Sol 24

SOL 24: Mission objective: Save the station!

“The boy was beginning to understand that intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it’s all written there.” - The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

This morning, we headed to the atmospheric instruments’ site to change the batteries and retrieve the data recorded during the past days. The drone, piloted from the inside of the Science Dome, was flying above us to take pictures! Then, Leo, Yves and I went to reach checkpoints chosen on Monday at Kissing Camel Ridge. Yesterday, we had prepared our path with the 3D map, and we were very efficient! We found the first seven checkpoints in 30 minutes, but then, we were in the incapacity to find the eighth one for a long time… Finally, we found 11 out of 12 checkpoints placed on the site. We are proud of our performance, and Leo is very happy to have been able to test the experiment from this side, and to search for checkpoints as quick as we could. We are impatient to see how Marie and Léa will manage their search with the 2D map, because at the end of the afternoon, they prepared their strategy for tomorrow’s EVA!

In morning, the rest of the Crew continued working on different experiments or tasks, such as taking care of the GreenHab, performing solar observations for our Crew Astronomer, or trying to fix the EchoFinder equipment. The afternoon resumed the same way, after the EVA: Yves was handling photogrammetry data, Léa and Marie performed an EchoFinder session. I was working on the morning EVA’s pictures, siting in the Hab, and Lise was also working on her computer next to me. Suddenly, at 16:08, an alarm rang on the AMI interface, so we stopped our activities. We were used to the procedure: we had to check a sensor in the Science Dome. Marie and Léa were already there, so they could check. Contrary to most of our alarms, which are just sensor anomalies, the risk was real this time! The alarm wasn’t a false alarm. One of the tunnels which connects different modules, near the Science Dome, had been damaged and caused a depressurization in a section of the station! After being reunited safely at the Lower Deck of the Hab, we organized ourselves to be efficient  applying the emergency EVA’s protocol: we had to go out in EVA suits to fix the station. Mathurin and I were equipped with our suits and worked on the tunnel from the outside of the station. In parallel, Léa was also equipped for the EVA, but on the inside of the station, in the tunnel. We communicated together by radio, and with Marie, who was the emergency HabCom, to be well coordinated during the operation. We even had a rover with us to maintain the tunnel while doing the necessary manipulations. We fixed the broken part of the tunnel, all in just one hour of EVA! At the end of the outing, we were happy to have fixed our home, and now we are all safe inside the station!

The day was very exhausting for the Crew, as we continued with the Coms window. Two EVAs in one Sol, that never happens ! We enjoyed the evening to rest, but also to coordinate the end of the mission, organizing our last tasks and to thinking about the dismantlement of all our equipment and experiments!

Sol 23

SOL 23: The calm before the storm

SOL 23: The calm before the storm

“As each day passed I would learn, in our talk, something about the little prince's planet, his departure from it, his journey. The information would come very slowly, as it might chance to fall from his thoughts.” - The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Today was our last day of mission without performing an EVA! Indeed, from tomorrow to Friday, we planned one EVA per day, for the last week of photogrammetry or to retrieve the atmospheric instruments before the end of the mission. No EVA means a lot of work inside for the Crew, whether on our computers or on equipment for experiment inside the station. For example, this morning, after a magnificent sunrise, Mathurin and I tried to find a solution to a problem we have with our outreach experiment, built with high-school students, to grow plants in Martian soil. Indeed, we noticed yesterday some mold on the red planet’s soil, and even after observing it with the microscope, we can’t understand from where the problem comes! Talking about experiments, Léa continued working on her informatic code which enables her to analyze sunspots on Sun’s pictures taken thanks to the Solar Observatory. Yves and Lise finished to prepare the Kissing Camel Ridge 3D map made thanks to photogrammetry during yesterday’s EVA. They located all the checkpoints on the map, for us to find them during our next EVAs! A day inside also means maintaining the station. Leo solved in a few minutes the problem we had with our kitchen sink. Indeed, for a few days, the water was hardly draining. It was becoming complicated to wash dishes : we are using 4 liters of water only each time we wash the dishes for a 7 person meal, so the water becomes dirty really quickly. We are really grateful to our Crew Engineer because thanks to him, we have our functional sink back.

At the end of the morning, Marie and Leo were cooking for us for the last MELiSSA meal of the mission. The recipe was the one of the vegetable gnocchi, that we already tested and liked, even though it is not very fast to prepare for a Crew! The end of this experiment made us realize the amount of data we produced during four weeks of mission, and how much productive we were! We can’t wait to give feedbacks to the researchers about the experiment we conducted, and especially we can’t wait to see the results provided to science thanks to our mission!

At the end of the day, Leo and I prepared our EVA for tomorrow, during which we’ll have to reach checkpoints placed at Kissing Camel Ridge. We relied on the 3D map of the area, and we took notes and draw to be able to find each checkpoint once on site! It will be the first time for Leo to perform an EVA in which he’ll have to search for checkpoints and not to place them! Meanwhile, other Crew members were working on other subjects that are keeping us busy since more than three weeks! Being seven in the Crew enables us to split the tasks and to be efficient on each experiment we brought with us to the station.

Sol 21

SOL 21 : A Sunday Quest

SOL 21 : A Sunday Quest

“Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.” - The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

This third Sunday of mission wasn’t so ordinary! Of course, we had our normal Sunday activities during the morning, such as a longer sports session and cleaning, but then, we started the game prepared by Lise and Leo!

They had been organizing the game for a week, in secret. The rest of the Crew had no idea of what was going to happen, except for the fact that we would be playing a game collectively. It turned out to be a station-wide treasure hunt! Our mascot had disappeared, and the Crew had to find and save it! We went from hint to hint, from module to module, to answer the riddles and advance on our quest. Lise and Leo had prepared everything , we even had to play games and duel them! On our way, we worked as a team, working to solve the riddles, which were sometimes very complicated, and to find the next hints. The game lasted the whole afternoon, and we all had so much fun! It was a mind-bending and laugh-inducing Sunday, enjoyed by the entire Crew.

Even though, at the end of the day, we came back to more serious considerations. Every evening, we fill out all of our daily questionnaires for various studies. For two weeks, in addition to all questionnaires, we had been interacting with AI4U, an artificial intelligence tool developed by CNES. One by one, we answered questions, testing the accuracy of the vocal reconnaissance software. But this evening was our last session with AI4U!

At the end of this intense day, we are cooking a good meal and preparing for a restful night, to be ready for the last week of our rotation!

Sol 19

SOL 19: Martian topography

SOL 19: Martian topography

"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." - The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The photogrammetry EVA of this morning was a huge success! Even though Mathurin and Yves weren’t fully convinced by the 3D map of Candor Chasma generated by photogrammetry, Lise and Marie found all the checkpoints surprisingly quickly: they went through the 12 checkpoints in less than one hour! They identified yesterday the checkpoints thanks to the 3D map, and prepared the path they wanted to follow. It seems like their preparation was efficient! Even though they were fast in finding the checkpoints, the EVA lasted 4 hours because Candor Chasma is located far form the station, and we must walk a lot to arrive on the searching site. Assisted by Yves during the EVA, Lise and Marie came back to the Hab exhausted by their expedition, but proud of their performance!

This morning during the EVA, Mathurin piloted the done from the inside of the Science Dome in order to take pictures of a future path we’ll take on an EVA, and to capture images of the station from the sky! For the seven of us, it was strange to see our living place being so little and seeming lost in the huge Martian desert. On his side, Leo, while he was HabCom for the EVA, meaning he was in permanent contact with the EVA Crew, cooked some pancakes for the Crew. We were delighted to eat them as a dessert for lunch!

Like almost every day, various Crew members did cognitive assessments. For the Orbital Architecture experiment, we perform 3 tests per week and per Crew member, in three different places of the station: the Hab, our major living and working place; the GreenHab, a silent place close to nature; and the Science Dome, a more peaceful working place. Today, there were tests in each module! The tasks we must perform are various, but mostly about concentration, working memory and multi-tasking.

Finally, at the end of the day, Léa and I prepared tomorrow’s EVA. We’ll go to Candor Chasma as well, but we prepared ourselves with a regular 2D map. It will be hard to counteract Lise and Marie’s performance of this morning!

Sol 16

SOL 16: Sometimes you need to know how to start again…

SOL 16: Sometimes you need to know how to start again…

“Actually, it wasn’t that those things, in themselves, revealed anything at all; it was just that people, looking at what was occurring around them, could find a means of penetration to the Soul of the World.” - The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

The morning was very busy for the Crew! We performed various cognitive assessments, in different modules, for the Orbital Architecture experiment. The aim is to study our performances in different places of the station. For this experiment, we are also wearing different sensors. For example, one of them indicates our location thanks to anchors that Lise placed everywhere in the station at the beginning of the mission. We need to turn them on in the morning and save data at the end of the day. We also have a Polar Band, placed around our chests, with a cardiac sensor. We wear it during the day, and Crew members that aren’t bothered by it keep wearing it during the night. All data will be collected by a researcher coming from KTH University leading the experiment. Finally, we also wear smart watches. They collect a large amount of data, especially about our sleep. At first, it was a bit tricky to get used to all these devices. After 16 Sols, we don’t feel them anymore. All these sensors are not that stringent for us, especially because we know that the scientific data will be used for interesting research!

Léa, our Crew astronomer, received this morning the pictures she took during the night thanks to the robotic Observatory. It is the first time since the beginning of the mission that she’s satisfied with her pictures. It is not that easy to do astrophotography! She processed data and obtained a beautiful picture of the M-42 nebula! Now that she understands better how it works, she’s hoping for other pictures to show us!

Today, we had a setback for our photogrammetry experiment. Let’s resume the events. We performed the experiment at North Ridge last week, to compare the performances of two teams: one with a 3D map generated thanks to the drone’s pictures, the other with a classic 2D map. The photogrammetry at North Ridge was a success, and we wanted to do it again this week in a second site called Candor Chasma. Thus, Yves, Mathurin and Leo went there to take drone’s pictures yesterday. They thought that the more they take photos, the more precise the 3D map will be. It is why they took 1400 pictures yesterday, versus 650 pictures last week. Even though they were happy about their photogrammetry, they were worried about the fact that the map could be more complicated to generate. How to explain? In the middle of the scarlet desert, stands North Ridge, chiselled by the wind, draped in the usual Martian red but also yellow, green, and white. Although massive in size, North Ridge is not as intimidating as mountains on Earth can be. By its gentle slopes and round shapes, North Ridge is an invitation to climb, guided by the colour gradients of its flanks. Filled with cracks and canyons, with a good visibility everywhere, it was the perfect place for photogrammetry. Candor Chasma, on the other hand, is a scar fracturing the ground. As deep as North Ridge is high, the canyon surrounds you with its sinuous walls, pierced from all sides, like a river joined by its affluents. Angles and sharp turns make for a reduced visibility, making it not a perfect place for photogrammetry. And after 11 hours of the computer processing pictures, the software gave a map that was not satisfying us… Some points were not located at the right place, which distorted the map. Yves and Mathurin immediately thought in starting again the process by going back to Candor Chasma and tried to organize an EVA for this afternoon! This would have enabled us to not completely change our EVA planning, but this demand wasn’t accepted by Mission Support. We rescheduled the future EVA so Leo, Yves and Mathurin could go to Candor Chasma with the drone tomorrow. It was the first time that rescheduling had a direct impact on the end of our mission, which made us realize that we’ll have to leave the station in a few days… Yves and Mathurin then spent their afternoon trying to understand how to improve their photogrammetry for tomorrow, so they won’t encounter the same problems anymore. Indeed, it is a complex subject and nobody in the Crew is an expert of it. They read documentation and made some hypothesis about the map’s errors. They have developed a new strategy thanks to these conclusions.  Tomorrow, Mathurin will pilot the drone. Yves and Leo will follow the drone and guide Mathurin to better cover the area. That way, Mathurin will be able to focus only on the photos and we hope the map will be better!

Despite this event, which mobilized a lot of our Crew’s grey matter, the afternoon was calm. For example, Léa carried on working on the 3D printer, to try and make it work, while Leo and I were playing chess!

Sol 14

SOL 14: The White Planet

SOL 14: The White Planet

“It was the pure Language of the World. It required no explanation, just as the universe needs none as it travels through endless time.” - The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

For this second Sunday on Mars, the Crew woke up seeing a red and white landscape! After yesterday’s wind gusts, snow happened and covered the Martian hills in front of our windows. But the wind, which kept blowing during the day, and the sun, hiding behind the clouds, threw away the white snowflakes…

We followed our Sunday routine. We started with a big sports session, during more than an hour. Lise have prepared an original session: we were switching between individual exercises and group ones. After going through seven individual exercises, we gathered to complete a common work out. We did this 4 times, and then finished with a challenge: holding as long as possible the plank position! After that, we were exhausted, but happy to have worked out. Then, we enjoyed a bread, cooked by Léa the day before. After this big breakfast, we kept performing our Sunday activities: a big clean up of the station! We had to clean all the Martian dust we brough from the outside during EVAs. Despite it, we spent time working. For example, Lise and I performed cognitive assessments for the Orbital Architecture experiment.

The afternoon was busy with an activity brought happiness to the Crew: washing our hair! Just before that, Lise, which found her hair too long, asked Marie to cut it, and we did it! Then, those who wanted to wash their hair, and couldn’t do it since the beginning of the mission, could finally do it. It was great! We are proud to have used only 9 liters of water to Lise's, Marie's and Léa's hair, as well as mine. On his side, Yves went for dry shampoo. It was not easy to wash our hair while kneeing down on the ground, with the head inside a bucket, clearing our hair with water from a water flask! But we had a lot of amusement helping each other out, which created a joyful atmosphere in the whole station!

Finally, the Crew enjoyed muffins, cooked by Mathurin. This day enabled everyone to rest and prepare themselves for next week!

Sol 13

SOL 13: Winds in the East, Mist coming in

SOL 13: Winds in the East, Mist coming in

“So, once again, the world had demonstrated its many languages: the desert only moments ago had been endless and free, and now it was an impenetrable wall.” - The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

When we woke up, the Crew heard loud wind gusts against the Hab’s walls. But we were not surprised: we were advised yesterday that today’s weather wouldn’t be nice. This is why we rescheduled the EVA to the morning, even though it was initially planned for the afternoon. Originally, this EVA was designed to be an easy EVA, just to change batteries of the atmospheric instruments. But, with the wind speed and the rain announced, we had no other choice than to retrieve some instruments in the station, and protect others from the wind. LOAC was loaded in the back of Curiosity rover, brought back to the station, and the Field Mill packed with foams and duct tape in case the mast tips over and breaks because of the wind gusts. We heard the wind blowing harder and harder throughout the day, and we were glad to know the atmospheric instruments were safe.

Winds didn’t stop blowing all day, winds gust even blew open and nearly broke our principal airlock’s door. Once the problem was solved, winds damaged a part of the connecting tunnels which enable us to go from one module to another. We evacuated the Science Dome right before the tunnels became dangerous to move through, and decided to close it off for the time being. While the Crew was working in the Hab in the afternoon, we were glad to be comfortable inside the station, instead of outside on an EVA as initially planned!

We had some other little issues during the morning, especially with the experiments led by high school students. The plants we were growing with them were nearly dead… But we found solutions to still have data for this experiment! Léa also tried all the morning to fix the 3D printer, which could be useful for plenty of applications. She has been working on it for various Sols, dealing with each problem, one after the other. Today, she found some solutions, but she thinks it will be complicated to make it work…

For lunch, we wanted to innovate for our dehydrated meals by cooking a quiche, with homemade dough. We were afraid to leave the table still hungry, so we made a large quantity of it. A very large quantity! We were unable to finish it entirely, and nobody felt hungry during all afternoon!

Just before the meal, Leo showed us the mid-rotation video, which he finished editing earlier. We were all very happy to see a summary of the first half of our mission. Indeed, today, Sol 13, marks the halfway point of our mission on Mars! We can say that this mid-mission Sol was memorable and quite eventful for the Crew!

Sol 12

SOL 12: A Sol in March

SOL 12: A Sol in March

“How do I guess at the future? Based on the omens of the present. The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.” - The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

This morning, Lise and Marie went out on an EVA to North Ridge, with Mathurin. Their goal was to find checkpoints with the help of a map they drew yesterday, based on a 2D map of the site. Léa was HabCom during the EVA, simultaneously processing some astrophotography taken by the robotic observatory during the night. Listening in with an EVA radio, Léa could know how many checkpoints the girls had found in real time. Léa and I were the 3D map team during the last EVA, so we were carefully following their performance! And we must admit that they did a much better job than us… They found all the checkpoints in record time! They had a lot of fun finding checkpoints choseny Yves, Mathurin and Leo at the beginning of the week. They came back to the Hab very happy with their performance and with the will to do it again next week. And wouldn’t you know it, the three boys will perform another EVA Monday at Candor Chasma, a different site, and start another iteration of the experiment. This time, Léa and I will have the 2D map and Lise and Marie the 3D one. This will enable us to compare gaps in performance, and to know if they come from the team constitution or from the different maps!

The afternoon was productive for the entire Crew! Yves and Mathurin processed data from the photogrammetry EVA of the morning. Meanwhile, Leo did some video editing for the mid-rotation video. As the names indicates, this video may be posted in the following days, because we are close to the mission's mid-point! Marie and Léa performed an EchoFinder session. They consolidated what we fixed yesterday, in order to get all the devices connected well together, and so the software could work better. After that, Léa worked on an outreach article about the effect life in space can have on the human body, that she nearly finished! During the afternoon, I was busy sorting the pictures of the EVA, and following each member of the Crew in their activities to take pictures, and to know what they’re doing, so I can account for the day in this report!

Sols are passing quickly, and we are close to mission's mid-point. On the one hand, we feel like we have been living in the station for a long time, but on the other hand, time flies, because we’re working on a great many experiments and studies! Today, we also noticed that we spent the first day of March on Mars!

Sol 11

SOL 11 : It’s not a problem if there’s a solution

SOL 11 : It’s not a problem if there’s a solution

“And, when you want something, all the Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” - The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho


This morning, Crew 293 performed the EVA prepared yesterday, to go and save the atmospheric instruments! The EVA Crew, Leo, Léa and Mathurin, went to the deployment site to take various measurements, like tension measurements for example, in order to identify the problem which prevented the data collection. After an hour and a half out in the Martian atmosphere, Crew members solved the problem. When they left the site, the instruments were collecting data. We are hoping that everything will goes well for the next EVA!

Late in the morning, while I was performing a session for the TILT experiment, Lise and Mathurin worked on the impedance meter’s data collection. Indeed, we use an impedance meter for our Core Data measurements each morning, which record many physiological parameters: mass, muscular mass, nerve health, an electrocardiogram… This scale which is linked to the watches that Crew members wear at all times, enables us to collect health data. Lise and Mathurin developed a code to automatically transcribe this data into a readable file. That way, we will be able to share it with various researchers we work with. Then, Marie and Lise found a solution to make the EchoFinder’s software works, we had been struggling with it for days!

Today, the Crew, and especially Léa, our Crew Astronomer, received excellent news. Léa, since the beginning of the mission, could not access the solar Observatory, because an important piece needed to be replaced. It was difficult for her because her whole project was based on the use of this Observatory. And yesterday, she received an e-mail: at the beginning of next week, it may be replaced, and she may be able to use it! So today she could enter it for the first time in 11 Sols, to start training to use the equipment. Her smile showed us that we should never give up hope!

During the afternoon, Lise and Marie prepared tomorrow’s EVA, watched by Yves. They had a classic 2D map to prepare their path to find the same checkpoints as the team who had a 3D map. They spend approximately one hour to study their map and prepare their plan. It was hard for them to find their way through the North Ridge’s harsh landscapes with a 2D map! They think they understood well but have difficulties to visualize landscapes. They don’t want to go in with too much confidence… You can imagine that a friendly competition was born between the 2D and 3D teams! This makes the experiment very enjoyable, and so Crew members are even more implicated in the results!

Sol 9

SOL 9: Draw me a mountain!

SOL 9: Draw me a mountain!

«Thus you can imagine my amazement, at sunrise, when I was awakened by an odd little voice. It said: "If you please--draw me a sheep!"


"Draw me a sheep!" » - The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The day started with a sports session, as usual. But this time, the workout was more focused on stretching. Indeed, after more than a week of intensive sports, we were glad to have a more restful session to stretch our muscles!

During the morning, Mathurin, our GreenHab Officer, spent a lot of time in the greenhouse. He goes at the GreenHab various time during the day to water, but this morning he spent time planting new plants, and moving the ones that had not enough space to grow well. For example, he planted basil because we like to add some in our dehydrated food! Every Crew member likes to go with Mathurin to the GreenHab from time to time: it is the brighter module of the station. Contrary to other modules, the GreenHab’s walls are kind of transparent, so sun rays filter through them. It is very hot sometimes in there, but sensations are reminding us of Earth! Plus, being surrounded by plants and greens is very pleasant in our confined environment! During this time in the Hab, Yves continued working on the 3D maps for the photogrammetry EVAs of the week, while Léa and Marie started writing outreach articles about space missions. Lise was busy collecting our sensors’ data, it is very long: indeed, there is about 8 Go of data per Crew member just for the first week of mission! For me, with Leo, we went through the different modules to shot videos, in which each Crew member presents a part of the station.

For lunch, we had again a MELiSSA lunch: leek muffins! While they were cooking them, Lise and Leo did not find any muffin tin, so they made them with aluminum foils. But finally, during the afternoon, Lise was baking cookies and Yves opened a drawer below the oven and… found a muffin tin! This problem enabled us to learn that the Crew knows how to adapt and find solutions!

At the end of the afternoon, Léa and I prepared our EVA for tomorrow. With the 3D map generated thanks to photogrammetry, we identified checkpoint we will have to find tomorrow. In 45 minutes, we took notes, draw the landscape, and think about our itinerary. The purpose is to compare our performances with the ones of another team, Marie and Lise. They will have to find the same checkpoints with a 2D map in a future EVA!