Virtual reality and creativity help the crew escape their Martian confinement — Commander’s Report: Sol 5

Dr. Michaela Musilova is the director of Hawaii Area Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program, which conducts analog missions to the moon and Mars for scientific analysis at a habitat on the volcano Mauna Loa. At the moment, she is in control of the two-week Valoria 1 mission and contributed this report back to’s Skilled Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Commander’s Report for the Valoria 1 Mars Mission at HI-SEAS

The ready sport. That’s an acceptable identify for what we have now been going by throughout our mission. We won’t go exterior on a Marswalk if the climate is just not favorable sufficient. Sadly for us, “mud storms” (the Martian equal of rain storms) have been raging exterior our two home windows each single day. The life help programs on the analog spacesuits would get broken in a mud storm. The crew may additionally doubtlessly get misplaced throughout a storm and harm within the difficult volcanic terrain across the HI-SEAS habitat. 

Curiously, although, the mud storms do not linger in a single spot. They appear to be funneled by the valley between the 2 volcanoes in our neighborhood, Olympus Mons (Mauna Kea with the world-renowned Mauna Kea Observatories) and Mons Huygens (Mauna Loa, the place HI-SEAS is situated). Generally the mud storms come so shut that we will solely see a gray, monotonous cloud exterior our window. Different occasions, they transfer far sufficient away to present us hope that we will go on an EVA (extravehicular exercise), solely to take that hope away minutes later after they rush again to encompass the habitat.

Valoria 1 crew members HI-SEAS habitat

Crew Engineering Officer Kevin Pratt and Commander Dr. Michaela Musilova organising an antenna to obtain climate pictures from NOAA polar orbiting satellites exterior the HI-SEAS habitat. (Picture credit score: Hillary Coe)

We’ve got skilled comparable “teasing” by the climate throughout earlier missions. Menacing mud clouds would seem as quickly as we began getting ready for our EVAs. Simply once I thought that I must increase the crew’s morale and begin constructing stronger confinement-resilience in all of us, it lastly occurred — our first Marswalk! The mud clouds scattered this afternoon lengthy sufficient for Officers Kevin Pratt, Michael Barton, Hillary Coe and I to discover the terrain exterior our habitat. Officers Karin Metzgar and MaryLiz Bender remained within the habitat as “HabCOM,” which signifies that they have been the habitat communicators between the crew exterior on EVA and Mission Management on Earth.

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