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Archive: 21 Nov 2016

Science Narrative – November 21st

November 21, 2016 | Permalink


Jon Clarke

“Let’s talk about the weather!” Gilbert and Sullivan – The Pirates of Penzance

Today it rained.  Not very remarkable for some places, but here is means a complete change in schedule. Anything more than few mm of rain is enough to make the tracks impassable and the surface dangerous to work on while wearing the simulated space suits.  It can take a day or two for the surface to dry out to resume normal activities even if there is no more rain.


Rain at MDRS

What do we do with the expected schedule change?  We can’t do our EVAs, but there is always a list of other tasks that need to be done.  There are lab analyses, tidying, cleaning, indoor maintenance work, notes to be written up, reports to write, correspondence to catch up with. No matter how grey the weather is outside, the interior of the station is full of witty comments and laughter.


Dust storm on Mars Opportunity rover image (NASA/JPL)

What might happen on Mars that would similarly impact on activities?  There are dust storms of course, but these are more like smog.  Winds can be strong enough to move fine sand, but the storms these are nothing like the catastrophic events shown in the movie The Martian! Available power might be reduced (if Mars stations are solar powered), curtailing some power hungry activities but visibility is not likely to fall below a few kilometres or light levels to below that found on Earth just after sunset.  EVAs, at least in the vicinity of the station will still be possible.


Solar flares SOHO X-ray image of the Sun (ESA/NASA)

Space weather will also impact on Mars surface missions.  Solar events such as flares and coronal mass ejections will increase dose rates of cosmic radiation significantly from several hours to seeral days.  Astronauts inside their habitats will be well protected from by the habitat structure and the martian atmosphere. If more protection is needed it can be provided by external layers of sand bags, strategically placed water bladders, or simply camping out on the lower deck of the station.  However exploration activities will be curtailed for several days.  Crews away from the station on extended traverses in pressurised rovers will have less but still useful protection, and can choose between a rapid return to the station or parking in a sheltered location, such as next to a cliff.

Weather on Mars will be as much a topic of conversation as it is here!

Sol Summary – November 21st

November 21, 2016 | Permalink

Sol Summary Report (SSR):

Sol# 59

Person filling out report: Annalea Beattie

Summary Title: Rain and a day inside.

Mission Status: On track minus one day of bad weather!

Sol Activity Summary:

We were confined inside all day today as the rain came down and the desert floor turned to pink mud on the move so we did a solid day’s work indoors.

Claude-Michel wrote reports all day and adjusted plants, stopping only to work on the  new ATV. He and Yusuke removed the back of the seat to adjust it for the space suits. Yusuke worked on the plants as well, did the food inventory and analysed the GPS for documentation of EVAs. Anu spent most of her time in the lab lichen doing hypolith processing. Anastasiya and I both wrote journalist reports morning and afternoon with a short break for yoga. Alex worked on his hab design. Jon wrote his science post, did the photo report for today and cooked us Thai red curry (with pineapple).

That’s it for us, we are still busy now and for the next few hours.

Fingers crossed, the ground will dry out a bit overnight.


Reports Submitted to CapCom:

  1. Sol Summary- Annalea
  2. Journalist report- Anastasiya
  3. Claude-Michel- Food Report
  4. Alex – SuiTT Interface Report
  5. Pictures – Jon
  6. Photo of the Day -Jon


MDRS lessons:  

  1. Wide angle lenses make you look very fat.
  2. Take five minute breaks from working once every hour if you can.


Plans for tomorrow:  IMBP test and diary tomorrow. EVAs pending weather.

Crew Physical Status: We are an effective team.

Weather: Terrible, very wet

Anomalies: none


Sol Journal – November 21st

November 21, 2016 | Permalink

A Martian artist

Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of our special crew member – Annalea Beattie. Why special? Not every day you can meet an artist on Mars! Very energetic, curious and open to the world – my first impression of her.  

Annalea was born in Tasmania, Australia. Raised at the farm, where life dictates tough rules, which allow her to gain an immune system for harsh environment. At the same time, it helped Annalea to see the beauty of nature and built up connection with it. As many of us may experienced, first we try different professions, travel the world and only then realize what we love and want to do for the rest of the life. The same happened to Annalea – teaching at primary school, travel around the world and living at Hungary, Japan and India. Only after she understood that an art is what makes her happy. She got a Master’s degree in art at Melbourne University and started new chapter in life.

Annalea always looked at the art through extreme environment and the survival skills for life. Where are the most extremes and survival every day? The space! She understood the importance of cooperation with space and science professionals. Trying to combine science and art in her work, Annalea joined the Mars Society Australia to participate in space activities and get deeper into this field. There were several projects. Drawing the impact craters by simulating the crater with gunshots. Drawing the comets, after watching NASA videos of spinning and tumbling Eros and Ithica. And a half year ago Annalea came up with an idea of testing the value of field drawing in the space suit, which will help us understand the biological and geological context. Her first attempt was in the Northern India at Ladakh drawing the Puga hot springs.

In Mars 160 mission Annalea submitted around 10 field drawing experiments, which are: drawing in the space suit, drawing in the pressurized vehicle, comparison drawing suited and unsuited, drawing the sampling sites by following the scientists, drawing in spacesuit within time constraints, drawing in the spacesuit lichens using magnifier glass and hand lens, drawing the scientific methods, such as hypolith quadrats. She also tested the blind data experiment, it is when the drawings were given to our geologist to analyze and detect what geological features he sees. The fluvial patterns of sand was an answer from Jon Clarke, which is what Annalea portrayed.

What is the procedure of field drawing? Arrive to the location, put the scale in, mark up the constraints of the landscape and draw the site of the investigation. It can be lichens, hypoliths, hot springs, river beds, fluvial channels.    

By the time Annalea finishes this simulation, she will be the only artist who spend around 30 hours in total drawing in the space suit! This experience will help her to analyze the relevance of field drawing for the for planetary field science. Although she is already certain that the skill of field drawing will improve the collected science data and give better understanding of geological context. Instead of taking the pictures, the drawings will help to remember the landscape in richer details. Annalea’s work at Mars Desert Research Station is important to understand if those techniques will be useful on Mars. Apart from it, she is talented writer, who gives to the world an inside look of our life on Mars in weekly articles at

“When we prepare to go to Mars, we need science and engineering, but when we settle on the red planet, we would need different professions, including an artist. Why? Because art builds reach cultures beyond survival, connects people, gives freedom and light in the darkness. It gives us an opportunity to fail in the field, where usually there are no possibilities to fail. Space does not forget mistakes, but art gives us a safe space to fail” – says our dearest crew artist Annalea Beattie.

Crew Photos – November 21st

November 21, 2016 | Permalink

Looking for hypoliths

Looking for hypoliths


Our new toy

Our new toy








Uncertain sunrise

Uncertain sunrise


Watery sunset

Watery sunset

Recipe for Martian Nachos

November 21, 2016 | Permalink

Food Report for of Novembre 2016.

Martian nachos: (for hungry friend who want to get more junk food but don’t want to leave Mars.)

A bag of Nachos chips, (for favorite kind, and brand, we are not fancy on mars)
A lot of cheese, the more cheese the better (around 1 cup per person should be enough)
1 cup of dehydrated beef crumble / person.
Half a cup of dehydrated onions / person
Half a cup of dehydrated diced jalapenos / person
Some Salsa (as spicy as you want of your favorite kind and brand)
A bottle of maple syrup (I recommend real maple syrup not telephone pole juice syrup)


Step 1: In a pan fry the beef crumbles at medium heat. Until well cook and nice smelling.

Step 1.5: Hydrate the cheese if you have dehydrated cheese.

Step 2: Add the syrup and the onions in the pan, and mix while cooking.

Step 3: Put the Nachos in the oven at 350F for 10 minutes.

Step 3.5: Shred all the cheese if you don’t have dehydrated cheese.

Step 4: Once ready take the Nachos out of the oven, and spread the shredded cheese all over the nachos chips.

Step 5: Put the cheese cover nachos back in the oven until the cheese is well melted, then serve.

Step 6: In a bowl, take some Nachos and cover them with the cooked beef crumbles and some Salsa.

Step 7: Enjoy with you friend while watching hockey, football or Martian soccer.

We were supposed to get nachos that night, but because of the limit of our tool, we decided to combine the nachos and the beef crumbles in a spectacular delicious mess of cheese, carbs and corn chips.

As always please try this at home. Very little supervision is require, and to eat. Please enjoy.

Picture of the Day – November 21st

November 21, 2016 | Permalink

Snow on the Henrys

Snow on the Henrys

SSUlt report – 5th entry

November 21, 2016 | Permalink

This is why I am still debugging. I will present you the software architecture in its broad ways. Well I am writing debugging, but I am actually rewriting most of the things. And I may have a shot for testing the second version before the end of mission…

As I have stated, the interface is Web based. So the server and the client are running locally on the same device which is… the Raspberry Pi. Still on the server side Python scripts do the interface between the sensors measurements and the database.


The Web interface is complex to synthesize because it involves of displaying a lot different information. As a broad view of the amount of work on the Web interface, HTML and JavaScript code have a total of lines over 6000… And there are still more pages to write (the interface is not completed yet).

The PHP scripts do the job of being the interface between the database and the request from the client. So it is the smallest part of the work. Still over a 1000 lines of code to select, insert, modify, sort data from the database (and very occasionally from files).

The complexity comes with the Python scripts (more than 4000 lines). Because some of them communicate with sensors they cannot be used in a synchronous loop. For instance, because resources can be used for something else, a GPS position update can take few seconds to be received. In the meantime nothing else would be done except waiting. With just one device, it can be okay. With the dozen I have, waiting for one to reply would be very inefficient especially if all of them have delays between the request of measurement and the reception of the data (which is the case).

Instead, I use daemons scripts to do the job out of the main program. The main program start these daemons at the beginning. After, each daemon is autonomous and responsible for communicating with the device(s) on its protocols of communication (UART, I2C, SPI). When it receives data, it treats the data before putting the numbers into the database and in log files. Treated data goes into the database to be used by the interface, while raw data (can be Hex numbers) goes into log files as well as the errors if any.


This is the bottleneck! If for instance the UART and I2C daemons have to write data into the database at the same time, this will create an undesired lag. Same goes for writing into files. Since the client uses also the resources, sharing the Raspberry Pi limited resources seems to be the key of the impracticable lags of the interface.

In addition, if a daemon crashes, it will not be restarted. Then the rest of the EVA will lose all the data that was supposed to be collected.


When I started this project, I was focusing on the development of every part of it and not on the optimization (because I cannot do optimization on something I do not master). Now I know where to make modifications.

My next version will focus on making sure that the daemons do not write into the database nor into files. Instead the data will be sent back to the main program that will do the database interface and write into the log files periodically (but not at each loop as it is the case in the first version). Also the client will be moved out from the Raspberry Pi duty. The Raspberry Pi will be turned into a WiFi router so that any personal mobile devices (smartphone or tablet) will be able to display the interface by connecting to it. The backpack are going to be upgrade as WiFi hotspot! In the process of recoding most of the software, some modification into the database will imply modifications on the PHP/HTML/JS code as well. In total, over 11000 lines of code will be reviewed/rewritten in the coming weeks.

That’s okay. I have 460 hours to do that before the end of mission… Yes counting sleeping time! As a friend of mine would say: the urgent is done, the extremely urgent is on the pipe, for miracles expect a delay…