A journal of a Mars Desert Research Station participant

The Mars Society has initiated Mars Analog Research Station (MARS) project. The goals of this project are the development of key knowledge needed to prepare for human Mars exploration, and to inspire the public by making sensuous the vision of human exploration of Mars. "Mars Analog Research Stations (MARS) are laboratories for learning by doing how to live and work on another planet. Each is a prototype of a habitat that will land humans on Mars and serve as their main base for months of exploration in the harsh Martian environment. A global program of Mars exploration operations research, the MARS project will include four Mars base-like habitats. Such a habitat represents a key element in current human Mars mission planning. Each Station's centerpiece is a cylindrical habitat, the “Hab" an 8-meter diameter, two-deck structure mounted on landing struts. Peripheral external structures, some inflatable, may be appended to the “Hab” as well.” The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) is one of four planned Mars Analog Research Stations. It is situated in the western United States on the San Rafael Swell of southern Utah.

From the MDRS page

About the author

Anastasiya Stepanova is a journalist from Moscow, Russia. "Space journalism" was the title of the Master's thesis that she wrote in Moscow State University, supervised by the astronaut Yuri Baturin. She was the first in the history of her department to turn to this research topic. Anastasiya is a co-author of the book "I wish you a good flight!”, which is a light and entertaining introduction into space exploration for teenagers. She is an active paricipant of various space advocacy projects, including Mars One, where she is a "round two” applicant. Her dream, alongside flying to Mars, is to unite the world in pursuing the goal of space exploration.

 

Anastasiya  was part of the Crew 143 at MDRS. During her stay at the station she was keeping a daily journal, which she kindly agreed to share with our readers. We are excited to offer you this valuable first hand account of living in conditions that simulate the Martian environment.

15.11.14.

After 1,5 day of travel, from snowy vast forests to red rocky desert finally I  was getting closer to my space adventure. Hanksville is the closest civilization to our station. Little town with population of 250 people is where we picked up our food supply and head further. Rocky desert changes kilometer after kilometer, from red, brown to white. You can imagine yourself as one of astronauts from Apollo mission passing by white layered rocks or as at first manned spaceship flying around Mars. Finally we see small observatory and surprisingly big Mars Desert Research Station. Previous crew 142 was waiting for us to pass the baton, that what we thought, but by the time we got inside nobody came downstairs. For a second we worried what happened, but eventually crew 142 was alive, healthy and ready to give us all the instructions. They passed through some troubles fixing equipment in hab and making it more comfortable. Less that we could do to show gratitude is to offer them a dinner since today they are not on the simulation. Soon we need to sort out how 12 people will sleep in one space, probably our crew will be in sleeping bags on the floor and after crew 142 will departure tomorrow we will move into our small comfy rooms. Let the journey begin!

Habitat from the hill

„Martian“ hills

Sunset behind the MDRS

16.11.14

The morning sun was passing through the small port hole in the hab as crew 142 was packing, taking the last pictures, sharing contacts and left. Suddenly it became so quiet and we realized that it is only six of us in the vast desert. This feeling is indescribable, I would just say it is weirdly magical. Since we are not in the simulation yet, we used this precious day to enjoy the cold fresh air walking around the hab, climbing hills and taking as many pictures as we could. To start our rotation on the right foot I decided to clean the work space and sleeping area. With the help of Paul Sokoloffwe finished in 20 minutes, mostly getting rid of the dust that we will encounter often. I always love the feeling of a just cleaned living space, which gives you the energy for the whole day. My crew members thought likewise so I was happy that they are on the same track as me. I think it is the right time to introduce my best friends for the next 2 weeks.

Paul Knigtlyis our crew commander. A laconic, responsible and concrete geologist. In the beginning was hard to understand his Kansas accent, but day by day I’m getting used to it. I’m sure he thinks the same about my Russian accent, so we are even. Alexandre Mangeot, our engineer from France, is always around to help out with fixing things whether it is the door frame in my room or acomputer problem. We feel united because of jetlag that we are having travelling from Europe to USA. And finally the Canadian part of the crew, which always makes fun of me for not understanding their Canadian humor. Paul Sokoloff - noble and always positive botanist. Feels like we not just met few days ago but been acquaintance for a long time. Ian Silversides – an easy going fun engineer who loves camping (you could see that from his outfit). Announces his presence wherever he can, such as Canadian flag at his bedroom door and his name on his cup. Claude-Michel Laroche – my companion in Mars One program and also good listener and interesting storyteller. He is the oldest in our crew and has rich life experience from army service to the International Space University.

This is my impression of Martians crew143, will be interesting to see how that will change by the end of this space mission.

Crew 143

from left side to right: Ian Silversides, Paul Knigtlyis, Anastasiya Stepanova, Claude-Michel Laroche, Paul Sokoloff, Alexandre Mangeot  

MDRS143 Mission Patch

Airlock

 

 

17.11.14

For most people it is crazy to even think of time when you can go outside only in space suits, not having freedom of movement. But for crew 143 it is the breathtaking first steps into long way to Mars. We all were waiting for days until the simulation started and we were not disappointed. EVA experience makes you realize that human can adapt to any condition and explore new interesting feelings. First of all, preparation was quite exciting and not hard at all. The more equipment we were putting on, the more excited we were getting. Extra vehicle activity (EVA) is basically going outside the habitation module (hab) for research work, maintenance of the station and ATV’s in space suit. Today the lucky four were Paul Knightly, Paul Solokoff, Ian Silversides and me (Anastasiya Stepanova). Space suits were not as heavy as I expected (around 8 kg) and the only hardest part in them was fogging of the helmets. But nothing could stop us from doing our work. Paul K. and Paul S. were examining the soil for different types of rocks and plants. Ian took care of our station and ATV’s. I was taking pictures of their work for media outreach and helping Ian to check ATV and filling water puddle with regolith. Knowing how to fix things without a technical degree is important in such simulations. Every day we might encounter problems in our hab, which may only be solved out by us. You can try and wait for the help from outside, but on Mars this help might arrive when it is too late. Apart from necessity of it, fixing can be very fun. Imagination is a rich tool that can help you not only in making an art masterpiece or bestseller book, but to repair, invent useful devices.

Spacesuits added the last drop to surreal feeling of being on Mars. Passing by red rock, hearing our breathing and radio communications plays with the mind, which is now confident that we are on real Mars. Only coming across plants brings us back to Earth!

Paul S. collecting samples

Anastasiya working

Paul K. walking to the hab

18.11.14

Third night at MDRS and no dreams about Mars. But it is on our mind every time we discuss details of our life here. First Aid training has started by Paul S. - what would we do if we encounter heat exhaustion/heat stroke in EVA. We came to interesting discussion, should we consider first aid in simulation conditions or in real Martian condition. Because if you feel heat exhaustion, it is recommended to stop simulation, take off the helmet and get to the station, but if it isonMarsyou would die straight away. It is an interesting aspect to consider and maybe a future research work for Mars Society volunteers.

For the past few days, we have been sitting a lot and started to have sore back, so physical exercise were on the list. Paul K. showed his way of getting fit and Paul S. performed as true yoga instructor. Both activities were interesting and diverse. If we continue doing that every day space suit will feel like you just put on the winter jacket.

It is amazing to live here, not only fromthe science and space aspect, but alsofromthe human studies aspect.  Different cultures, different professions, different languages. Each of us learns new things from the other crew memberswhether it is cooking or science experiments. What is Canadian, French, American or Russian humor? Well we will find out!

Human factor is crucial in any science, space expeditions and nobody wants to face scenario out ofa science-fiction movie, where someone goes crazy. So far we feel no stress, intensity or irritation, we are all united by one goal and this is a great motivation. Day by day we discover new little details in every crew personality and this makes it an amazing journey! 

Hab workout

Hab yoga

First Aid Practice on Ian. Don't worry, he's OK

19.11.14

“Your decompression has finished. You are free to exit the hab.”

“Roger that.”

10 AM - crew 143 started the EVA.Alexandre Mangeot needed three people for his research work, which is about how fast beginners can learn the soil sampling in space suit. Those guinea pigs were Claude-Michel Laroche, Ian Silversides and me (Anastasiya Stepanova). Geologist Paul Knightly supposed to tell us just basic information: dig in soil core sampler, put soil into plastic bag, specify the depth and put your name on. He was not allowed to tell us more, since Alexandre wanted to see how we progress from scratch. At the same time we had on our left hands the sphygmomanometerto measure blood pressure and pulse before and after the experiment. This way we can see the connection between new assignment and body reaction to it. How this study can be useful on Mars? It is unlikely that all "marsonautes" will be geo- or (exo) bio-logists. For those who will not be initially trained for soil sampling, it would be efficient to be able to perform such a task to rise the chances to examine marsian soil by increasing  amount of samples brought for analysis.Therefore needed a proper learning program and this experiment should determine how it should be taught. We are looking forward to find out the results by the end of this mission and we have no idea how badly we performed today.

Soil sampling didn’t take much time so we headed to explore surroundings. As always I was searching for meteorites, but only empty food can stacked to my magnet stick. As my astronomy mentor said, I have to walk 400 km to find my first meteorite. I would need many MDRS missions for that!

The fan in my space suite worked perfectly today. I had low level of humidity and no fog. But also this was due to the new adjustment in my helmet made by Paul Sokoloff. He put inside my helmet silica gel, which isused in everyday life as a desiccant to control local humidity to avoid spoilage or degradation of some goods. Other crew member didn’t have this upgrade and also fans didn’t work at full capacity. By the end of EVA they couldn’t see much through misted glass of the helmet. Amazing how little thing can change the level of comfort and safety. Tomorrow will be new day and new little or big discoveries! 

Crew 143 in front of the hab

Anastasiya pondering on mysteries of Mars

Soil Sampling

20.11.14

It is a beautiful day to show to the whole world the future Martian colonists. A French documentary team from Arte arrived to the MDRS by the time four crew members were on EVA.From one of thehab windows it was like watching the first contact of humans (TV crew) with Martian (Paul Knightly). At that moment comes realization that you are no longer aware of what is the reality now. It is strange that no one experienced sharp transition from daily earth life to space isolation in the middle of desert. Feels like we have been living this way for a long time, when it is just our sixth day at the station. Everything seems right, everyone put their contribution to the mission. All of a sudden the room was filled in with 5 strangers. They looked at us with question face and we looked back with a surprise. If we could read their mind, we would definitely get: “This is crazy”. One of the journalists put on space suit to experience a few hours of our simulation. He saw another perspective through the glass helmet and maybe started to understand us better. They started to film our usual activities. Paul K and Paul S. headed far East to get more diverse samples of soil and plants. Ian and Alexandre were examining the hab with special 40X microscope for cracks and corrosion. Thanks to Paul K. and Alexandre the world will now know more about geology, engineering and space straightfrom the horse’s mouth. Me and Claude-Michel stayed at the hab cleaning and preparing for the lunch. Alexandre came up with the idea of presenting to the TV crew our picture with signatures. Who knows maybe in 10 years this would be the picture of first Martian colonist. While we have been eating nice chicken cream soup, journalist asked his last question: “Why we are doing this?” We might look as hopeless dreamers, but without thirst of discoveries and dreams we would still remain a Neanderthals.

Arte interviewing the EVA crew

Arte crew

Arte crew Serge suiting up

21.11.14

This night I heard music playing from somewhere far. Then I felt that my bed was shaking. When the morning came everything got back to normal. No trace and no witnesses. The dream was too real to be a dream. Was it just a game of mind, dream or consequences of isolation? The answer has nothing to do with me. The wind was so strong that it did actually shake the hab a little bit. As for the music - my mind interpreted this way the sound of the wind. This reminded me of ancient times when people were giving magical powersto the things that nowadays science can explain. I wish could see what science would be like in 100 years. Would we be able to reach another galaxies or personal communication devices and social networks will trap people on Earth? Setting a human colony on Mars can give you the different perspective of world’s development. For example, today I have walked in a space suit, looked for meteorites and climbed the hills. Inhaling the air in my helmet was harder and gives the realization how vulnerable we are. All space suits have one system – a certain amount of oxygen that can be used. On Mars you will be limited with such a system, only few hours of exploration and back to the station. If our space suits could have a device that would directly produce oxygen from Martian atmosphere, so astronauts will have almost no limitations in exploring the red planet. At the moment such machine would be too cumbersome and heavy to include in a space suit, but this problem might be solve by an engineering project or by a research proposal at Mars Desert Research Station in Utah or at Devon Island. This little example shows how science and engineering can progress by preparing and maintaining human colony on Mars. Moon, Mars or any other planet – this is the challenge for us as hi-tech civilization. My future reports will tell how each crew members contribute to this challenge.

Paul K. walking through Martian Bushes

EVA team rolling out

Space selfie

22.11.14

It has been a week since we started this extraordinary journey. I have been asked many questions. People want to know the details of domestic life here, and today is the time!

Mars Desert Research Station is a prototype of station on Mars, therefore no indulgences. Rules are rules, especially when simulation starts. Usually each crewconsist of six people, have14 days of rotation with 10 days of simulation. Simulation is basically what it is like to live on Mars. There is no other way to go outside than in space suit. There is no other way to cook than from dehydrated food or vegetation from GreenHab. There is no other way to survive than to control water and electricity consumption. Breaking the simulation is only allowed in emergency cases.  

7 am, wake up call. Breakfast preparation, which can be justsimple corn flakes with soluble milk or festive pancakes with bacon, is ready to eat.  Sleepy but ready to start an exciting new day, we discuss our plans. Usually our EVA (extra vehicle activity) starts at 10 am every day and preparation for it takes around half an hour, so between breakfast and EVA we have one hour and a half for checking emails, preparing equipment, reading appropriate materials for research projects. One EVA allowed only 4 people in order to leave at the hab, theother 2 crew members need to stay to control the situation over radio. What exactly we should do to get ready for going outside? Put on coveralls, over it gaiters, than special hiking boots, headset, radio, backpack with ventilation system, helmet and finally the clunky glows. Everyone helps each other connecting the ventilation tubes to the helmet, because in space suit you become clumsy. When everyone is ready we enter the airlock for decompression, which takes 5 minutes. One of remaining crew members checks all outside activities using radio. Every step needed to be told to the hab. The hab tells us when we are allowed to exit the airlock and does the checkups every 15 minutes. Outside activities can be: maintenance of the station, water pumping, generator checks, biological, geological projects and exploration of the terrain or any other research projects. Duration of EVA is from two hours to four. By the time crew arrives to the hab, usually lunch is already prepared by the other 2 crew members. Working in space suit consumes a lot of energy and dehydrate people. Therefore, a good amount of water and food should be taken after. Lunch finished, dishes washed and crew continues to conduct their researches. Someone examines with microscope collected plants or cataloging the soil samples, someone writesthe journalist reports or just does the cleaning. Activities can be different, depending on each crew, but all should be approved with MDRS. Time flies fast and it is already dinner time. We are lucky to have creative Ian Silversides. He always comes up with great recipes that we couldn’t imagine cooking with dehydrated ingredients. From 7 pm to 9 pmCapCom (Capsule Communication), which is basically the process of sending report, request and questions to MDRS mission support. Every day we need to send: health and safety officer report, biology report, commander report, engineering report, journalist report, executive officer report, geology report, GreehHab report, science report, photo report, EVA plan, EVA summary. Finally when we are off of all the evening duties we go to bed or if still have some energy left have space movie time. That is how our amazing, unique and cognitive daily life here goes on. In the next few days I will tell all about creative cooking on Mars.

Crew 143 evening work

EVA preparing

Claude-Michel tending the Greenhab

23.11.14

Desert wind usually comes to talk to me only at night, but today he is messing with us all day long. Cold front from Canada arrived after midnight. Some of us didn’t sleep well, worrying about station and GreenHab, but in the morning we didn’t see any damage. MDRS was built thoroughly to withstand harsh conditions. Crisp blue sky, cold sun lights and geological diversity were waiting EVA crew. We started the ATV’s and hit the road. Our plan was to examine different areas where we can find meteorites, different types of plants and soil. In order to see the variety of surroundings apart from hab area, we had to travel around 11 km.Here, itused to be a sea 130-150 million years ago, so I won’t be surprised to find an oyster fossil. Geological structure is quite interesting; you can findsandstone, shale outcrops, dry creek beds, alluvial fans, dunes, rocks. Sometimes we can spend half an hour just searching for the prettiest stone beneath our feet. But I had especial assignment to find a meteorite or at least a magnetic rock. Every two days I go for a search and come back with empty hands. Some might think whythese meteorites search anyway? These skills will be needed for crew members on Mars station, during geological explorations of the red planet. Since meteoritic matter on Mars is 99 % identical to the meteoritic matter of Earth, trainings like that are extremely useful to all candidates for the manned mission to Mars.The desert is the best place for meteorites search, since the climate has no major effect on meteorites and they can be found with less difficulties than in other geographical areas.Most meteorites are stony meteorites, classed as chondrites and achondrites. Only about 6% of meteorites are iron meteorites or a blend of rock and metal, the stony-iron meteorites. Since my only tool to determine a meteorite is magnetic stick, my chances are very very low. But iron meteorites are the most interesting to me. They are thought to come from the cores of planetesimals that were once molten. And of course the best present from space to our crew would be if we could find a Martian meteorite. We still have some time to make that miracle happen. On the way back passing by Grand Canyon looking landscapes, feeling embrace of the wind I was singing. Good that it was in helmet, because I’m not the best singer. It wasn’t any particular songs; it was just a song of happiness!

                    Happy crewmembers                                                                                                          

With a magnetic stick even a certain artifacts could be found!

Endolithic cyanobacteria colonies in quartz. Great find. These bacteria are one of the first inhabitants of the Earth. We thank them for the oxygen atmosphere!

24.11.14

I have writtenabout the beautiful landscape around MDRS, but never about the station itself. Everyone in the crew expected a much smaller station and a much bigger observatory. In reality it was all the way around.  It is 100 square meters cylindrical building with two floors made from fiber glass and steel. Electricity provided by diesel generator, cooking stove and heater by propane, which we need to keep eye on every day. There are two exits, but all with Air Lock system. One is main entrance and another is engineering backdoor. Usually the second Air Lock is used to leave stuff to be used for hab maintenance while in EVA. The EVA crew goes out from main Air Lock and when needed, goes to engineering Air Lock for the equipment. This way, themain Air Lock is not cluttered up, which leaves more space, since it is very tight when four of us in space suits stay there for a five minute of decompression.As soon as you get pass the entrance there is EVA preparation room which is: suits, gloves, boots storage, radio charging, back pack and helmet rack. Biology and geology laboratory takes most of space on the first floor. It is bright and well stocked: two microscopes, hot spot, many fans and variety of other equipment. On the first floor also there are a toilet and a bathroom, which we hardly use becausewe limit water consumption. We take navy shower once a week and baby wipes every day. I thought it would be the hardest part for me, but it felt strangely comfortable. Whereas back at home if you don’t take shower for few days, you feel quiet bad. Guess it is all in our mind. Steep wooden ladder leads to the living quarter. Living space is our everything. Here we have our little cozy six bedrooms, kitchen, working desks and dining area. The whole station is painted in white and blue colors which remindme of my room back at home. It has also some similarity with a space station and maybe that is why I feel so comfortable at MDRS. Most of the aspects in the hab are well thought out, but as any thing in life, there are no limits for perfection. Apart from the station, there are two separate little buildings: the observatory and the GreenHab. The observatory has aCelestron 14-inch CGE 1400 telescope donated by Celestroncompany. Unfortunately we couldn’t use it due to special training program done before coming to the station. The GreenHab now has only grass and lettuce to harvest, but in the future, it would be amazing to grow some vegetables and fruits. Dehydrated food tastes surprisingly good, but we all miss fresh crunchy vegetables. This is my brief description of our new home that became a whole world to us.

          Alexandre measuring soil density              

          Paul S. identifying plant specimens     

Floor Plan of MDRS (source: http://mdrs.marssociety.org)

25.11.14

Sunset after sunrise, fatigue after excitement, smile after indifference…The days pass by and we are losing the touch with reality. What day is it today? There are no weekends for us. We proceed to follow the same schedule every day. It looks like a routine, but I don’t remember when, every day and every hour of my life was so interesting, cognitive and exciting. MDRS, nature, crew members and life here itself – everything teaches us something new. As expected by majority, with more days we spend together the more chances to have a conflict of interest we have. This might be the exception, but day by day we understand each other better and discover new qualities. I have a strange feeling of unity with those five strangers, feeling, which we all felt from the beginning. Paradox is to be united with people that are so different in every way, whether it is nationality, culture, profession, background or gender. I call it the power of Space, which brings best in us. I have seen many times when Space brings people together, where in daily life they would never ran into each other. We don’t need a cooking or a cleaning schedule, because everyone is very responsible and helpful. We enjoy doing all the house duties together. We don’t judge each other or see a competition. Ten days together and you can rely and trust! How crazy is that? Somebody asked me to describe the feeling of loneliness in this vast dessert among five strangers. Till this question aroused, I never thought of loneliness, neither did the rest of the crew. We are so busy that simply there is no time to think about it and no premises for that. Even when you walk in the desert, where there is not a soul, you think of your research project or how beautiful is the view. Of course everyone misses their beloved ones, but it is not a disturbing feeling, rather a bitter sweet one. Vacation from whole civilization is a rare luxury to many people and also for some of us. But this isolation doesn’t mean you go insane over philosophical aspects of life. My only thoughts were about human abilities to adapt to any condition. Probably here works the instinct of self-preservation. You have the goal and your whole organism participates in it or in other words the power of thought.We were all prepared for worse conditions and difficulties. The adaptation period was quiet fast and felt right from the beginning.The only thing we miss here are the three Bs: Bed, Butter and Beer!

Beginning tunneln construction

Paul S. tying the fence

Paul S. collecting samples

Tunnel construction Part 1

Tunnel construction Part 2

Tunnel construction Part 3

26.11.14

PaulK directing EVA

I always mention we have many research projects, but what are they, what is the use of them? 

After success he planned to apply these findings and then determine the feasibility of setting soil vapor probes in the environmental settings present on Mars. The use of it is to detect gases that might be a source of life. He managed to get valuable technical information but not scientific ones. This is due to location of station. For larger scale study in another conditions such as thicker top soil level, his research should work better. The results were promising and Paul is excited to continue performing this experiment under different conditions, maybe as first geologist on Mars.

Claude-Michel on EVA

The research experiment of our crew scientist Claude-Michel Laroche was about establishing a model guide that can be used by anyone to participate without supervision to someone else experiment. We all did participate in his research, which was quiet useful. We learned new skills out of our expertise. It was interesting, fun and cognitive. Claude is satisfied with the results, but in order to finish his research he needs more data. As for Mars - in a manned human mission the number of personnel is very limited; no back-up will be available beside the crew itself. It is therefore imperative that a way to leave instruction and knowledge is well in place and efficient in case of an emergency.

Ian fixing things

Crew engineer Ian Silversides conducted the study of structural inspection and repairs of the habitat and space suits.Performing an inspection can be complicated, adding limitations of a space suit such as reduced visibility and clumsiness further increases the difficulty. These observations also go for repairs. Simple repairs such as those conducted during the experiments could be imagined for preventive maintenance, or if a small flaw is detected. In the context of a human deployment to Mars, life of whole crew can depend on crew engineers, which would be trained on Earth how to prevent or fix breakdowns.

Paul S. doing botanical sampling near MDRS

Paul Sokoloff is our crew biologist, that had to complete an assessment of the floristic diversity (lichens, mosses, cyanobacteria, and vascular plants) surrounding MDRS. MDRS was as a baseline useful for future astrobiological work involving wild plants at MDRS, and helped to develop the specimen curation and cataloguing techniques “in simulation”.  Paul’s long-term goal is the initial selection of arctic vascular plant species for a future Mars terraforming project, since these plants will fare much better on simulated Martian regolith than temperate species.  Research was complete, but Paul wants to come back to collect new species of plants in another time of the year for full picture.

Alexandre working

Our executive officer Alexandre Mangeot proposed a soil sampling learning program. It is unlikely that all "marsonautes" will be geo or (exo) biologists. For those who will not be initially trained for soil sampling, it would be efficient if they are able to perform such a task to rise the chances to examine Martian soil by increasing  amount of samples brought for analysis. Therefore it is needed a proper learning program and this experiment was a first attempt or a proof of concept. Beginners’ soil samples were compared with geologist’s ones in terms of density, color and grain size distribution. Unfortunately, the analysis was not accurate enough due to too sensitive sampling location or because of the analysis protocol. Even though the project wasn’t fully accomplished because of non-conclusive first results, the gathered information could be useful for future MDRS crews. Still, the vitals gathered show that soil sampling wearing a spacesuit demands a physical effort.

My role in this mission is public outreach for Mars Society and MDRS, popularization of space and science in general. My journalistic research consisted of daily reports about life at MDRS, description of science experiments in easy language, interviews with crew members, materials for book and public speeches. As planned I successfully accomplished publication of my diaries about MDRS at 5 different Russian blogs, an interview for Russian Polytechnicmuseum. By my arrival back home, I will write big article that will summarize this experience; scheduled few interviews with websites and TV channels. But what I am the most happy about is the reaction of people around the world to my everyday little stories. They are curious, intrigued and simply like it! My project is not finishing, it actually just started. Back home I will continue to write, talk, show what an amazing journey was MDRS. 

Anastasiya taking pics of night sky

Crew 143 in the airlock

27.11.14

We woke up in such great mood. Today is the holiday at MDRS! For me and Alexandre Mangeot is the first ever Thanksgiving day. American and Canadian part of crew are quiet excited and they have been planning what to cook for a special dinner, since we have only dehydrated food. Usual the Thanksgiving feast is baked turkey with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, different vegetables and pumpkin pie. The guys are trying so hard to make this dinner as similar as it could be and what a result! The menu for tonight is: turkey spam with cranberry sauce, mash potatoes from potato granules, rehydrated vegetables and ginger cookies.

Apart from the big celebration, we had out last EVA, since it is the last day of simulation. We didn’t look for meteorites, didn’t do soil, plants sampling, we just danced. Yes, we danced in space suits! Ian thought me the swing type dance called “Collegiate shag”, which probably came from New Orleans. We also had a dance lessons from Paul Knightly to Line dance, which can commonly be found in country bars across Kansas. I think for the first time in MDRS history the crew synchronized danced in space suits. It is harder than it looks. Our heads kept bumping in the helmet every time we jumped and also you can feel the 8 kg backpacks dragging us down. But we did it and soon you will be able to watch our Martian dancing video.

It is amazing when you can share your culture and learn new things in return. Every day we talk about different aspects of life in USA, Canada, France and Russia. A delicious smell tells me that Thanksgiving dinner is ready. Some day on Mars, we might also have a Thanksgiving celebration, at first the first explorers from England; eventually we will be the first colonizers from Earth.

Crew dancing EVA 1

Crew dancing EVA 2

Crew 143 Thanksgiving Dinner

28.11.14

Today I will answer the two main questions I have been asked by the majority of the audience, which is far from science and space, since my public outreach was spreading.  First one was: “What is to be like the only girls in the crew?”. It was amazingly comfortable to be with five guys in one team. They are straight forward, simple, responsible and easy going. Moreover they cook much better than some women and later you will read why. Some might think that I liked to be among guys, because they treat me as a princess. No way! In this mission no differences, we are all united by one goal and we don’t see each other as handsome guy or pretty girl. That is why we feel relaxed around each other. We can talk about any domestic issue or stomach problems, basically about anything that back at home you would be shy to talk about with a guy. I would never imagine myself walking around men or people in general,with seven days dirty hair. Everyone cares more about personality and research projects, rather than how do you look. I found it rare in today’s world, where cover matters more than what you really worth. I’m happy to be in the same crew with such interesting, creative, fun men of integrity.

Second question was: “What did you do out there, did you starve?”. Another surprise – the food was tasty and we did not starve at all. Experiments were not only at MDRS science laboratory, but also in our kitchen.  We call it culinary experiments using freeze dried dehydrated food.Drying is a method of food preservation that inhabits the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and mold through the removal of water. Why we have to cook here from only dehydrated ingredients? Because this kind of food we going to have in real Martian mission. Dehydrated food weight much less, not mentioning that it can preserve for long period of time. How we have been cooking having such unusual ingredients? Well, first of all you rehydrate the food, simply by putting it into hot or cold water. It doesn’t matter if it is a meat or vegetables, you cook them just a couple of minutes. Fruits can be eaten as they are or rehyrdated. However, dehydrated fruit may be nutritionally inferior to its source. Dehydrated grapes have been shown to be depleted in antioxidants (Vitamin C, E, ORAC) and B vitamins. Two cookbooks (The Joy of Cooking and Mars Home Cooking) and our talented crew members (Ian Silversides, Paul Knightly and Paul Sokoloff) provided most of meal time inspiration. You would be surprised what the crew cooked having not muchdiversity of ingredients: homemade bread for lunch and supper, apple pie, salmon burgers and potatoes with mushroom, carrot cake, homemade pizza, pancakes with bacon, different soups,chocolate chip cookie muffins, quesadillas. Sounds like real restaurant menu, isn’t it? The only downside of this this kind of food is the adaptation of our stomach to it. Now we understand why we have so many Gas relief pills in the Hab. The crew thoroughly enjoyed preparing and sharing meals, it was the best moments of true bonding, fun and creativity.

                                 Crew 143 breakfast                         
  

 

Space bread

 

Thanksgiving Dinner

 

Last night at MDRS - crew was doing everything together,

even teeth brushing

30.11.14

No decompression, no clumsy space suits, no air shortage – simulation is over! You take a deep breath and can’t stop inhaling the air. You open your eyes and are surprised at how vivid the view is. You feel the sunlight and warmth spreads around your body. It took justten days in simulation to start forgetting the feeling of real life. We went outside of thehab and discovered the world with a new angle. Which perspective astronauts will get after two years mission to Mars? Probably,they will have to learn how to live on Earth again. Even after a short MDRS experience we appreciate more of those simple little things like sunshine, fresh air, the sound of birds, crispy vegetables and fruits. Everything now has a new taste. Our society of consumption forgot what it is like not to buy things, but to make or fix them. Most of people don’t think how a smart phone almost becomes a part of your body, which you check every hour. Our phones were switched for two weeks and I tell you it felt great!Every laugh, every thought, every experiment, every fatigue made us better! We are the crew, which knows how to love, appreciate, respect and live together.

Today is our last sunset at MDRS… Night sky opened another world to us. A world that no camera can show, no words can describe. A world that is waiting for us up thereeither be Mars, the Moon or the whole universe. From the little MDRS world to a colony on another planet. From a small thought to a life dedicated to it. Fromhope to the realization of the idea. I was looking at the landscape and felt bitter-sweet feeling. I was happy and sad at the same time. I’m thrilled to be part of this amazing experience and sad to leave MDRS. Tomorrow we are going back toEarth, to reality that might take us far from space, but who said it would be easy. We are way too inspired to stop our space exploration. Upcoming crew 144 already arrived and we felt happy to see so many interesting, inspiring space enthusiast. If Mars colony consists of such people, it will be for sure a better world. Space brings the best of us! No matter what is your passion, the key to happiness is to Dream Big and Act Fast. Life passes away, so catch every moment, every chance to make your dream come true!

Sunset at MDRS

MDRS night sky

Hab window sunrise

 

P.S. Thank you Mars Society, Robert Zubrin and all volunteers for making the crew 143 happy, inspired space explorers!