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1211-CommandersReport

Cloud cover returned this morning, and with it another in-simulation, spectacular Martian sunrise. The MDRS site was very well selected, and one can easily mistake this place for the real Martian surface, particularly when the red rays of the morning light strike the myriad of wind and water sculpted red, white, and brown geologic formations. Surely the view from some future Mars habitat structures will be very nearly the same.

This morning after breakfast Biologist Yusuke Murakami presented his planning and field objectives for MDRS science EVA-9, and directed his EVA team members XO Heidi Beemer and Engineer Victor Luo with their specific EVA tasks. Yusuke’s investigation and outreach project is an observational analog survey characterizing geophysical and biophysical zones where extra-terrestrial life could exist; he revisited a previous site, collecting more data, and one new site (see Science Report). Crew scientist Juho Vehviläinen managed HabCOM.

The EVA team was out onto the surface at 0949, first completing engineering EVA duties and then completing the planned science EVA using vehicles, and also on foot. Upon return to the Hab, the entire team held our post-EVA debriefing. Again fogging of helmets became an issue, due in part to heavy breathing associated with the on-foot overland traverses to each field station. Fogging is best mitigated by slowing the pace of walking or stopping to allow time for the in-helmet water vapor and condensate to clear.

This morning HSO Susan Jewell used Juho and I as pre-test participants for her yoga-meditation study by testing the protocol in collecting saliva samples for the biomarker analysis that she will formally implement during her upcoming MDRS-145 mission.  Juho and I did our best to gravity feed our saliva into the tiny straws and micro-vials (this wasn’t hard with our appetites growing and lunch approaching).  Geologist Toni de Morais Teles documented the training with video and still photos. 

I began preparing equipment to complete the laboratory phase of my spectroradiometric measurements of the surface samples collected over my two science EVAs. I will work on these in the deck one geology laboratory after sunset, to eliminate the possibility of any daytime, ambient light illumination of my samples. This will complete my mission-based data-collection; analysis and interpretation will commence tomorrow and into post-mission.

The team spent most of the afternoon in a planned discussion regarding team communications, inter-personal communications, and reflecting on one another’s individualized perceptions of the other crew members during the mission. This crew has gotten along remarkably well in the last week and a half, this too in the face of varying degrees of adversity (e.g. we all wore anti-contagion masks for 48 hours last week to prevent possible spread of suspected crew-member sickness; we have been managing with an increasingly faulty toilet, using buckets of water for flushing; we have implemented water conservation measures and supply protocols since the in-Hab water pump failed a couple of days ago, etc).  These are all anticipated technical challenges that all crews have faced, or will face here at MDRS, and certainly at FMARS during MA365. However, we all strongly believe and affirmed that one of the greatest challenges of long duration, confined simulation work in extreme environments can potentially be how we resolve interpersonal and team dynamic issues; and how we will simply ‘be’ as a team isolated in the Arctic for 365 days. Everyone spoke frankly about their experiences over the past 11 days together. There was much praise all around for each other’s personalities, work ethic, expertise, creativity, generosity, this in addition to insightful observations regarding how we might work to improve our team building. The willingness of this crew to enter into plain talk and support of one another is rather extraordinary, especially given the short time we’ve all been together; and at the end of the afternoon, all felt that we possess a strong basis for moving forward together as a team. This is a vital piece of what pioneering exploration requires, going boldly together with deeper appreciations and understanding of the team dynamic and of individual motivations, anticipations, and actions. All crew understand the importance of this self- and team-cognizant work; and that the effort to arrive at a more accurate and authentic understanding of the crew as individuals and as a team must begin here, and continue until, and throughout FMARS MA365. This we intend to do.