Sol Summary – January 8th

Crew 186 Sol 8 Summary Report 08JAN2018

Sol 8

Summary Title: Back to the moon(s of mars)

Author’s name: Max Fagin

Mission Status: All but one of our target EVA sites have been reached, and we are now revisiting sample sites we weren’t able to hit on the first visit. We are also making sure our individual projects will be finished by the end of the mission (just 5 sols from now!).

Sol Activity Summary: Our last EVA to the Moons region was cut short, so we revisited each of the Moons regions and collected a sample of the clay and salt at each site that we had not been able to get the first time. The color contrast from region to region was remarkable to behold; blues, reds, yellows, greys, all due to just small changes in soil chemistry. After we got within 2km of the hab on the way back, we dismounted and tested the radio beacon system to navigate the rest of the way home. Justin and Kshitij then ran a quick three sorties back on the rover to recover the ATVs. Once we were all back at the hab and warmed up, we did some planning for a media event the entire crew will be participating in 2 days from now for students and faculty back at Purdue. Mark spent the day in GreenHab composing some documents to aid future GreenHab officers, Melanie continued the programming of her VR training module, while Sam and Cesare caught up on their own experiments in the science dome.

When we all were back at the hab, Sam filmed a tour of the entire MDRS facility with each of us explaining our roles as part of the crew, then we settled in for an evening episode of ‘Black Mirror’, which has become our crew’s go-to mode for relaxation (And if you’ve ever seen ‘Black Mirror’ you’ll understand why its success at relaxing us is… mixed.)

Look Ahead Plan: Today was the first completely successful test of the navigation system on EVA, we will attempt to replicate the results tomorrow under more challenging conditions on a shorter EVA. The weather forecast is looking less favorable for the next 48 hours, so all EVA plans will be weather contingent.

Anomalies in work: None.

Weather: 1C, winds calm, humidity 80%, Pressure 30.20 inHg

Crew Physical Status: Healthy

EVA: Yellow moon, white moon, beige moon, walk back

Reports to be filed: Sol Summary, Operations Report, Journalist Report, Science Report, Greenhab Report, EVA Report, EVA Request

Support Requested: None

Sol Summary – January 7th

Crew 186 Sol 7 Summary Report 07JAN2018

Sol 7

Summary Title:

Author’s name: Max Fagin

Mission Status: Back into our regular routine after our relaxing day off

Sol Activity Summary: Today was a follow-up EVA east of the Maxwell Montes area to try and get up close to the stratified cuts in the canyon wall that we found on EVA 3. The USGS topo maps that we had downloaded before our mission made navigation through the canyon possible, but still error-prone. We were not able to reach the stratified layer feature we had previously located, but we did locate another wall along the way in a side canyon with an equally good stratified structure and elected to conduct our sampling there instead of continuing on to the target site (which was still 0.5 miles away). As this canyon is just off the edge of the MDRS map and has no feature name, we have elected to informally name it after our college mascot, Boilermaker Canyon. See the EVA report for more details on navigation. Tonight we plan to make time for some astronomy and an early bedtime.

Look Ahead Plan: Tomorrow’s EVA will revisit the Moons region to target the sites we missed on the first visit to the region, then conduct a walk back experiment with the navigation equipment.

Anomalies in work: The commander experienced communication troubles on this EVA when a radio battery started giving a low voltage warning while en route to the site. By turning the radio off and only turning it on when communications were required, we were able to extend its life until we reached the EVA site. But it meant that the commander was required to always remain within easy reach of another crew member so instructions could be relayed to turn on their radio via hand gestures or simulated helmet contact. As the commander was responsible for navigation, the commander and engineer swapped radios on the way back and walked single file with the incommunicado radio in the 2nd position in line, ensuring the commander had good comm and could direct the navigation out of the canyon. HSO also experienced a loss of radio comms while walking back to the rovers, but this was traced back to the radio inadvertently being placed in scan mode. Communications were restored once this way corrected.

As this is now the second time an apparently fully charged radio has failed to hold charge on EVA, we are implementing a new policy on all our future EVAs that 2 fully charged spare radios will be put in the EVA box, and carried with the EVA team at all times, to be swapped in the event of a low radio battery. This was the most physically intensive EVA we had conducted so far, and we made use of the reserve water supply once we returned to the rovers, drinking it through a camelback to avoid breaking sim. See the EVA report for full details.

Weather: 5C, Wind NNE 9 MPH, Clear, Visibility 10 miles, Barometer 30.25 inHg

Crew Physical Status: Healthy

EVA: Muddy River Canyon east of Maxwell Montes, 5.0 hrs, spectral and geological sampling of the stratified layers in the canyon wall.

Reports to be filed: Sol Summary, Operations Report, Journalist Report, Greenhab Report, HSO Report, EVA Report, EVA Request

Support Requested: None

Sol Summary – January 6th

Crew 186 Sol 6 Summary Report 06JAN2018

Sol 6

Summary Title: The Shared Mythos of Mars

Author’s name: Max Fagin

Mission Status: Enjoying our first day of light duty and the chance to catch up on our individual work.

Sol Activity Summary: As grad students, soon to be grad students or recently escaped grad students, one of our greatest pleasures is to sleep in. And today we did just that, in celebration of reaching the midpoint of our 13 sol mission. We woke on our own schedule, and enjoyed a brunch of scrambled eggs and french toast. We recommend a new standing policy be implemented on Mars missions: AHTBMR, aka, “Always Have The Bread Maker Running”.

A passing comment about Game of Thrones (which GreenHab officer Mark Gee had finished reading that morning) became an engaging discussion about authorial intent and the discernment of canon in fictional universes, over the course of 2 hours spanned such topics as the Star Wars Holiday Special, Ender’s Game, the Bible, and literary theorist Roland Barthes’ essay “Death of the Author”. In the course of the discussion, I was reminded of a remarkable question that only future Mars colonization will answer: How will future Martians view our current stories about Mars and the people who live there? Will characters like John Carter, Sax Russell, Rebecca Sherman, Mark Watney and Bobbie Draper become modern myths to the new Martians? The exploration of Mars is the first instance of humans building a culture on top of a preexisting shared mythology in fiction. Will future Martians adopt that existing mythology as their own, or will they decide to make unto themselves a new one?

We spent the rest of day relaxing around the hab, tending to our own experiments in the science dome and in GreenHab, and driving the NorCal Mars Society Rover around the hab (the rover was confronted by a 4 legged alien that retreated as soon as the rover advanced towards them. Photo of it is in the journalist report, awaiting identification). After sunset, sleet started to fall, and we settled in for a nice dinner and game night, featuring a custom card game designed for our mission by our Crew Journalist, Justin Mansell. The rules of “Mars Quest” are coming in a separate email if you want to follow along at home!

Look Ahead Plan: The sleet has made the ground icy around the hab, and even though the weather for tomorrow is forecasted to be clear, we won’t do an EVA if the ground is icy. But if conditions permit, we plan to revisit the region North East of Maxwell Montes that we visited on EVA 3, as we believe we have found a walking route on the topo maps that would allow us to enter the mouth of the canyon from the south, and access the stratified layers we could previously only photograph from the canyon’s west rim.

Anomalies in work: None (generator and water consumption issues believed to be resolved).

Weather: 2C, light sleet, overcast

Crew Physical Status: Healthy

EVA: None.

Reports to be filed: Sol Summary, Operations Report, Journalist Report, Greenhab Report, Astronomy Report, EVA Request

Support Requested: None

Sol Summary Report – January 5th

Crew 186 Sol 5 Summary Report 05JAN2018

Sol 5

Summary Title: The Hunt for Blueberries and Microbial DNA

Author’s name: Max Fagin

Mission Status: Excited for our first scheduled R&R

Sol Activity Summary: We awoke today to Hans Zimmer’s “Elysium” from the movie Gladiator. Clouds had rolled in as forecasted, preventing the solar panels from being used for daytime power. The generator had failed during the night, and while it was easy to restart, it took a few attempts before it kept running for more than ~10 seconds. We suspect it simply had to warm up, but our reducing the hab power load before turning on the generator may have also helped. After breakfast, we prepared for our first 5 crew EVA to Greenstone Rd to continue the hunt for the hematite blueberries that had eluded us on our first and second EVA. After suit up and a brief radio discussion with Shannon, we decided to drop the navigation component of the EVA and focus on pure geology. Unfortunately, although we spent almost 3 hours on site with 5 pairs of eyes, and obtained multiple geological samples and spectra from around the area (including from the laser spectrometer generously lent to us by NASA Ames) we were not able to find any Hematite Blueberry formations. This evening, we got our first positive results from Sam’s microbe DNA experiment after swabbing around the hab. The PCR machine will continue to run throughout the night, and we eagerly await tomorrow’s results!

Look Ahead Plan: To commemorate reaching the midpoint of our mission, tomorrow will be a light duty day of Hab upkeep and catching up on photo/video uploads and emails, followed by some R&R. No EVAs are planned for tomorrow.

Anomalies in work: Generator failures

Weather: -2C, Winds E at 5 MPH, visibility 10 miles,

Crew Physical Status: Healthy

EVA: Greenstone Rd, 3.0 hrs, Geological sampling and search for hematite blueberries

Reports to be filed: Sol Summary, Journalist Report, Operations Report, Science Report (Geology), Greenhab Report, EVA Report

Support Requested: The generator failures are concerning, as we have no way to detect them unless someone is outside or in the science dome to hear the generator turn off. We can schedule a round of hourly checks, but it would interfere with our sleep schedule. Any recommendations on ways to prevent/detect the generator failures?

Our water conservation efforts are probably not going to be sufficient, as we are projecting a ~1 sol deficit in our initial allotment of 550 gallons. Of this, 40% is going to Hab usage for drinking, washing and hygiene, 7% is watering our crop experiments, and 53% to watering the crops that were present in GreenHab at handoff. Would it be possible to schedule a water resupply so that we can ensure no interruption to the crops?

Tomorrow we plan to catch up on the photo/video backlog that we have developed. We have heard conflicting reports on upload limits during regular hours. Is it truly unlimited, or is that a mistake?

Sol Summary – January 4th

Crew 186 Sol 4 Summary Report 04JAN2018

Sol 4

Summary Title: The Moons of Mars and the Greens of Earth

Author’s name: Max Fagin

Mission Status: All nominal

Sol Activity Summary: Geologically, Earth’s moon has very little in common with Mars. The geological processes that have shaped the surface of our Moon (vulcanism and impacts) are very different than the geological processes that have shaped the surface of Mars (water and wind). But sitting in an intriguing middle ground are Mars’ moons, Phobos and Deimos. By most metrics, Mars’ moons are fairly typical asteroids, but their proximity to Mars has caused their surfaces to become blanketed in Martian material kicked up by asteroid strikes and swept up by the moons as they snowplow through the space surrounding the planet. As three members of our crew have done thesis level work on how hard it is to land on Mars, we are acutely aware that the first Mars sample return mission may not sample Mars at all, but rather, the impact debris that Mars has deposited onto its moons. In this theme, today a team composed of Cesare, Melanie, Sam and Mark conducted an EVA to the region 5 km North West of the Hab known as “The Moons” (Yellow Moon, Beige Moon, Gray Moon and White Moon). Last night, Cesare gave the entire crew a seminar on the geology of the surrounding area so we could be on the lookout for interesting features on geology EVAs like this one.

We had originally budgeted time for three stops in the region for spectral measurements and sample collection, but the process of strapping the expensive and delicate equipment to our ATVs meant our estimates were incorrect, and we reached our turnaround time after only sampling one. So we must add this site to the increasingly long list of sites that will get a follow-up in a later EVA. Far more science to be done than scientists to do it will be part of a real mission to Mars, but it doesn’t make that constraint any easier to accept!

When the EVA team returned, they were greeted by the sight of the NorCal Mars Society rover wheeling out to meet their ATVs. The rover was successfully navigated for three complete circuits of the campus while the team was out. The ideal Mars exploration mission will utilize robotic resources of every kind (orbital, airborne, and surface) and it’s good to have at least one of those joining our mission.

This evening, Mark took us on a tour of GreenHab where the microgreens he planted 2 days ago are already starting to sprout. Flowers from GreenHab already adorn our dinner table, and near the end of our mission, we expect GreenHab’s food will too.

Look Ahead Plan: In an attempt to check off our science goals more rapidly, tomorrow’s EVA will be a hybrid geology and navigation EVA along the southern end of Cow Dung Rd. The geology team will explore sites south of kissing camel ridge, and drop off the navigation team to attempt a walk back under limited visibility conditions with the navigation beacon.

Anomalies in work: ATV 300 wouldn’t start this morning. We tried starting it again after returning from EVA, after it had been sitting in the sun for 2 hours, and it started up as expected. It was probably just too cold.

Weather: 0C, Winds Calm, Visibility 10 miles, Barometer 30.30 inHg

Crew Physical Status: Healthy

EVA: The Moons, 2.5 hours, geological sampling and spectra of clays in the region

Reports to be filed: Sol Summary, Operations Report, GreenHab Report, Science Report (Geology), Journalist Report w. Photo of the Day, EVA Report,EVA Request

Support Requested: We are exceeding our maximum daily water consumption target of 40 gal/sol as GreenHab operations ramp up, and are implementing tighter controls on water use to allow GreenHab as much water as possible. We are considering implementing a “3 bin” dishwashing system, any other recommendations on effective water saving strategies would be welcome.

Sol Summary Report – January 3rd

Crew 186 Sol 03 Summary Report 03JAN2018

Sol 03

Summary Title: Where No One Has Gone Before But Many Will Soon

Author’s name: Max Fagin (Commander)

Mission Status: Firmly into the routine of exploring Mars, even though there is nothing routine about it!

Sol Activity Summary: We began with a marathon 4.5 hour EVA to a previously unexplored region near Maxwell Montes, leading to a remarkable box canyon with perfectly vertical stratified layers (see our Photo of the day). On the way back, we split up and successfully tested the navigation beacon meant to help a lost astronaut find their way back to the hab in poor visibility conditions. We also had our first successful use of the Hanksville Repeater “communication satellite” on EVA to bridge some of the regions where direct communication between the Hab and the EVA team was otherwise not possible. This was the first EVA to use all exo-suits, and they performed well beyond expectations (see EVA report). The evening discussion was occupied by important philosophical issues like whether ‘Dune” was best described as “Game of Thrones in Space” or if Game of Thrones was better described as “Dune in the Middle Ages.” Today is GreenHab Officer Mark’s birthday! Celebrations are planned for tonight to commemorate his becoming a preteen (in Mars years anyway).

Look Ahead Plan: Tomorrow is a medium length Geology EVA to White Moon, Beach Moon and Yellow Moon to the north of the hab. The Phoenix rover will also be put to work around the campus.

Anomalies in work: Kinked fuel line running from the generator and apparent leak from under the Hab (see support requested and Operations report)

Weather: 0C, Wind calm, Visibility 10 miles, Barometer 30.31 inHg

Crew Physical Status: Healthy

EVA: North East of Maxwell Montes, 4.5 hours, photographic survey and geological sampling

Reports to be filed: Sol Summary, Journalist Report, Greenhab Report, EVA #3 Report, EVA #4 Request, EVA #3 Request (see Commander’s note)

Support Requested: We discovered a kinked fuel line by the generator and an apparent water leak coming from under the hab near the EVA airlock porch. Photos are attached to the operations report, please advise if these need repair.


Commanders Note: There was a communication slip on our end last night. We realized after we got back from EVA #3 today that the sol summary indicated the EVA #3 request was ready, but that it never actually got transmitted, nor did it get approved. We did discuss the intended target with Shannon in the Sol summary email thread, and clarified our intended target, but the actual EVA #3 request did not get submitted, nor was its absences noted by any of us until this evening. EVA #3 took place today as we intended, but without the EVA #3 request having been submitted, we realize mission control had no written record of our intentions, a potentially hazardous situation. We are forwarding the (now obsolete) EVA #3 request which we did not submit from last night, along with a summary of EVA #3, and a request for tomorrows EVA #4. We’re sorry it took us 24 hours to notice the omission.

Sol Summary Report – January 2nd

Crew 186 Sol 2 Summary Report 02JAN2018

Sol 2

Summary Title: Elusive Blueberries and Baby Radishes

Author’s name: Max Fagin

Mission Status: All nominal

Sol Activity Summary: Our second day on Mars was opened with the slow-motion electrical chords of Vangelis theme from Chariots of Fire. After our morning Yoga, the second EVA team composed of Kshitij, Cesare, Mark, and Sam departed the airlock to search and sample the hematite blueberry formations at Goldstone Rd. that had eluded the first EVA team. While they were out, the remaining crew members caught up on Hab tasks, including Melanie dealing with a finicky battery charger, and Max watering our brand new Radish microgreens that Mark has spent the last few days preparing GreenHab for. The EVA team had a very successful (if exhausting) long duration EVA, stopping twice under Cesare’s guidance to sample interesting geological features. The hematite blueberries, alas, continued to evade us. Shannon: We formally request a hint.

The connection to the Hanksville radio repeater we had hoped to use today for long-range communication wasn’t ready, so communications were lost between the EVA and Hab almost as soon as they rounded the corner, but the connection was fixed by the time they had returned, and we intend to use it to keep in touch on tomorrow’s EVA. The evening finished with Sam beginning his microbe sampling swabs around the hab, and an engineering EVA to move rover supplies from the RAM, along with a brand new load of soil for GreenHab that a friendly supply shuttle dropped right on our doorstep.

Our crew has developed a new tradition which we have dubbed “The Idiot Box”. It is a box which we leave just outside the airlock all day, into which we put all the equipment which we will feel like an idiot for forgetting on our next EVA. That missing airlock fastener? That thermal probe? That EVA medical kit? Ask any one of us about any of these pieces of equipment and we will all give you the same answer: “Put it in the Idiot Box.”

Look Ahead Plan: Our first non-geology EVA will take place tomorrow, with the three goals of photographing the as yet unvisited Maxwell Montes, testing our new long-range communications system with the Hanksville repeater, and testing the direction radio beacon for navigation.

Anomalies in work: The new generator battery does not seem to be charging as expected

Weather: 0C, Winds W at 3MPH, Humidity 43%

Crew Physical Status: Healthy

EVA: Greenstone Rd take 2, 3.25 hrs, geological sampling for spectral analysis

Reports to be filed: Sol Summary, Journalist Report, Greenhab Report, EVA Report, EVA Request, Geology Report

Support Requested: The newer of the two generator batteries that we have on hand is not charging as expected. This may simply be due to it being relatively unused (see Operations report for details), but we aren’t sure. We can continue on the one battery for now, but would appreciate advice or sources on breaking in a new battery.

Sol Summary – January 1st

Crew 186 Sol 1 Summary Report 01012018

Sol 1

Summary Title: New Year New Planet

Author’s name: Max Fagin

Mission Status: All nominal

Sol Activity Summary: After staying up until midnight last night to bid farewell to 2017, we awoke at 7:30AM to the music of the Launch Theme from Apollo 13. Kshitij led us in a Yoga routine that will become a daily occurrence for the rest of the mission. We had planned to finish our official crew portraits the previous evening, but sunset intervened, so we quickly donned the EVA suits this morning and stepped outside to capture our official crew portraits. On display were the flags of Purdue (our Alma Mater), our home countries, and the Tricolor-RGB of our new home planet.

Breakfast was crepes smothered with Nutella and maple syrup, prepared by Justin and Mark. Over breakfast, we established the rules of our simulation, and what was expected of each of us to maintain its fidelity. With 15 minutes left until noon (when we would officially enter simulation), we all took the time to pay one last visit to the outside. At noon, we officially entered our simulation and began preparation for our first EVA: A geological sampling mission to the Greenstone Rd. area. Entering simulation late meant we had to return to the hab after only collecting one of the targeted 3 samples, but we will return tomorrow to complete it. Lunch was leftovers from last night’s new year’s feast (it was good enough to enjoy twice), followed by a dinner and witnessing a marvelous supermoon rise. Lunar astronomy on the supermoon is planned for tonight, as the weather looks clear.

We are not the only ones who are feeling the Martian vibe. Even the habitat seems to be feeling it. For example, the generator’s 60Hz AC power seems to be running at ~61.6 Hz for some unknown reason. This is a harmless anomaly, but it means any appliance that gets its clock cycle from the AC power line will run 2.8% fast, accumulating an extra ~38 minutes per day. In other words, due to a technical error, our clocks are actually keeping within 0.2% of Martian time, and only the battery power analog clock on the wall is keeping Earth time… We have no intention of fixing this.

Look Ahead Plan: Tomorrow’s EVA will target the two sample sites we were not able to visit today. Will also experiment with the use of the Hanksville repeater (aka, communications satellite) and our ham radio to avoid comm dropouts between EVA team and MDRS. Thank you comm for the warning this morning about the solar storm! We will deploy our own telescope tonight and plan for some solar astronomy tomorrow morning.

Anomalies in work: EVA Airlock window was installed at the end of the EVA, but is currently secured with zip ties. Looking for a better way.

Weather: Temperature: 6C, Mostly clear, Winds calm, Humidity 39%, Barometer 30.27 inHg

Crew Physical Status: Healthy

EVA: Greenstone Rd, 1.0 hrs, geological sampling for spectral analysis

Reports to be filed: Sol Summary, Journalist Report, Greenhab Report, EVA Report, Science Report (Geology)

Support Requested:

1) We installed a new EVA airlock window at the end of today’s EVA. Are there any old photos of the EVA airlock window we can use for reference to see how it is supposed to be secured? It is currently zip tied in place, which is adequate, but not pretty.

2) Can Mission Support please change the email of Crew Engineer Melanie Grande to we think this will solve some formatting anomalies with the operation report.

Sol Summary – December 31st

Crew 186 Sol 0 Summary Report 31DEC2017

Sol 0

Summary Title: Happy Arbitrary Orbital Maker!

Author’s name: Max Fagin

Mission Status: All crew members ready and eager to ring in the new Earth year on Mars.

Sol Activity Summary: Today’s non-sim sol began with the handoff from Crew 185 to 186. We swapped staterooms, car keys, and mission patches and bid each other farewell. We then completed two training sessions with Shannon on hab operations and EVA activities, and took a practice non-sim EVA.

We are planning to enter sim at 10AM tomorrow morning, after completing some crew portraits we were unable to complete today before sunset. Tonight, we will finish our mission summary, take one final trip into town for some last minute items, and celebrate the new year with a bonfire. All martians welcome (and their dogs)!

Look Ahead Plan: Complete crew portraits at sunrise tomorrow morning, enter sim, and take first geology EVA to Greenstone Rd. Continue unpacking equipment around the hab.

Anomalies in work: None

Weather: Partly cloudy, Temperature 1C, winds calm, Humidity 64%

Crew Physical Status: Healthy

EVA: All crew members took a non-sim EVA south of the Hab to practice driving and hiking in full gear. We practiced proper hill climbing/descending technique, and breath management to minimize fogging.

Reports to be filed: Sol Summary, Journalist Report, Greenhab Report, EVA Request

Support Requested: Awaiting a new template for the EVA report and EVA request.

Note: We have composed a shared document with all the report templates we have received in order to speed up report composition and minimize transmission errors. One consequence of this is that it will take a few transmission to make sure the templates have been copied correctly. If there are any errors in the report format (anything as small as missing line breaks), please let us know. We update the common document to reflect the changes.

Sol Summary – December 29th

Crew 185 Sol Summary Report 29 Dec 2017

Sol 11

Last Day of Sim

David Murray

Mission Status: Everything is going well

Sol Activity Summary: We woke up at 0800, ate breakfast and got ready for the EVA. At 1034, the EVA crew entered the airlock and returned at 1218. While the EVA crew was gone, Arno, Tibo, and I cleaned the hab and the greenhab. Upon return we ate lunch, packed up our belongings, and continued cleaning. Later we took inventory of the remaining food and prepared MDRS for the next crew.

Look Ahead Plan: Record our answers to questions from children around the world

Anomalies in work: None

Weather: Sunny, warm

Crew Physical Status: Healthy

EVA: Exploration, sample collection

Reports to be filed: Journalist Report, Greenhab Report, Sol Summary, EVA report

Support Requested: None