The life in the station is becoming more and more pleasant. Some routines are well implemented (like waking up at 6:45 and workout at 7:00). In the day everyone knows perfectly what they have to do and how to do it. We are also getting used to eating dried food and saving water. (More about saving water in tomorrow’s report). We are little by little feeling closer to a real Martian crew and it is quite satisfying to be honest.
This morning at 9:00 a team of four courageous members of the crew performed an EVA to install two experiments. This EVA was hard both technically and physically. One group installed the LOAC (Light Optical Aerosol Counter) which is basically a scientific instrument that measures airborne particles (but we will talk about this cool experiment in more details another day)
Meanwhile, the other group installed the weather station which will provide data to understand better the measures from another experiment. (From the LOAC for example).
First let me tell you that installing something during an EVA has nothing to do with fixing stuff at home or assembling IKEA furniture. You have to imagine that you have a 10kg spacesuit on your back that is restricting your ability to move to the bare minimum, a helmet that distord your sight, the constraint of communicating with your crew mates only by radio and the most important part: the equivalent of ski gloves that makes any step of the assembly technically very hard. With all that equipment on you every movement you make becomes both time and energy consuming.
They did a really great job and now from the window of the upper deck we can see the weather station proudly standing on the red Martian soil! This is all the more cool because this is the window where the mascot of Raphael is standing so he can see the experiment he was in charge of during the preparation of the mission.
The only thing we had to report after this EVA was a malfunctioning of our Commander’s spacesuit. The ventilation system was not working properly during the EVA. This afternoon our crew Engineer Francois spent some time in the RAM (Repair and Assembly Module) and successfully fixed it! Thanks to his great job our Commander will be safe for his next EVA!
Talking about our Commander I’ve interviewed him this afternoon and this is what we talked about:
« -Hi Clement! How are you today on this Sol 2?
-Hi Pierre! I feel great thanks! And you?
-Yeah I’m good!
First, Commander, can you introduce yourself in a few words?
-Yes sure! My name is Clément Plagne, I’m currently a student in my last year at ISAE-Supaero, a French aerospace engineering school. Last year I did an Internship at CNES, the French space agency, where I worked as an engineer on stratospheric balloons. My passion for human space flights led me to study biomedical engineering and medicine during one semester during my gap year. After this mission I will do another internship at the European Space Agency to work on the engineering part of their analog missions.
-Wow this will be a great experience !
How does it feel to be back in the station after two years of living on Earth?
-It’s great to be back, really. The station hasn’t changed that much, but it still took me a bit of time to settle in. Now I’m good! I got my old room and most of my habits back, and it honestly feels a little like home.
-Why did you choose to come back for another mission on Mars?
-I think the reason is pretty obvious. When you end your mission here at MDRS you feel like it passed so fast and you have only one will and it is to come back! For the part of coming back as a commander, I think it comes from the fact that during my previous mission I was the Journalist. For this role in particular you need to be aware of all the things that happen in the station. You need to know how the scientific experiments are going but you also need to know how your crew mates feel and if they have troubles. I think the role of commander is the logical next step but in addition with that you become more active and start focusing on problem solving.
-What is the thing that you liked the most during your first mission here with the crew 223?
-Photography without a doubt! At the time of my first mission I had started taking pictures of landscapes among other things and I loved it. But here at MDRS you can find landscapes that you would encounter nowhere else except on Mars. Moreover the opportunity to go outside the station in a spacesuit during EVAs to take pictures makes it all the more incredible. I love to take pictures of my crewmates doing their job during EVA in such an unreal environment! I still love to look at the old pictures I took two years ago!
-I have to say I love those pictures too, you did a great job!
(I personally encourage you to take a look at those beautiful pictures)
-Wow thank you so much!
-I truly mean it!
You seem to have enjoyed this first mission so much. What is the thing that you’ve been missing the most during those two years on Earth between the two missions?
-The thing I’ve been missing since I came back on Earth is something you discover really soon on Mars. It is the lack of distraction. On Earth it is merely impossible to work on something for more than two hours without receiving a notification or being distracted by something. Personally I tend to be distracted easily by those kinds of things and being on Mars is a real opportunity for me to work far more productively than on Earth.
-And is there a thing that you haven’t been missing at all?
-Yes for sure! The absence of the internet and being disconnected from the world is a double-edged sword. There are a lot of things that you take for granted on Earth but that are impossible on Mars. Googling something or buying something at your local store for your dinner recipe is not possible on Mars and sometimes it can be quite frustrating. So sometimes you’re glad to live on Earth for those kinds of things.
-Yes I can definitely see what you are talking about !
So, this year you are the Commander of the crew. Can you explain to us what is the role of a Commander and how does this role affects the way you live this mission?
-Ok so the Commander is the most experienced member of the crew because he has already done a mission. For this reason, he knows the station and how everything works inside it well. So this role is about supervision. Your job is to help your crew mates do their job properly, avoid mistakes, answer their questions and guide them to do a good job. This is a completely different perspective from two years ago when I was, just like you are now, the crew’s journalist. As a journalist my job was to gather information about the day and compile everything in my report but it was kind of a passive job. Now that I am here as a Commander, my task is to be much more active. I am the person who knows what to do best and how to do it so I have to be ready to help and answer questions from my crew mates.
-From my point of view it is very pleasant and comforting in that beginning of mission to have somebody who you can rely on. You are always here to answer our questions and you’ve been here since the beginning of this mission to train us. I think you do your job well and I want to thank you for that!
Clement, thank you very much for your time! »
This concluded the interview. In next reports we are definitely going to do interviews of my other crew mates so stay tuned !