MDRS Mission, Sol 2

Here are the science updates, sol records, and journalist post from the team at the Hab on the second sol of their mission. Check out Facebook for posts including the photos from each day.

Journalist’s Log – Sol 2

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 adventure.

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 procedures 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 algorithms did their job perfectly and everything was in place before we woke up. Solid.

The landscape is mostly soft dusty hills with clay and rock interspersed. Rolling hills surround 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 arrival.

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.


EVA Jumping for Joy
EVA Jumping for Joy

Science Log – Sol 2

Today’s work (Sol 2) was all about setup and preparation of the equipment necessary for transplant of cultivars into the GreenHab. The first task in this process was to review the temperature data from the night of Sol 1 and determine if turning on the heater had the desired effect of keeping the climate acceptable for plant growth. While the hab remained above freezing all night (recorded low of 48 F) we determined it was likely that the gradient effect was preventing the warm air from getting down to the level of the temperature sensor. Therefore, we installed a box fan above the cooler to help increase the air circulation and hopefully reduce this gradient. We also experienced a high of 108.7 F at 12:17. We are now manually using both the heater and cooler for the coming days to try and maintain a relatively constant temperature moving forward. We are postponing the move of plant from the hab to the GreenHab until tomorrow to ensure acceptable temperature variation throughout the day. During EVA, we evaluated the systems that are currently in the GreenHab and prepared the equipment for the introduction of the plants tomorrow. We also turned the cooling fan on during the middle of the day again to help regulate and equalize the temperature. When the first group came back from their EVA, Curtis & Co. was also at the hab and we were able to have a very informative discussion with them about the plans for the aquaponics system. They will be back later in the week with necessary equipment to help assist with that setup process as necessary. The last major accomplishment for us was the germination of several species of seeds that will be moved into the GreenHab tomorrow. These species included Green Oak Lettuce, Red Oak Lettuce, Radish, Pinto Bean, Kidney Bean, Popcorn, Carrot, Spinach, Onion and a mystery crop whose seeds were discovered in the pantry upon our arrival into the hab. Yay Mystery Crop!

Today I installed the weather station on the roof of the HAB with the help of Crew Engineer Geoffrey Andrews. The weather station on the top of the HAB will provide a good vantage point so that the solar radiation sensor will be unobstructed. This data will be used by the GreenHab scientists in order to quantify solar radiation changes throughout the day. I plan on moving this weather station to the GreenHab eventually to compare solar radiation levels.

One of the time-lapse cameras was placed in the GreenHab today to record the progress in there throughout the duration of the mission. Tomorrow I plan to install a time-lapse camera on our EVA at our final destination to monitor the landscape.

Outdoor Temp – 10 F – 51 F
GreenHab Temp – 46 F – 108 F
Wind – 11.9 mph, gust – 12.3 mph
Solar Rad. Max – 592.7 W/m^2
UV Index – 3
Outdoor Humidity – 12% – 45%

Mars Self-Sleep Study
Anselm, the crew journalist and I, Connor, have decided to embark on a change of our sleep patterns in order to gauge the effects and application to sleep patterns on Mars. We have decided we need more time for work and a changed sleep pattern may help with this. Most people sleep by getting 6-8 hours at night and being awake for 16-18 hours during the day. Instead of this pattern, Anselm and I have decided to reduce our nightly chunk of sleep to 3-4 hours and two one hour naps during the day. This will increase our overall awake time during the day to 19 hr. I anticipate being tired the first day but then adjusting quickly to this pattern.

Hopefully if this works and we become much more productive, we can recommend these types of patterns for future astronauts. The Martian day is a little over 24 hours and this has proven to mess up humans’ sleep cycles in certain tests. We want to explore alternative sleep cycles:

11-2 am sleep
(7 hr awake)
9-10 am nap
(6 hr awake)
4-5pm nap
(6 hr awake)

Daily Summary Report – Sol 2

SOL: 02
Person filling out Report: Anselm Wiercioch, XO
Summary Title: First Recon
Mission Status: Crew is alive and well
Sol Activity Summary: Received water refill, went on first EVA
Look Ahead Plan: Planning longer recon EVA tomorrow, considering sealing water connection further.
Anomalies in work: None significant.
Weather: High 51F, Low 10F,  wind avg 11.9mph, gust 12.3mph, humidity 12-45%, clear and sunny skies.
Crew Physical Status: Less nervous, less thirsty. Generally OK.
EVA: Scouted local area around hab. Explored northwestern ridge and stream to the north of hab.
Reports to be filed:
– Sol Summary
– Journalist/Commander’s Report
– Science Reports
– 6-8 Photos
– EVA Plan
– Operations Report
Support Requested: Will be keeping an eye on internet connectivity, but generally OK for the time being.

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