Commander Report – April 13th

We started our Sol 3 with our Coach Nathalie putting on “Feeling Good – Muse” at 8AM, a good reason to wake up happily. After a common breakfast, I spent an hour to fix some software issues on two of the crew’s laptops, while our Crew Astronomer continued to deploy his equipment in the science lab: a scintillator and its control unit. In the meantime, our HSO, Nathalie, launched her physical evaluation exercises for her experiment with, again, a swinging music. At noon, our Master Chief (and Crew Astronomer) Quentin got a genius idea to prepare a lyophilized American cheese fondue, which remains quite fat but still good. Again, this meal was accompanied by our favorite bread, prepared with love by our well-known “full star” baker Math(ieu), the Crew Scientist. In the afternoon, Damien (Crew Engineer) and I continued to prepare tomorrow’s EVA by finishing some welding, program the frequencies of telecommunication devices and testing the repeaters and the sound beacons. Our HSO took charge of her regular sport group, a good way to stay dynamic for the rest of the day

Our third EVA was led by the Second in Command, Calogero, accompanied by our Crew Geologist, Elke Mergny. The sunny and very windy weather conditions allowed them to stay cool. Calogero continued to build his 3D map with a programmed drone by exploring a new area in the North, while Elke succeeded in collecting three different geophysical profiles with her ground penetrating radar, transported in the PEV.

Finally, the Crew Engineer tried to fix the faulty water heater but was stuck with an error code, an issue that will be adressed during the next CapCom. We all finished the afternoon by fulfilling our daily surveys for the “Using Analog Missions to Develop Effective Team Composition Strategies for Long Duration Space Exploration” NASA experiment.

Ad astra!

Aurian d’Avernas – Crew Commander

Journalist Report – April 12th

Journalist report Sol 2 – 170412
Mathieu « Mitch » Vander Donckt
Crew Journalist and Scientist
Crew 178 – UCL to Mars

Second day on Mars. This time I wasn’t surprised at wake up – but of course still excited thinking about the day to come. I guess I got accustomed to my room. A bit cramped but we all knew that we would have to sacrifice comfort for effectiveness. Nevertheless, my personal effects on my shelf give a little warmth to the place and make it mine. The sleeping rooms of all the crew members open up on a half circular shared living room /kitchen /workroom. In a place with so much use, there is always someone. Today I found “Coach” and Elke, that we all call “Patch” now, cooking pancakes – what a delightful way to start a day on Mars! We quickly adapted to local food, composed mostly of dried meat, dried fruits, all sorts of unidentified powders, wheat flour and cereals. So, with water to rehydrate and a bit of imagination we can almost compete with the “Plat du Chef” from French restaurants, as our pineapple chicken from yesterday evening can testify.
Pancakes in the stomach, it was time to examine the package that got here yesterday by orbital convoy. It should have arrived days ago, before our arrival to prevent any delay in our tight schedule, but poor management at the Delivering Heavy Loads company deferred the shipment. The use of private companies in scientific space programs is now unavoidable, space being a place of high competition since the opening of the market a few years ago. It has its advantages, like the variety of solutions proposed for space travel and lower prices than when governmental space agencies had to take care of research and development all by themselves, but also bring its lot of difficulties. Due to the cheaper and faster trend, the reliability of those companies diminishes with time, and without news we were afraid that our package missed the connector in Mars orbit and got lost in the darkness of space – this happens more than you would know. After that it would have been a nightmare to get refunded and send another convoy – space law is complicated. But finally, we were glad to receive the last part of our equipment which was too heavy to bring in our shuttle.
With the approval of Mission Control and the arrival of the last pieces of equipment, Patch, the Crew Geologist, and myself could proceed to the first Extra Vehicular Activity. So we slipped our spacesuit on with the help of our crewmates, and felt a growing awareness of being in a very unique place at a very special time. Our first foot on Mars, prepared for years and dreamed for decades… The impatience rose even more when we got into the airlock.
Five minutes of depressurisation.
Our apparatus is ready: Patch, skillful geologist, is bringing a radar to survey the underground for a geophysical study, hoping to map the subterranean composition of Mars. As the airlock opens, we forget about everything else, like we’re in a dream. We walk to the area that we identified on our satellite map, accompanied by the encouragements of our team coming from our radio. However, the disillusion strikes hard! The spacesuits designed to protect us from the cold (-60°C outside) and solar radiations, weight hard, even in the weak gravitational field of Mars. All the systems conceived to protect us eventually seem to turn against us. We feel like in an oven, a box of lead, inescapable under sentence of death. A thought germs in my head. This is a settlement where humans are not welcome. This is a beautiful nature, full of hostility. This place is a trial of strength for our bodies and our minds.


Movie at MDRS
pancakes at MDRS
radar survey
taking soil sample
an evening at MDRS
EVA in urgency to contact

EVA Report – April 12th

Crew 178 EVA #2 report 12 APRIL 2017
Weather: sunny
Temperature: around 28°C
Location: 12S0519254 UTM 4250772, elevation: 1365 m
Duration: 90 min
Team: Elke Mergny (crew geologist), Mathieu Vander Donckt (crew journalist), Calogero Montedoro (crew biologist)
– Geophysical survey of the area with a ground penetrating radar
– Mapping of an area with the drone
– Ground penetrating radar: no data, technical problem with the survey wheel
– Success of the mapping

Sol Summary – April 12th

Crew 178 Daily Summary Report 12 APR 2017
MDRS Daily Summary Report for sol 2
Summary Title: Second EVA, preparations for other experiments and Internet fixing
Mission Status: Good
Sol Activity Summary:
“Today, we again woke up at 8 am after having enjoyed “The Martian” movie yesterday night with the whole team. In the morning, Nathalie invented the “Pancake dance” while she was cooking delicious pancakes for everyone, although her first 5 pancakes were closer to sharcoal than cake. Elke finished the setup of the last parameters for her second EVA using her ground penetrating radar. Calogero continued to configure his software applications for his geomatics EVA. At noon, we ate strange canned turkey meat and a Minestrone bear creek soup with our favorite bread, oven-cooked with love by our Crew Scientist, Mathieu. On the whole, this meal was still a pleasure. In the afternoon, the second EVA was launched under a very sunny weather reaching about 26 degrees Celsius. A fun fact about our Biohazard space suits is that they’re cloaked with an external plastic layer, allowing us to sweat like never inside. Extreme conditions are fulfilled. Quentin and Elke will try to reconstruct a Shepherd’s pie with lyophilized food for an amazing dinner tonight. After dinner, every crew member will have still hard work to finish preparing at best the next days.
Aurian d’Avernas, the Crew Commander”
Look Ahead Plan: The HughesNet technician came today to fix the parable with concrete. We identified that some laptops were automatically burning our daily Internet data with the automatic Windows updates which are very tricky to disable. We finally found the solution and tomorrow will be the first day without any Internet issue. The preparations of the crew experiments are going well. Moreover, we will send our biographies and crew photos tomorrow morning without exception.
Anomalies in work: The wheel of the ground penetrating radar does not work properly. It should be fixed by a phone call to the company of this material tomorrow morning by our Crew Geologist.
Weather: Clear sky and very sunny.
Crew Physical Status: Very good.
EVA: 1 km at the North of the Hab.
Reports to be file: EVA #2 report + Journalist report + Engineer report + Daily Summary Report
Support Requested: none

Commander Report – April 11th

Journalist report Sol 0 and Sol 1 – 170411
Mathieu « Mitch » Vander Donckt
Crew Journalist and Scientist
Crew 178

“Let it be” echoes in my dreams, and my eyes open. I’m in a small dark room. The light ray radiating from under the door illuminate the simply furnished room – a bed and a shelf – in which I was sleeping. My numbness is quickly replaced by excitement: I’m on Mars! The music was the wake-up signal given by Aurian aka “Boss”, the Crew Commander. The rising thrill is fed by the memories of yesterday, when we landed and saw the station with our own eyes for the first time: a circular habitation module connected by tunnels to a greenhouse, a laboratory, and a telescope. Of course, we saw photographs and sketches back on Earth during our training, but no media can pass the global picture or the feeling of this outpost in the middle of nowhere – or let’s say at the boundary of human influence.
We’re not the first crew to have the extraordinary opportunity to settle in this station, built a decade ago, but still we see ourselves as pioneers, eager to explore and analyse this hostile new world. The previous crew should have welcomed us and guided us before going to the departure station, and then home, our Earth. Unfortunately, they did go away a week ago in great urgency, which is really unusual – actually this is a first – for an interplanetary mission, where everything is planned for years and costs billions. But everyone is happy to be here and don’t want to think about that.
The absence of a previous crew brought its own difficulties. Such a station needs a maintenance every day. This is the job of Damien or “Hoover”, the Crew Engineer, who is charged with the upkeep and reparation of all systems, one of the most important being our water supply. When we penetrated the station for the first time, the communication indicators flashed red, indicating a major problem. We had no link with Mission Control on Earth, which was indeed a problem. There is no colony on Mars, just a few scientific installations half-dependent of Earth like ours. Mission Control is of great support, can give us technical advice, supply us with food from orbital reserve if need be, and guide us from day to day. Without them we could run out of water or get caught in a deadly dust storm during Extra Vehicular Activity. The first task of Hoover was to repair the antenna linking us to a satellite, allowing us to communicate with Earth. An easy assignment for an experienced engineer, and a relief for all the crew.
Today all our systems are nominal – except hot water but it is not seen as an urgency –  and we are ready to accomplish our mission here. That begins with the exercises of Nathalie, “Coach”, who keeps us in shape and studies our muscular loss here where the gravitational field is a third of Earth’s. An amusing exercise for some, a torment for others. Anyway, a good physical condition is important.
Now, everybody is unpacking or preparing the experiments. We can’t anticipate what will come next, but we are all eager to make discoveries in our respective domains.

Sol Summary – April 11th

Summary Title: Technical setups for several experiments and first EVA

Mission Status:  Good

Sol Activity Summary:

We woke up today at 8 am. The Crew Astronomer and the Crew Commander broke the sim for two hours (10-12 am) in order to take the aerial delivery at Hollow Mountain (5 days of late) containing our scientific equipment. We shared meal at 1 pm (tomato soup with bread). The Crew Geologist and the Crew Scientist started their EVA at 2 pm and came back at 3.30 pm. In the meanwhile, the other crew members set up their experiment in the Hab and the Science Lab. The Crew Geologist prepared its plants launched the GreenHab activities. We had to do an emergency EVA (in spacesuits of course) to the Shannon’s trailer from 7 to 9 pm in order to start CapCom session. Indeed, some electronic devices probably consumed all the daily Internet data for this day, that is why we were constrained to exceptionally go to the Shannon’s trailer. At 6.30 pm, we started a group meeting to debrief the day and prepare the day of tomorrow, and also to disable all the electronic devices of each crew member to avoid any further problem with the daily Internet datas. After the evening meal, some of the crew members enjoyed a movie, while others continued to work.Look Ahead Plan: (How are you going to follow up?  What’s the plan for tomorrow?)

Anomalies in work: Internet data were consumed par mégarde

Weather: The beginning of the day started to be dégagé and clear. In the afternoon, some clouds added and the wind became more violent ???

Crew Physical Status: Everyone is fine

EVA: (where did you go?)

Reports to be file: Crew Engineer Report, Journalist Report,

Support Requested: The tunnel structure between the Hab and the Science Lab has suffered from heavy gusts of wind, it will be difficult

EVA Report – April 11th

Crew 178 EVA#1 Report 11 APR 2017

Weather: sunny, come clouds, wind
Temperature: around 25°C
Location: 12S0519254 UTM 4250772, elevation: 1365 m
Duration: 90 min
Team: Elke Mergny (crew geologist), Mathieu Vander Donckt (crew scientist)
–       Geophysical survey of the area with a ground penetrating radar.
–       Collections of ground samples for an analysis with a diffractometer
–       Ground penetrating radar: The survey wheel was calibrated and two profiles were collected.
–       Collections of ground samples: Three samples collected around the base.

Sol Summary – April 10th

Crew 178 Daily Summary Report  10/04/2017

MDRS Daily Summary Report for sol 0

Summary Title: Fixing Internet and aerial delivery delays

Mission Status:  Several technical problems prevent us to start the simulation

Sol Activity Summary:
The Crew Engineer and the Crew Commander started in the morning to fix the Hab’s Internet Connection: it has been a success since we identified that the issue was due to the rotation in the vertical axis of the parable. This rotation varied of a few degrees because of lots of gusts of wind. We then fixed this issue by adding a fastening system with ropes. The rest of the day was dedicated to discover the surrounding areas with ATV’s and rovers to have a better idea of the relief. We also started physical tests (known as the “bip test”) and other physical exercises outside in the framework of the experiment of our physiotherapist. Finally, we passed few hours to fix the aerial delivery delays by calling several customer services. We got the confirmation that our packages will be finally delivered tomorrow at 10 am.

Look Ahead Plan: Internet connection has been fixed and the delivery of our packages should coming tomorrow, we then plan to start the simulation tonight at 6 pm although two of our crew members will have to break the sim tomorrow morning to get our aerial delivery.

Anomalies in work:  The technical assistance of HughesNet should still come to install a better fastening system for the parable since our solution is not robust against strong winds.

Weather: The weather was cleared and the sun predominant.

Crew Physical Status: Perfect health


Reports to be file: Crew Engineer Report + Daily Summary

Support Requested:

Mission Plan – Crew 178

Crew 178 Mars Desert Research Station Mission Plan
Mission Statement: Experiencing life on Mars simulation to identify scientific experiments which could be significantly useful, relevant and adapted for the first Human’s days on Mars.
Mission Start Date: 9th April 2017 to 23th April 2017
Crew members Aurian d’Avernas – Crew Commander Calogero Montedoro – Crew Executive Officer/Biologist Damien Mertens – Crew Engineer Elke Mergny – Crew Geologist Mathieu Vander Donckt – Crew Scientist/Journalist Nathalie Dupont – Health and Safety Officer Quentin Thomas – Crew Astronomer
Our team is composed of 7 master students and PhD students from the UCL (Université Catholique de Louvain) in Belgium, coming from the fields of mechatronics, electronics, civil engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, health sciences and human sciences. It is the 7th MDRS crew from the UCL.
Aurian d’Avernas
He is currently following his second year of master in mechatronics engineering and will design and study to types of telecommunication relays (omnidirectional and unidirectional) to ensure a proper radio network cover around the base, in order to double radio transmission range and to face any relief variations. Moreover, as Crew Commander, he will manage the team and ensure a good team spirit, the relevance of each experiment and their feasibility, and will oversee solutions of any potential problem during the expedition.
Calogero Montedoro
He is graduated in neuropsychology, in cognitive neurosciences and in biology. He currently pursues a PhD thesis in the biology of behavior. As GreenHab Officer, we will ensure the management of the greenhouse to conduct experiments in the field of life sciences: recycling of urea to grow rice plants. He will also be interested in the relief of the Red Planet throughout geomatics studies, using a drone for 3D mapping of surrounding areas.
Damien Mertens
He is following his third bachelor year in electrical engineering and applied mathematics. As Crew Engineer, he will be the station technician and will check and report water, electricity, vehicles and other technical statuses. He will also perform an experiment in the marking of risk areas using sound beacons to prevent automatically any crewmember in EVA from approaching any dangerous zone.
Elke Mergny
She is graduated in civil engineering and is now PhD student at the Université of Liège. She will ensure daily the localization of the crew during EVA’s following the weather forecasts. As Crew Geologist, she will lead an experiment in geophysics, by collecting geophysical profiles using a ground penetrating radar to map underground structures of Mars.
Mathieu Vander Donckt
He has always been passionate about sciences and is currently in the first year of master in chemistry. He plans to continue his studies in planetary sciences. As Crew Journalist, he will daily inform the general public and will lead, as Crew Scientist, an experiment about X-ray diffraction to characterize and better understand Mars’s undergrounds.
Nathalie Dupont
She is currently following her last year in physiotherapy and rehabilitation. She will be responsible for the safety and health of the crew and will lead an experiment about muscle wasting during a Mars mission.
Quentin Thomas
He is currently in 3rd year of bachelor in physics. As Crew Astronomer, he will be responsible for the use of the Musk Observatory at MDRS, to capture, among others, nebulas and galaxies M65 M66 NGC3628 M51 M97 M81 M82 and will conduct an experiment in the field of astrophysics and particle physics: the detection of muons.