MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION

GreenHab Report – January 5th

GreenHab Report

Facility Update: The heater is officially working in the GreenHab now. The temperature inside the facility was 13 C when I left this afternoon at 4PM with an outdoor temperature of -2 C I’ve moved all the plants from the first level of the Hab into the area directly in front of the heater in the GreenHab, but still a safe distance away for their own well being and for fire safety. We shall see how they fare on this wintry night.

Other Notes: GreenHab inventory will continue tomorrow. Please reach out if you are a future crew member or GreenHab team member and would like any other information.

Patrick Gray

GreenHab Officer – Crew 172

Sol Summary – January 4th

Sol 3 Summary  – Written by Nicholas McCay, Crew Journalist

Crew 172 has settled into living on the surface of another planet. It is definitely a different experience than living back on Earth.

I feel like I am a human guinea pig. I guess that is a good thing since experiments and research are the main point of analog simulations. Testing humans, equipment, and procedures inside a “controlled” but still stressful and hostile setting (environmentally, physically, and/or psychologically). In actual human spaceflight missions there are many unknowns, so sims take some of the guess work out of  the “What could go wrong?” equation. We have encountered many of these unknowns before in actual missions, and sims are an ideal test bed for solutions.

I explained yesterday that some of the research we are actively testing on our mission is a possible answer to the question: “Could an astronaut bring equipment that would allow them to see a subsurface water source?” I also said that I would explain more to why we are taking mandatory naps in the day. Well… another question (lead by Commander Ilaria) that we are trying to answer in the next two weeks is: “Could astronauts wear a device while sleeping that would help them fall asleep quicker and thus improve overall sleep and performance?”

Last night we began to test that hypothesis. Each Crew 172 Marsnaut wears a semi-comfortable visor over their eyes while they begin to sleep. Inside the visor and directly in front of each closed eye is an orange lighted circle that alternatively turns on and off or stays lit the entire duration of the 30 minute sleep improvement period. At the same time, the flanges of the visor that rest on either temple have tiny speakers that play “white noise.” The idea is that these stimuli will induce the astronaut, or any user for that matter, into REM(Rapid Eye Movement) sleep faster than normal. One of the main reasons for poor sleep is not being able to fall asleep in a timely manner – this is especially an issue during stressful situations like exploring Mars – so this is a direct attempt to test a solution to that problem. I can say confidently that last night, it did not work and I had trouble falling asleep due to this being the first time we used the devices before lights out. However, I can say just as confidently that today during our 30-minute mandatory nap I experienced something completely new and promising. During my lay down, I felt like I was dreaming in and out of different situations like, but I never actual fell completely asleep. I know… Pretty trippy. Three of my crew stated they had similar experiences.

Let’s rewind a bit to before our nap. Five us went out on a walking EVA of the Martian landscape to stress us physically. Remember all the equipment that we have to wear to keep us alive in the lower atmosphere? Yeah… All of our gear and clothes weigh a total of ~ 45 lbs. Now imagine walking, basically hiking, on different terrains (sand, rock, incline, decline), with the Oxygenator pack, AND a bubble helmet that inhibits your vision while frequently fogging up enough to make it difficult to see exactly where you are stepping. Don’t forget the constrained oxygen from the suit and high altitude in our “Martian” desert. Fun times right?!?! But hey you pay your dues. Even with everything I said above, going on EVA is the crème de la crème of SIM. You really feel like an Marsnuat! The scenery (Southern Utah) is absolutely breathtaking, and is about as close to “Mars” as we can get here on Earth. (There are a few other locations: Hawaii volcanoes, The Artic Tundra, and high deserts around the world that are close. I will talk about these analogs in future posts.)

 

Fast-forward to after our nap. The crew was up working on their own personal projects for a couple hours. Before dinner, Gwendal (our Health and Safety Officer, and a certified paramedic in France) led us in a First Aid briefing. In the US, being an hour away from a hospital is “Wilderness,” so we are definitely in the Martian wilderness, that is for sure! We went through situations such as: bleeding, choking, concussions, and my favorite – broken bones. I have broken my arm twice in my life – comes with the territory of being the oldest of 3 brothers in TN ha…What up Jordan and Austin?!

 

Now it’s chow time, and I can smell an amazing curry scent. Anushree is cooking something from her native country of India. I, and the crew, are excited for some much needed spice! Remember most of the food we are eating is dehydrated, so pepper, salt, and spices are our dear friends. After dinner, we will have our normal reporting with COMMS and head to bed for another round of wearing the sleep study visor. Here is to hoping that tonight’s sleep will be better than last night! Crew 172 signing off.

 

END TRANSMISSION

Crew Photos – January 4th

Crew and hab in distance
EVA crew and Martian geology
EVA crew and Martian landscape
Group EVA selfie
Martian soil sample
MDRS crew 172
Troy and Pierrick first aid

EVA Report – January 4th

Date: 04/01/2017

EVA Leader: Ilaria Cinelli

Crew members involved in the EVA: Patrick Gray, Pierrick Loyers, Nicholas McCay, Anushree Srivastava

Begin: 10.00 am

End: 12.10 pm

Type of EVA: Walking

Purpose: Exploration for collection of geological samples

Coordinates: 4152000N 110.78W

Purpose: Today EVA starts at 10, sharp. After the engineering check, we started to walk to Galileo road. This was a long walk that my EVA team really appreciates. They have the chance to get used to the suit walking on rocky and sandy soil in long distance walk (in a stunning desert!). We took a long walk to identify locations that were closer to river paths. A few samples were collected on plane sandy soil to measure its dielectric properties.

GreenHab Report – January 4th

GreenHab Report

Temperature Issues: The heater has been turned off because it is only blowing room temperature air. It has been turned off from the breaker box in the GreenHab. All growth in the GreenHab is pending assistance from the contractor who is coming to help fix the heater; nighttime temperatures are currently too low for plant survival.

Other Notes: After the temperature in the GreenHab is regulated and at  healthy levels for the plants the photoperiod in the Utah winter is too short for meaningful plant growth. Future researchers expecting to grow plants in the GreenHab during the winter should make sure they have grow lights. I currently have all my plants in the lower level of the Hab. I will report on the progress over the coming days.

Patrick Gray

GreenHab Officer – Crew 172

Crew Photos – January 3rd

P and G looking for site.

 

Nick in foreground GP in background.

 

Martian landscape with EVA crew and Sun.

 

G and P testing GPR on waterbed.

 

Pierrick dragging GPR-1.

 

Pierrick and Nick carrying GPR-1.

Sol Summary – January 3rd

Dear Earth,

The feeling of walking around on another planet is surreal and intoxicating. It is also somewhat overwhelming. Today I took part in my first EVA, and it was an incredibly memorable experience.

I joined Pierrick and Gwendal on their scheduled EVA to look for underground Martian water sources. But before you take even one step on Mars(One small step for Man, One giant leap for mankind, and all that) an exhaustive procedure of safety checks must to be completed. Every crew member wears a flight suit, boots, and gloves – along with a healthy amount of duct tape to seal the extremity gaps. Then each crew members dons a rectangular, roughly torso sized, Oxygenator backpack that is the primary life support system used while on EVA. The final piece of the equipment puzzle is a 2ft diameter plexiglass “bubble” helmet that allows each Marsnaut a 180 degree field of vision. Oxygen flows to the helmet by flexible tubes that are attached to the Oxygenator packs. You are now ready to explore another planet!

After the necessary three minute depressurization and the normal engineering checks around the Hab, we were off. The Frenchmen took Deimos (our larger rover, duly named for one of Mars’s moon) while I took one of the ATVs. After a 15 minute ride through the Martian landscape we arrived at what looked like an optimal location – a flat plain with signs of ancient water flows. G & P’s research is to use ground penetrating radar (on what looks like an ottoman sized sled you drag on the ground) that emits radio waves, at 200 mhz, into the soil. As the wave moves through the soil, it is reflected differently when it reaches each layer of soil. Water has high dielectric properties (good conductor), so when the wave passes through the ground and encounters water among the soil, this finding is sent as a unique reading to the control screen that is carried by one of the Marsnauts.

We got some partial readings that are promising, but further examination will be needed to confirm if the waves hit water or something else. You know the saying: Time flies when you’re having fun? Well that statement is just as true on Mars as it is back on Earth. Three hours after stepping out of the Hab, we were back inside the airlock waiting for the necessary three minutes of re-pressurization. Hot soup and tea were waiting for us which quickly warmed us up after being in the windy environment for 180 consecutive minutes.

After chow, the crew took our mandatory afternoon nap (as part of Commander Ilaria’s sleep study, more on that tomorrow). The rest of the afternoon was spent doing reports and planning tomorrow’s EVA. CAPCOM window is opening soon, and I can smell more food cooking. Until tomorrow, Crew 172 signing off.

END TRANSMISSION

Written by Nicholas McCay, Crew Journalist

EVA Report – January 3rd

EVA Report:

SOL: 02

Date: 03/01/2017

Person filling out the report: Gwendal Hénaff

Crew members involved in the EVA: Nicholas McCay, Gwendal Hénaff, Pierrick Loyers

EVA leader: Gwendal Hénaff

Duration : from 1000 – 1240 earth mountain time

Type of EVA: Walking

Purpose: Preliminary tests of the scientific equipment

Coordinates: 38.245N 110.485W to 38.26N 110.47W

 

Summary:

We started this EVA right on time : 1000 sharp. After the engineering checks, we headed up to the rovers and started our ride to the location named as “Tank”. Having the unit control of the ground penetration radar, I wasn’t able to drive and took the right seat on Deimos. Pierrick was driving Deimos and Nicholas was driving one of the ATV’s. At some point were out of radio range and losted contact with HabCom. We then started looking for water traces in the area and decided to start scanning the subsurface.

We had lot of troubles with our Space Packs: Our helmets were really foggy due to the condensation, and it was really difficult for the EVA team to pursue the experiments. Pierrick’s HUD and radio fell off in his helmet and the end of the EVA was really uncomfortable for him. Half way the EVA we were again able to contact HabCom and report them our status.

We then headed back to the vehicles and started to go back to the Hab. We stopped 500 meters before the Hab to find a way to attached the Groud Penetrating Radar’s antennas at the vehicles to make the scanning easier when we’re on the road. An incident happened : to keep the incident anonymous, astronauts will be designed by numbers.

Astronaut 2 and 3 were trying to attached the antennas on Deimos. Astronaut 2 was just between the ATV and Deimos. Astronaut 1 decided to move the ATV away to have more room for work. When he turned the ATV on, the gear was on neutral. After he switched to reverse, the ATV bumped into Astronaut 2, which was stuck between the ATV and Deimos for one to two seconds. Due to the quick reaction of the crew, the ATV was stopped. Astronaut 2 was hurt but able to walk with help. We decided to not break the sim and abort the EVA, which was almost over ; the incident  happened at 1240. We reached the Hab and checked the leg of Astronaut 2, which was fine : just small injuries.

Crew Photos – January 2nd

EVA crew photo

 

EVA crew hab

 

The MDRS campus in all it’s glory

 

Team with ground radar

 

Hab at night

 

Gwendal

 

GPR testing

Journalist Report – January 2nd

Greetings from the Red Planet!

This morning we woke up in full “SIM.” Meaning our 14 day simulation is officially underway. Limited communication with Earth, having to wear a space suit when going out on the Martian (Utah) landscape, and eating mostly dehydrated food are the biggest changes. Remember we are on Mars!

The entire crew is allowed 500/mb TOTAL of daily internet access, which is predominantly used to talk to CAPCOM back on Earth about our mission progress.  The Hab has two airlocks which are used to De-Pressurize/Re-pressurize the environment between the light atmosphere on Mars, and the denser atmosphere humans comfortably live in. If you, or any human for that matter, were to go out in the Martian atmosphere without the help of a pressurized and oxygenated spacesuit – you would die in a matter of moments.  The main reasons for eating almost all dehydrated food are: it lasts much longer and has significantly less mass (making it easier to launch to Mars) due to all the water being taken out.

Our day began around 8am with a team breakfast and briefing. Cereal with dehydrated milk.. Not the best tasting and a bit watery, but it did the job. After breakfast, the entire crew got ready for our first Extra Vehicular Activity or “EVA.” Myself and Anushree, the crew biologist, stayed back to be on HABCOM. Anushree is the longest tenured analog mission member among us, she has spent over 80 days in simulation to date, so naturally she was called upon to be in charge of communicating with the EVA team to start. Doing anything the first time takes longer than the next, and we were no different. Getting everyone geared up, dealing with radio issues, and completing every necessary check of the EVA protocol delayed us a half hour after our scheduled start time (but due to that thoroughness no one ended up falling victim to the Martian environment).

Pierrick Loyers), the crew Scientist, was today’s EVA leader. He was joined by his project’s co-investigator Gwendal Henaff (Health and Safety Officer), Patrick Gray (Green Hab Officer), Troy Cole (Engineer), and Ilaria Cinelli (Crew Commander). The main objectives of the EVA were to get everyone used to the suits, go through the regular engineering checks (water levels, ATV/vehicle power checks, diesel for the generator, and propane for the Habitat furnace), and to test the instrument that will be used to scan the Martian subsurface (Pierrick and Gwendal’s main project while on SIM). After two hours, the EVA was complete and all crew members depressurized inside the airlock for the needed three minutes before coming back into the Hab.

The EVA crew was tired upon return, but exclaimed how exhilarating the experience of walking around on another planet had been. They were greeted with hot potato soup for lunch (Cooked…ok prepared… by yours truly) – which they gobbled up quickly. After chow, the crew took 30 minute power naps. We will be participating in a sleep study while on sim, so everyone will be taking mandatory naps in the middle of each day – today was our “training.” (I can get used to this!)

After some Zzzs, the crew wrote reports, fixed and calibrated equipment, and discussed the coming days schedules/crew duties. All in all, a great first day on Mars. CAPCOM window is coming up quick, as well as dinner. Patrick is on cooking duty, so we will see if he can match my creamy potato soup . (highly doubtful, but he is resourceful so he may give me a run for my money. Ha!)

END TRANSMISSION