Journalist Report – May 3rd

Crew 180 Mission Journalist 3rd May 2017

Prepared by Victor Roman, Crew Journalist

Date May 3 2017

MDRS Sol 5 update

After breakfast, Commander Corrales and Crew Engineer Caballero took advantage of the morning reviews of the generator and installed the microgravity machine outside the hab. The goal was to synthesize nanoparticles in a radiation environment.

In the meantime the rest of the crew had a conversation where they shared their views on the isolation effects on humans in space exploration and they got to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter as long as they had Colombian coffee. In fact, the delicious beverage did its work on the crew’s brain and they agreed to create a small windmill to generate electricity.

After the formal EVA, the crew had lunch and everyone went to their labs to work on their experiment. The mission journalist interviewed Commander Corrales and they had the chance to talk about what is like to be in the MDRS.

Journalist Report – May 2nd

Prepared by Victor Roman, Crew Journalist

Date May 2 2017

MDRS Sol 4 update

The sol started very early in the morning. We established a strict schedule of having breakfast, lunch and dinner together so we can get to know each other deeply; so far it’s working perfectly: tosol, we shared thoughts about the current situation in our countries and how corruption harms our economies.

Also each of all us started working in our researches. For example Greenhab Engineer Reyes went to the greenhab and started growing his “uchuvas” (Physalis peruviana); Commander Corrales started recognizing her lab and Crew Engineer Caballero also worked with his rover. By the way, he mentioned a funny anecdote of how security at airports mistakenly took his little robot as a dangerous device.

Later we had an EVA to scout close by places, get used to the suits and vehicles, and take pictures. What we didn’t know is that Health Officer Valencia had a surprise test for us. He made us think he was feeling unwell and we had to evacuate him right away. We were worried for him and we were relieved when we found out it was all set up. Now we are back at the hab having a conversation about our day.

Journalist Report – May 1st

Prepared by Victor Roman, Crew Journalist

Date May 1st 2017

MDRS Sol 3 update

Busy sol, the simulation officially started. During the morning, after breakfast, Shannon came and gave us the final information about the life here, many anecdotes that will help us to understand more closely how life might be in the MDRS.

After that, Commander Corrales, EVA officer Piña and Greenhab engineer Reyes took the first EVA. The rest of the crew helped them to put the suits and helmets on. It looked heavy and difficult to carry on the whole time… later on we realized that it was indeed heavy and hard when we had to go out and the welcome school children that visited us.

Hosting children was fun. They asked a lot of questions about our work and the simulation. We enjoyed answering them. Later we had lunch and talked about our lives: what we expect about this experience, why we are doing this and personal anecdotes. The stories and motivations are inspiring, we all agree that we are working toward a goal greater than ourselves: taking humans to Mars.

Journalist Report – April 27th

Prepared by: Dana Levin, Crew Journalist
   Date: 27Apr2017
   MDRS Sol  Day 3 update:

Once again we had a day of crisis. There is certainly no chance that these were planned ahead of time though, we must just simply be a horribly unlucky crew. After breakfast several crew members remained sore after Sarah “Connors” nightly physical condition beating. For this reason we elected to split the expedition into two teams. One would stay in the hab to conduct some just in time training on Star City operations and Sleep physiology while the other would perform a survey of a nearby area with poor satellite imagery. However the habitat teams day of rest was not to be…

An alert from Mission Control threw the team into action. A hasty rescue was planned and the science objectives had to be abandoned to deal with the emergency. While the day was long, the team performed admirably and managed to recover all field equipment, prevent horrific injuries and ultimately finish the science objectives including recovering a rare Martian dessert from the desert to complete tonights dinner. The post EVA debrief and clean up was also a long day, but in the end the day was endorsed with such phrases as “I had moments of sheer terror” and “I feel like I won the golden ticket” along with “I am securing VDs package” and even included a disco dance on the Martian surface to ensure a fellow crewmember’s health. We even found a secret message written in stones behind the habitat in an area which we shall dub Lemur Point. We are thrilled to have had another shipment of water last night which will certainly be enough to see us through our mission. However, we discovered that sanitation ops without a functional water heater in 50F weather is far less pleasant than one might expect. It might even rival living with nine uncleaned people in a sealed habitat for a week in terms of pleasantness. 

We are now settling down to eat dinner as a crew, and prepare for our discussion of intercultural issues in spaceflight and plan our intra-crew video competition. Looking forward to tomorrow’s experiences and what new disasters the sunrise may bring…

Journalist Report – April 26th

Prepared by: Dana Levin, Crew Journalist
Date: 26Apr2017
MDRS Sol Day 3 update:

Sol Day 3 began for us with confirmation that our water supply would be replenished by an autonomous pick up truck. This was very welcome news for both our parched lips and our noses. We celebrated with discussions of Sex and Gender issues in Spaceflight, Spaceflight Associated Neuro-Occular Syndrome, and Radiation Injuries in Spaceflight. We then prepared for our third “EVA to Tim’s Peake”

Zone: 12S Easting: 518300 Northing: 4249300

of this mission with our briefing and suiting up. The Group deployed themselves smoothly with excellent teamwork and enthusiastically set out to accomplish out goal. The team then split up into two groups to make the tasks easier. The coordination between these two groups and the Habitat was unparalleled and the mission was a resounding success. However, once again disaster struck. This was our third incident, the crew is beginning to suspect a pattern….
In any case our breathable air was stretched to the limit for our return but the expert leadership and cool heads of MDRS 179 prevailed and Our crew was successfully evacuated back to the Hab. A full assessment was conducted and stabilizing care was provided. All crew somehow remain well despite significant health challenges in these past few days. Crew morale is significantly boosted by messages from those back on Earth we are able to receive during our comm passes, particularly Philadelphia mission support and to our Capcoms for the astronomy updates.
Following the EVA The crew ate lunch together, discussed the learning points of the day’s EVA and then settled in to discuss medical contingencies and spatial disorientation. We are looking forward to tomorrow’s tasks but we are feeling wary of what it may bring given how our past several days have gone…

Journalist Report – April 24th

Our crew successfully transferred control of the Habitat from MDRS 178 and began preparations for our stay. Day one consisted primarily of equipment check out in in situ training with our Rovers, space suits, navigation, and surveying gear. The rookies have adapted admirably under the guidance of our veteran instructors.
After a resupply from the advance landers preparations for our first EVA began. It began innocuously enough, with our crew in high spirits heading out to examine some targets previously identified by martian rovers and satellite imagery as high interest. We set off to seek our research fortunes in the Martian landscape with all crew members in high spirits and no inkling of the trouble that lay ahead…
While surveying for signs of ancient life in the desert landscape one crew member suffered an accident requiring us to abort the EVA and return to base. Fortunately, the skilled hands of crew 179 put the MD in MDRS and managed to keep the situation form getting out of hand. Our crew member was successfully evacuated from the martian plane and returned to the habitat without further incident. We have many more EVAs planned for our stay here and the crew is confident today’s emergency will be our last…
Prepared by Dana Levin, Crew Journalist

Journalist Report – April 20th

Journalist report Sol 10 – 170420

Mathieu « Mitch » Vander Donckt

Crew Journalist and Scientist

Crew 178 – UCL to Mars


Today comes with great news! Especially for me because it is directly liked to my researches, but also for those who want to know more about the geology of Mars. When humans first explored Mars, decades before sending astronauts, using probes, flybys, and rovers, their main goal was to find liquid water or prove that liquid water flowed on the planet in the past. That is the first step in the search for life, because life as we know it cannot appear nor thrive without the presence of this liquid so common on Earth but hard to find here. One of those rovers is of particular interest to me: Curiosity. Sent in 2011 to Gale Crater – not so far from here –, and staying operational during several years instead of one, it achieved by far more than what was expected. Its mission: study the habitability of Mars. One of its tools: an X-Ray diffractometer, able to analyse the structure of minerals at nanoscale level. A powerful device that validated the theory of presence of water in past Mars.

This morning I was flushed with excitement after the landing of the new package sent by Orbital Convoy. A Bruker diffractometer, small sized but powerful, will help us make new discoveries. Unlike Curiosity, we can cover great distances and make several analyses a day. Last week we explored our environment, taking samples of rock, soil or dust. Now with this instrument we will be able to assess the habitability of Mars with more efficiency than a rover, answer questions about the formation of this planet, and look for vital resources with a view to colonize the planet.

With our journey coming to an end, every member of the crew is aware that we need to terminate our fieldwork. Boss improved our communications outside the Hab, which will probably serve to next crews. Hoover marked the dangerous places around the station to improve our security, only Tarzan didn’t get the concept and tried to fall off a cliff, without major damage. After many tests, Dips is finally ready to detect muons, a cosmic radiation. From what I heard, Tarzan proved that we will need a good processing of our waste water in order to grow our food –it’s no good to pee in a bowl of rice. Patch finished her measurements and found contrasting geological layers in the underground that will help us understand how much ancient Mars was different. And finally, Coach still enjoys making us sweat.

Being on our found reserve, we came back to a what I call a student diet: pasta and (homemade) pizza – not so bad, Tarzan is Italian.

In a couple of days, we will welcome the next crew and share our experience with them. Bad and good habits, the maintenance of the station and all they need to know to survive in the Martian wilderness.

Journalist Report – April 17th

Journalist report Sol 7 – 170417

Mathieu « Mitch » Vander Donckt

Crew Journalist and Scientist

Crew 178 – UCL to Mars


A new day arises on Mars. The moral of the team is high, everybody being busy with their experiment or discovering new places and landscapes during Extra Vehicular Activity. We landed a week ago, and in a way a routine set in. Same schedule for the meals, at midday we mostly eat the bread that I bake – bread or brick, it depends on the courtesy of my crewmates – and in the evening with all our powder and dehydrated food we can let our creativity loose. Sometimes you even need more imagination to figure out what is in your plate, but it usually is tasty. We make one expedition every day, in general with a different team, location, or objective. We need to be coordinated: the team going outside the hab cannot split up for security reasons and our time is limited, so every second on the field matters. Living together, we get to know each other better. Boss is undoubtedly good at making unfunny jokes, Quentin aka “Dips”, our crew astronomer, is incline to fall asleep when we don’t give him an electrical shock, and we are all impressed by how good Tarzan is at crashing is drone.

But of course, every day has its part of discoveries and advances – this is why we are here. Now I’m working in the Science Dome with Tarzan on hydroponic culture of rice. We were respectively chemist and biologist before being astronaut, and our different ways of thinking about the same experiment is a good illustration of how the diversity of background is beneficial when composing an astronaut crew. The goal of this experiment is to assess the impact of urea on our plantations, and evaluate the impact of using our waste water to grow our food. One more step towards the food autonomy of Mars!

Interestingly, we watched “The Martian” a few days ago on our humble homemade cinema room and found some similarities between the movie and us. Let’s hope that we will not forget one of our crew members when we go home next week…

Journalist Report – April 15th

Crew 178 Journalist report Sol 5  15April2017
Prepared by: Mathieu « Mitch » Vander Donckt, Crew 178 Journalist and Scientist
Crew 178 – UCL to Mars
It is astonishing how the situation can deteriorate in a few hours. Being isolated, we cannot depend on external assistance. We need to rely on our own skills and training and have a blind trust in the abilities of our crewmates. That was proved during last day’s incidents, that we afterward named “the cowboy crisis”.
Sol 3 ended with the disappearance of two crew members. The dust storm that raged that night made any expedition to lead an emergency rescue, impossible. Besides, protocol forbids to go outside of the base at night, whatever happens. It is of course for our own safety, the lives of all the crew cannot be put at risk for an operation with such uncertain outcomes. However, it was thwarting to stay inside in such a time. We defined an area of search near the sector they were surveying the last time we had contact with them and decided to send one of Tarzan’s probes with an infrared camera. Due to the storm, it crashed into the Northern Rim, a mountain range north of the station. It was a risk to take, and worth it! On the last images send by the probe, we could see our two fellows sheltered at the base of the Rim.
A few hours and some minor incidents later, they were in the hands of “Coach”, which is not only our persecutor – I often hear cries of pain from the first floor when she “wants to make us more fit and healthy than when we were on Earth” with her workout – but is also our Health and Safety Officer. Tonight, we will use our only rations of fresh food to celebrate their return and the halfway through our stay on Mars. Tarzan and Patch told us how, after a weary night without sleep, they encountered cowboys. As you know, that’s impossible on Mars. I guess it was tiredness, the low visibility, and queer-shaped rocks. Or maybe they have gone crazy… We will see that in the following days.

Journalist Report – April 13th

Crew 178 Journalist report 13 APR 2017

Journalist report Sol 3 – 170413
Mathieu « Mitch » Vander Donckt
Crew Journalist and Scientist
Crew 178 – UCL to Mars

A new day begins on Mars. I can see the sun rise from the Science Dome, where the windows are the largest of the station. We have more of them in the Habitation Module, looking like boat portholes, giving a nice view of the vicinity of the base but incomparable to the Dome’s 180° panorama. The sunrise in the morning is a predictable event, witnessed hundreds of times by the majority of human beings. Nevertheless, I never came across someone who couldn’t find beauty in it.

It is a bit different on Mars. Same Sun, same phenomenon, but a different impression. We orbit further away from the centre of our solar system than our neighbour the Earth, which makes the Sun look smaller. The composition of the atmosphere is different, and it is disturbing to see how the colour of the sky can change. At the horizon, we can see a violet radiance on top of a red stony landscape. Even with those unusual details, the slow rise of the Sun still somehow feels like a familiar vision, that makes me peaceful.

After the first expedition of yesterday, it is good to have a day in the station. It was an uncommon experience that we will repeat later during our stay on Mars, but we have to prepare more the next time. We were surprised that the spacesuits brought so much restrictions, it wasn’t the same version with which we trained on Earth. Furthermore, the experiment was a failure: the radar malfunctioned when we got to the area of interest. Patch tried to identify and solve the problem when we were in the field to avoid wasting the precious time that was allowed to our expedition, without any success. In the end, we had to get back to the station exhausted and without any results. After working on it for several hours, Patch found a solution and wishes to go out again.

At midday, it was decided that she would go, with Calogero, aka “Tarzan”, Second in Command and Crew Biologist. He wants to make 3D maps of different zones of interest, using very precise probes. Beneficial to everyone, those probes will be more accurate than satellites, and we know for sure that it is hazardous to go outside without a good knowledge of our environment.

They have departed for several hours now. The wind blows harder and harder, we can feel the walls of the base shivering. No new of “Tarzan” and “Patch”. The anxiety rises in the station, as one of the major natural danger during our missions outside are the dust storms. Winds of high speed and no visibility are real life-threatening hazards. Our medium-range communication system is deficient and we lost contact with them. It will be the job of “Boss” to improve our communications by the use of relays, but he still needs to put together the devices and place them.

Still no news. We can just wait and hope for the best.
Moon rising


Dehydrated cake


Night at MDRS


A good physical shape is mandatory


Astronaute photo shooting


Miner of liberty