Latest Headlines:

Archive: 19 Dec 2016

Final Report of Jon Clarke

December 19, 2016 | Permalink

Jon Clarke – Mars 160 phase one final words

As the first half of the expedition ends I look back on what we have achieved here look forward to we aim to achieve at FMARS. Looking back, from my perspective, the missions has been a great success. We have collected significant new data on the geology and geomorphology of the area that should lead to publishable results. Similarly we have collected a lot of data on the operational aspects that will help us better understand the capabilities of analogue field exploration. The context of what we aim to do at the two stations lies at the heart of the twin mission concept, the similarities and differences between the two stations and their settings and the work done at each.

Both stations are similar design, differing mainly in details. Both stations both are located in arid environments which have many Mars analogue features. The focus of both halves of the mission is on operations, carrying out exploration and field science under operational constraints similar to those which would exist on Mars missions. These include working while wearing simulated space suits, limited facilities and resources, restricted, asynchronous communications, similar core station structure, almost identical crew and leadership, and executing extensive and multi-disciplinary field research over many months.

The differences arise from the contrasting settings. MDRS is located in a mostly hot desert, FMARS in a cold desert (although it must be recognised that the MDRS field area is subjected to frost for at least 160 days of the year). The geology at MDRS consists of Jurassic and Cretaceous non-marine to marine clastic sediments, that of FMARS of Ordovician to Silurian marine carbonates. FMARS is underlain, like the Martian surface, by permafrost, absent from MDRS. The prime feature of FMARS is that it is located on the rim of the Haughton impact crater. Impact processes are important factors on the surface of Mars and FMARS is in a unique location where such processes are overprinted by permafrost.

Other differences exist in the human context of the two expeditions. We expect the facility at FMARS to be more basic, more isolated and more confined than MDRS, with far less interactions with mission support. In this regard it will be a sterner test of the crew. Consequences of any problems will be potentially much more severe for the individual, the crew, and the mission. However during the first phase of the mission the crew has shown itself capable of working together as a caring and bonded team, with few disagreements, and I expect this to be an asset for the much more severe conditions of the Arctic.

Looking forward to the Arctic I would expect a stronger emphasis on the geological aspects of the research because of the presence of two experienced geologists on the crew instead of one. This would be both in the area of specific research and research in support of the biological objectives.

Final Report of Claude-Michel Laroche

December 19, 2016 | Permalink

Claude-Michel Laroche – Mars 160 first phase last words

For me, this mission was important, when trying to put my thought together to think about what this mission means to me, I was a little conflicted. This mission is very dear to me, that is for sure, at the same time I am also happy it is coming to an end, and will miss it.

My role for this mission was to take care of the systems of the MDRS complex and to manage the Smart Pot project from the inside. The Smart Pot project was by far the most satisfying, frustrating, and rewarding project I had to work on. Satisfying because seeing the plants growing everyday gave me the feeling that what we were doing was working and worth doing. This project was for us about verifying the technology, to make sure it was working, but our reward was the plants themselves, the fruit they bear and what we saw grow from our hands and work, and what ended up in our plate at the end of the mission. It was frustrating because we faced difficulties in growing plants and some of them did not survive the process and our care.

My days were without rest. I got out of my comfort zone, several times, as everyone in the crew did, I won’t say it was easy, but nothing worth doing is easy. No matter how hard we worked together or individually on our things, we were always a unified crew and that is nothing I ever had before.

I will not be part of the second half of the mission in the Arctic and I wish the best for all my crew mates and will support them remotely as best as I can, like I tried to do on this half of the mission.

Final Report of Anushree Srivastava

December 19, 2016 | Permalink

Anushree Srivastava – Mars 160 phase one final words

Mars 160 mission in the Utah Desert is towards its end. I think we have not just performed a Mars simulation but lived a life, a life which was entirely different from what we had been living. It is a bonding that we have created with our Hab and with each other. We became a family. We had our both stressful and funny moments like all families have, but I think somewhere, we all learned to be unconditional in our approaches to ensure the harmony inside our isolated Martian home. I was going to jot down things that I would miss, but I think, I am going to miss everything.

Being part of a long-term Mars simulation mission and living in an isolated condition is not easy. You tend to feel monotony sometimes or want to stay confined into your own world, but then your WORK reminds you the love you kept harbouring in your heart and you crossed all the boundaries to chase it, to achieve it. You remind yourself that you are working for a mission that not everyone has the opportunity to be part of. I think, to not to lose the perspective is the biggest challenge of a long term simulation mission. The most wonderful thing I found about our sojourn at MDRS is – we lived and grew beautifully. It is simple to say and sounds idealistic, but we have done it.

I am coming back to MDRS as Crew Biologist and the Executive Officer of Crew 172. So, I will be carrying forward my Mars 160 science goals in the Utah desert for another fifteen sols. Mars160 mission is not over yet. Now, with the culmination of the first phase of this mission, there is a dawn of another phase, hope, and challenge – the Arctic. Our mission in the Arctic is going to be much more challenging, in terms of field science, safety and habitability. The first phase was a test of our efficiency as a crew and the patterns of mission operation, to prepare us for the practicalities and upcoming hardships of living in a true extreme environment of the Arctic. We were supposed to learn what worked and what not, in order to apply those lessons when we embark on the Arctic mission. I still remember that it was a ‘mission’ for me even to arrive at MDRS. I believe this tryst of me and my work is what kept me going through these 80 sols and will continue to do so for another 80 sols.

Final Report of Annalea Beattie

December 19, 2016 | Permalink

Annalea Beattie – Mars 160 first phase final words

At the end of this three months we have become explorers in this desert. This last quarter has been the greatest. Now we know each other well and we are really bonded together as a crew by our common goals for the Mars 160 mission. We want it to work and we are sure we can do it.

In terms of our crew working as a team, we know we have done well. We work together to share our experiences, our daily plans, our field trips, and any work that needs to be done around the Hab or sometimes we just hang about in an easy way. Even wearing the spacesuits provokes communal activity and shared understanding. Constructing roles during training and field trips strengthens our crew. We support one another through the different kinds of work we do and through the physicality of a simulation which requires our endurance.

Inside it’s much the same. We contribute to the way the Hab is run, and there is a continual and healthy balance between autonomy and obligation. It’s a respectful situation and we work hard to protect it. There is no substitute for working together and learning to speak the same language about how the mission proceeds. Alex, our Commander has done a fantastic job in managing diversity within our group. He is passionate and has so much stamina, always juggling between tasks and our different interests as crew members.

Framed by the science, a key part of my own research is to explore perspectives about what it means to do field drawing in the spacesuit when we arrive on the surface of Mars. Within the limitations of simulation, I’m focused on the field science and my goal is to create a set of tools, practices and protocols that support geologists to use their own observations and knowledge to understand where they are, through drawing and field notes.

All the results from my tests field drawing on science EVAs indicate that there is very little difference between field drawing in the space suit and field drawing out of the suit.

With the right materials, tools and protocols, extraterrestrial geologists, constrained by bulky heavy space suits, will be able to interpret and evaluate a site using field drawing, as well as improvise and respond to the unexpected, just like they do here on Earth. There is no reason why not. Understanding what this means will be my focus for next year’s research in the Arctic.


Final Report of Anastasiya Stepanova

December 19, 2016 | Permalink

Anastasiya Stepanova – Mars 160 phase one final words

What is 80 days for you? Is it a lot or too short for a space mission? Usually astronauts spend three months on International Space Station, therefore we passed already the time test. We did not go crazy from 80 days away from the Earth. Actually, in the first part of the Mars 160 mission we passed too many tests, some not planned at all, some confusing, challenging and some enjoyable. The first lesson learned – things will be as they are and not as you expected. You can draw positive or negative conclusion out of it, but just accepting the fact and dealing with it means you have already passed the test. The second lesson learned – there is no limits to human’s ability to adapt and keep on going, living and surviving. At the station we are surrounded by limitations all the time and instead of stressing out, we are liberated from Earth habits and try to like the new way of living. The third lesson learned – there is never enough of new skills and knowledge. I like the saying “the more we learn the more freedom we have”. The knowledge is a powerful tool to overcome any critical situation, to deal with problems, to help and to create. These are the three pillars of knowledge on which my Mars160 experience is built.

Every day was filled with various activities from cooking to dissolving gypsum samples and waiting for microorganisms to grow. The busy schedule kept the crew in healthy psychological environment and in good brain shape. I guess the amount of work and new bridges to cross were the reason I did not miss Earth as much as it would be expected. Not even once, I was sad and lonely. Not even once, I wanted to give up and run away. Not even once, I regret changing my life in order to be on this unique mission.

The day has come. “Welcome back to Earth” – said Shannon on the radio, the Director of MDRS and Principal Investigator of our mission. For a few seconds I stopped in time, looked from aside to this sudden new world. Or, better to say, an old world but with new me. I will miss the silence and tranquility of isolation from the outside world, the breathtaking view of the desert, the beautiful and cold nights, the wit jokes, the friendship and crew bonding, the everyday learning, the life on Earthy Mars. Is it the end? No, it is just the beginning!

Final Report of Commander Alexandre Mangeot

December 19, 2016 | Permalink

Alexandre Mangeot – Mars 160 phase one final words

For me, the mission started a while ago. One year and half ago actually. At that time the roles were unclear. But the time passing, my role shifted few times before being assigned as Commander. It is a strange feeling to have desired this position for so long and them boom this is happening. And while you are still dreaming you just see the bright side without worrying too much about the responsibilities. But soon enough you realize the duty that now is yours and just hope for that everything will be fine.

I never thought that my presence in the Crew would be worth if I just come without any project. I thought it was expected from me to assume my role of commander and still conducted personal projects. And projects, I had plenty. So I took one (actually I started with four different technological projects), an ambitious one, and I worked on it during 6 months before the actual mission even started. But over here my prime duty is not to make my own personal project working. My prime duty is to make sure that everyone works toward the same goal. That may sound easy, but it is not. It requires a lot of attention and dedication. On a seven people crew you cannot count on the inertia of a massive crew, so you have to be careful of every detail. This was demanding. Especially because I spent 6 months designing my spacesuit interface and nothing was working how it was supposed to; but despite that I had to stay focus on the crew dynamic rather on my project. It is hard to have sacrificed a lot of personal time for a project and not being able to give proper attention when it is supposed to work. But at the end of mission while I was discussing with mission Director Shannon Rupert I could have come without a project to conduct because Commander is a full time job. So for the Arctic, I do not intend to come back without project but I must make sure that it will not require too much time so I can fully focus on my responsibilities.

For the mechanical engineer and hybrid rocket scientist that I am, starting a project that aims to develop a spacesuit user interface is challenging in more than one way. Learning everything that needs to be learnt in electronics and software development in order to design something that works (somewhat) in a 6 months timeline is far from being easy and without pitfall. But I also had to manage my budget and the logistics of all the components. So quite obviously, I made decisions in the development process that turned out to give me so much hard time during the mission attempting to make the hardware or/and the software working. I was not anticipating that because I am too optimistic – the proof is that I brought enough material to make 4 interfaces. So during my little despairs I was preparing for the worse: nothing will be working by the end of the mission. Hopefully, there were enough small victories here and there to keep the motivation alive and for pursuing the goal with the little time I could spare. It ends-up that the last EVA performed in Sim was dedicated to the ultimate test of the interface. I remember that I delayed this EVA by one hour because all my checklist board was not all green. I was torn by the fact that I was messing with the schedule. But I also remembered that you do not launch a rocket if someone says “no go”. And this was the best decision. Because now I can be very happy to announce that during this EVA everything behaved like it was supposed to be. I have the navigation data, the temperature and humidity inside and outside the helmet, the ambient atmospheric pressure, the light measurements from infrared to ultraviolet, the battery voltage, and even my heartbeat rate! Yes, for those who read my SSUIt project entries, the SPI line was operational on this EVA. So in addition of rewriting/reviewing 11 000 lines of code for the second version of the software, I was able to make progress and push a little bit further the features. So for the Arctic, I will have a much better hardware architecture thanks to the lessons I have learnt and an interface ready to go.