MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION

GreenHab Report – January 21st

Sol 6
21/01/17
GreenHab Status:
It’s toasty warm all Sol round now that the new heater has been installed. This means the GreenHab is essentially fully functional (minus a few mod cons), and ready to have long term experiments. This also means the capacity for botanical experiments has dramatically increased. The seedlings planted by prior crews are really picking up the growth pace, and the seeds I have planted are already sprouting. Soon the GreenHab will live up to its colourful name, being lush with greenery.
The grow tent is still inside the main Hab, where I suggest it should stay (if left in the GreenHab it gets far too hot to support plant life). It is being used primarily as an incubator for newly planted seeds until they have sprouted and are ready to be moved to the GreenHab proper.
GreenHab Update:
The heater is now fully functional, including automation, leaving only fan cooling to be done manually (if it is needed at all).
A corn growth experiment is now underway by myself and Michaela in the GreenHab, determining the base growth rate of corn (interestingly sown from popcorn kernels courtesy of crew 171!) under simulated Martian conditions. This data will go on to help design a later experiment testing the effects of heavy metals on growth rate, to be conducted by Michaela in collaboration with the Masaryk University in the Czech Republic.
There is also an experiment in the grow tent, by myself and Michaela, measuring the effects seedlings experience based on the density of seeds. Six different crops were sown in pots with seed densities ranging from 1 to 12 seeds per 4cm2. This experiment is to be followed up by Michaela in collaboration with researchers at Mendel University, also in the Czech Republic.
I have also begun to test soil samples from the surrounding area for salinity and pH. This is to determine where soil quality is best, in the hopes that small quantities of soil can be sourced locally and improved with compost in the future.
The chard is sprouting.
GreenHab corn experiment (photo credit Michaela Musilova) sol 6
Growth tent seed density experiment (photo credit Michaela Musilova) sol 6
Requests:
– More potting mix, large pots / planter boxes
– Larger plants such as fruit trees, eg. a citrus fruit.
– Any instructions for setting up the aquaponics system.

Creative Report – January 21st

Mars money
By Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist Crew 173
Is it really Saturday already? It’s hard to imagine that only a week ago we arrived at MDRS, and that we are essentially halfway through our time here. It’s all going too fast and yet in other ways, it feels like we have always been here. Our lives back on Earth seem a lifetime away now. Roy went looking for something in his room last night and came across some US currency and brought it out to show us.
Money. So strange now, when you look at it on Mars. Only seven days ago back on Earth, we couldn’t do any-thing without money. Breakfast $10.00. Batteries $4.00. Coffee to go $3.00. Now we can do nothing with it. Except perhaps to rub some mud off your boots as you re-enter the airlock post-EVA.
That’s the interesting thing about being here on Mars. When you strip your daily routine back to simply surviving the elements and completing the daily tasks, life gets a whole lot easier. And you can’t help but reflect on life back on Earth. And all the stuff. The hoards of books, that I probably haven’t opened in years, the wardrobe of clothes, shoes, and odds and sods, bed linen, bed, carpets, cushions, throws, scented candles, bicycles, houses, meetings, cafes, office blocks, buses, trains. All useless here.
High-value products on Mars: thermals, boots, camera, internet, ATVs, heat, the solar generator, water, a functioning toilet, food. Chocolate. And coffee. Lots of coffee. Tinfoil, to cover our plates at mealtimes, and cut down on washing up. Movie night. Sunrise. Sunsets. The spice drawer. Laughter. Sharing stories. The crew. That’s our currency now.
Irish culture night went alright. The Shepherds pie got eaten, which is a good sign I think. We had a guessing game about pronouncing some Irish names, which is always difficult for non-native ‘gaelgoirs’ (people who speak Irish). And ‘Pass the Pigs’ continues to entertain, or frustrate, in equal measure!
I hope our next 7 days ahead are just as challenging and rewarding as the week we just put down. And then it will be time to return to Earth. Back to money. And bedlinen, and carpets, and buses and office blocks. And also to family.
CREW 173
SIGNING OFF
by Niamh Shaw
Crew Artist & Journalist

Crew Photos – January 20th

January 20th 2017 Rock samples from Israeli students experiment
Science Dome January 20th 2017 Roy working in the Lab (Credit Niamh Shaw)
Outside HAB January 20th 2017 Michaela and Idriss on EVA (Credit Michaela Musilova)
Outside HAB January 20th 2017 Michaela And Idriss on EVA (Credit Niamh Shaw)
Outside_Hab_January_20th_2017_A_snowy_and_foggy_start_to_the_day_(Credit_ Niamh Shaw)
Outside Hab January 20th 2017 Crew 173 group photo (Credit Niamh Shaw)
January 20th 2017 Rock samples under microscope (Credit Richard Blake)
January 20th 2017 Rock sample possibly containing Iron Oxide an experiment for Israeli high school students(Credit Richard Blake)
Hab January 20th 2017 Idriss working on the 3d printer project

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

Sol Summary – January 20th

MDRS Sol 5 Summary
20/01/17
Summary Title: Hot Snow and Cool Cats
By GreenHab Officer Richard Blake
Mission Status:
Captain‘s log:: Stardate 002017J1 – We have … encountered some kind of … frozen liquid. It coats everything … crunches beneath your boots. It may … hamper the mission, but we will … push on ::end log.
Sol Activity Summary:
Dawn’s rays illuminated a pristine white landscape, draped in a thin blanket of snow. It was the first time we have seen a snow covered Martian landscape and gave us the perfect opportunity to break out the cameras and attempt to capture the beauty of our natural setting.
Michaela and Idriss went on an EVA (described below) to attempt to collect some extremophile samples, despite the snowy and muddy conditions. They were successful in their mission and they also succeeded in driver the rover in these difficult conditions, which was something the crew has attempted for the first time.
When Michaela and Idriss got back to the Hab from their EVA, the whole crew donned their exo suits and exited the airlock to join them. The aim of this mass EVA was to take photgraphic advantage of the snowy conditions. Niamh (aka Midas) worked her magic and captured a number of stunning shots of both the team and the landscape.
Around midday a pair of bipedal aliens parked their speeder a short distance from the Hab. They quickly fortified a position inside our GreenHab, spending a good few hours studying our technology. When they retreated, we found to our delight that they had somehow improved our life support systems, leaving the GreenHab capable of supporting our plants overnight!
As the sun shone down around us in the afternoon, it turned the beautiful white snow to a muddy slush, leaving the ground as muddy as it was when we first arrived. This will slow any EVA progress in the near future, but hopefully a few sunny days will dry it out again.
Idriss has been hard at work trying to get the 3D printer up and running again. Hopefully his efforts will be rewarded and his goals of printing bricks achieved in the coming days (if not hours!).
Roy has also taken over the Science Dome, using the facilities to begin studying the many rock and soil samples he has collected over the past week. A number of interesting features were found, including a fascinating iron nodule in one sample.
Michaela is continuing to attend to her students‘ project and her projects in collaboration with the Czech Masaryk and Mendel Universities. I will be helping her out on these, as they involve a lot of GreenHab related activities.
Tonight will conclude with Irish culture night, where we are sure to eat many a potato, joke about leprechauns and cry that we can’t sate ourselves with a nice Guinness.
Look Ahead Plan:
With the GreenHab heater fully functional now, more seedlings can be grown, transplanted and left in there permentantly.
The geology lab-work can also begin in earnest with Roy and myself logging and recording data on the samples collected. I will also continue helping Michaela with her numerous projects.
Depending on weather and ground conditions, an EVA will be conducted by Roy to collect more samples relevant for his research and Michaela will try to capture a few videos/photos for outreach purposes.
Idriss will be continuing his 3D printing work, and either still be troubleshooting or printing bricks like Pokemon Go prints money.
Anomalies in work:
Aliens took over the GreenHab for a few hours, however they seem only to have upgraded our life support systems in there. No other anomalies to report.
Weather:
Landscape was snow covered in the morning, and overcast. It warmed up a little in the afternoon, and the sun even poked his head out for an hour or so. Snow has mostly melted now.
Crew Physical Status:
Tip top – though I suspect the isolation is getting to a certain crew-mate. We may not be safe for much longer… 😉
EVA:
An EVA was conducted in the morning, when the ground was still not too muddy. The purpose of this was to collect some hypolith samples for Michaela. The snow had melted enough to allow for a few promising samples to be collected.
Reports to be filed:
Sol 5 EVA report
Sol 6 EVA request
Journalist’s report
Operations report
Support Requested:
None today

Sol Summary – January 19th

MDRS Sol Summary Report for Sol 4
Crew geologist Roy Naor
Summary Title
Mars can be harsh but with Team PRIMA everything is under control!
Mission Status:
It’s Mars Northern hemisphere winter now and snow started falling from the thin CO2 atmosphere above us. However, Team PRIMA is a anti-hibernation crew and steaming up work as mission continues.
Sol Activity Summary:
When you are at the extreme, planning ahead might be the one thing that can do the trick and save ya’. As We have left two of our faithful rovers on the windy Plato of the mighty Tharsis Rise, towering above the vanguard first Martian permanent station, we had to plan a rescue mission to retrieve our tools, given the constraints of impending snowflakes. However, the EVA time in the Martian anoxic and radiative outdoor is expensive and we could not let ourselves spend this cost only on logistics. Hence we pulled from our science task list one of our prestige experiment that we were sent for to conduct on Mars. It was an experiment designed by Israeli high school youth to detect variances in rock type along the colorful slopes west to MDRS. Using remote sensing data, the students targeted coordinates along the slopes where there are noticeable change in color between two layers. The astronauts were directed to transect the slope bottom to top to take pictures and collect small sample from each different color rock. For the mission of retrieving the two ATVs the crew selected two of his brave scientists: crew geologist Roy “rocks for breakfast” Naor, for his knowledge of geology field work for conducting the students experiment, and GreenHab officer Richard “endolith for supper” Blake, for his bravery in fulfilling missions under stressful conditions and his high driving capabilities, as an Australian outback person (the rest will be told in the EVA summary ahead).
On the side of our innovative ISRU 3D printing project we are still having unsolved issues. It proves again that once you’re on Mars you can work only with what you have. Luckily enough, our crew Berber engineer Idriss “the dude” Sisaid, is the best man for the job, finding Macgyver solutions to force the printer into actions. More to come on this frontier. Our fine artist Niamh “all she touches is gold” Shaw working hard on creating our most important product- Team PRIMA outreach to the world arsenal of high quality media products. Our fearless leader, crew commander Michaela “multitasker” Musilova (MMM) is on the go with her students’ GreenHab experiment, and several other projects, while also working hard on managing the communication with earth and mission control to maintain our needs and duties.
Look Ahead Plan:
Team PRIMA holds to its mission statement to prove the concept of ISRU 3D printing of interlocking building blocks filled with local Martian regolith, as means of future technology to build more habitats on Mars, other than the vanguard MDRS.
Anomalies in work:
When the thin CO2 Martian atmosphere yield before the decreasing temperature and forced to give up on the bits of water vapors it holds, snow started to precipitate on the dry red planet and made the isolated crew reschedule all planed EVAs
Weather:
Morning frost stopped the common Requiring Slopes Lineae (RSL) from wetting the hills and making them slippery, at noon the snow came up and proved that this arid planet holds many more faces and mysteries than we previously withhold.
Crew Physical Status:
The crew is in good shape and eager to science the sh@#% out of all things on Mars.
EVA:
As planned, Rick and Roy (R&R) headed transecting the steep slopes of the foot of the Tharsis Rise. They were running on a mission against time to sample each change in color while the coming snow blows in the back of their neck (not literally as they were given the state of the art space suites). They succeeded in their mission and got back to their lost rovers. The road back on the mighty plato was much easier than the day before as the slime on the road was frozen solid. They reached back to the Hab not a minute to soon before finely snowflakes have touched the ground and colored the red planet white velvet.
One small EVA for the two men, but one giant leap for our understanding of the Martian environment- the samples will now undergo “field tests” to check if they hold different properties. The crew will take the samples back with him to Earth and send the rocks to the students in the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, where they will be analyzed by the youth scientists. We believe that by doing this experiment Team PRIMA will inspire their imagination and thirst to learn science.
Reports to be filed:
sol 4 summary
Eva report
Eva request
Commander’s report
Operations report
 H&S report
Support Requested:
 We asked previously these two questions several times, which have not been answered yet:
– Does anyone know where exactly the GPS are kept at MDRS? We haven’t come across them yet. Thanks!
– Rick made an inventory of the spices in the kitchen on sol 3, which was sent on sol 3. Please let us know that you have received this and stored it somewhere. Many thanks
Outside Hab January 19th 2017 Niamh proudly waves her Irish flag.
Outside HAB January 19th 2017 MDRS environs Is So Like Mars.
Northing Easting January 18th 2107 Roy and Michaela on EVA.
Main Airlock January 19th 2017 Idriss Michaela and Niamh on EVA.
Main Airlock January 18th 2017 Roy and Rick on EVA.
Outside HAB January 19th 2017 Michaela on EVA.

Commander Report – January 19th

“Hab, this is Michaela, do you copy?”
“… from Roy….”
“Roy, I did not hear everything you said. Can you repeat. Over.”
“…mumble mumble mumble from Roy…”

This is how our first few EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activities) sounded like. We would all roar with laughter when we would listen to our crewmates walking around in their spacesuits over our walkie talkies. All you would hear is “from Roy”, “Hab, from Roy” and “do you copy???”. Until we developed our new and improved method: mumbling something for a few seconds, then trying to contact someone, saying “over” and then waiting for a few more seconds before the next person tries to respond. Our conversations now sound like this:
“Bla bla bla bla. Hab, from Roy. Do you copy? Over.”
[5 second pause]
“Bla bla bla bla. Roy, this is the Hab, we hear you loud and clear. Over.”
[5 second pause]
“Bla bla bla bla. Hab, the aliens have taken our generator. On a positive note, they refuelled the gas container. Over.”
[1 second pause]
“What???. Ohh oops, he won’t hear that…”
[5 second pause]
“Bla bla bla bla. Hab, from Roy. I did not copy that. Over.”

It is not just the communication language and methodology that we have gradually improved while on Mars. Every day we seem to face new challenges and have to brainstorm to find ways to overcome them. As I philosophised about in my Sol Summary yesterday (Sol 3), Mars is trying hard to get rid of us. We are a tough bunch of Earthlings, so we will not give in that easily (or at all ideally). However, Mars is not just a struggle for survival, as it may seem from our reports. On the contrary, we are all greatly enjoying our mission. The problems bring us closer together, rather than shaking up our bonds. I think Mars is bringing out the best in each of us. It us waking up our inner children, explorers, adventurers, but most importantly our inner passion to make a difference. Whether on the Red Planet or our Pale Blue Dot home. I feel so energised spending all this time with everyone radiating with positive energy.

Personally, just a glance out the Hab window is enough to start my day recharged like a Duracell bunny. The gorgeous red Martian landscape calls to me. I love being here. It has always been my dream to be an astronaut and ideally to go to Mars one day. Now, I am living that dream, at least to a certain extent. No problems could get me down. Even aliens stealing our power source or clogged up space toilets are just a tiny bump in the road. If Mark Watney could make it alone, then our crew most certainly can cope with anything. Except perhaps a full on alien attack. This makes me realise that we have no weapons on Mars. Oops, minor detail. We could always try to charm them with our amazing cooking skills – at least those of my crewmates. We have been having so-called culture nights every other night, when each crewmember presents their culture/country to the rest of the crew. It usually involves cooking some typical national dish, singing a national song and/or playing a popular game from that person’s country. I am dreading the Slovakian culture night (Sol 7), as I have no idea what I could possibly conjure here from the freeze-dried food that could represent my country in a positive light 😉
As I sign off, I cannot help but smile at the fresh memories of the last few sols on Mars. Every bad memory is washed out by a happy memory of laughter, succeeding in our scientific projects or our EVA adventures. It was the same last time I was here. When reminiscing about Mars, I could not remember any of the discomfort, the obstructed vision and difficulty in walking or generally doing any kind of movement when wearing a spacesuit. All I could feel was the joy that I experienced when out on an EVA, exploring the Martian landscape and looking for signs of alien life. Now that I am back on Mars again, I was hit with the hard reality of wearing spacesuit. Literally. I still have a bump on my head from the space helmet hitting me during an EVA on a Martian rover. Nevertheless, I forgot about it instantly. Such is the magic of this place. It does not matter how difficult or uncomfortable it might get to live in these confined spaces, isolated from the world, with limited amounts of water, food, etc. We feel like we were meant to live here. The desire to help make humans become a multi-planetary species is stronger than all of us.
Per aspera ad astra!

EVA Report – January 19th

EVA Report
SOL: 4
Date: 19/01/2017
Person filling out the report: Roy Naor
Crew members involved in the EVA: Roy Naor, Richard Blake
EVA leader: Roy Naor
Begin: 10:00pm
End: 12:30 pm
Type of EVA: Walking + ATV 300, ATV 350
Purpose: Conducting a transect sampling along the Brushy basin member slope  for the Israeli educational experiment and retrieving back the rovers from the point were they were left on the 18th.
UTM Coordinates: Northing : 4251100  Easting :  518000 Zone : 12 S
Summary: We’ve transected the slopes bottom to top by sampling rockes from each different color layer. The samples will be sent to Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, where the youth scientists will analyze thier properties.  Team PRIMA succeeded in yet another one of their projects, as this reaserch was aimed at outreach for STEAM education. The ATVs are back and safe, hibernating as they are slowly covering by snow at the moment.

Crew Photos – January 18th

Main Airlock January 18th 2017 Heading out on EVA
Hab January 18th_2017 Idriss is hosting French Culture day at MDRS
GreenHAB January 18th 2017 Rick planting seeds in the GreenHAB
Outside Hab January 17th 2017 Sunset over MDRS
Northing 4251500 Easting 519000 Zone12S January 18th 2017 The HAB and its environs2
Northing 4251500 Easting 519000 Zone12S January 18th 2017 On EVA
Northing 4251500 Easting 519000 Zone 12s January 18th 2016 Michaela and Roy on EVA
MDRS January 18th 2017 Sunrise at MDRS
Main Airlock January 18th 2017 Michaela heading out on an EVA
Ground floor of the HAB January 18th 2017 Sprouting seeds
Ground floor of the HAB January 17th 2017 sprouting spinach seeds
Ground floor of the HAB January 18th 2017 Michaela’s students’ experiment