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03-30-2015 Journalist Report

Entry from last night’s activities after the COMM WINDOW (03-29-2015):

We took advantage of the nighttime sky while not in-sim to stargaze.  The sky was far cloudier than it was earlier in the day, which limited our ability to train well.  We did, however, use our astro-binoculars to enjoy views of Venus, Cassiopeia, and other easily recognizable objects such as the Little Dipper and the Moon (which was very bright last night).  The students were using apps on their phones that identify objects.  We didn’t stay outside too long as cloud cover was not very conducive to training.  Astrophotography and using location guides were casually discussed in preparation for in-sim training later in the week.


The team officially entered sim this morning by completing our first morning of yoga exercises.  It turns out Commander Mitchell is somewhat of an expert!  We’re all impressed.  The activity seemed to allow us to stretch our bodies and ease our way into the day.  We had a simple breakfast of cereals, bread and oatmeal.  Coffee in the morning is as appealing on Mars as it is on Earth!

The crew practiced putting on space suits in simulation as the first official order of business today.  Immediately following, Crew Engineer Sam Thomas performed his checks with Commander Mitchell.  We also reviewed our navigation devices and tested our ham radios (KG5GAQ here!).  We are prepared for EVA missions.
The crew spent the morning working on their projects.  Karen’s research project involves building and testing radio repeaters to increase the communication range for crews out on EVA mission and the HAB, which we affectionately call the “mother ship.”  Today, she is soldering the circuit board and checking connections.  She’ll also be attaching the board’s voltage source.

Sam Thomas is researching ways to improve the Mars experience by designing a helmet that blends safety and maintaining the simulation experience.  He has been busy in the lab all day examining MDRS space suits and helmets first-hand, and tinkering with his helmet.

Lori spent the day learning her way around the lab, and practicing analyzing soil samples she took yesterday out-of-sim.  She also double-checked her navigation points for anticipated soil-sample gathering sites.  Her study involves learning whether desert soil and Martian soil qualities are similar.  For example, if nitrogen, phosphate and potassium exist in similar proportion at each location, perhaps plant life can grow on Martian soil.

Similarly, Luis spent the day preparing his route for soil and rock collecting.  He has been studying maps and preparing navigation coordinates.  His project involves studying whether methane can be located near the Hab.  He hopes to correlate those results to help determine where methane deposits on the Red Planet are located by comparing rock formations and soil consistencies.

Commander Mitchell and I spent the day interacting with crewmembers and doing chores around the Hab.  I spent the afternoon reviewing training videos for astrophotography, and re-reading Musk Observatory guides.  Pending approval, I will practice using the telescope tonight.  We’re hoping for clear skies.
Tonight, we plan to enjoy dinner together, play a board game, and try meditation.  I will report on these activities in tomorrow’s Journalist report.

Today’s quote is both space-related, and an insight into human nature:
“Studying whether there's life on Mars or studying how the universe began, there's something magical about pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. That's something that is almost part of being human, and I'm certain that will continue.”  ~ Sally Ride

Our first day in sim has been great.

Drew Canham
Journalist, Photographer, Astronomer and Commander-in-Training