Crew 228 Commander Report 04Oct2021
Summary Title: Dog-shaped planets
Author’s name: Lindsay Rutter
Mission Status: Nominal
Despite our Martian sols lasting about 39 minutes and 35 seconds longer than our days back on Earth, the first week of our mission has already soared past us. I was a crew member at this same Martian base several years ago, before the COVID amendments to the Planetary Protection Protocols, and it certainly feels different this time. Planet Earth has since undergone the largest isolation experiment in history.
During the pandemic, I have been quarantining in a teeny room in a tiny sharehouse in rural Japan, living in close quarters with five roommates. Along with being situated near Tsukuba Space Center, where JAXA astronauts train, my environment back on Earth has oddly resembled human space exploration, with themes of isolation and shared and limited resources. This seems to be the situation with several of my crew members, not feeling as much of a sharp delineation between terrestrial life and Martian life as we may have in the past.
While the global events in the past few years have rendered many of us better-prepared for space analog missions, our crew has identified numerous areas where we can more efficiently integrate the new realities of planetary protection. Due to terrestrial travel bans, we Areonauts found ourselves with remote crew that outnumbered in-situ crew. We are likely the first crew with this group dynamic at the Martian base – but we are likely not the last. As our original crew was optimized to span across diverse expertise, we had to get creative with transferring essential knowledge and informed advice from our remote crew to our in-situ crew, similar to how our society – our schools, our work, our socializing – has needed to "go virtual" these past few years. We will share our lessons learned about hybrid crew dynamics in our final mission report.
The first week of our mission has been productive with science, maintenance, and outreach projects. Jin is integrating metadata into GIS maps and using viewshed analysis to identify radio blackout regions; Inga is collecting ethnographic data of crew dynamics; and I am performing metagenomic analysis of Martian regolith samples. Dave the Wizard has repaired various hardware around the habitat. We had immense joy answering questions from students who sent us adorable and animated videos. Some questions were quite intense, asking us how we resolve brawls that break out and whether we could introduce microgravity into our simulation. Others were more light-hearted. My favorite question was if we had found any dog-shaped planets out there! I suppose it depends on whether we count Pluto.
We also pencil in time for recreational activities. During our “show and tell”, Dave showed off IBM punch cards from his college courses decades ago, with each card containing a predetermined arithmetical operation and each column corresponding to a single character, similar to what was used in the first digital computer of the US space program. He also showed us integrated circuits he designed and old models of floppy disks ~20cm in diameter. In another session, we discussed potential attributes of futuristic civilizations on Mars. We have several recreational plans for this second week, but I will not spoil them here!
I conducted a mid-mission check-in with each crew member. During our second week, I will make small adjustments to ensure each crew member fulfills their personal and professional goals as much as possible during our mission. All crew members report they are happy, and I am prepared to continue leading the second half of our mission. I want to send a mid-mission “thank you!” to our fantastic mission support and CapComs, some of whom wake up in the wee hours of the night to support us. With your support, we Areonauts will continue to put everything we can into this mission, learning and growing from each other, and eventually emerging from our mission as better analog explorers and Earthlings.