Journalist Report – January 13th

[Sol 13] [The
Final Countdown]

The team awoke to the song: “The Pioneers of Mars” and to the exciting news of the safe arrival of crew 187 on this desert world. After one final pancake breakfast we threw ourselves into our cleaning duties, eager to make a fine impression as the previous team had with us. When our colleagues arrived in the early afternoon with their pressurized rover we had only just finished preparing the habitat for them. There was a short break to introduce ourselves, but the new team was excited to learn the ropes of maintaining the habitat. We organized ourselves into pairs and taught them the quirks of each of the hab’s systems.

With familiarization and photos out of the way, we plan to spend the evening socializing with the new crew over dinner and some card games. Overnight we will travel to the ascent vehicle and begin preparations for launch at dawn. As such, this will be my last update until we reach orbit.

It is said that the 4 stages of teamwork are forming, storming, norming, and performing. Over the past mission I have seen our team pass through each of these stages and though circumstances have been tough at times, I can say with confidence that we leave this world more capable, humorous, considerate, and farseeing than the people we came as. The soaring mesas, grand vistas, and infinite textures of this remote planet have changed us. But our greatest hope is that we have in turn changed it. To make what was a desolate, frozen expanse more livable, meaningful, and ultimately more human: this is the goal of humankind’s voyage to Mars, and the goal, perhaps, of our journey to the stars.

We wish Crew 187 all the best for their mission. For those on Earth, we would like to thank the legions of support personnel for making this grand adventure possible. With luck, we will be seeing you all soon!

Justin Mansell, MDRS Crew 186 Journalist

P.S. Photos attached. Photo of the day: 13Jan2018 Crew186-187 hand off.jpg

Journalist Report – January 9th

[Sol 9]

Another slow day at the hab. The crew awoke to frigid temperatures and a shroud of blowing Martian dust – our first sandstorm. Unwilling to test our luck in the tumultuous conditions, we immediately cancelled the planned EVA and have postponed it to tomorrow. Despite the storm, however, life at the habitat remains quite pleasant. The rarefied Martian wind is too tenuous to threaten our immediate safety and instead fosters a sense of coziness here. The crew enjoyed a television show after breakfast and has spent the day working, reading, and debating various topics. For those who participated in yesterday’s chilly EVA the downtime was certainly welcome.

By the late afternoon the dust had begun to clear and a robotic supply rover which landed earlier this week was able to complete its slow trek to the hab. After a quick excursion to obtain the supplies the crew delightfully unpacked a brand new bread maker and put it to use right away. At the time of writing the team is eagerly awaiting the results.

Justin Mansell, MDRS Crew 186 Journalist

P.S. Photos attached. Photo of the day: 09Jan2018 Crew mental health questionable.jpg

Journalist Report – January 1st

[Sol 1] [New Year, New Planet]

The first sunrise of 2018 broke the horizon at approximately 7:40 am this morning and lit the sky with a fiery glow not unlike the sea of ochre shades below. The crew roused with little hesitation and started the day with a yoga session led by our executive officer, Kshitij Mall. By 9 am the team had donned our EVA suits and capitalized on the morning light to conduct photo shoot. It was also our last chance to enjoy the outdoors while still being able to take our helmets off.

With the crew portraits obtained, the crew returned inside the habitat to indulge in a delicious New Year breakfast of fruit crêpes, cooked for the team by yours truly. At noon, the airlocks were shut from both sides and the simulation began.

But our crew isn’t one to vegetate inside the habitat (as cozy as it can be). Almost as soon as the simulation had begun, our ardent commander, Max Fagin, had 4 of us suiting up for our first EVA. The purpose was to analyze rock samples a short distance south of the hab and the EVA also served as an important test of our spectrometer and radio navigation equipment. Upon our return, the crew engineer, Melanie Grande, used some surplus time to replace the window on the outer door of the southern airlock.

Though the EVA was short, it has given the team much to think about. We have since been discussing various logistical items and how to iron out minor bugs in our EVA equipment.

Justin Mansell, MDRS Crew 186 Journalist

P.S. Daily photos attached. Picture of the day: 01Jan2018 Happy New Year.jpg

Journalist Report – December 31st

Sol 0 – Basic Training

Today the crew completed the last of our training. It was a busy day that began with bidding farewell to crew 185 as they departed the habitat and headed for home. We did our best to help them pack and promptly filled the vacant hab with our own cargo.

Prior to lunch we met with the station’s director to receive a full briefing that reviewed much of the procedures taught to us by crew 185 yesterday. We subsequently took a brief break, which we utilized for lunch and to finish moving into our staterooms.

Our final training task was to learn how to don the realistically bulky space suits. Our commander, Max Fagin, led the briefing based on his experience on a prior mission. With the entire team suited up, we explored the local area on a practice EVA that allowed us to become familiar with the limited mobility afforded by the suits.

Tonight we will celebrate the new year to the taste of lentil soup, oven-baked ziti, and fudge brownies – all cooked by our crew’s geologist and signature Italian chef – Cesare Guariniello.

We plan to formally enter the simulation late tomorrow morning.

– Justin Mansell, MDRS Crew 186 Journalist

Journalist Report – Dec 30th

Sol 12 – Crew 185 and a half

Everything eventually comes to an end, even the greatest experiences in your life. This time, it is really the end of our Crew. Crew 185 is dead. Long life to Crew 186!

This morning, we woke up on the Earth. What a pleasure to feel the light of the sun or the cold and dry wind of the desert on your skin, without a foggy helmet!

After a quick breakfast, we finished to clean the Hab and to pack all our experiments (including X-1 and its 200 pounds giant box!). You have probably no idea of the quantity of dust that you can have inside the Hab after two weeks of simulation, even if we all had inside and outside shoes. 😉

Then, we welcomed Crew 186 and we presented them the Hab, the Greenhouse, the Science Dome, the Observatory… and we explained them how the base works, how to do a report for mission support or how to optimize their water consumption in the desert. We had a nice dinner together and a very pleasant evening. I am very confident that they will be an amazing crew!

Greetings from our good old blue planet,

Thibault ex-Exo and Spacesuit Engineer for Crew 185

Journalist Report – December 29th

[Sol 11] [Atmospheric reentry]

We are now all seated and fastened in our space capsule. Take-off is imminent so I have just a few minutes to tell you about this last day at MDRS.

We woke up at 8 am and we had a pleasant breakfast together. Then, John and Ilaria did a long EVA with two ATVs. They went to a place quite far and northern from the Hab. This area is very interesting because it looks like the Moon (hence its name: Yellow Moon). It was our last EVA of the mission and they achieved all their objectives. Congratulations to them!

Then, after lunch, we played a game and we finished all the social sciences and psychology studies that we carried out during the mission. At the end of the afternoon, we cleaned the whole MDRS base, made an inventory of the food and packed everything that we need to take with us back to the Earth.

I really enjoyed our two amazing weeks here at MDRS. No matter the problems that we faced, we all learned and faced them together as a team. Beyond our scientific achievements, it is the human experience that I will carry back with me to the Earth. What an adventure!

T minus 10, 9, 8…

I would like to thank the Mars Society and its French chapter as long as I can do it.

…7, 6, 5…

For the last time, greetings from the Red Planet,

4, 3, 2, 1…

Boosters ignition and lift off!

Thibault, ExO and spacesuit engineer for the Crew 185

Journalist Report – December 26th

After having breakfast, we started charging the battery to be sure that the generator run during the whole night. Then we tested a GPS device and a new concept of drone controller. As we prepared for the EVA, we took a group picture of the crew wearing spacesuits. Arno, Thibault and John then tested the new drone controller on the X-1 spacesuit. Unfortunately, it quickly ran out of power. We thus did the engineering check and a communication experiment. As we finished the EVA three hours later, we had a well-deserved lunch. Then we played a board game and poker before fulfilling the daily human factor experiments. We started the generator early today, as the clouds were gathering on the horizon.


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