Space | 14. April 2014

First week ‘on Mars’

We have already spent one week ‘on Mars’ and yet it feels like we arrived yesterday. Our ‘landing’, during the night of Friday 28 March, was quite tumultuous, with an arrival at sunset in pouring rain, strong winds and a temperature of about 10 degrees Celsius… like an actual Martian sandstorm. We unloaded all our luggage and proceeded to the last interviews with journalists from the University of Hawaii – in the rain. “Good luck and see you in four months!” said Kim Binsted as she exited the habitat. And our mission had begun!

Here we were, the six of us – totally wet – in our new home, which at that moment looked more like a battlefield than a Martian base. The first thing to do was prepare bedding and organise the rooms.

The HI-SEAS crew upon arrival in the habitat. Credit: Ross Lockwood.

On Saturday morning, we started sorting out our food. We had to divide everything into four to ensure that we will not be short of ingredients at the end of the mission.

Our first couple of days on the base were a bit chaotic because we had four days of uninterrupted rain… and our primary source of electricity is solar panels. Our second source of power is a fuel cell and our third one is the ICE generator. On Tuesday, battery power was so low that we had to turn on the ICE generator and spent the evening using flashlights to save energy.

In the meantime, we managed to do some suit tests inside. We have two suits from the University of Maryland, which we will test and assess during our four-month mission.

Me, trying on one of the University of Maryland suits. Credit: Ross Lockwood.

On Thursday, the Sun shone once again and I did my first EVA with two of my crewmates to recover an item of crashed cargo. At 16:30, we were informed by mission support that they had located one of our lost cargo items. This meant we had just one hour and a half left before sunset.

So we suited up very quickly and went outside to look for the cargo. After an unsuccessful half an hour walking in the hard terrain of cold lava flows we decided to go back to the habitat. We were still keeping our eyes open and suddenly we saw it between two lava flows, 10 metres further on. Mission success! We brought it back to the habitat and discovered its contents: medicines, some chips, soap, towels and sheets.

Mauna Kea from the only window in the habitat. Credit: DLR / Lucie Poulet.

My second EVA was on Friday and the purpose was to test research equipment. Two of my crewmates installed a radio antenna and my crewmate from Kennedy Space Center and I tested the soil resistance tool developed in the Swamp Works laboratory at Kennedy Space Center.

Testing the resistance of the ‘Martian’ soil. Credit: Annie Caracci.

During this first week we also started to fill in all the surveys needed for the psychological study. We have a total of six daily surveys, two weekly surveys, one weekly test and one monthly test. We also carry two sensors with us at all times to collect data such as light intensity, sound intensity, interaction with one another, heart rate, number of steps, and sleep pattern.

Next week the food study (opportunistic research) will start; we will have an extra three daily surveys and will need to record and weigh our food each time we eat. We got familiar with this during the past week and from Monday to Wednesday we recorded and weighed our food.