Commander Report – December 24th

Alison Gibson

Commander Report

24 Dec 2016 – Sol 6

Mission Support,

We’re officially halfway through our mission. While it started out feeling slow, the days are going by much quicker now that we’re accustomed to our Martian schedule. We have been looking forward to Christmas all week as a chance to take a break and relax. We each brought a wrapped mystery gift in order to have a Yankee Swap (a.k.a. White Elephant Gift Exchange) on Christmas Day. I think we’re all hoping to end up with a gift that can provide some sort of entertainment in the coming week. We have a few makeshift decorations around the Hab to help get us into the spirit. Happy Holidays!

With the help of Mission Support, we have resolved our internet connectivity issues. We’re all able to use the internet for approximately 3 hours a day before hitting our data limit, which seems to be sufficient for maintaining brief email communications with Earthlings and CapComm each evening. The facilities are all fully functional and crew spirits are high. We have a lot of work to do in the coming week to finish our mission goals, so will have a full schedules between the holiday and the end of the mission. We look forward to welcoming the next crew in a week.

A Sol Summary, Engineering Report, Science Report, and photos will follow.

Ad Astra per Aspera!

Alison Gibson

Commander, MDRS Crew 171 (SEDS)

Crew Photos – December 23rd

The EVA crew poses after reaching their destination
Weather monitoring equipment shows abnormal temperatures in the GreenHab
Brittany and Sean smile while stopping to confirm plans
Brittany leads the EVA team northwards
Sean grins at the mouth of the ravine which the EVA crew explored.
With light snowfall both yesterday and today, the EVA was a rather damp affair.

Science Report – December 23rd

Science Reports
Geology Report: Outside the humidity has stayed high and the temperatures have remained fairly constant. The temperatures in the GreenHAB have stayed lower than what is optimal growing temperatures. The clouds have also reduced the Solar Flux reaching the ground and thus will hinder photosynthesis.

During our next EVA I will gather my time lapse camera from near the HAB and place another one outside that points toward a geologically interesting area. Near one of the hill sides by the HAB could be good because the forecasted rain will drain and we can watch the change over time.

Max/Min: Outdoor Temp – 31 F – 37 F
Outdoor Humidity – 88% – 99%
GreenHAB Temp – 50 F – 62 F
GreenHAB Humidity – 39% – 49%
Barometer – 29.50 – 29.60 inHg
Wind – 3.0 mph, gust – 4.5 mph
Solar Flux Max – 132.1 W/m^2
UV Index – 455 uW/cm^2
Recorded Precipitation – 0.04 in


Mars Self-Sleep Study Update: Even though we have struggled with adhering to the new sleep schedule, we recognize that it would probably improve our 24 hr productivity. This new schedule would prove to be beneficial because our window of free WiFi is from 2-7 MST (Mars Standard Time). We can be awake during a big chunk of this time and get some work done.

In general I think we are more productive as a crew when we go to bed earlier and get up earlier. If we were to go to bed by around 9 pm and wake up by 5 am we might be more productive in the mornings. Experimenting these new sleep schedules (either in one chunk or multiple) proves to be difficult but will pay off for future astronauts.


Philosophy of Colonizing Mars Report: I want to start discussing in this new report the ethics and vision of colonizing Mars. As a crew we feel this is an important issue to make public as we immerse ourselves in this research simulation. One idea I want to talk about in this first installment is planetary protection of the environment. When we create a permanent human settlement on the surface of Mars we will have to think about the ways in which we will protect the environment and to what extent it will be altered. Global warming is obviously an issue we know about here on Earth. On Mars we must think critically about the effects of our actions so that we can work and thrive while maintaining a balance with the Martian landscape.

Submitted by Connor Lynch – Crew Geologist/Astrophysicis

Journalist Report – December 23rd

Sol 05
Journalist Report
Authored by Anselm Wiercioch

The main event of the day (other than fresh scones) was the second
major EVA to the area we’ve named the “dinosaur quarry.” There are a
lot of interesting geological formations there that resemble dinosaur
bones. The area seems like it may have been a small reservoir at some
point, but is obviously long since dried up. It’s about 15 minutes
away on our individual electric rovers. A cold, bumpy ride but not too
bad. Some insulation lessons were learned from the first expedition on
Sol 03. After a long exploration of the quarry area, the crew
regrouped in the hab. A few showers and some greenhab work rounded out
the majority of the day.

The weather was pretty typical today – bland skies and lots of cold. A
small amount of precipitation, but not much stuck. Still too little
data to draw conclusions about that. We shouldn’t see much snow at
these latitiudes. I mean we’re hardly equatorial, but we’re a ways
from the pole.. Maybe the wind currents are strong enough to scape
some ice off and carry it all the way down? *shrug* Jury’s still out
on that.

Speaking of the cold, our greenhab progress is.. slow. We suspect some
small leaks in the insulation that are causing the heating system to
overload and shut down until things are near freezing, then snap back
on full blast. Back and forth. We attempted to seal some of the gaps
we found, but one of our mission commanders back home told us to
postpone repairs. Not sure yet how that will affect our research.
Hopefully some lettuce can last a few light frosts.. On the other
hand, all germination attempts are going well. We’ve got red and green
oak lettuce, raddish, and some mysterious unlabelled seeds that we
found stowed away in the hab.. I’ll let the biologists talk about that
more though. I’ll just complain about the weather instead.

I guess I shouldn’t be complaining about snow, really. Some of the
crew came from dry desert areas on earth and have never had snow for
the holidays. Chrismas is coming up soon (we haven’t been here long
enough for the time difference to throw us off yet – the first Martian
Christmas will still be on Earth’s Dec 25.) We all brought small gifts
for a white elephant exchange and are trying to decide on a fancy meal
to celebrate. I’m sure we’ll think of something interesting. We’ve got
a creative group.

Despite minimal coffee intake (gotta save water, ya know?), a lot of
freeze dried food, rare showers, intermittent wifi, etc., crew morale
is holding strong. Personality is obviously a major concern in the
astronaut selection process – technical skills are a dime a dozen, but
teams that work well under stress are more difficult to find. I have
high hopes for the coming week. We all bring very different attributes
to the table, but ones that fit together and are greater than the sum
of their parts.

Of course, even with the crew getting along well, I’m still more than
happy to complain. A massage and a shower would really hit the spot.
It’s only been a few days, but those helmets are heavy and hard on the
shoulders and We’re building up some considerable stank. We don’t have
those ISS goon’s luxurious air filtering system or low gravity to keep
things cleanly. Maybe we should just take turns snapping the airlock
open for half a second each and freeze drying all the bacteria off of
us.. Super dangerous. Not doing that.. At least for another 3 days..


Sol Summary – December 23rd

Daily Summary Report
SOL: 05
Person filling out Report: Anselm Wiercioch, XO
Summary Title: Week One Nearly Complete
Mission Status: Research moving along, but slowly.
Sol Activity Summary: Second EVA to dinosaur quarry, minor greenhab concerns
Look Ahead Plan: Christmas is coming up!
Anomalies in work: None
Weather: High 37F, Low 31F, wind avg 3mph, gust 4.5mph, precip 0.04″,
grey cloudy skies
Crew Physical Status: Active. Full crew functional.
EVA: Crew B to dinosaur quarry
Reports to be filed:
– Sol Summary
– Journalist’s Report
– Science Reports
– 6-8 Photos
– EVA Plan
– Operations Report
Support Requested
– None

GreenHab Report – December 23rd


We are afraid the plants in the GreenHab may die.  The temperatures
are just not favorable for plant growth.  The GreenHab is too hot
during sunny days and too cold while the sun is obscured.   The
GreenHab is not sealed well enough to stabilize the inside
temperature.  Almost all of the plastic located inside of the GreenHab
has noticeable heat deformation making several of the items unusable.
Also, the seeds that were stored out there are not viable.  The seeds
that we brought with us have germinated but no growth is being seen
from those supplied through MDRS, likely due to the heat they were
stored in.  The heater is severely undersized to keep up with the
thermally inefficient GreenHab structure.  Radish, lettuces and
mystery crop are germinating very well in the crew quarters.

Warmest Regards,

Science Report – December 22nd

Science Report
EVA Proposed Plan SOL 5 – We had to cancel the EVA for SOL 4 due to the inclement weather here at the HAB. For SOL 5 we propose the same format of EVA as SOL 3 but for the other three crew members who did not set out on SOL 3 (Geoffrey, Brittany and Sean). They will go to the dinosaur quarry and explore via rover. They will also take a GPS and map in order to gauge how easy it is to navigate to a precise location. The coordinates of this final location are the same as SOL 3: Northing: 4257412, Easting: 518238 Zone 12S.

Geology: Today no one had an EVA due to the inclement weather. We noticed that over the past 24 hours the temperature has remained very constant due to these clouds that have been around. The air has also spiked in humidity this afternoon which could be a factor in keeping the daily temperatures stable. The temperatures in the GreenHAB have also remained steady. The desired temp is 75 in the GreenHAB all the time, so this is an improvement from the wild temperature fluctuations the first couple days.

An interesting observation is that even though today the solar radiation was lower due to the clouds, the UV flux stayed about the same as past days. Proof that even on a cloudy day you need sunscreen!

The barometric pressure is lower today and has been dropping slightly this afternoon.

Max/Min: Outdoor Temp – 29 F – 35 F
GreenHab Temp – 53 F – 68 F
GreenHAB Humidity – 18% – 46%
Barometer – 29.52 – 29.92 inHg
Wind – 1.5 mph, gust – N/A mph
Solar Rad. Max – 173.9 W/m^2
UV Index – 526 uW/cm^2
Outdoor Humidity – 35% – 98%

Submitted by Connor Lynch – Crew Geologist/Astrophysicist

Crew Photos – December 22nd

Geoffreys fresh-baked bread kept morale high in the afternoon
GreenHab officer Sean scrutinizes the germination of seeds for the GreenHab
Our planned EVA was cancelled due to inclement weather but at least it looked pretty!
Snowfall on Mars!
The crew relaxed in the evening with a spirited round of charades
Brittany waters some fresh transplants in the GreenHab
Commander Gibson took a break from commanding to draw this beautiful Mars mandala

GreenHab Report – December 22nd

GreenHab Report:

Today marked the completion of the transplantation effort in the GreenHab.  We have assembled eight total conveyor trays (four Red Oak Lettuce and four Green Oak Lettuce in both hydroponic solution and in soil) and one tray with a density experiment which was planted in soil.  The slow process of sealing the GreenHab also began today.  We have continued to notice that despite the near continuous operation of the heater, the GreenHab does not stay within an acceptable temperature range.  At night, the temperature gets down to between 48 F and 54 F which is not conducive to productive and rapid plant growth that is necessary to sustain a healthy astronaut’s diet.  In order to help prevent some of the theorized leakage of heated air, clear caulk is being used to seal the places at the top of the GreenHab where air could escape.  This is a difficult process as the materials from which the GreenHab is constructed are clearly not meant to be used for a greenhouse.  We are concerned there may not be enough caulk on Mars to seal the GreenHab.  I hope future crews can figure out how to stabilize the temperature. Finally, the seedlings are germinating at excellent rates!  We can easily identify growth in the radish, green and red oak lettuce, carrot, and mystery crop.  Yay mystery crop!​

Thank you,

-Sean Gellenbeck


 SEDS-MDRS Crew GreenHab Officer #2

Journalist Report – December 22nd

Sol 04
Journalist report to be posted
Authored by Anselm Wiercioch

It snowed for a few hours today. That’s not supposed to happen.

Going to have to put some serious effort into revamping our
understanding of Mars’ climate. Coldest day since we landed. The EVA
crew decided to postpone until tomorrow due to potentially inclement
weather. I’m not on tomorrow’s crew, but we might need to reprioritize
some climate data while they’re out.. Will keep investigating.

Otherwise, today was a slow day. Some progress was made in the
greenhouse, and the network connectivity issues persist despite many
hours of messing with it. Felt like a snow day in elementary school
where you’re off class and can feel christmas around the corner.

Our crew engineer engineered some cinnamon raisin swirl bread and it’s
magical. The freeze dried food stores will probably start to wear on
us eventually, but for the time being we’re living it up. As long as
coffee and tea holds out, crew morale is going to be coasting just

Connor and I’s sleep schedule is holding out strong. We aren’t being
too strinct about the schedule and we aren’t going too extreme – still
a solid six hours or so per night, spaced into ~3 naps. We’ve been
ever so slightly tired but that’s to be expected on the first day or
two. Generally feel pretty energized though.

The most annoying thing at the moment for me is just being cooped up
in a tin can. Really struggling to understand how all those super
smart engineers on the ground decided a treadmill wasn’t necessary.
Yoga and pushups only get you so far. The hab’s air system isn’t
exactly refreshing either. Meh. It’s all good though. I’m sure we’ll
get used to it. Or at least, we’ll be gone before it really starts to
get to us.

We did find a massive binder of awesome (mostly old and/or super
goofy) movies, so that’s helping the nights pass faster after work is
done each day.

Nothing too crazy. The days are moving by faster as a whole.