Tomorrow Monday April 28th will mark our one month on the red planet. Ten days ago we reached our 100-day remaining mark. Time flies and I’m not the only one in the hab making this observation. We did not see this first month passing by. Boredom is not something we have experienced so far. We are all very busy with our personal projects and when not, there is always something to take care of in the hab. In this month we have already experienced: difficulties with communications, shortage of water, failure of our treadmill and our bike, failure of spacesuits, and shortage of power from the solar array, leading us to turn on the ICE generator and spending an evening with flashlights. Yes living on Mars, even if this Mars is located in Hawaii is far from being a holiday. We are isolated, depending only on ourselves and remote mission support when something goes wrong. There is no customer service on Mars. If something breaks and we can’t repair it, we have two options: invent something with the available material and equipment we have or wait for resupply to get the missing part.
This month was punctuated with our first EVAs and equipment tests… and our first social evenings.
We did two astronomy EVAs, one corresponded to the lunar eclipse and Mars opposition. This was the occasion for us to enjoy the beautiful non-polluted sky of Mauna Loa and take beautiful pictures. It also enabled us to assess suit mobility in the dark.
We took advantage of this first month to really get to know each other. We celebrated Yuri’s night and did a video for this occasion.
This first month also was dedicated to get into the routine of doing our daily and weekly surveys – we have 5 daily surveys and 2 weekly surveys, with a weekly team performance test and a monthly cognition test- and get used to the two sensors we wear continuously – a badge and an armband.
Tiffany has had some of us test different suits with a succession of activities (turn around a box, walk over a box, open a tripod, unscrew a screw with a screwdriver, walk 30m with bags of different weights etc.). In addition she is testing our stress levels before and after each EVA.
Ross made us try his 3D printed surgical tools and compare them with regular tools. He was also in charge of configuring the network on our personal computers, which ended up being a huge task. He and Annie were part of our night emergency EVA on the first week to check the generator.
Annie has had us test the Swamp Works soil resistance tool. She also is collecting, weighing, and making footballs with our trash, like on the ISS, and analyzing outgassing in the frame of her trash-to-gas experiment.
Casey has collected his first geological samples and Ron submitted us to personality and cognition tests.
I have started growing plants for my experiment and we are all looking forward to eat them. There are lettuces, radishes, tomatoes, and peas.
All our food for four months was delivered at the beginning of the mission –a month ago. We keep them in the container, which is also our workshop.
We will have a resupply at the end of May, but it will only be a small portion of the total food, for items which cannot be stored for four months. Yes, all our food is freeze-dried or shelf-stable, that’s to say canned food, dry milk, cereals, dry fruits and nuts.
When we want to cook a meal, we must think ahead of time and re-hydrate the food. We have a lot of variety in our choice of freeze-dried vegetables: spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. and freeze-dried fruits: blueberries, strawberries, cherries, apricot, pineapple, raspberries. In addition, we also have dried apples, raisins, dried mango, cranberries and banana chips.
We also sprout seeds of alfalfa, broccoli, radish, and beans, which makes for our salad 🙂
In terms of meat, we have a large freeze-dried choice: chicken, beef, sausage. But also a lot of canned meat (SPAM) and vacuum-sealed sausages. Without forgetting sardines, herrings, and other canned anchovies, which I am more than happy to leave to my crew mates 😉
Cheese also is freeze-dried and we can choose between mozzarella, cheddar, and Monterey Jack. Perfect for cooking, even though re-hydration can sometimes be problematic (cheese forms a sort of ball). Eggs also are in powder and we regularly make omelets and other scrambled eggs.
What is really awesome is that we have a yogurt-maker, a cheese-maker, and a bread-maker. We tested all of them, the yogurt was really a success but the cheese can still be improved. The bread just is amazing.
Stay tuned for new Hi-SEAS crew news and don’t hesitate to request us a post on a specific topic you have questions on!