7th March, 2020
Sol 6 – Crew 223 : Communication
A couple days ago on EVA, Marion unfortunately lost the use of her comms headset, making her incapable of communicating with the rest of the expedition by radio. Fortunately, thanks to the little nonverbal communication we’d all learned to be more efficient, she was able to pass over her EVA leader role and carry on the EVA normally. This situation made Aurélien wonder: what if all our comms failed? EVAs limit our senses drastically already, as the bulky suits limit our vision and our movement. Even with the radios, it can prove difficult to coordinate rovers on the road. As he came back in the Hab, he asked the question: could we carry on an entire EVA without once using our radios?
Communication is the absolute centre of any EVA. We need to be clear with the HabCom inside, who needs data on vehicles and water outside, needs to give us permission to get in and out of various zones, and requires updates to be given as we stop near the Hab to change batteries on experiments set up within communication range. Between crewmembers on EVA, communication is kept to a minimum, as radio chatter quickly becomes impossible to understand if people try to talk over one another. What remained, however, was of course the important communications: whether everyone was feeling alright, what direction we need to be going, or when the rovers need to stop or turn. A lot of crucial communication goes through those radios, and imagining the ways to eliminate the need for them and find alternatives is a tough task. While we were outside yesterday morning with Blandine, Valentin and Florian, Aurélien, Luc and Marion were thinking of a protocol to carry on a fully silent EVA.
The final proposal, as given to us by Luc, was clever and felt fool proof. Our five required minutes of airlock depressurisation would be directed by the lights turning on or off by the HabCom on the other side. The beginning measurements of data from the water tank and rovers around the Hab were distributed among us, and would be relayed by Marion using hand gestures to Valentin, our HabCom, looking through a window in the Hab. He would respond similarly and give us the go or no go to take the rovers outside. To ensure that no rover was left behind on the way, the one in front would periodically stop and wait to be passed by the other, and the dance would go on until reaching our destination. By foot, most things can be done by mime – hand gestures were decided to tell each other about our levels of fatigue and pain, making sure that we can go back if someone is too uncomfortable.
The test was a complete success, and the EVA went on nominally without one word spoken. Two years ago, the Supaéro MDRS crew drew up similar plans on how to carry on an EVA in case of injury of a crewmember. These are all possible events during an EVA, and we were glad to continue doing research on similar themes. The communication between crews on a year to year basis is one of the strengths of our missions, and this gives us great hopes for even better experiments in the years to come.
The Science Dome was a lot less quiet. Marion’s experiment on foreign language communication is still running strong, et the English, German and Spanish speaking are still working to build LEGO figures and find new ways to be understood by the other. The puzzles are getting rather hard, but what’s interesting is that the speaking pairs are starting to develop their own slang to describe different pieces, and much less time is wasted compared to the first attempts. Next week, a different game: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. An asymmetric, fast-paced bomb defusal game where one person sees puzzles, but only the others have the manual to solve them. We’re all getting right in sync, so this can only be exciting!
Author: Clément Plagne, Crew Journalist