Journalist Report Oct 03rd

Crew 228 Journalist Report 03OCT2021

Author: Marufa Bhuiyan, Remote Crew Astronomer

Title: A mathematical poem on Mars and simulation of our mind

I.

You are the M-STAR, Eon of our generation and messenger of peace

Please tell us your stories and dreams, and where you’d like to go next.

Is it the Moon or Mars or Earth bound again?

Towards the Andromeda or in a different galaxy far away…

Which galaxy would you like to reside in? Then please CONTACT 3021.

II.

Maybe you will ‘time travel’ thousands of years

Please follow your “Imaginary time” at a 45 degree angle,

Carry your trinity in a style, or who knows you might fall into a beautiful Triangle.

If you could travel faster than lights, how old would you be?

You know they say “age” is just a number. Here’s a simple math, 1+2+3+4+5+6+7 = 28.

If you were sure of your immortality, would you live your life differently?

III.

Mr. Robert Frost said long ago “The Prophets really Prophecy as Mystics,

the Commentators Merely by Statistics”

Wherever you want to go my friend, “May the Force be with You”.

When we see a ‘bright star’ every now and then,

And we have a moment to think, “we will think of you”.

Hopefully someday we meet on Earth

‘In between our dreams’ or, in an interstellar journey on my rocket ‘88!

Until then, please take good care of your health and be happy.

IV.

So, the relationship with Mr. ‘X’ which had begun like an opening to the heavens,

Had sizzled in the middle when I believed I had outsmarted the Gods,

finally ended with a rude Earth landing!

Back to Eden? Enjoy the speed of your journey.

V.

Please remember, you are the chosen one, the best of the best,

“But you, children of space, restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed.”

When I was at MDRS in an analog astronaut training, oh it was not too long ago!

It was about our red planet, it was at the Mars Desert Research Station (#220) in 2020,

Now it seems so long ago!

At that time, I learned as a Crew Astronomer: “Please do not trigger others with your actions or words.”

and “Stay kind, it makes you beautiful.”

Crew 228 Journalist Report October 2nd

Forwarded from Ludovica Valentini:

THE “OVERVIEW EFFECT” AND BEYOND

By Ludovica Valentini, Remote Engineer

It was a crisp night in the Hab, the sky was surprisingly clear again
after many Sols of dust storms, and the stars were burning so bright.
Without thinking twice, the Areonauts headed to the observatory to
enjoy some sky watching. Everyone was so excited, it was their first
such chance during their newly started mission on Mars.

The crew got equipped and prepared the telescope so that the show
could finally begin. The Areonauts first pointed the lenses to the
Mars’ moon Phobos, and everyone was amazed to see the tiny details on
its surface. They took pictures of the craters while discussing what
to admire next. The time came to have a look at the second Martian
moon Deimos, then they let themselves hypnotize by the beauty of the
Milky Way painted across the sky, stretching from horizon to horizon.
The Areonauts were appreciating the charm of the Martian night sky,
someone was shooting photos, someone else admiring the sky and sharing
their excitement, until suddenly it got all silent…

A timeless moment, a breathtaking view, no words to express the
profound feelings invading their bodies. Still holding their breath,
they could look into each other’s eyes and recognize the same thrill.
The telescope was pointing right at their beloved Blue Marble. A
nostalgic moment that goes beyond words, and almost impossible to
convey. It was the experience itself of seeing the Earth standing out
from the pitch-black universe, that one cannot explain.

Memories started to come to their minds of when they first left the
Earth and for the first time, they looked down at their home planet
from above. In that precise moment, something happened in their minds,
and their perception of the Earth and of life started to change. That
Blue Dot surrounded by its strikingly thin atmosphere looked so
beautiful, and so fragile at the same time. There were no drawn
boundaries, no differences, no reasons for hate nor wars, everything
was just a continuous flow of marvelous lands, seas, and dancing
clouds, everything in constant change, and for this reason, unique
every time. The more the time was passing, the more these feelings
were growing profoundly in the crew while they were traveling to Mars.

By the time the Areonauts were approaching Mars, the Earth had become
just a tiny dot in the sky, home had never been so far. As soon as
they stepped foot on the Red Planet, the Areonauts worked hard to
settle in and launch their research programs. Days went by, but no one
would miss their daily glance at that Blue Dot in the sky, until the
weather got worse. Intense dust storms arrived, and the crew had to
cope with operational complications, some of their research being
paused, and to make matters worse, their little light in the sky had
disappeared behind a thick red blanket surrounding the Hab, for many
long Sols.

In the moment they could see that familiar appearance again through
the telescope, everything rewound in their minds back to when they
first experienced that breathless feeling. But this time, it felt
different. The Earth was not taking up most of their view anymore, to
the contrary they could barely discern it with the naked eye. This
time, it was beyond their first experience, this time, they could
observe their Earth as part of the universe. That opened up a
completely new perspective and new questions started to arise in the
Areonauts’ minds. They did not have the answers, yet, but one thing
they knew, those experiences had intensely changed their views and
they felt it their duty to share it once back to their dear Earth.

Never more than today, the so-called “overview effect”, a term coined
in 1987 by Frank White in the homonymous book, should be brought down
to the Earth and spread. The “overview effect” is the beginning of a
shift in your mindset as you move further away from the Earth’s
surface, it is a change in awareness and in the way you see our Earth.
We are part of this complex system, and we are all interconnected to
anything else in it, despite all the differences, or better, this big
machine does work thanks to this diversity. After all, we are all in
this together, aboard this giant and precious ship sailing an immense
ocean, while exploring new horizons, and aiming at the same
destination, a flourishing future for mankind and our home planet(s).

END

Journalist Report – October 01st

Journalist Report

Yuzo Shibata, Remote Agricultural Advisor

My Mind is Landing on Mars.

By Yuzo Shibata, Remote Agricultural Advisor

I live in Kyoto, Japan. It has about 1.5 million people and lots of universities and colleges. About 10% of the population is said to be students. There are also so many scientists here but this ancient capital filled with old temples and shrines seems to be able to change them into poets. I often discuss Mars exploration with scientists here. However, sometimes, the conclusion rather than scientific becomes poetic which is frustrating because I want to arrive at a scientific conclusion.

Also, we Japanese are a little weird ethinic group personifying everything including space rockets and probes with Manga and trying to communicate with them. For example, you can find some manga images of a little girl with solar panels named “HAYABUSA” (Japanese robotic spacecraft) on the net. Most Japanese people must love space exploration, but they don’t seem enthusiastic about manned exploration. They say, “Our friends, Curiosity and Percy have already lived on Mars. Why do you think you need to go there now?”

However, these thoughts might not be all bad. It may not be necessary to physically go to Mars by scientific and technological means, instead it might be good to take our mind to Mars by Poem and Manga power.

I wasn’t able to go to MDRS due to the pandemic as the GreenHab Officer this time, so I’m joining the mission as the Remote Agricultural Advisor from Kyoto now. From the viewpoint of cultivation, I pored over science papers about the climate of Mars over coffee. However, after I decided to be remote, I started reading science-fiction novels and comics, even reading poetry books such as Haiku (Japanese short form poetry) over tea. That might be because I unconsciously wanted only to take my mind to MDRS and Mars.

First, I read and watched “The Martian” again to get insight. (I’m not sure whether planting potatoes is a good solution, though.) However, this ancient capital filled with dynastic styled literature and beautiful four seasons gradually affects my mind. And now, I’m getting interested in the seasons on Mars rather than how to survive there.

The climate there is really hard to live in, so I can’t imagine how much people there would look forward to the winter solstice that comes once every two years. They must want to celebrate the day even more extravagantly than the Yule festival for the Germanic peoples. What should I plant for the festival? Chinese people eat dumplings and Japanese people take a citron bath. Also, It might be desirable to change the calendar based on earth’s seasons into a new one such as the Darian Calendar. The winter solstice would become New Year’s Day like ancient kingdoms in Mesopotamia and China.

Mars was called “Keikoku” in ancient China. It means “Confusion” in English because the movement and apparent brightness of this planet was unexpected. I’d like you to forgive me for confusing you with my excessive imagination taking my mind to MDRS and Mars. Now I promise to stop imagining and to concentrate on supporting the GreenHab Officer with scientific knowledge as the Remote Agricultural Advisor.

Crew 228 Journalist Report – September 30th

Jin Sia, HSO

Forwarded from Charikleia Olympiou, remote Flight Surgeon:

I am not too eloquent when it comes to expressing myself in English as
it’s not my first language. So, for my report, I chose to bring to
your attention, this letter which was written in May 6, 1970, from
Ernst Stuhlinger and was addressed to Sister Mary Jucunda. Now you
might be thinking what does a letter addressed to a nun has to do with
our mission on Mars.

Well, at the time, Dr. Stuhlinger was serving as the Associate
Director for Science at the Marshall Space Flight Center, in
Huntsville, Alabama whilst Sister Jucunda was working among the
starving children of Kawbe in Zambia. Sister Mary Jucunda, surrounded
by dying starving children, had expressed concerns as to whether space
exploration was actually a worthwhile endeavour when at the same time,
some humans were starving to death.

Dr. Stuhlinger replied with the following letter, sharing his own
beliefs for the value of space exploration. In my opinion this is
probably one of the most eloquent and well-written statements that’s
advocating for humanity’s endeavor in space, even today, more than
five decades later.

It’s a bit long but it’s definitely worth the read 🙂

Here it goes:

Journalist Report – September 29th

THE LONG DASH
Jin Sia, HSO

They say it isn’t the speed that kills you
but the stopping.
Free the reins of the Sun’s
rays entangling the Hab in a net of
time and frenzy and the
tick tock tick tock tick tock
of raindrops dying upon the roof;
a patina of water,
here today, reincarnated tomorrow in a puff of the heavens,
returning to the cycle that is here
but isn’t supposed to be here.

From where did the water come?
From where in the disk of
spinning, spinning,
gossamer threads of matter from the dust
that came from dust that came from dust,
and that to dust will return,
from the ice-cold encrusted sleep
upon the sunken eyes of the unknown.

"Shade under my roof of dreams," says the Hab,
"Ponder in my pocket of dark," whispers the SciDome,
"Revive in me," emanates the GreenHab,
"Take a gift and leave a gift," booms the RAM from deep depths above.

Aerobrake into a shower of possibility,
fire retrorockets into a plume of vision.

At the end of the long dash
a summit awaits,
ready for another day,
ready for another day.

Journalist Report – September 28th

Forwarded on behalf of Remote Crew Journalist Stuart Hughes:

LESSONS FROM AN ANALOG VETERAN

By Stuart Hughes, Remote Crew Journalist

One of the buzzwords of the moment is “hybrid” or “blended” working.
As we emerge from the pandemic, we’re living two parallel lives – one
of them in person and the other in the virtual spaces of Zoom and
Microsoft Teams that have become our natural habitat over the past 18
months.

So it is with MDRS Crew 228. We are perhaps the first “hybrid” crew.
Our original mission date was for April 2020. Then COVID struck and
turned all our lives upside down. Remaining travel restrictions mean
we’ve been unable to come together in the Hab as we’d hoped and
planned for. As if to add insult to injury, the long-awaited news of
the lifting of the travel ban to the US came just last week – although
the changes won’t come into force in time for us to jump on a plane
and join our crew mates. So while half the crew carry out our mission
on “Mars,” the other half are watching on with more than a twinge of
jealousy from our home countries.

Prior to our original mission date I sought some advice on how to
approach a space analog mission from Anastasia Stepanova. Anastasia is
an engineer at the Russian Academy of Science. She spent a total of 10
months participating in space simulations with the Mars160 and SIRIUS
projects. When I met Anastasia, little did I know that COVID-19
lockdowns were just around the corner and the whole world was about to
gain more experience of living in isolation than any of us could have
imagined!

In my job as a BBC journalist, I’m plugged into the news cycle all
day, every day. I confess that suddenly being cut off from that
constant stream of information was the thing I was fearing most during
my time at MDRS.

Anastasia trained as a journalist, so I asked her how she coped with
living in an information black hole.

"We didn’t have the internet, only an internal server, but the
psychological team would send you information if you requested it,”
she told me.

“Funnily enough, nobody in our crew asked for any news, apart from
space news! I was asking for space news – so they sent me screen grabs
from space.com. But we didn’t know what’s going on in the world.

“I liked that. I had a little break from all that. A digital detox is
the best thing I had – I still miss it! It’s harder when you’re in
civilization but I still try to go to the countryside on the weekends
and not check my phone for a whole day."

Not being able to monitor the TV news bulletins for months on end may
not have troubled Anastasia Stepanova but there were some reminders of
home she yearned for while taking part in analog missions.

“You start to miss smells and sounds,” she admitted.

“In the last simulation (SIRIUS) we had a really artificial
environment. We were in a hermetic chamber and we had a unique
atmosphere, totally independent from Earth’s. The air pressure was 3%
higher than on Earth to keep dust particles out. We had the sound of
the ventilation but we didn’t have the sound of the wind or rain or
waves. We didn’t have pleasant smells. When mint appeared in the
greenhouse everyone came there to smell it and remember the Earth. You
also miss colours and lights. I think the design of a future space
station is very important. It should be a mixture of high tech and
very earthy.”

I asked Anastasia for her personal tips for coping with the
confinement of an MDRS mission, never anticipating that I’d soon be
using them inside the four walls of my own home in London!

"Always separate the professional from the personal,” she advised.

“If you discuss something and have a disagreement, don’t take it
personally. Keep your sense of humour – in all my crews we had a sense
of humour, and it saved us so many times. When we had conversations
that were on the edge, jokes would lighten things up and we could move
on. If you feel a bit irritated, try to put yourself in the other
person’s place or go and do some exercise.

“If something bothers you, calm down first and then discuss how you
can sort it out. That’s the key. I know it’s hard, especially when
you’re in there and everything seems so big. But just breathe out,
breathe in, do some yoga or meditation, write, play video games or
listen to music. I did yoga in front of the greenhouse, so I had my
"Earth corner." Just take some time for yourself and then you can
react.”

Although it’s frustrating not to be able to be alongside my crew mates
at MDRS, my frustration dissolves into nothing when I remind myself of
the overarching goal – to create a permanent human presence on Mars.

As Anastasia Stepanova says, “For the first time ever in history maybe
we’ll build a life on Mars. Maybe we’ll be the ones who see how the
whole conception of our existence changes – and that’s amazing.”

The pandemic that has ruled our lives for too long will pass and the
chance to fulfil my long-delayed dream of visiting MDRS will come. If
there’s one thing COVID has taught us, it’s the importance of patience
and the ability to overcome disappointments and setbacks.

The end goal is worth the wait.

END

Journalist Report – May 6th

Crew 235 Journalist Report 06May2021
Author: Jeff Streba, Crew Journalist
Sol 4: Log Entry

Another beautiful day on Mars.
We had an early morning EVA out to the overlook and then we collected Gypsum and Sandstone samples. Because of the lack of functional suits, only 3 people went on
each EVA.

While one EVA team was out the other team analyzed bacteria. We were all impressed with the results.

When everyone was together, we discussed how to incorporate both the bacteria experiment and rockhounding into our classrooms.

We then ended our sim

Journalist Report – May 5th

Crew 235 Journalist Report 05May2021
Authors: Thomas Quayle and Randall Gibson, Crew Journalist

Sol 3: Generally Speaking, It Goes Like This

Morning began with a brisk wind and another species of Rodentia captured. The crew has been remarkably passive about the recurring nature of the event. What began as a mixed curiosity has evolved into a morning routine, complete with EVA procedures, and smiles.

However, the first order of the day: coffee and another round of lively discussion surrounded the breakfast table. Today’s topic was the politics of Earth. We are hopeful they will come to solve their problems in time. The morning fair consisted of sausage and eggs. It has been great to enjoy the variety of meals that each of the crew members has been willing to jump in and prepare.

Little did the crew suspect that the quiet morning would not remain so for long. Even the most well-planned EVA cannot account for everything a crew can prepare for or expect. Their mission was to search for specific geologic samples in a region that was located nearly twice as far as the previous day’s activities.

More than an hour had passed from when the first EVA team had departed when a call came over the radio, “Hab, Hab!..”. The other half of the crew at the Hab quickly responded and was informed that the EVA was being aborted. Within minutes of the radio communique, the EVA team had arrived.

Thankfully no one had been injured, but a malfunction in the power pack of the Commander’s spacesuit (redacted) had occurred that seriously affected the ability for air to be recirculated. While it is not yet known where the malfunction took place or how it was missed, the event has impacted our EVA assessments for the duration of our mission. Each team will now have to continue with one crew member volunteering to abstain from participation. In the end, the second EVA team was able to successfully manage the completion of objectives scheduled for the day.

After the second EVA returned to the Hab, the crew reconvened as a single group to rest and clean the remains of lunch until the next event of the day. Shannon led a crew discussion on the assembly of Estes Rockets and the pitfalls to consider when introducing the topic to students. Each member of the crew was able to construct their own prototype, which should be available for launch tomorrow.

The crew then joined Shannon in the Science Dome to compare the samples that had been collected across multiple EVA’s. In the last significant event of the day, the astronomy box was retrieved from the outpost. This was the final component required to activate the solar observatory, which the crew is looking forward to using tomorrow.

As a social component, the crew finalized a Lego build that had been started the previous day. The genders and position of the Lego figures were debated and rearranged by the crew. The dinner discussion covered several topics, including the similarities to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Jennifer prepared an incredible culinary masterpiece of southern fried chicken, fried potatoes, biscuits, and gravy by using dehydrated ingredients. This was surely the best meal yet to be prepared on this planet, and she shall be henceforth be known as the “Mars”tha Stewart.

Journalist Report – May 4th

Crew 235 Journalist Report 04May2021
Author: Krysta Darby, Crew Journalist
Sol 2: Rock Sampling and Mission Patch Design

The day started at approximately 7:15am Earth’s MT when Thomas got up and started the coffee. Members of the crew got up one by one, eager to look out onto the Martian landscape. Atila filled the water tank, but recommended going forward it be filled at night in case there are any unforeseen issues overnight. A rodentia unfamilia was captured at an unknown time and was released out of the airlock by Randall. Director Shannon continued to work on the new generator, and the crew went into low power mode. While Krysta fixed a breakfast of spinach scrambled eggs and spam, the crew assembled around the table for morning coffee. Conversation over breakfast ranged from the day’s tasks to human rights issues in education. So far this crew has not shied away from digging deep into controversial topics. Atila and Randall led cleaning efforts in the kitchen as breakfast and a heated debate came to a conclusion.

After breakfast, Atila briefly reviewed the map of local terrain with the crew.

Today’s goal was for both teams to retrieve rock samples from Kissing Camel.

At 9:00, the crew traveled to the science dome to review the types of samples that could typically be found in the surrounding area with our resident expert, Shannon. For the purposes of this expedition, we will be referring to petrified wood as sulfur, blueberries as hematite, and lava rock as breccia. Temperature of the incubator was found to be 56 degrees Celsius. Atila adjusted to bring the temperature down to 25 degrees.

At 9:45, the crew headed back to the hub to prepare for the first team’s expedition. Jen, Randall, Jeff, and Allison stayed behind and prepared a lunch of macaroni and cheese casserole, while Atila, Krysta, Thomas, and Jennifer left the hub to collect samples from Kissing Camel. Krysta and Jennifer rode ATV’s and Atila and Thomas took the rover. They successfully collected several samples of sulfur along with some unique samples which will be analyzed. One fatality was reported due to a removed glove. Crew members are still acclimating to wearing suits for extended periods of time. A lack of maneuverability and the weight of the suit has been a challenge, but the adrenaline from inhabiting Mars fuels the team making the weight and discomfort of a space suit a minor inconvenience.

The first team returned to the hub at approximately 11:50am, and assisted the second team as they prepared for their expedition. First team enjoyed the macaroni and cheese casserole heartily and cleaned up the aftermath. The second crew reached Kissing Camel with no issues and collected samples, taking careful note of the context in which each sample was found. There was a second fatal mistake while the commander was adjusting her helmet. The crew is learning fast. Second team returned at about 1:30pm. They then had to sanitize the helmets and return the suits.

After comparing rock finds, the crew collaborated on patch design. It was noted that patch designs typically have the mission number/name/designation, and the design should represent the purpose of the mission. Last names of crew members usually border the patch, and flags of nationalities are also incorporated. After looking at examples and some brainstorming, the crew decided to incorporate symbolic representations of education, STEM, and collaboration. The patch will also incorporate a hexagon to represent the Beehive State, geometric lines representing the geodesic science dome, and the overall shape will represent the habitat. Allison has taken lead in final design as the person with the most experience in this field.

Each Crew member is currently working on their own project (reports, patch design, and telescope observations) for a few hours before the crew will come together for team building and dinner.

Journalist Report – May 3rd

Crew 235 Journalist Report 03May2021
Author: Jennifer Grimes, Crew Journalist
Sol 1: Questioning My Life Choices
As I pulled up to the red cattle guard at 10:15 pm last night, I questioned where am I at? What have I gotten myself into? It took about 30 minutes in the dark to locate the MDRS. Once I arrived at the MDRS and was secure inside I felt more comfortable with my decision to come here. I was so tired from my 19.5 hour drive I crashed and slept all now. After getting up I enjoyed a great pancake for breakfast. Crew started the day with a tour of MDRS and proper training on how to operate and maneuver the rovers. After that we were excited to get our flight suits and gear up to do our practice EVA. We were instructed on the optimal safety protocols to survive on Mars while completing our real EVAs. We collected rock samples while out on our practice EVA. After our lunch break we went to the lab, created agar, that we set up in a ziplock bag to see what bacteria will grow from the samples we collected. After experiencing the practice EVA I am so ready to begin our SIM. We will wake up on Mars tomorrow.

Crew 235 Journalist Report 03May2021
Author: Allison Weber, Crew Journalist
Sol 1: Mission Log

With a meeting set for 9am, the cohort woke up in various states of coherence between the hours of 6 and 8:30. Some were early risers, taking their tea and the morning to themselves. Others, like me, tried to sleep as long as they could on a Monday morning. The one thing you have to understand about our cohort is that it’s the educator mission. Part of NASA’s "Spaceward Bound" program, MDRS brought 7 teachers to the desert of Hanksville, Utah for a week-long professional development/Mars analog simulation/STEM education opportunity. No students to manage? No papers to grade? And all sorts of science to learn? This was a learning vacation, and I was determined to make the most of it by catching up on my sleep.

Breakfast was as characteristic of teachers as was considering waking up at 7 "sleeping in": coffee and whatever else you could quickly find. The cohort struggled productively against the drip coffee maker. Upon seeing our sorry breakfasts, the commander decided to make us a REAL breakfast of blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes. The leftovers were stowed away for later. I ate all of them for lunch.

Shannon (Director of MDRS) and Atila (Assistant Director) came up to the main living habitat to enjoy the morning with us. Shannon was the one who had written the handbook. She was the one behind such ominous phrases as "If you don’t bring [Object from the recommended supply list], you might as well leave". With that and infrequent emails being my only exposure to Shannon prior to arriving at MDRS, I was intimidated by the mere idea of her. Shannon moseyed into the living space wearing leggings reminiscent of the works of Piet Mondrian and a graphic tee of a triceratops skeleton and the phrase "COPROLITE HAPPENS". She still intimidates me, but in a good way.

Hearing the discussion between Shannon, Atila, and Jen (our commander, who had been here before) enlightened me on the different philosophies there could be towards "sims". Simulation learning was one of those methods of instruction I’d heard about in college, but was never given the opportunity or the resources to study in-depth. It’s too resource- and preparation-intensive to do often in the classroom. In the unique environment provided by MDRS, simulation learning can be explored and enacted at a scale inequivalent, but comparable, to that in the classroom.

The group discussed concerns as small as practicing mise en place and as big as instilling life skills in the next generation. As Shannon recounted, groups would leave the rover without plugging it in to charge. The natural consequence of this was not being allowed to use it the following day, resulting in very frustrated researchers. Atila phrased it as the researchers forgetting; Shannon phrased it as lack of action. "People don’t understand how to be proactive," she said. The difference in mindsets between the two top members of our group was fascinating to see. What was even better was the constructive way people disagreed! Respectful problem-solving and communication skills are going to be invaluable on Mars.

A little before noon, we took our first steps on "Mars". (We still weren’t "in sim", the phrase for actively treating the world around us as Mars.) Suiting up beforehand was an experience. First, we had to change out of civilian clothes; then, into undershirts and leggings to wick away sweat; then socks; then flight suits; then shoes; THEN suits. Depending on the model of spacesuit you chose, it could’ve been between 10 and 20lbs. Both models had an abysmal range of motion for your head, and vision that all but eliminated your peripheral view. Helmets clunk together in the airlock. We got all nice and cozy, shoulder-to-shoulder, before heading out.

Our very first trip on Mars was a sacred experience. All we did was take the rover up to Pooh’s Corner, look at rocks, and spot an extraterrestrial lizard, but it was just… even if I HAD brought a thesaurus, I would not be able to find the words to describe it. Meditative, amazing, joyful, engaging, enlightening, all at once. We felt the weight of the helmets and packs long after we returned to the Hab and suited down.

After our trip, we found canned tuna, and tried to make mayo to bind it together into a tuna fish cracker spread. A pair of our crewmembers said it wasn’t bad, but as I stared on at the pumpkin puree-colored mass lumped between the prongs of a whisk, I had the complete opposite of a spiritual experience and felt less "enlightened monk" and more "Gordon Ramsey".

The rest of the day was good. Some of us took naps, some of us talked. We learned how to make agar (the gel-like substance found in petri dishes) in a classroom setting and went on a hunt around the Hab for surfaces to swab. Within the next few days, we’ll try to guess who swabbed what based on the pattern of bacterial growth. A crew member threw out the joke that we would be safe to put the samples in the incubator, so long as we didn’t wake up encased in goo. That may contribute to some John Carpenter nightmares later tonight.

As I write this, the crew, including Atila and Shannon, are seated in the upper floor of the Hab. We are about to have Spam and rice for dinner. I’ve eaten enough candy bars (only Mars brand, of course) and dehydrated strawberries that my stomach grumbles, so it looks like this trip will have two end results for me: a wealth of knowledge on the whole process of simulation learning, and the loss of at least 5 pounds.