting down or in recovery position. It is not very difficult in everyday life as long as you know what to do, but with a spacesuit on yourself and on the victim, it clearly becomes a lot more complicated. Then, we must transfer the injured marsonaut. It is possible to give him oxygen, coming from another spacesuit, to increase the duration of the EVA, but he cannot stay outside forever. Here comes the second problem: transport the victim by foot to a vehicle, load him, and take him back to the station.

The reason why we only leave the hab being three, is because one has to stay with a potential victim, while the third one may have to leave to look for help or at least move to establish a radio contact. We also need to be minimum two inside the hab, in order to watch each other, such as EVA members that have to go at least by pairs. Mars is dangerous, and this is why we always have to be able to rescue each other.

Going back to our story, Xavier and Simon briefed the whole crew about all this, then, they left with Mouâdh, Louis and Arthur to repeat it on the outside, letting Victoria and I in the hab. Victoria was habcom, writing the report as the scenes were played outside, me working on the mission video.

Tomorrow will also be very special: a whole journalist crew from the BBC will visit us, to film the final part of a documentary on private exploration of Mars. Brian Cox, the reporter, will spend a whole day with us, following the simulation rules, while his team will try not to interfere with it. We are pretty lucky to have this opportunity, and the experience seems like it’s going to be very enjoyable!

Louis MANGIN, crew journalist MDRS 175

Journalist Report – February 25th

Journalist report, 02/25/17 – Sol 13:  Water games.

We started this sol with very bad news: the water pump we use to refill the indoor tank from the outdoor one was not responding, and we only had 4 gallons (15 L) left. Enough to flush twice, to take two showers, to drink for a bit more than one day… But we had to wash dishes, and cook, which also requires a huge amount of water because of the food we have to rehydrate. We didn’t hear any noise coming from the pump so that we believed that it was an electrical issue, or a problem coming from it, but kept in mind that the temperature during the night would have allowed it to freeze easily. We decided to first go on EVA, so that we might see if there was any problem outside.

The EVA was supposed to start with an outdoor water tank refill, but we found out that the portable pump we use for it wasn’t functioning too. It had stayed in the engineering airlock so that it might be frozen too. We aborted the refill and the EVA started by giving another try with the solar balloon. This time it went right: Simon, in charge of the experiment, leading this EVA deployed it along with Arthur, Louis and Mouâdh. They used the spot we determined before, and let it fly there for the whole EVA, while they left for “the Moon” again, this time with Arthur and his sextant, in order to let him measure coordinates in this new location. At the same time, Xavier was trying to find out what was wrong with the pump, and one hour later, it started again as usual. It must have frozen during this night, even if it was in the airlock. We had solved one problem, but the main pump was not working yet, even if we had tried to put hot water on the outside pipe coming out of the tank.

The EVA went fine on the North, with some new beautiful shots from Louis, while the balloon was doing fine, oscillating slowly from the ground to 50 meters high. When they came back, we had prepared every pan and bowl we had in the hab, for an emergency refill. The 4 gallons we had didn’t allow us to cook the meal. The EVA members, back from their mission, spent 15 minutes and lost a lot of water filling up all the stuff we had let in the engineering airlock. About 5 minutes after all this trouble, the main pump decided to restart working… Water must have frozen in the outdoor pipe too. Anyway it ended up well even if we had to move around 10 gallons of water in the stairs (that are closer to a ladder by the way).

Tomorrow, we will begin with our last experiment: simulating emergency situations in EVA. Victoria and I will be the only one to remain in the hab in the morning, while 4 crew members will experiment it being led by Xavier.

Journalist Report – February 24th

Journalist report, 02/24/17 – Sol 12:  Freezing cold.

I took part in today’s EVA, which goal was to test the balloon, the connected glasses, and explore in the Northern part of the desert. I was going out with Xavier, Simon and Louis. After the classical checks, a water refill, we began by trying to deploy the solar balloon at the spot we marked few days ago, just a few meters away from the hab. After having fixed it to the ground, we started to inflate it. But a strong wind was blowing on the ground, making it very hard to control it. We struggled for a few minutes, before we decided to abort the experiment. It was a bit damaged by the wind, and we put it back in the engineering airlock, before leaving on the rovers and ATVs. During this whole time, Louis was trying a local network, generated by his phone, that was broadcasting his glasses’ view in order to let habcom see what he we seeing. We found out that its range was limited to a dozen of meters, so that it is only usable during the engineering check, but worth it.

The second part of the EVA was more about adventure: as we spent less time than expected on the solar balloon, we had a lot of time remaining for exploration. That is why we went far away from the station. We reached a place called “The moon”. The ground went from white, to yellow, to grey, in only few hundreds of meters. I was very disturbing, as we never experienced such a landscape before. It clearly didn’t seem that we were on Earth already… We stopped in front of Sanjerooni Butte, a flat mountain, detaching strictly from the ground, with its vertical sides, with Skyline Rim as a background. This whole view was absolutely stunning, but one thing was disturbing our contemplation: the cold. The temperature was very low this morning, even if the sun was bright and the air dry. It seems that the photos are shot in the middle of summer, but I took half of it without feeling my fingers…

The afternoon was full of science as usual, I spent a lot of time working on my morning shots, as my teammates were working on their own. We recently unboxed the 3D printer of the station. I must have been broken because we had to struggle just to turn it on, and are already calibrating it. Tomorrow we might take another shot with the balloon. Let’s hope that we will be luckier than this morning.

 

Louis MANGIN, crew journalist MDRS 175