Journalist Report – December 23rd

Sol 05
Journalist Report
Authored by Anselm Wiercioch

The main event of the day (other than fresh scones) was the second
major EVA to the area we’ve named the “dinosaur quarry.” There are a
lot of interesting geological formations there that resemble dinosaur
bones. The area seems like it may have been a small reservoir at some
point, but is obviously long since dried up. It’s about 15 minutes
away on our individual electric rovers. A cold, bumpy ride but not too
bad. Some insulation lessons were learned from the first expedition on
Sol 03. After a long exploration of the quarry area, the crew
regrouped in the hab. A few showers and some greenhab work rounded out
the majority of the day.

The weather was pretty typical today – bland skies and lots of cold. A
small amount of precipitation, but not much stuck. Still too little
data to draw conclusions about that. We shouldn’t see much snow at
these latitiudes. I mean we’re hardly equatorial, but we’re a ways
from the pole.. Maybe the wind currents are strong enough to scape
some ice off and carry it all the way down? *shrug* Jury’s still out
on that.

Speaking of the cold, our greenhab progress is.. slow. We suspect some
small leaks in the insulation that are causing the heating system to
overload and shut down until things are near freezing, then snap back
on full blast. Back and forth. We attempted to seal some of the gaps
we found, but one of our mission commanders back home told us to
postpone repairs. Not sure yet how that will affect our research.
Hopefully some lettuce can last a few light frosts.. On the other
hand, all germination attempts are going well. We’ve got red and green
oak lettuce, raddish, and some mysterious unlabelled seeds that we
found stowed away in the hab.. I’ll let the biologists talk about that
more though. I’ll just complain about the weather instead.

I guess I shouldn’t be complaining about snow, really. Some of the
crew came from dry desert areas on earth and have never had snow for
the holidays. Chrismas is coming up soon (we haven’t been here long
enough for the time difference to throw us off yet – the first Martian
Christmas will still be on Earth’s Dec 25.) We all brought small gifts
for a white elephant exchange and are trying to decide on a fancy meal
to celebrate. I’m sure we’ll think of something interesting. We’ve got
a creative group.

Despite minimal coffee intake (gotta save water, ya know?), a lot of
freeze dried food, rare showers, intermittent wifi, etc., crew morale
is holding strong. Personality is obviously a major concern in the
astronaut selection process – technical skills are a dime a dozen, but
teams that work well under stress are more difficult to find. I have
high hopes for the coming week. We all bring very different attributes
to the table, but ones that fit together and are greater than the sum
of their parts.

Of course, even with the crew getting along well, I’m still more than
happy to complain. A massage and a shower would really hit the spot.
It’s only been a few days, but those helmets are heavy and hard on the
shoulders and We’re building up some considerable stank. We don’t have
those ISS goon’s luxurious air filtering system or low gravity to keep
things cleanly. Maybe we should just take turns snapping the airlock
open for half a second each and freeze drying all the bacteria off of
us.. Super dangerous. Not doing that.. At least for another 3 days..


Journalist Report – December 22nd

Sol 04
Journalist report to be posted
Authored by Anselm Wiercioch

It snowed for a few hours today. That’s not supposed to happen.

Going to have to put some serious effort into revamping our
understanding of Mars’ climate. Coldest day since we landed. The EVA
crew decided to postpone until tomorrow due to potentially inclement
weather. I’m not on tomorrow’s crew, but we might need to reprioritize
some climate data while they’re out.. Will keep investigating.

Otherwise, today was a slow day. Some progress was made in the
greenhouse, and the network connectivity issues persist despite many
hours of messing with it. Felt like a snow day in elementary school
where you’re off class and can feel christmas around the corner.

Our crew engineer engineered some cinnamon raisin swirl bread and it’s
magical. The freeze dried food stores will probably start to wear on
us eventually, but for the time being we’re living it up. As long as
coffee and tea holds out, crew morale is going to be coasting just

Connor and I’s sleep schedule is holding out strong. We aren’t being
too strinct about the schedule and we aren’t going too extreme – still
a solid six hours or so per night, spaced into ~3 naps. We’ve been
ever so slightly tired but that’s to be expected on the first day or
two. Generally feel pretty energized though.

The most annoying thing at the moment for me is just being cooped up
in a tin can. Really struggling to understand how all those super
smart engineers on the ground decided a treadmill wasn’t necessary.
Yoga and pushups only get you so far. The hab’s air system isn’t
exactly refreshing either. Meh. It’s all good though. I’m sure we’ll
get used to it. Or at least, we’ll be gone before it really starts to
get to us.

We did find a massive binder of awesome (mostly old and/or super
goofy) movies, so that’s helping the nights pass faster after work is
done each day.

Nothing too crazy. The days are moving by faster as a whole.


Journalist’s Report – December 20th

Authored by Anselm Wiercioch

We put together a schedule yesterday, but it may take some time to get
on that sleep schedule. We all woke up about an hour late today.
Fortunately, we didn’t have anything super time sensitive on the
agenda so we just shifted everything back an hour. Good to go.

Everyone handled their own breakfast and we had a morning briefing
around 11am. We decided to prioritize an EVA as soon as possible after
landing and ensuring basic resources were available in order to assess
the situation. The hab lands automatically and there haven’t been any
mishaps since the early moon colonization days, but it never hurts to
check. Most of our systems showed nominal by last night, so our
briefing this morning mostly revolved around prepping for that

Around 11:45, the first EVA crew was suited up and ready to roll out.
The suits took some adjustment to get everyone fitted, but even at
their best they were heavy and awkward. The suits are thickly
insulated and restrictive (not that I’m complaining, freezing isn’t
fun), and the helmets cut your field of view to about 60 degrees
vertical and 90 horizontal. Functional, but it takes some getting used
to. Our commander has some vibrating-boot-augmented-reality system
that’s supposed to identify obstacles so that you can keep your head
up. After wandering around in these suits a bit, I think a system like
that could be pretty handy. Guess we’ll find out later this week. At
noon the three of us (Commander Gibson, Geoffrey, and myself.) entered
the main airlock. The hab crew walked through the depressurization
proceedures while the three of us walked through our own mental
depressurizations. A few seconds later the outer door opened and we
stepped onto the surface of an entirely new planet.

You’re supposed to have some deep, meaningful message to drop at this
point. Something short but poignant. “One small step for man” and all
that jazz.

We were more focused on not dying. The suits (uncomfortable as they
are) are designed to keep us warm and alive and oxygenated, but it’s
one thing to read the spec sheet and another to put your life on the
line testing them in an environment you’ve never seen before. An
environment nobody has ever seen before with their naked eyes. It’s
beautiful. The landscape isn’t much crazier than the Utah desert, but
there’s something immensely humbling about seeing it. It’s hard to
describe. We’re further away from earth than anyone has ever been. And
we’re going for a hike.

We’re not nearly poetic enough for this. What we are though, is alive.
We looked over our own and each other’s suits and we ran all typical
system checks and everything looks good. We sent a plan to CAPCOM that
we’d be circling the hab at a half mile radius, and there’s a hill to
the north that offers a good vantage point, so we head that direction.
Once we reach the top of the hill, the land plateaus for a solid mile
or two before hitting some steeper hills. Looking back, the hab
appears well settled. Nothing unexpected. The landing algortihms did
their job perfectly and everything was in place before we woke up.

The landscape is mostly soft dusty hills with clay and rock
interspersed. Rolling hills suround the hab (the site was carefully
selected to avoid dust storms and provide the best landing
opportunities) but off in the distance there are many plateaus and
further away, snow capped mountains. The thin atmosphere makes the
limited color spectrum pop vividly. Rich reds and browns dominate, but
there are streaks of purple and grey and blue interspersed and they
break things up nicely. The sky is gray and dull, but not cloudy.
Just.. flat. It sounds sad, but it’s not. It’s a warm, comforting
gray, and it makes the surface feel even richer.

We take some recon photos to compare to our maps later, and we head
off to the north, following the ridgeline. After another half mile or
so, we run into a dry stream bed that runs back down to the desert
floor. We follow the stream as far as it goes and reach the ground.
Another five or ten minutes wandering yielded a broken chunk of solar
panel and an old, worn battery. Must’ve been from one of the ancient
rovers we sent, back in the day. Comforting to see another thing made
by our species, even if it’s been torn to shreds. Nothing useful
though. We’ve been out for about an hour now, so we head back toward
the hab and open coms for the other crew to prep the airlock for our

When we get back, we go through the motions, careful not to track dust
too far from the airlock. We strip our suits and help the second crew
get their packs on. We have water now, and even though mars is chilly,
our suits are warm and our packs are heavy. A shower is definitely on
the agenda. After we get the second group out the door and ensure
their systems are functional, we take turns manning the radio,
showering, and eating lunch. Canned spinach and salmon. Nice.

A nap and some basic reports later, the second crew returns. They
followed much the same path as us, and noted a lot of similar
observations. Double EVA was a success. Ok guys, our work here is
done. Good job. Let’s go home.


Not quite. Another day down and 13 to go. Let’s rock and roll.


Journalist’s Report – December 19th

Journalist’s Log – Sol 01

Waking up from cryo is strange, but after cycling a few hundred times in training, we’re all used to the feeling. Waking up from cryo and seeing the surface of another planet is not something you get used to.

We woke up slowly. All around the same time, but one by one. Not on much of a schedule yet. We’ll put that together after breakfast. Our emails are full of automated messages from CAPCOM. They know we’re “out cold” and aren’t expecting any response. Still, the crew works through their inboxes and we pass along a notification that we’ve successfully arrived and comms are functional.

We spent some time slogging through the ship’s stores (sorry, it’s the “hab” now, isn’t it..) and eventually decided on pancakes. We were supposed to save the mix for a special occasion, but collectively decided that hitting the surface aptly qualifies. Freeze dried blueberries are oddly comforting after almost 300 days of being freeze dried yourself.

At around 11am MST (Mars Standard Time, obviously) a local supply drone arrived with fresh water. Right on time – the ship/hab’s small in-flight tank was close to 6L. Not more than a day or two max with all of us active. The crew got the water system rerouted to pull from the station’s existing tank instead of the hab’s small in-flight tank and we successfully transfered a fresh supply over from the drone. As we would find out later in the day (only after a few showers and meals of course..) the drone malfunctioned and poked a hole in our supply line. Nothing was actively leaking, but next time we transfered water we’d have some issues. A short engineering exploration was conducted and we were able to retrofit the line to bypass the leak. We’re waiting for some adhesive to dry and will be testing the system tomorrow. Fingers crossed. Dehydrating within 3 days would not be a great start for the first people on the red planet.

We were also able to get the hot water heater and the greenhab heater started. After lunch, the hab is already starting to feel like home. I guess that’s a good sign. Going crazy would also not be a great start. The crew is getting along well. Obviously we’ve known each other and trained together for some time. Waking up from hibernation in a strange place that’s inherently running low on standard survival resources will put a strain on any relationship though. Christmas, New Year’s, and a Birthday should help to waylay any concerns there, at least for the meantime.

Anyways, our bandwidth is limted and there’s plenty of work to do still and some non-frozen sleep would be nice. More updates tomorrow. As it stands, we’re alive and warm and nothing is too broken.