Mid-mission Research Report – April 6th

[category science-report]

Mid mission report – Crew 296
Living on Mars

Crew 296 landed on March 31, 2024, at midnight Earth time on the surface of Mars. We quickly acquainted ourselves with our home and, after a good sleep, immediately started working on our experiments and going on EVAs. The first two days were jam-packed with reports, EVAs, the beginning of experiments, tasks to do in the MDRS, and getting used to the new lifestyle required for Mars. Then, the following three days were also really busy, but we managed our tasks better to take the time to enjoy the fact that we are on Mars, the magnificent landscape, and the presence of each other with team building, card games, and cooking all together.

Regarding the advancement of everybody’s experiment, here is a quick summary:

Biomedical team (Alba, Arnaud, Imane, Loriane):
Up to today, the biomedical team has collected half of the blood serum and saliva samples planned for the mission, reaching 2/4 sampling time points at the station. The TAP micro device works very well, which is not the case for the HemoCue, giving many errors and making its use time-consuming. Concerning the salivary tests to study aMMP-8 using the ORALyzer, 1/3 of the tests planned are done and if compared to the values prior to the mission, there are reduced levels for the majority of the crew members. However, it’s too early to draw any conclusions; results will be fully analyzed once back in the lab in Belgium when the rest of the measurements in the samples will be performed. Moreover, some physiological data has been collected through the usage of the Oura ring, which can record sleep quality and quantity, heart rate, heart rate variability, oxygen saturation, and body temperature. To avoid any bias, these data will be analyzed at the end of the experiment. Fecal samples have been collected from all crew members, as well as 12-hour period urine collection, thus completing 2/3 of our plan, since the baseline collection was already done in Belgium prior to the mission. On top of that, subjective sleep quality and stress levels have been analyzed via questionnaires (Perceived Stress Scale-4 and -10 items, Epworth Sleepiness Scale, and PROMIS sleep disturbance) to further verify the correlation between physiological and behavioral scores. Together, the biomedical team solved the logistical problems concerning the shipment of the samples back to Belgium, which meant a considerable relief, given the level of stress it implied. A self-assessment questionnaire assessing mood states and their fluctuations (POMS-f) was also administered at the beginning of the simulation to assess these emotions over the week before the simulation. The questionnaire will be completed again at the end of the simulation in order to compare whether the effects of confinement (confined space and cut-off social networks) have an impact on mood states. Finally, prior to the mission, the crew members completed the Golden Personality Profiler, and to date, the characteristics of their personality profiles have been discussed with the group psychologist and received personalized consultation. These results will help determine whether it is possible to predict the mood states experienced (using the POMS-F) during the group confinement.

Maxime’s experiment to understand the movement of dust in the Martian atmosphere is on track, despite having suffered some setbacks. The station, nicknamed “Dusty,” is composed of a tripod and three sensitive trap cameras, and a Vantage Vue Weather station has been installed on Sol 2 but did not transmit because of low battery and the wind indicator was broken. On the morning of Sol 3, a maintenance EVA was done to fix the station and change the battery, and it has been successfully transmitting precious data ever since. The current windy weather is perfect for the experiment as we can see from the hab that some dust is being picked up by the wind in the area of the Dusty Station. We are monitoring its status from the Hab; the sturdy metal tripod looks like it is enduring the harsh weather conditions; a recent EVA revealed the wind indicator was damaged again, it was quickly fixed. A quick check of the cameras showed that the station indeed recorded some dust activity, that means the experiment is very successful.
Hippolyte’s experiment examines crew interactions with an artificial intelligence (AI) system to support decision-making and task execution. By capturing verbal communications with the AI in individual sessions, the goal is to assess the effectiveness of human-AI dialogue. Hippolyte intends to broaden this investigation by incorporating AI interaction tests during Extravehicular Activities (EVAs), aiming to enrich the dataset with varied results that reflect different operational contexts.

Louis’s experiment aims to explore how UAV technology can enhance future crew efficiency in Martian exploration by mapping the planet’s landscape using drones and automatic flights. In the initial phase, Louis focused on trial and error, dedicating three EVAs to his experiment. His efforts began with familiarizing himself with flying a drone in a spacesuit, followed by executing his first automatic flight to capture images of a specific area, validating the feasibility of automated flights. With the successful completion of the initial automatic flight, Louis shifted his focus to more complex landscapes and experimented with various flight parameters. Now, the attention turns to processing the data acquired during these flights to identify potential enhancements for the next phase of the experiment. In the upcoming second phase, Louis aims to refine his data collection methods by optimizing flight parameters. One proposed improvement involves incorporating Ground Control Points (GCP) into the mapping process. By placing markers on the ground and recording their GPS positions, Louis seeks to enhance the precision of data processing. Success in implementing this technique would signify the achievement of all mission objectives.

The collection of data has been going smoothly. Those collections, which happened on Sol 1 and 4, for the drone and the TapStrap, a device constituted of 5 rings that you wear on the basis of your fingers to communicate and send messages by moving your hand, occurred with no trouble whatsoever despite the quick winds on Sol 4. All the data from these experiments will be analyzed once we go back to Earth with the help of fellow scientists and university professors. I also have been working on a scientific letter trying to verify the veracity and precision of data we have from the black owl in the middle of our Milky Way. It is to be finished before the end of the simulation.

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