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1204-CommandersReport

Commander's Report
12/04/2014
Gregory Leonard

Days are very busy in Mars analog simulation: each day all crew have scheduled meetings, chores, tasks, inspections, planning, possible EVAs, and of report writing. Therefore the time we spend enjoying personal or team activities that fall outside these routines become more essential for a healthy and harmonious crew. In this regard we are fortunate to have a mission team that possesses many interests and talents, and importantly the willingness to share them. This day began with some crew participating in a lesson and some practice in Zen meditation lead by Biologist Yusuke Murakami. We found that giving the critically objective left-side brain a rest, for even a few moments is a rather a refreshing experience; and indeed a fine way to begin the day.

Group breakfast was followed by daily plan briefing. Crew Scientist Juho Vehviläinen reviewed his planning and field objectives for EVA-3. Engineer Victor Luo and myself were provided with our specific tasks to assist in Juho’s work which is designed to revisit the traverse sites from his EVA-1 work, this time collecting deeper vertical profiles for his dielectric soil moisture and temperature measurements (see Science Report). All crew then assisted in preparation for the EVA team. Executive Office Heidi Beemer along with Yusuke managed all HabCOM operations for the EVA.

We are becoming very proficient at donning the space suits, today getting out of the airlock and onto the analog Mars-surface at 0937. An engineering EVA preceded the science EVA; this included refilling the Hab water tank. EVA-3 crew then used the motor-powered all-terrain vehicles for the remainder of the field work, which proceeded very smoothly. This EVA involved excavating holes in the soil, as deep as 30 centimeters for Juho to obtain regularly spaced vertical measurements. The exertion of digging holes often lead to sweat and condensate within our helmets, which quickly dissipated with a minutes rest. Juho and Victor collected measurements, while I investigated the nearby geology. There are absolutely stunning exposures of Jurassic to Cretaceous, transgressive-regressive sedimentary rock sequences in this area. In everyday language I am observing heaps of red, grey, brown, white colored, layer-cake rocks composed of mud, silt, and sand grains. These rocks weather into an array of small mesas and conical and half-dome shapes; and they are the correct age to host dinosaur fossils, which indeed they do. The EVA allowed for a 15 minute validation of sample grid coordinates for my planned EVA work tomorrow.

Crew Geologist Toni de Morais Teles is prepping for his astrobiological EVA, sterilizing his collection tubes, inspecting field sampling tools. GreenHab Officer/XO Heidi Beemer continues to address the leakage issues with the GreeHab hydroponics system. Leaked water has however been captured, to be applied towards toilet flushes.

More Hab cleaning occurred today with Yusuke and Geologist Toni de Morais Teles tidying up and vacuuming the entire lower deck space, and making more counter space available for the laboratory phase for several crew science investigations. HSO / Journalist Susan Jewell began preparing to collect video of the crew in day-to-day Hab work and other activities. Filming has begun! The late afternoon found several crew hammering through a workout and exercise session lead by MDRS-144 XO and Army 1st Lieutenant Heidi Beemer using her TRX-resistance straps secured from an I-beam in the lower deck.

After almost three days in full simulation, we are indeed settled into the Hab, with our respective individual and team roles, and settled into the realization that this group is really learning to live, work, and develop new skills together. Something to add here: living on Mars, in the confines of the Hab is not only about regulating resources, and getting by on the minimum, but also about living in the abundance of what is provided here, and what we provide to each other, our team together. Indeed we’ve taken full ownership of this magnificent station and its incredible well-established mission support systems.