Journalist Report – February 11th

Sol 11: Interview with: Engineer – The man who keeps the station in one piece

Hi everyone! Today is a new episode of “Interview with”. We are going to talk with François, our crew engineer I’ve been mentioning multiple times as our hero. I can’t wait to show you what we talk about but before, let’s talk a bit about this Sol 11 on Mars.

Today, we realised that we are closer to the end of this mission than we are to its beginning. For some members of the crew, it’s good news because they miss their families and friends and are becoming nostalgic about life on Earth. Apart from that, the crew is doing well, everyone is healthy and in good shape. This was mostly for the families who are reading this report, there is nothing to worry about.

For her second time as EVA leader, Julie decided to explore a very mysterious region of the surroundings of the station. This region is located far north from the station and it is called: the Special Region. Even on our map, the zone is partially hidden by red stripes that give it a forbidden aspect. My crewmates decided to go there to find out what was truly there with the idea of potentially going back tomorrow to map the area with the drone if it was worth it. They went as close as they could by the road with the rovers. Then, they climbed on a ridge and were amazed by the view. If you looked to one side of the ridge, you could see a really narrow canyon that would be very interesting to 3D map. If you then looked to the other side of the ridge, the landscape was now made of dunes with beautiful red colours. They climbed down the ridge and started to explore the canyon. I can’t wait to go there tomorrow to map the area with the drone and see this incredible view from the ridge with my own eyes!

In the meantime, Marion and I stayed at the Hab and performed the TELEOP experiment. I’m starting to appreciate to teleoperate this rover on the moon: going to a particular zone, grabbing a sample and docking it to the lander. It is pretty similar to a video game! It is definitely funnier that the « shape test » from the experiment of the University of Lorraine. But they are both really interesting human factors experiments.

Talking about the « shape test », those who were spared yesterday had to do it this afternoon. It is pretty funny to see them walk into their room full of life and joy and leaving it dead inside. I’m not exaggerating (ok maybe a bit), this is really hard when you are as tired as we are. But this was the last day, there won’t be human factors experiments this weekend and that is such good news.

Today we had also good news from the GreenHab. First, the soy beans Julie planted some days ago are starting to grow and we can already see a green thing making its way out of the soil. It was the first thing she had ever planted so she was really excited when she discovered it this morning. She has also recently put the Spirulina in the two solutions I talked about in a previous report. We hope the Spirulina will grow well and that we will see the difference between the two solutions which have, as you already know, two different concentrations of filtered and stabilised urine. It is fine if you don’t remember, we will do an episode of « Focus on » to talk in more details about this cool experiment, so stay tuned!

Maxime, our astronomer, also managed to find time to edit some observations we received from the telescope of New-Mexico during the night. He turned those observations of M-42, the object he made the telescope point at, into a really amazing picture. He will soon be able to explain you better than me his work as an astronomer in the next episode of « Interview with ».

But today it’s François’ turn! Let’s see what we talked about this afternoon in the RAM!

“-Hi François how are you? Can you introduce yourself for those who don’t know you yet?

-Yes sure! I am 21 years old, I am a student in aerospace engineering at Supaero, in France. I am currently doing a double degree in engineering physics at KTH, an engineering school in Stockholm, Sweden. In my curriculum, I also did an internship at the German Space Agency (DLR) on the optimization of rocket trajectories. And apart from my curriculum, I really like climbing and mountaineering.

-Ok cool! So, in the crew you are the Engineer, can you explain what does that means?

-My role is divided into 3 parts. The first consists of daily checks of the functioning of the station. We try to live as much as possible on our own resources or at least in the short circuit which implies having a total trust in the devices that surround us. I therefore check the water level every day in the tanks, the production of electricity, the level of charge of the suits and rovers, the filling of the toilets…
Then I have to fix everything that misbehaves in the station. A poor quality of water or air involves a change of filters… Right now, I work on the batteries of the suits that seem to work badly. I have access to the RAM (Repair and Assembly Module) where many devices are at my disposal to try to adjust these problems (multimeter, soldering iron…). But let me reassure you, most of the time, the station is fully functional.
Finally, and this is the part I prefer, I help other crew members in their personal experiments. I had to repair a 3D printer with Maxime for his experiment, help Julie make a water recycling system…

-Wow this is cool! And what is your favourite part of the job?

-My favourite part is without hesitation the last of which I have just talked to you about, the one where I help the others in their experiments. The repair of the 3D printer is in particular a good memory. We spent 2 days with Maxime to disassemble and repair it, replace defective parts and see it again functioning was very satisfactory.

-And is there something you don’t like in your job?

-What I like the least in my activities may be the repetition of my activities with all the daily checks that are repeated and especially the emptying of the toilet. However, it is necessary so I do it with a good heart (and I especially hope that the crew will get me a burger after the mission for all the times I emptied the toilet). I think that the feeling of being useful to the crew and to a smooth running of the mission is an increasingly important motivation for me, as the mission advances. Indeed at the beginning of the mission, it is the excitement that motivates, realizing new tasks being always enjoyable. But the more the mission is moving, the more important it is to have a lasting motivation for the daily tasks.

-We will definitely offer you a burger when we come back on Earth, you deserve it! On a more personal subject, why did you choose to participate in a MDRS mission?

-I chose to participate in this analogue mission to approach even more the field of space exploration. During the 2 years of preparation, I had to discuss with many researchers, inquire about inhabited flights and Martian exploration missions … It was very beneficial for me. I also think that this mission is a good way to help the research at our level. We participate in experiments of laboratories on human factors which study our psychological and physiological evolution during the mission. I hope the data gathered will be relevant and will help them in their work.

-I hope too! Thank you very much for your time, it was a very cool interview and thank you one more time for the work you do every day in the station!”

That’s it for the interview with our Engineer, I hope you enjoyed it! Remember that next time it will be Maxime’s turn so stay tuned!