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Commander's Report
Gregory Leonard

On this our sol number 4 in full Mars simulation, we awoke today to cloudy skies, this despite weather forecasts calling for increased sunshine. Cloudy desert skies however often produce fantastic sunrises, and today did not at all disappoint. Just before sunrise several crew collected in the kitchen / social space on deck 2 to begin the day with morning Zen meditation lead again by Biologist Yusuke Murakami; followed by an introduction to basic yoga positions and breathing exercises lead by HSO Susan Jewell. All participants agreed that it felt great to really stretch out after about a week in the Hab, and after XO Heidi Beemer’s wicked workout regime yesterday.  Following group breakfast, I briefed the crew on my morning EVA plans, and directed my EVA team, including Scientist Juho Vehviläinen, XO Heidi Beemer, and HSO /Journalist Susan Jewell on their expected Mars surface tasks. This science EVA involves the use of some complex sensor – laptop – calibration field equipment; despite this, EVA preparation and suit-up was efficient and all four in the field team exited the airlock at 0945.

With Yusuke and Engineer Victor Lou managing HabCOM, engineering checks were completed first. The field team then walked southward along Cow Dung Road for about 300 meters to the survey grid, also pulling a wheel barrow to tote supplies and equipment. My study is evaluating visible to near infrared (VNIR) spectroradiometric fidelity between in-situ, sunlit rock and soils with the same target materials brought back to the Hab and measured under calibrated artificial illumination.  Averaged field spectra will also be used to calibrate / validate an Earth Observatory-1 Hyperion hyperspectral image acquired over MDRS site, and an Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Spectroradiometer (ASTER) multispectral image that I’ve requested from NASA to be acquired during our MDRS-144 mission period. Calibration / validation work is essential for expanding the range of accurate aerial platform and space-based sensor mapping and monitoring. This will be the case at FMARS (and also Mars) for more confident selection of study sites, and to complete interpretations of areas where field access is limited or not-possible. This was a productive and educational EVA: 17 of 28 primary field VNIR measurements and associated samples were acquired and returned to the lab (see Science Report).

With regards to the aforementioned cloudy skies, such conditions are rather welcome for the daily EVAs this crew has completed, and has yet to complete. Full-on sunny conditions can make for very hot in-suit EVA conditions which can more rapidly fatigue and dehydrate surface explorers, possibly decreasing effectiveness, shortening EVA times, or causing medical issues. All EVA crew today truly welcomed the lack of direct sun!

After lunch all crew attended a post-EVA debriefing, discussing what worked well, and what did not (see EVA report). Afternoon activities included Biologist Yusuke Murakami working on crew ‘portraits’ to be applied towards a cartoon / superhero version of MDRS-144 team (stay tuned for that). Yasuke and Geologist Toni de Morais Teles also worked on photo-documenting the newly constructed tunnel connecting the Hab, GreenHab and Musk Observatory structures. Engineer Victor Luo reviewed with us his first version of a virtual 3D tour of the Hab generated by numerous infrared stereo scans collected inside the Hab. OK this is jaw dropping stuff! (definitely stay tuned for this).

Last but not least, Juho and I had the undignified task of un-stuffing our stuffed toilet with a plumbing snake (oh the glamour of space exploration). All are relieved that it is functioning again.

At last it is our first Friday night in full Mars simulation. Perhaps time for a movie, karaoke, games, disco…?