MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION

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
Sol-02
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.

Journalist Report – January 26th

Another busy day here at MDRS for Crew 173. While Idriss continued to work on his 3D printed bricks, Richard beavered away in the GreenHab as well as baking biscuits, bread and preparing dinner for tonight. Its Australia day and he’s hosting our ultimate Culture night. He already served us ‘Vege-mite’ for breakfast this morning, so who knows whats up for dinner. By the way, for the uninitiated, ‘Vegemite’ is a sandwich spread made from yeast extract. Its a savoury spread and the flavour is hard to describe, except to say that you usually either love it or hate it. Personally I love it, but not so much for Roy! He hadn’t tried it before, and assuming that since the spread was brown it was some sort of sweet-tasting chocolate spread. Hmmm. It took his taste buds a few seconds to catch up & once they did, his face said it all!
I joined Michaela and Roy on a geo-biological EVA to the Butte. It was our longest EVA but certainly worth it. The views of the basin and surrounding environs around MDRS were absolutely stunning. I think I took about 600 pictures! Not enough- I could have taken a thousand more!
And now the sun has gone down and Sol 11 is almost over. Just one more full day here on our own before we are joined by Crew 174.  Its starting to feel like we’re not going to get everything done. I’m sure the next couple of days will be special for us all as we spend our last few hours here together. What a buzz!
by Niamh Shaw
Crew Journalist & Artist.

Journalist Report – January 25th

Sol 10 Journal Report
by Niamh Shaw
Crew Journalist & Artist
We had aliens here today- from France, on Earth. Laurent and Jacques, two journalists from the French television station FR2. We got super self-aware once they arrived, all of us whispering together about what we should do, how to act naturally, what we should say. But of course Jacques and Lau-rent were lovely men, who were probably more out of their comfort zone than we were, driving all the way out to the middle of the desert to meet us. It all seemed to go very well, they filmed us at work in the GreenHAB and Science Dome and then in the communal area. I was editing for most of the morn-ing on my computer so was fortunate to be out of the way for most of their filming. But then they arrived in the communal area, and as Rick was making lunch there I was on my computer, both of us desperately trying not to be aware of a camera sticking in our faces. And trying to remain as natural and nonchalant as possible, realising everything I was saying seems staged, way too energetic and completely out of character.
This is kind of how it went down:
Scene 33a: INT. COMMUNAL AREA OF HAB. DAYTIME
NIAMH is working on her computer and RICK is making lunch. They are both hard at work. A film crew for a news channel are filming them from the top corner of the room. The crew seem bored.
NIAMH and RICK want to look good for the television and are eager to make a good impression.
NIAMH
Mmm, that smells lovely, Rick. What are you making?
RICK
How long does it take to boil rice? This is taking for ever
He tastes the rice and seems displeased
NIAMH
20 minutes for brown rice
RICK
This isn’t even brown rice!
NIAMH
(smiling)
Wow! Really? Thats odd.
They both laugh. Too much (it really wasn’t that funny)
NIAMH
(laughing)
It normally takes 20 minutes for brown rice anyway
Silence.
The crew whisper together.
Enter MICHAELA. She notices the film crew at the top of the stairs and doesn’t know whether she should enter the shot or not.  The crew notice MICHAELA and direct her to enter the shot.  MICHAELA enters the shot.
MICHAELA
(smiling)
That smells lovely. Hows it coming along?
RICK
Five minutes
MICHAELA
(enthusiastic)
Great!
They both smile. NIAMH smiles too. Too much.
Silence.
Scene 33b: INT. COMMUNAL AREA OF HAB. FIVE MINUTES LATER.
NIAMH is working on her computer and RICK is making lunch. They are both hard at word. MICHAELA is in her commander’s room. The crew are checking their phones.
More silence.
RICK
(smiling)
Lunch is ready. Will you let everyone know?
NIAMH
(enthusiastic)
Do you need a hand?
RICK
I’m good thanks.
MICHAELA emerges from her room.
MICHAELA
Lunch is ready?
IDRISS and ROY enter the shot. They notice the film crew at the top of the stairs and don’t know whether they should enter the shot or not.  The crew notice IDRISS and ROY and direct them to enter the shot. IDRISS and ROY want to look good for the television and are eager to make a good impres-sion.
IDRISS and ROY
(smiling)
That smells lovely. Hows it coming along?
RICK
Its ready
IDRISS and ROY
(enthusiastic)
Great!
RICK, MICHAELA, NIAMH, IDRISS and ROY smile at each other. Too much. Again.
Everyone sits down to eat. NIAMH, RICK, MICHAELA, IDRISS and ROY smile at the crew.  Too much.
Silence.
END SCENE.
But thats how it rolls round here. Ah the life of a simulated Astronaut on Mars. And we love it!
by Niamh Shaw
Crew Journalist & Artist.

Journalist Report – January 24th

Sol 9 Journal Report
by Niamh Shaw
Crew Journalist & Artist
 
 
Its great that we all share a common passion to inspire the next generation to dream big and believe that they can achieve anything if they are committed and hard-working. So its especially nice that we have been able to do so much outreach during our time at MDRS. In the past 2 days we have communicated with 2 schools- yesterday we spoke to the ‘Young Israeli Astronaut Academy’ cadets, and today with students who are attending the same school that Idriss went to. Even with his old English teacher, Mrs Magalie. They asked us all about our experience here, from the experiments we are doing to our daily lives at MDRS. At the end of the call, a shy student came on and wanted to tell Idriss that knowing that he was an inspiration for him since he went to his school. And if Idriss could do it then so could here.  It was a special moment and thankfully I had the voice recorder on to capture it.
 
Earlier today Michaela spoke with Slovakia’s biggest radio station, we chimed in a little bit too. Tomorrow a French news channel are coming to make a small documentary about our mission. We are receiving questions from our followers on social media, which we are answering every day and posting.  People have responded very positively and we can see that our mission is going to continue long after our time at MDRS.
 
This is why we do what we do. This is why we are all here at MDRS. If we fail at all our experiments and all my art is never realised, it no longer matters. Success is ours.
 
Warms the cockles of my heart.
 
Peace out, peeps!

Journalist Report – January 22nd

Mars
By Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist Crew 173
It’s 1977 and I’m 8 years old.
We have just moved to a small town in Ireland called Carlow.
It’s summertime so we have no school, and I have only my cousin to play with.
She’s nice, but she’s 2 years younger than me and we have very little in common.
I like school and learning, so I’m bored a lot this summer.
Dad is leaving for work and he asks me what my favourite planet is.
I tell him its Saturn.
I’m not sure why.
I think it’s because its the only planet with rings.
He asks me to make a report about Saturn.
I’m thrilled.
I have something finally to do with my day!
I open the Children’s Encyclopaedia and get to work.
I make a big poster, using my new colouring pencils.
It’s filled with facts and drawings.
I can’t wait to show it to Dad when he gets home later.
But now that I’m done, I’m bored again.
I’ve never lived in the countryside before.
I haven’t yet discovered the fields around me that will soon provide me with limitless fun for the next 2 years until we move again to another small Irish town.
So I continue to read the encyclopaedia.
And learn about all the other planets in our solar system.
I go to John’s room and study the poster on his wall.
It’s a poster from National Geographic. Dad gave it to him.
Having read the encyclopaedia, I realise it’s of our solar system and all the other stars in our local interstellar neighbourhood.
I like it.
John comes in and tells me more about the poster.
And Alpha Centauri.
And that his favourite planet is Mars.
He tells me about Mars.
It’s now my favourite planet too.
Roy can’t remember a time when he didn’t know about Mars. His mother would tell him about our solar system all the time. She had a special chart that could predict the position of the stars and planets in the night sky and they would use it to stargaze most nights.
Rick learned about planets in school when he was aged around 8, but for as long as he could remember, he was always interested in nature, rocks, fish and the world around him. His curiosity for space and Mars began in earnest in University while studying geology.
Idriss was 13. Living in Morocco, he spent a lot of time in the Atlas mountains, and with such low light pollution so high above the cities, the area had stunning views of the night sky. He needed to know what he was looking at and so he signed up for an Astronomy weekend. They told him about the French magazine ‘Ciel et Espace’, which he still reads to this day (he brought a copy with him to MDRS to share with us).  And thus, our astronomer crew member was hooked on the stars and planets.
I wish I could tell when our commander first learned about Mars. But Michaela’s cooking dinner at the moment and also has to communicate with CapCOMM shortly. Its Slovakia night here so its all on her. I will have to tell you her story another time.
We have all been inspired in so many different ways. But somehow we all ended up here at MDRS with our shared passion for Mars. I wonder who we will inspire, with our experience here?
Here’s to another great Culture night here at MDRS.  Hura do toho a na zdravie!
CREW 173
by Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist

Journalist Report – January 20th

“Smells, snow and potato”
By Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist Crew 173
We got a delivery of water on Sol 4 so we treated ourselves to our first shower in 6 days (not Roy, he’s the hardcore outdoorsy type of the crew). It was agreed that the guys shower last night while Michaela and I waited until this morning. Rick was the first one to jump in. Idriss then took his turn and of course being French (all French are born with panache, an innate sense of style and a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi’), beat p’oor Aussie Rick’ out of the park!  And so ‘Independence Day’, our movie choice for the night (Commanders selection), was upstaged intermittently by an intoxicating waft of sandalwood, fresh linen and some sort of pine freshness. Michaela and I enjoyed our showers very much, especially since we both have long tresses to maintain. I felt AMAZING after it too. You would imagine, being ladies, that we would make an even bigger impact fragrance-wise, post-shower. I just asked everyone if they had a similar olfactory overload to last night, if not greater. They didn’t. What? Aren’t the women supposed to be the experts in smelling sweetly? I dunno…. We should do a study at MDRS on this.. go figure..
It was a snowy day this morning with heavy fog. And so we had a long working breakfast planning the day, and preparing emails for our daily communication with Earth later in the evening. Caught some lovely pictures from the Hab as we waited for the day to settle down into the more usual red mud we are accustomed to.
It’s Irish night tonight which means I’m up cooking duty. And entertainment. I’m not nearly as prepared as Idriss or Roy. I spent the afternoon preparing potatoes (well, you couldn’t have an Irish meal without potatoes, could you?). I have my Irish flag, and some phrases to share, but no fancy French chocolate or Israeli ‘Bamba’. However, I do have one thing up my sleeve. A game of chance called ‘Pass the Pigs’. I wont say anymore, because my crew mates might read this before dinner and I’ll spoil the surprise. Wish me luck. Or as we say in Ireland ‘Go nEiri and bothar leat’.
Final word- don’t underestimate how nicely clean people smell (especially men, it seems)!
CREW 173
SIGNING OFF

Journalist’s Report – January 18th

Inspiration everywhere
By Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist Crew 173
The day goes very fast here at MDRS.  I have this imagined schedule in my head at the top of the day, thinking that there will be ample time to get it all in, plus time to relax, chill out with the crew and rest  up after dinner. Yeah, that hasn’t happened!  And I’m sure its true for all MDRS crews.  You want to do so much to maximise your experience here, aware that the mission and this opportunity will be over before you know it. I want to do my own work, AND work with all the crew on each of their separate projects, plus capture the stunning landscape while on EVA. Today I followed Rick around, as he planted some new seeds in the GreenHAB but I also wanted to join Michaela and Roy on their geological EVA. Ahh! So much choice but so little time!! I’m falling in to bed at the end of the day, with my head full of new ideas on top of the schedule I had in place before getting here. We’re only a few days in to our mission and I know already that I’m not going to get everything covered.
But its the best feeling ever. A sign that I’m in the perfect creative headspace, inspired by everything and everyone around me. I’m going to be exhausted leaving here. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Lets do this!
Slán go foill
CREW 173
SIGNING OFF
by Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist

Journalist Report – January 17th

This report was filed by Niamh Shaw 
We decided on Sol 0, that since we are an international crew, we should take turns hosting a culture night/meal every other night to represent the different nations in our crew, during our time at MDRS. And first up was Roy, our HSO and geologist, who is from a Kibbutz in Israel. We have to thank him for this great idea too,  and all the people from his home country, because they sent him suggestions of food he could prepare for us.
And so last night we had our first Culture night. Donning his national flag proudly in the communal area, Roy took us to Israel for the evening, preparing a delicious meal of mixed beans, potato, and garlic, followed by his national snack of Bamba which we dipped in peanut butter, nutella, honey or maple syrup (yum!). Next up was a cup of the velvety turkish coffee (which has quite a caffeine kick to it) and lastly we all played a card game ‘Memory Game Kibbutz’, a series of cards with handprinted scenes of different aspects of kibbutz living. Each card is duplicated and  turned down and the aim of the game is to find a matching pair. In addition to the fun of struggling to remember the location of a pair, Roy explained the relevance of the image to the his community.
It was a great night and a reminder again of how lucky we are to be here. In addition to simulating the Martian landscape, we also have the privilege of experiencing working with international teams, a key aspect of all human space exploration (and reaping the benefits of learning about new cultures on planet Earth).
I’m up next for Culture night at MDRS. I have an Irish meal in mind (sort of) and am preparing some Irish-themed activities for the evening. But the pressures on. Cos Roy aced it. Yikes!
Slån go foill
CREW 173
SIGNING OFF

Journalist Report – January 16th

My first EVA
By Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist Crew 173
The weather today was stunning, deep blue clouds contrasting the red earth of the Martian landscape that surrounds the Hab, our home for the next 2 weeks. And a perfect day for my first ever EVA- to the uninitiated, that means Extra Vehicular Activity, which loosely translates in to an outside expedition. We had received extensive training from both the previous crew on Saturday and Shannon, the MDRS Director.  So we all have the theory part downpat. But you can read about things, watch other people  doing things or be told things, or even learn things, but nothing compares to a real experience though, does it?
The restrictions of your movements while wearing that suit makes you appreciate how many months of training and preparation must go in to each EVA that they complete. I spent the morning preparing my camera equipment and testing various devices that I could attach to my person to capture the mission as best I could.  Trying to troubleshoot for any potential problems that might crop up during EVA. You take so much of your mobility for granted when you can wander aimlessly about nature, touching and photographing anything you want and for as long as you want.  So how can you prepare for something you have absolutely no frame of reference from which to lean on? And as you might have imagined, once I put my suit on, everything became difficult- simple camera things like being able to focus, or even choose a frame size for a photo. Clicking the shutter. Altering the aperture. All pretty much impossible with heavy gloves and a large glass visor between you and the eyepiece of your camera. Thankfully I brought a really good wide angle lens along with me, so once I selected my light settings, I was pretty set. But most of my shots were simply potluck. And thankfully with the beautiful light of the day, I struck gold on a few of them.
But photography aside, the experience was a special one for me. I joined Roy and Michaela on their geological field trip exploring, prospecting and sampling in the vicinity of our Hab. It’s kind of hard to explain what it felt like, except that, in my spacesuit I got a new found respect for astronauts who have completed EVA’s in space. As someone who genuinely wants to don a real spacesuit one day and become a participating member of a legitimate space mission, the EVA brought me once step closer to that reality.  And the understanding of how much you rely on your support team to help you in and out of the suit, but also remaining in constant contact with you, there for you should anything go awry while you’re outside the protection of the Hab.  And as our support crew were helping us with our suits, and we left the airlock to venture outside, I had a little moment. I know now what this feels like. I would be able to make a decent stab at an EVA on Mars if I had to.  And as long as I have an awesome team around me,  I could survive it. Thats nice. Thats good. Go Crew 173!
Oh and it’s my Dad’s birthday today, back home on Earth- Happy 78th Birthday Dad- hope you had a good one. We celebrated here on Mars with pancakes.
Slån go foill
CREW 173
SIGNING OFF