MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION

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

EVA Report – January 17th

EVA Report:

SOL: 2

Date: 17/01/2017

Person filling out the report: Roy Naor

Crew members involved in the EVA: Roy Naor, Richard Blake, Idriss sissaid

EVA leader: Roy Naor

Begin: 02:00pm

End: 04:38 pm

Type of EVA: Phobos, ATV 300, ATV 350+Walking

Purpose: Carbonate prospecting and sampling in the salt wash member and Sumervile Formation

UTM Coordinates: Northing : 4251500  Easting :  519000 Zone : 12 S     

Summary: We recommend having more detailed topografic maps 1:50,000 scale or lower in order to do proper geological/biological work. It is very weird to work without a map.We will try to make do with the ones that we were given for now.
I looked for concreations but found only cemented sand stones.
We walked the Candor Chasma from the main road to the sharp river bend after Tree Gate.

EVA Report – January 16th

EVA Report
SOL: 1
Date: 16/01/2017
Person filling out the report: Roy Naor
Crew members involved in the EVA: Roy Naor, Michaela Musilova, Niamh Shaw
EVA leader: Michaela Musilova
Begin: 02:00pm
End: 04:40pm
Type of EVA: Walking
Purpose: exploring the vicinity of the hab and sample carbonate minerals
UTM Coordinates: Northing : 4251400  Easting :  518900 Zone : 12 S
Summary: We learned a lot about how EVA works in terms of communication and physiology.
We sampled 4 different sandstone outcrops in the Brushy basin member of Morisson formation for its carbonates cements and concritions, and one sample of eroded sandstone (regolith) for our ISRU 3d printing project.

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

Sol Summary – January 16th

Richard Blake
After the trials of Sol 0, today was a breath of fresh air. Literally. Gone were the clouds and the rain, and in their stead, sunshine and a cool breeze. It was a day that warranted a breakfast treat of pancakes and laughter.
My own work had me spend the morning in the GreenHab, repotting prior crew’s plantings into soil, whilst the temperature quickly rose. At its peak, the GreenHab reached a sweltering 43◦C. As I worked, an exclamation broke the silence “In your face Neil Armstrong!”, quickly followed by a chorus of cheers. Engineering had had a breakthrough! They had finally cracked their printing woes, getting the Hab’s 3D printer to finally start working. Our engineer, Idriss, could then start the long process of printing bricks, which is still going as I write this.
The afternoon saw three members of the crew make the first EVA of the mission. Our commander; Michaela, geologist; Roy, and crew artist; Niamh, donned their EVA suits and boldly walked where only a few thousand have already walked before. However, it was not long before they returned, boasting a number of suit issues borne of an inexperienced first suiting up. They fit the picture of See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil to a T, with Roy unable to see out of his fogged up helmet, Niamh unable to hear as her mic had fallen out of her ear, and Michaela unable to communicate with the others since her radio was not set to VOX.
After Idriss and I smoothed out the kinks with their suits, the trio once again set out to sample a few locations close to the Hab, climbing some hills and getting a whole raft of great footage of the EVA.
This evening brings with it the promise of an Israeli culture night, with a feast courtesy of our crew member Roy. Should be a ripper.
Outside HAB January 16th 2017 Michaela and Roy on EVA.
Outside HAB January 16th 2017 Michaela and Roy on EVA 2.
Outside HAB January 16th 2017 Roy conducting geological field work 2.
Outside HAB January 16th 2017 Niamh with Michaela and Roy in the background at the old site of the Observatory.
Outside HAB January 16th 2017 Michaela and Roy with their geological hammers.
Outside HAB January 16th 2017 Geological field work by Roy.
HAB Airlock January 16th 2017 Michaela Roy and Niamh head out on EVA.
HAB Airlock Jan 16th 2017 Niamh Roy & Michaela preparing for first EVA.
HAB Airlock Jan 16th 2016 Michaela about to head out for EVA.
HAB Airlock January 16th 2017 Idriss assisting Roy preparing for EVA.
HAB Airlock January 16th 2017 Idriss waves off the EVA crew.
Outside HAB January 16th 2017 Michaela standing on top of the old site of the observatory.

GreenHab Report – January 16th

GreenHab Report
16/01/17 – Richard Blake
Sol 1
GreenHab Status:
All previously planted seedlings are still growing. Still unable to leave plants overnight in the GreenHab due to the low night time temperatures. Plants will remain inside the main Hab during the night under grow lights.
GreenHab Update:
Seedlings with enough growth were transferred from the growth matrix they were planted in to larger pots filled with potting mix. A number of these seedlings were also kept in the GreenHab during the day. I continued to monitor temperatures around the station today, and, as it was a sunny day, the GreenHab air temperature reached the low 40’s (◦C). This is ok for the plants to be in as long as they have adequate water and that the fans are not creating wind. They will still be kept inside overnight until there is a heater installed. Michaela continued growing her spinach seeds in petri dishes under the Misia Mars designed lamp. She also transferred some of the seeds into a hydroponic solution, designed by her students, also under the Misia Mars lamp.
Requests:
– What is chard?
– Need more pots and planter boxes to grow plants in, preferably those with an upper width of 20cm+ (8 inches?).
– Requesting more seeds to plant, with a greater variety. Ideally, corn, chillies, tomatoes, strawberries, and potatoes,
– And, if at all possible, capsicums, sweet potatoes, a grape vine and small citrus tree.
– Are there any schematics for assembling the hydroponics system in the GreenHab?

Sol Summary – January 15th

BEGIN TRANSMISSION

Greetings from Crew 173! We are a crew of five (for now, our 6th crewmate, Arnau Pons Lorente, a Spanish Aeronautical Engineer will be with us soon, but not for now)- our Commander Michaela Musilova from Slovakia, Executive Officer Idriss Sisaid from France, HSO Roy Naor from Israel, GreenHab Officer Rick Blake from Australia, and then my good self, Niamh (pronounced ‘Neeve’ by the way- its Gaelic, and a girl’s name) Shaw your Irish Crew journalist.

We arrived yesterday afternoon to a lovely warm welcome from Crew 172 and their commander Ilaria. After our group photo outside the Hab, Ilaria and her crew gave us an extensive training session (Crew Engineer, Troy was especially awesome with his 3hrs of ‘Hab Top Tips’, thank you Troy!). Patrick cooked up a lovely meal of curried rice and vegetables and we shared with them a toast of sparkling apple juice in their ceremonial bowls in honour of the completion of their mission. We all bedded down for the night and while it was pretty snug, we had a reasonably good nights sleep on the communal area floor (well, for those of us on the inflatable beds that didn’t deflate anyway!).

At 7.30am on Sol 0, we waved goodbye to Crew 172 and we began our time on Mars in earnest. The last thing Ilaria said to us was that our toilet had become blocked overnight. Little did we know in that moment the impact those words would have on our first day here.

It rained quite heavily overnight, so the terrain outside is very muddy and we were confined to indoor duties for the day. After unpacking food supplies and selecting our state room, we had our first breakfast of oatmeal, Cheerios, and dried apple, washed down with an assortment of tea, coffee and for some, nutritious servings of Tang. We worked on our cooking and cleaning schedule for the mission, which includes Pancake breakfast duties (for special days including my Dad’s birthday tomorrow, Roys mothers birthday on the 24th and Australia Day on the 26th) and preparing special meals of our countries on alternate evenings (we’re calling these Culture dinners).

And we began to tackle our first major objective of the mission- getting the toilet unblocked.

I made a somewhat successful lunch (a hearty serving of gumbo and brown rice) and afterwards Shannon arrived to take us through additional training. She informed us that due to the inclement weather, we will have our ATV and Rover training Tuesday, if all goes well. And then we talked a lot about the plumbing problems and the various permutations and combinations of flushing and plunging and other alternatives.

Roy and Idriss ventured outside and pumped the remaining water in to the main water reservoir, emptying both tanks on the trailer. As I write this, they are recounting enthusiastically their adventures in learning how to use the pump (without electrocuting themselves) and acclimatising to the cold and wet muddy weather. It was a big moment for them, for they claim that their relationship was found in that moment working together on this new daily task.

Our plumbing problems continued throughout the day and Roy (who has worked as a plumber in his native Israel) assessed the septic tank with Shannon and concluded that the issue with the toilet is attributable to a full septic tank rather than an ‘at source’ problem. And so we ceased our incessant flushing and plunging. We agreed for the foreseeable future, to poop in plastic bags and disposing of the biohazards material in a dedicated refuse sack (to be burnt at a later date when the rain stops and the plumbing problem has been resolved). We discussed other methodologies. It was an extensive discussion but believe that we have found the optimum solution, given the circumstances.

Idriss and Roy worked on setting up the 3d printer, but discovered that the filament spools didn’t work. They then tried to heat up the extruder to force the filament to go out, but the filament remains clogged in the printer. They are currently working on solution.

We are still figuring out how to optimise our limited toilet options. Trial and error is the general consensus.

Rick monitored hourly temperatures of the GreenHab, outside, the lower floor of the Hab and the grow tent in the greenHab. He also took an inventory of our spices. He’s also on dinner duty, he’s baking bread. Its looking very promising and may inherit the title ‘The Breadmaker’ if successful. Michaela re-planted her spinach seeds in the bespoke apparatus she has brought, designed by her students in Slovakia.

Our first CAPCOM is imminent and we are looking forward to an evening of settling in to our new home for the next 2 weeks on Mars as our plumbing problems continues.

Crew 173 signing off.
END TRANSMISSION

Commander Report – January 15th

Commander’s report Sol 0

My heart started racing as we were driving through the red Martian landscape. I was re-living the excitement of arriving on Mars the first time. My mind kept being flooded by flashbacks of my first journey to the Red Planet. No surprise, as my whole journey this time was a „deja vue“ of the previous time: my space shuttles kept on being delayed, I got stranded in the space city of Denver for hours after hours, only to be told just before midnight that there will be no more flights that day. As in 2014, I had to overnight in a foreign, very cold space city, before resuming my journey the next day, desperately hoping to reach Mars finally.

This time, however, I was not alone. My crew 173’s geologist and health and safety officer, Roy, was stranded in Denver as well. Upon arrival on Mars, we both laughed that the mere couple of hours of sleep we got were worth the amazing views we had from the shuttle flying over the Martian mountains in the morning. Indeed, even though I got a grand total of 8 hours of sleep over 3 days, I could not take my eyes away from the shuttle window and drool over the spectacular landscape.

Not even my illness could dampen my spirits. Ironically, I also had a cold last time I travelled to Mars and I was in a similar sleep-deprived physical state. The coincidences between my two trips to Mars seemed almost surreal. They kept making me think of my previous mission with crew 134 and what a great time we had on Mars together. I became nostalgic: “it’s not going to be the same”, I thought. We were such a great crew and we had so much fun together. It felt like I was returning home, but with a different family. As I entered the MDRS Habitat, I could not help myself but release a sigh. I kept seeing the different funny moments we had together before my eyes. Their ghosts waved at me from their rooms and I longed for another shared meal or EVA together with crew 134.

While I admit my heart sank a bit with nostalgia, my state of mind instantly changed to excitement as I came back to reality.  My crew on this new mission is made up of an amazing group of people. We have been working together for the past 1.5 years to get the most out of this mission and to make it be as fulfilling as possible for all of us. Most of us met at the International Space University’s Space Studies Program in 2015 and we have been great friends since. I have been really looking forward to spending this time together.

Though we arrived on Mars only yesterday, I have already been laughing my head off regularly with my crew. I also really enjoy that I’m not the only one getting carried away with admiration over the Martian landscape, geology and potential biology. I was the crew astrobiologist and geologist of crew 134, so I could not really share my excitement over the science of this wonderful environment with anyone. On the contrary, it was often used as something to tease me about. And now we have a geologist and another astrobiologist on the crew. We can “drool” together during our mission, just like Roy and I did when flying over the gorgeous mountains together from Denver 😉

The best bonding experience to start our mission with was a particularly funny, though quite crude, operation nick-named „poopgate“ 😀 Our Martian toilet got clogged today upon the departure of crew 172 and we have spent the whole day trying to solve this issue. I would never have thought that a toilet could be such an important element for the colonisation of Mars. Luckily enough, my crew is very creative and we came up with a myriad of original ways of troubleshooting the problem. There is not a better ice breaker than discussing the appropriate configurations to
do one’s business in these circumstances. We all cried with laughter when Roy and Niamh, our crew artist and journalist, demonstrated their special methods to the crew. The cherry on top of the cake was Roy pulling off a yoga type move and shouting: „look, no hands“! I haven’t laughed so much in ages 😀

We would also like to thank crew 172 for a great collaboration pre-mission and for a very nice welcome on Mars yesterday. We wish them very safe travels back to Earth and we hope to work with them again in the future, whether on Earth or on Mars.

Stay tuned for more news from Mars – hopefully with a less “sh*tty” update 😉

Dr Michaela Musilová

GreenHab Report – January 15th

GreenHab Report

15/01/17 – Richard Blake

Sol 0

 

GreenHab Status:

Took command of the GreenHab, going through the inventory and taking stock of the current plantings. All growth is currently confined to the lower section of the Hab, utilising a grow light scavenged from the grow tent in the GreenHab. The GreenHab itself currently gets too cold overnight for plants to survive as the heater is non-functioning, hopefully it will be fixed on Tuesday. Seedlings are growing well in the main Hab, thanks to the GreenHab officer from crew 172. Lettuce, onion, and what appear to be some bean seedlings are all growing well.

 

GreenHab Update:

I have planted half a tray with basil seeds and the other half with chard (what is chard? Is it an American word for a kind of spinach? Silverbeet?). If they are still viable they should start to sprout within a few days.

I have also begun logging the temperatures of the main Hab, the GreenHab, the grow tent within the GreenHab as well as outside. These measurements were taken every hour, on the hour, and plotted in a graph of temperature over time.

Helped to set up Michaela’s spinach seedling experiment. I repaired the stand the seedlings are designed to grow on while she transferred the sprouting spinach seeds officer to wet cotton wool in petri dishes. They are now under a grow light where they should continue to germinate.

Attached:            photo of existing seedlings,

photo of newly planted seeds and Michaela’s experiment, and,

a graph of the day-time temperature.