Crew 167 Journalism Reports

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April 6, 2016

Sol 4

Crew Astronomer Clayton was again up at 0500 local time and used the telescope for one hour. This morning’s viewing conditions were favorable for the stars Sirius, Betelgeuse, Rigel, and Polaris. He also thought he observed the planet Alderaan momentarily. However, reacquisition of this target area revealed only a small moon and expanding asteroid field. A fast moving object was also observed and determined to be the International Space Station. He continues to find the early morning viewing hours to be better than the evening.

The crew turned in shortly after Comm window close after some hard EVAs yesterday. Everyone was up again prior to 0700 local time and enjoyed music from Crew Chemist/HSO Sansom followed by coffee and pancakes for breakfast.

Shortly after breakfast, crew members Sansom, Clayton, and Stanford embarked on an EVA to collect additional soil samples in the hope of discovering cyanobacteria and fungi at a later date. More gypsum was found that may be supporting cyanobacteria colonies.

They also conducted a radiological survey and found no radioactive minerals during their EVA. No water was found for bacteriological sampling purposes. However, they did find a very rare and protected species of Sclerocactus radii. They also discovered what appeared to be clay plastered over sedimentary layers. Could this be a surface for artistic expression? Perhaps this is a sign of intelligent and expressive Martian life?

Crew Engineer Beechner continued to take laser measurements in the Hab for his virtual reality research project.

Crew Chef Overman spent most of the day doing food prep. The Hab ran out bread (self-rising) flour so he had to make some from the all-purpose flour. Details behind this chemistry can be found here: The bread he made today also did not contain butter and shows how that particular reactant is an important factor in the Maillard reaction.

He served a lunch of Greek Avgolemeno Chicken Soup over Egg Noodles which was quickly consumed by all crew members, especially those returning from EVA. This was followed by Almond Brownies he made using Nesquik chocolate drink.

Crew Biologist Stanford has observed a growth on a culture taken from one of the helmets which is a positive indication for staph bacteria.

Crew fatigue seems to be increasing. Sleep quality may not be that good since nearly all crew members took a nap this afternoon. Despite this, spirits remain high and the crew looks forward to upcoming research experiments.

Clark Overman, Crew Journalist, MDRS 167A

April 7, 2016

Sol 05

The crew made use of some downtime after the Comm window close last night and played a game of Dixit. Afterwards, Crew Astronomer Clayton found that viewing conditions were favorable so crew members took turns observing stars Sirius, Betelgeuse, and Arcturus as well as the planet Jupiter.

This made for a late night. The crew was slow to rise this morning, but everyone was up by 0700 local time. Crew Executive Officer Overman provided the music for coffee and breakfast.

Shortly thereafter, crew members Sansom, Clayton, and Stanford embarked on EVA #7 to conduct a Rock Mass Rating on a rock outcrop not far from the Hab. The Rock Mass Rating EVA is important for scouting suitable places for caves or tunnels, which can provide long-term shelter from conditions like weather, and radiation on Mars.

Crew members Andreas, Beechner, and Overman performed maintenance on a Primary Life Support System and returned it to mission ready status.

Upon EVA #7’s return, a lunch of roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, and peas was served.

After lunch, crew members Beechneer, Andreas, and Overman conducted EVA #8 to further assess the suitability of the location previously investigated in the first EVA.

Crew Engineer Beechner took more laser measurements of the Hab and worked some more with the 3D printer.

Crew Biologist Stanford completed the microbiology experiments. Noticeable staph colonies were found on the agar plates cultured from swabs taken on a Hab mattress, the stair rail, kitchen table, and helmet. Enteric bacteria was also had found on the agar plate cultured from the stair rail sample. A fungal colony was also clearly observable on the plate with the swab samples taken from the bread-maker.

The crew is managing fatigue with afternoon naps. Sleep quality may not be that good since nearly all crew members took a nap this afternoon. Despite this, spirits remain high and the crew looks forward to upcoming research experiments.

Clark Overman, Crew Journalist, MDRS 167A

April 8, 2016

Sol 06

Crew Astronomer Clayton once again tried the observatory and despite the cloudy conditions, crew members were able to observe the planet Jupiter. Crew Photographer Stanford was able to take some extended exposures of Jupiter and one of its moons (without the telescope).

This once again made for a late night and the crew was slow to rise this morning, but everyone was up by 0700 local time. Clayton provided music for coffee and a breakfast of pancakes.

Shortly thereafter, crew members Andreas, Beechneer, and Overman embarked on EVA #9 and found no water for bacteriological sampling purposes. However, they also found Sclerocactus radii as was found on EVA #6.

Upon EVA # 9’s return, a lunch of salmon cakes, scalloped potatoes, and green beans was served.

After lunch, crew members Sansom, Clayton, and Stanford conducted EVA #10 to collect the last of their research samples.

Crew Engineer Beechner spent the afternoon working with the 3D printer.

The crew spent the rest of the afternoon preparing the Hab for handover to MDRS 167B. The crew looks forward to their arrival tomorrow.

Clark Overman, Crew Journalist, MDRS 167A

April 9, 2016

Sol 01

Today April 9, 2016 after a long trip from Waco, TX, USA, The McLennan Community College Highlanders second crew, Crew 167B, has finally arrived to MDRS on Mars. The landscape around here is just amazing. It consists of beautiful multicolor mountains and geological formations where you can easily spend minutes just looking at them enjoying their beauty.

We spent part of the afternoon with the Crew 167A which with the company of Shannon Rupert provided a brief orientation. Engineering protocols, entry/exit procedures, use of the observatory, use of water pumps, extra vehicular activity (EVA) missions, all-terrain vehicles (ATV) operation were part of the orientation. Also, crew 167B members got assigned their rooms. During orientation time we had the honor of having some visitors interested in knowing more about MDRS program runs. Shannon Rupert invited both crews and visitors for a walk around the Hab where we had the opportunity to see dinosaurs bones. Awesome! Before arriving MDRS we had the chance of having a nice lunch, out-of-sim, with Crew 167A members where we heard about their stories and experiences. During lunch we welcomed our new crew member Jonathan Beechner. Beechner served as a Geologist and Engineer for Crew 167A. For Crew 167B he will assist Engineer Jaxom Hartman with his engineering duties. So far, everything has been running smoothly and a big part of this is due to our HSO, Drew Canham. He has been doing an excellent job working on our logistics and paying close attention to crew members’ needs.

Right now, the habitat smells great! Freshly baked bread just smells delicious. Our chef, Victoria LaBarre, prepared some bread so we all can enjoy it with some butter and/or Nutella before dinner. At this moment she is working on preparing some pizza from scratch and soup for dinner. It would be interesting seeing how all the dried/dehydrated food magically turns into something eatable.

All members are looking forward to starting their research projects as well as performing their functions as required. We all are super excited and anxious about our first day in sim. We will be having our first experience wearing these space suits and driving these EVAs to complete our tasks. Our commander Karen Rucker has planned two EVAs.

Otsmar J. Villarroel, Crew Journalist, MDRS 167B

April 10, 2016

Sol 02

Last night during dinner time we had the honor of having the company of Director Shannon Rupert. Director Rupert shared with us some very interesting stories from previous crews. We really enjoyed having her during dinner time. Today at about 0500 local time, after a restful night, crew member LaBarre was up to start reassembling her robot. She is making great progress putting all pieces together. Rest of crew members were up by 0630 local time. Crew engineers, Beechner and Hartman, detected some toilet issues. After inspecting it, they concluded that water pressure is not high enough to fill the toilet reservoir completely. Looking forward for solutions this issue will be reported to Mission Support during CAPCOM time.

For breakfast, we enjoyed some cereal and chocolate chip cookies as well as fresh brewed coffee prepared by crew member Beechner. During breakfast time crew members discussed today’s plan.

After getting the space suits on and following the pressurization protocols, at about 0940 local time first EVA group left the HAB to complete their day’s EVA 1 duties. This first group was headed by Commander Rucker, and completed by Beechner and LaBarre. While first EVA group was out remaining crew members Villarroel, Canham, and Hartman stayed at the HAB serving as communication support. Crew member Hartman spent part of the morning working on his Virtual Reality Project. Group staying in the HAB also spent time organizing the first aid kit cabinet as well as preparing lunch. Lunch menu included dehydrated turkey and corn as well as white rice. Upon first EVA group return, the whole crew enjoyed lunch together at about noon, local time. During that time second EVA group members discussed about their EVA plan.

At about 1400 local time second EVA group got out of the HAB to complete the assigned EVA duties. Both EVA groups (morning and afternoon) gained experience driving ATVs as well as using GPS navigation while staying in sim. Besides discovering the presence of another form of life other than us on this planet- Martian flowers- crew members observed: • Ancient sand dunes • Caprock erosion from wind and water (mass wasting) • A mushroom shaped hoodoo • A creek bed exhibiting signs of efflorescence • A field of gypsum bordering a substantial quantity of bivalve fossils

During afternoon hours, while making amazing progress reassembling her robot, crew member LaBarre found some battery issues. She is working on finding a solution as soon as she can considering all the limitations we have here on Mars.

During the day, green HAB officer, Beechner, watered the radishes. They are doing great. Regarding tomato seeds, however, we did not notice any observable progress but some outstanding ideas have been proposed. On another note, crew members Beechner and LaBarre planted some green onions expecting good results for the week.

Engineers Beechner and Hartman completed their routine engineering round.

Head chef prepared a delicious dinner for crew members. She cooked chicken noodle soup, mashed potatoes, cheesy broccoli dip and lemonade.

Crew members feel motivated and ready to face more challenges here on Mars.

Otsmar J. Villarroel, Commander-in-training and crew Journalist, Crew 167B

April 11, 2016

Sol 03

Last night could not have finished better after Commander Rucker’s discovery. She accidentally found a bag full of chocolate inside one of the kitchen cabinets. After consuming (of course after carefully checked the expiration date) some tryptophan found in these rectangular pieces of candy, everybody was feeling good and happy. Tryptophan is known as a chemical found in chocolate that causes the release serotonin in the human brain, a neurotransmitter that can produce feeling of happiness.

Today has been a beautiful day around here: beautiful blue sky, great temperatures, and of course those beautiful colorful mountains that make you think you are part of a painting. Early during the morning 5 of the crew members were up prior 0700, Martian time, as requested by our Commander the night before. What happen with member number 6? Well, member number 6 was enjoying the sleeping time and decided to take few more minutes. Why not? Not a big deal.

Crew member Canham was in charge of the music this morning who offered us some American Country music. Engineer, Beechner, prepared delicious breakfast for us: some powdered eggs, dehydrated sausages, and dehydrated hashbrown potatoes. It is still fascinating how this not very good looking “food” turned into something edible and delicious.

At about 09:06 local time, a group consisted by Commander Rucker, Commander-in-training Villarroel, and Engineer/Geologist Beechner left the HAB to complete a Chemistry EVA. They explored the Martian terrain looking for some presence of liquid dihydrogen monoxide, H2O, best known on the street as simply water. On Earth, this molecule, made up of three atoms, is many times associated with life. While expeditioners could not find the presence of this vital molecule in its more stable state, under normal conditions, it was evident that water was part of that beautiful scene some time ago. The existence of beautiful geological structures, presumably sculpted by the power of water, were observed along with the presence of gypsum, CaSO4*2H2O, which support our ideas. It seemed like a very dedicated sculptor worked so hard on those structures, paying attention to every single detail.

During today’s expedition more evidence of life on Mars were found. Some unidentified animals’ (we hope) footprints were observed as well as some plants, trees, flowers, and cacti. Also a nest-looking structure was observed inside a cave suggesting the presence of birds around here (???).

While EVA group was out, the remaining members: LaBarre, Hartman, and Canham stayed in the HAB to provide communication support. During that time Hartman and LaBarre worked on their independent projects. Also, all three prepared a wonderful lunch to receive EVA group after the excursion. Menu included: Beef crumbles, rice, and cheese. Also some homemade spicy salsa with chips was offered during lunch.

Radishes are still looking happy. Regarding the green onions, they showed no appreciable progress yet. On the other hand, surprisingly, we finally observed some interesting progress on the tomatoes. We noticed the presence of some beautiful tomatoes today. We don’t know what Crew 167A members were doing but know since they left, tomatoes are happy and look awesome (see today’s Sol Report).

Engineers went out to complete their daily routine, making sure everything is working as expected. Also, per instructions of mission support Engineer Hartman with the assistance of our HSO/XO crew member, Canham, has found the source causing the loss of water pressure. They found that the filter was clogged by a nasty hair ball looking material. Right after the disgusting discovery, they proceeded to clean the filter and it seems the problem has been successfully solved. Toilet is working properly again!

The rest of the afternoon was used by the students to keep working on their individual projects as well as getting prepared for the media visit tomorrow.

Dinner was prepared by our Head Chef, serving fresh made pho, mashed potatoes, and Martian apple pie.

Otsmar J. Villarroel, Commander-in-training and crew Journalist, Crew 167B

April 12, 2016

Last night crew Astronomer Villarroel used the telescope, completing a two-star alignment as well as a four- star calibration procedure. During this time the following celestial bodies were observed: Capella, Sirius, Spica, Merak, Alkaid, Arcturus, and Jupiter.

Four sols have passed since The McLennan Community College Highlanders Crew 167B arrived to Mars. For sure, four sols full of challenges and amazing experiences. Every activity around here is designed with the main purpose of providing us a unique experience other than that offered by a traditional classroom environment.

After all six crewmembers took breakfast together, at about 0925 local time, Crew 167B got visited by Joe Mascaro and Neil Schwartz from The San Francisco Film Society. The film crew spent all day with us learning about our routine here on Mars. They are putting together a science-oriented documentary and they were interested in knowing about our experiences, projects, our college as well as all related with the MDRS program. After giving them a short talk about our goals as a crew visiting Mars, the film team was invited to escort us during our morning Geology EVA for some action pictures.

After the daily routine of getting suited followed by the depressurization process before going out of the Hab, the Geology EVA crew departed at about 1005 local time. The EVA group consisted of Villarroel, Beechner, and LaBarre. The geology experiments conducted today consisted of assessing many different regolith characteristics in the area around the Hab. Understanding what this material is made out of helps to determine what resources could be available. Also, crew members learned about the use of a Brunton compass to measure as strike and dip, both useful geological parameters which provide valuable information about what angle a particular geological formation has been uplifted. This EVA was greatly led by our Geologist Beechner.

While Villarroel, Beechner, and LaBarre were collecting samples and taking geological measurement outside the Hab, remaining crew, Rucker, Hartman, and Canham stayed in the Hab serving as communication support. During that time they also prepared lunch which was enjoyed by the crew members and guests. Menu included delicious pasta with meat sauce made of dehydrated beef as well as cheddar bay biscuits.

Radishes cultivated by MDRS crew 166 are still doing great. Tomatoes also are showing some improvement. Regarding green onions, no appreciable observation has been seen.

Engineers completed their daily checking routine without major anomalies.

Today’s afternoon was spent working on independent projects, daily reports, and getting interviewed by the film team.

During dinner time the crew discussed the plan for tomorrow. While some crew members showed some signs of fatigue during the day, Crew 167B members are looking forward to keep doing their best in order to successfully complete this mission. The challenges make us stronger!

Good night from Mars,

Otsmar J. Villarroel. Commander-in-training/Astronomer/Journalist Crew 167B

April 13, 2016

Last night the crew got informed by Mission Support about the fifty-five year first human exploration of space anniversary and we decided to celebrate it using the telescope. Several celestial bodies were observed by the crew members. It was a beautiful night out there with clear sky and calm wind. The list of objects observed during the night included: the Moon, Jupiter, and some bright stars such as Sirius, Polaris, Vega, Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Spica, and Arcturus.

Although today’s temperature was slightly higher than previous days, the day here on Mars has been beautiful with a spectacular blue sky. All six crewmembers were up by 0700 local time as requested by the crew Commander the night before. The crew enjoyed some music a la Villarroel. Some Guns n’ Roses, Aerosmith, Green Day, U2, UB40, Queen, and Red Hot Chili Peppers melodies were carefully selected to offer a harmonious environment during breakfast time. The crew enjoyed together pancakes during that time. A few minutes after breakfast, a group consisting of Hartman, Canham, and Villarroel was sent out to Candor Chasma for a second attempt of looking for the presence of water.

While during this effort, as the first one few days ago, the presence of water was not detected, the crew found the presence of moisture in some areas by Candor Chasma. It was noticed after digging into the sand in the bottom of the chasma. Also, the presence of moisture was observed underneath some rocks. Results are promising and further research regarding this topic has to be done.

After 2 hours 30 minutes, by noon (Martian time) the expediters returned to the Hab. All six crewmembers enjoyed lunch together. Lunch was prepared by Commander Rucker and it consisted of creamy chicken (dehydrated of course) veggie soup and fresh baked cookies for dessert.

At about 1330, local time, a group consisted of LaBarre, Beechner, and Hartman went out of the hab to complete the daily engineering routine as well as to take some needed measurements for Beechner’s project. Part of the afternoon was used by the crew members to work on their independent projects. Both Beechner and Hartman have been made great progress on their 3D Virtual Reality projects. On the other hand, LaBarre seems to be close to solving the rover’s battery/charger issue soon. Once this issue is completely solved she will move towards the next step, which is testing the robot on the challenging Martian terrain. We all are excited about it.

According to the green house officer, tomatoes, radishes, and green onions look healthy and doing well.

As usual, dinner time was used to spend time together and discuss tomorrow’s plans. The crew is planning to watch a movie tonight.

Best, Otsmar J. Villarroel. Commander-in-training/Astronomer/Journalist Crew 167B

April 14, 2016

Last night Crew 167B turned the Hab into a movie theater. Crew members enjoyed spending a relaxing time together while eating buttered popcorn and watching Step Brothers.

Although today was not as beautiful as previous days with a beautiful blue sky and calm wind, it was a great day for the crew’s mission here on the red planet. At about 10:00, Martian time, Crew member LaBarre, who has been working on the energy source since Crew 167B arrived to Mars five days ago, had the opportunity of testing her Emergency Medical Service Rover (EMRS) outside the Hab. The EMSR is a robot designed and programmed to retrieve an injured astronaut out on an EVA at Mars and bring him or her back to the Hab for medical assistance. During the test LaBarre detected some operational/mechanical issues. However, she plans correcting them and a new test, pending approval, will be performed tomorrow.

Two locations were carefully selected to perform the EMRS test. The first one was the area around the Hab which offered an uneven hard surface. During the test around the Hab some operational problems were immediately detected, however, those problems were corrected shortly. On the other hand, the second location, known as Creek Bed, with a mixture of hard and soft surface, offered a more complicated terrain. This mixture of surfaces along with the variation of the terrain elevation makes it a perfect location to test the EMSR. After collecting enough information about the performance of the rover the group returned to the Hab shortly after noon, local time. The group consisted of LaBarre, Beechner, and Villarroel. All six crew members are excited while waiting for tomorrow’s results.

After enjoying spicy jambalaya rice with sausage, at about 13:45, local time, a group consisting of Rucker, Hartman, and Canham left the Hab to conduct some geology experiments. The main goal of this EVA was to study the terrain from a geological point of view and thus collect some geology data of interest. Expediters paid close attention to sedimentary rocks as well as the regolith present in the area of two different locations: Cow Patty Field and the Little Canyon. They also performed Monsell Soil Color analysis, and used a Brunton Compass to determine strike and dip. After collection of the data, the Geology EVA group returned to the Hab.

Engineers completed their daily routine without anomalies to be reported. Greenhab officer worked on taking care of the radishes, tomatoes, and green onions. A fungi looking material was observed on the green onion’s soil.

Crew member Beechner spent the afternoon working on his individual project. He has been working hard on this project during the week and good progress is noticeable. Hartman, who along with Beechner is working on a 3D virtual reality project, has showed very good progress during the week too.

Dinner was served at about 18:45, local time. Tomorrow’s plans were discussed during dinner time.

Greetings, Otsmar J. Villarroel. Commander-in-training/Astronomer/Journalist Crew 167B

April 15, 2016

It seems pretty days around here are over. Today, it was a rainy day with temperatures between the mid-thirties and low-fifties. Also, something that is almost over is our rotation. This week has been definitely wonderful. I could not have asked for a better group. My crew mates Karen Rucker, Victoria LaBarre, Jaxom Hartman, Johnathan Beehcner, and Drew Canham have been an awesome team to work with. Thanks to McLennan Community College, Mars Desert Research Station, and my crew mates for this opportunity.

This morning after breakfast crew member Victoria LaBarre started to work on fixing the rover issued reported yesterday with the plan of testing it one more time on the Martian terrain. At about 10:30, local time, a group led by her and completed by Beechner and Canham went out to perform a rover test. Due the bad conditions of the terrain because the nightly and early morning rain, the test was shorter than planned. However, the rover got the chance to be tested on a muddy terrain allowing her to collect information for further work. She is planning to keep working on the improvement of the rover once she returns back home.

After lunch, a team consisting of Beechner, Villarroel, and LaBarre went out of the hab to conduct the second part of the geology experiments initiated two days ago. They traveled to the location known as The Little Canyon and collected important geology data of interest. After approximately two hours of work the group returned to the Hab without any inconvenience. This geology EVA closed the series of experiments planned to be conducted outside the Hab before coming back home (Earth) by crew 167B.

Weather conditions have been getting worse as the day progresses. At about 16:00, Martian time, the area located around the Hab was under a moderate hailstorm. However, hails were not bigger than 0.3 cm causing no damage to the structure of the Hab.

Dinner consisted of breakfast food, including scrambled eggs, sausage and pancakes. For dessert Commander Rucker prepared energy bites made of oatmeal, peanut butter, and Nutella.

Some crew members have already started to pack and getting ready to return to Earth with satisfaction of being part of this experience.

See you later Mars! And one more time, thanks to everybody that makes it an awesome experience.

Otsmar J. Villarroel. Commander-in-training/Astronomer/Journalist Crew 167B