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.

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:
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.
Mmm, that smells lovely, Rick. What are you making?
How long does it take to boil rice? This is taking for ever
He tastes the rice and seems displeased
20 minutes for brown rice
This isn’t even brown rice!
Wow! Really? Thats odd.
They both laugh. Too much (it really wasn’t that funny)
It normally takes 20 minutes for brown rice anyway
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.
That smells lovely. Hows it coming along?
Five minutes
They both smile. NIAMH smiles too. Too much.
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.
Lunch is ready. Will you let everyone know?
Do you need a hand?
I’m good thanks.
MICHAELA emerges from her room.
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.
That smells lovely. Hows it coming along?
Its ready
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.
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

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