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1210-CommandersReport

Mars sols seem to tick by so rapidly, this despite the fact that Martian sols are slightly longer than an Earth day, 24.6 hours to be accurate. This is in part due to the ever-shortening days here at MDRS, as we move each day closer to the winter solstice. Mostly however it is due to the incredible breadth of engaging projects and activities with which we all fill our days here.

Breakfast consisted of coffee, tea, juice, and a tall stack of pancakes with maple syrup that were rapidly devoured by the team. We completed our daily schedule briefing which ended with crew Scientist Juho Vehviläinen reviewing his planning and field objectives for MDRS science EVA-8. Engineer Victor Luo was provided with specific tasks to assist in Juho’s dielectric soil moisture and temperature measurements; today’s EVA was designed to add additional traverse sites to his EVA-1 and EVA-3 work (see Science Report). All crew then assisted in preparation for the EVA team. Executive Office Heidi Beemer managed HabCOM operations for the EVA.

Today we had our first visitor to the Hab, KSL-TV (NBC affiliate) reporter Mike Anderson from Salt Lake City arrived just after 0900. We left a note on the inside airlock window instructing Mike to enter and seal the airlock. From there we provided him with instructions via an airlock radio to enjoy his 3 minutes of re-compression! I believe he enjoyed this rather unusual greeting and also understood the integrity with which we at the MDRS wish to conduct our mission. After crew introductions and a brief tour of the Hab, Victor showed Mike the 3D virtual model of the Hab he has developed, this using the Occulus Rift viewer; no doubt Mike was quite impressed, as is everyone who sees this for the for time. Mike then decided to follow Juho and Victor on their EVA, spending an hour or so observing and reporting on MDRS field activities and EVA operations.

Upon Mike’s return and once again recompression before entering the Hab, HSO Susan Jewell and I informed him of what the MDRS-144 mission (and those of MDRS-142, MDRS-143) represents: crew training and selection for the FMARS MA365 mission in the high Arctic. Susan then narrated and demonstrated a telesurgery operation, showing what it might be like when space-bound, and Mars teams and colonists need to complete medical operations. I explained my research of classifying surface materials with spectroradiometer measurements and its importance for calibrating / validating satellite-based imagery, and planetary mapping. Both Susan and I discussed the MA365 mission, its place and importance within the context of what analog missions have occurred in the past and those that are planned or in progress. We also answered questions regarding the challenges of such deeply isolated and confined analog missions, and why we choose to take part is such difficult work. Mike informed us that his MDRS-144 report should be airing tonight at 1830. We look forward to our 2-3 minutes of fame, and allowing the MDRS, our mission, and the Mars Society its deserved place in the limelight.

Mike departed just before the EVA team returned. We all enjoyed a tuna-mac-n-cheese lunch, completed our post-EVA debrief, and reviewed our afternoon projects and plans.  Juho and I completed sheathing the two walls of the new MDRS 7th stateroom in the loft, and laying down the carpeting. The space is ready for a crewmember slumber, although it requires some finishing work (e.g. perhaps priming and painting, adding some low-voltage lighting, a small desk fold-down desk, some cushions and a mattress, and covering for the domed ceiling, etc).

Biologist Yusuke Murakami completed more laboratory work and data recording from samples collected on his EVAs. This includes producing a stunning series of photomicrographs of his soil, rock, and vegetation samples. Some of us assisted Susan by providing short video bios and project descriptions; she is compiling team video for further outreach projects. Heidi added some material to the MDRS ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ manual that she has work very hard to compile; and she found time to bake another loaf of bread, and conduct an afternoon workout session in the lower deck! Geologist Toni de Morais Teles continued his translations of MDRS-144 journalist reports into Portuguese; this morning he also captured Mike Anderson’s visit using our cameras and video recorders.

Our in-Hab water pump remains inoperable; and mission support indicated that a new one will likely be required. In the meantime, we are conserving water even further than before, filling kitchen pots for cooking and potable water, and filling buckets for toilet flushing. We reuse whatever water we can (e.g. retaining water after cooking noodles other uses). One test of a team’s resiliency is how they respond to stresses (or outright failures) on the life support systems of the MDRS Hab. This is currently the case with our water supply. It is gratifying to observe that all crew have taken this in stride. While we continue to work the problem, we all accept the condition and adapt immediately to the new mode of water usage and living. Besides the time of day when we must replenish our in-Hab water for the day using the pots, pans, and buckets, there is no mention of the water issue whatsoever. It’s refreshing to have cool heads, and smart ones too, like we have here at MDRS-144.