Journalist Report – January 9th

MDRS Crew 202, Journalist Report

Alexandra Dukes, Crew Journalist

Sol 11 – 01/09/2018

Name the space movie (or show) given the following quote. Answer at the end of the Report:

I’m just a simple man trying to make my way in the universe.

Aromas of basil, tomatoes, and pesto are filling the habitat tonight as our Italian born Commander crafts homemade pizza for a crew movie night. With 3 days to go before our departure, we are making the most of the dehydrated ingredients that are left in the pantry. Freshly made pizza dough and a choice of tomato or pesto base with previously dehydrated mozzarella cheese, sausage, chicken, and fresh basil from the Green House come together to make a special treat that future Martians would be able to craft and enjoy. A well-deserved meal after the long duration Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) our Commander, Geologist, Engineer, and Executive Officer made to Lith Canyon today.

Lith Canyon is an incredible expanse of deep red canyons and high piled beige rock formations. Our Executive Officer was especially excited after returning from this EVA! He found an area with a high amount of radioactivity. A spot he has been looking for since his first EVA on Sol 3! On each EVA, our Executive Officer carries a black briefcase from which he pulls out a funny looking tan box with 80’s styled stickers and a coiled wire hooked to what appears to be a karaoke microphone. This device measures the radioactivity of an area, an important measurement for future crews on Mars. Astronauts are exposed to high levels of radiation in space travel to the point where NASA sets a threshold for the amount of radiation an astronaut can absorb in their career before having to retire.

While on Mars, the Martian atmosphere is thin and the astronauts will be exposed to cosmic radiation while on the surface. Cosmic radiation cannot be avoided, but we can attempt to decrease the amount of radiation the astronauts are exposed to by identifying areas on the Martian surface where there is a higher amount of radiation. The work performed by our Executive Officer investigates the feasibility of taking radioactive measurements during an EVA, while wearing a big bulky suit, trying to press tiny buttons and write down numbers in large, padded gloves.

Microgreens, geology, and radiation are all important scientific aspects of learning how to survive on the Red Planet, but what about the psychological aspects? During this incredibly risky endeavor, how can we ensure the crew is psychologically prepared? A second research project being pursued by our Executive Officer is investigating if stress affects the amount of risk astronauts are willing to accept when making decisions during an EVA. On average, people who make decisions under stress tend to make riskier decisions. EVAs will be a high-risk activity while on the Martian surface. Every movement will need to be practiced, calculated, and precise to ensure the safety of the crew. The increased risk of decision making by the crew due to stress could be the difference between a successful day and a tragedy.

Stress is a biological response to unknown situations. Short duration stress is what we’re most familiar with. The adrenaline rush of fight or flight. The stress our Executive Office is most interested in, though, is the long duration stress. If our brain stays in fight or flight for more than a half hour, it starts preparing the body to experience stress for an extended period of time by releasing a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol remains in your body for almost an hour after the stressful event and can be measured in our spit. Using a combination of games whose software measures our aversions to risk and a machine that measures the cortisol levels of our spit, our Executive Officer hopes to answer the question of whether stress causes the crew to make riskier decisions. These tests are given to the crew after an EVA and considered a “natural” stressor. A simulated “lab” test is also performed in the habitat, requiring the subject to stick their hand in 2 degrees Celsius water for 2.5 minutes. If you have never jumped in a river in Antarctica, your hand after 30 second begins to feel pain. The next minute is spent going from pain to numb, and after staring at the clock for the last minute, you feel much more awake and alert as the adrenaline rushes through your veins. Luckily, your hand warms up in time to play the stress games and not fumble through the buttons. Our Executive Officer’s wonderful research on radiation and stress will work to improve crew survivability in future Mars missions. Great job Executive Officer! We can’t wait to see the results of your work!

Movie (or Show) Answer: Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

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