Dr Michaela Musilova is the director of Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HIGH SEA), which conducts analog missions to the Moon and Mars for scientific research in a habitat of the Mauna Loa volcano. Currently, she is in command of the two-week Selene IV lunar mission and contributed to this report to Space.com. Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
Lunar Mission Commander Selene IV’s Report to HI-SEAS
Lunar day 6 (March 18, 2021)
The Alien Dust Machine – this is what the Selene IV crew blamed for the bad weather we experienced during our analog lunar mission. Today is our sixth day on assignment and we were barely able to see anything outside our window due to the huge dust storm raging outside the habitat (aka a thick fog outside HI-SEAS habitat on Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii).
The crew quickly became skeptical that such storms would occur naturally on the moon, so instead they blame the aliens for this activity.
Related: The HI-SEAS Habitat Purge – Commander’s Report: Lunar Day 2
Personally, I am rather happy that the “extraterrestrials” are accused of complicating the conditions of our mission for me. A number of previous crews used to joke that I turned on a hidden fog machine to challenge them and get them to be stuck inside for long periods of time.
During our analog missions, crews cannot leave the habitat in bad weather. This is both for their safety not to get lost and injured in “dust storms”, but also because our simulated spacesuits would be damaged in such conditions. This year, the weather definitely kept the crews on their toes during our missions! Or is it really aliens torturing us?
The crew of Selene IV decided to go on the offensive and asked our Earth Mission Support Team volunteers to ask the US Space Force to destroy the alien dust machines. Funny enough, a local military base in Hawaii, which we’ve dubbed “Space Force,” actually started testing their artillery near our HI-SEAS habitat. While they haven’t “destroyed the dust machines” yet, we appreciate their efforts to help us – at least that’s what my crew tell each other to take comfort from both dust storms and dust storms. from the constant bombardment noise we hear coming from “Space Force.” “
Jokes aside, the real comfort we have experienced during our mission comes from each other. The crew took care of their research projects and fun group activities, such as celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. All the habitat turned into a forest of clovers within hours, as did our food. Everything was green or shaped like a clover. Even though I teased my crew members for their enthusiasm in celebrating this occasion in style, I was very happy that it uplifted them all and that they worked so well together to make our time on mission again. more special.
Great teamwork and “taking one for the team attitude” also manifested itself when it was time to do the chores. At HI-SEAS, we have a urinal that everyone should use, regardless of gender. In this way, we protect the composting toilet from “drowning” by too much fluid from the urine of the crew. After a few months, the urinal filter needs to be replaced and it is certainly not the most pleasant job to do. Our team engineer Jack Bryan kindly took on this unpleasant task and I volunteered to empty the composting toilet halfway through the mission. It’s a necessary chore and I don’t mind doing it, as I know most of the crew have a hard time dealing with the sights and smells associated with this duty.
These crew interactions were a great source of inspiration for Monica Parks, Science Communication Officer. She prepares the social media text and images, which mission support volunteers then post on HI-SEAS social media pages. Monica also observed the crew for their research study. She found that there are many similarities in how each of the crew members responded to rejection and obstacles in life. The spirit of perseverance is very strong with this group of analog astronauts. For the rest of our time here, Monica will have more in-depth conversations with the crew to confirm her various observations about our resilience and drive.
Growing different types of plants was another source of distraction and positive energy for the crew. These include the Mission to Mars spinach cultivation using the human hair experiment started by the crew of Selene III, as well as our long-term greenhouse hydroponics experiment in habitat. Crew Operations Officer Lori Waters handled these experiences with Jack. Lori’s personal project also focuses on food crop production methods to produce nutrient-rich clovers and microgreens. The clover seeds of the ExoLab experiment, which is associated with the Magnitude.io experiment aboard the ISS, have sprouted. They have a first series of leaves showing strong development in this extreme environment at HI-SEAS.
The research of Cameron Crowell, mission specialist on the use of in situ resources (ISRU), is based on the collection of samples of the surrounding analog regolith during a moonwalk, which has not yet been possible due to the dust storms. In the meantime, he prepared his techniques for acquiring geological samples, as we may only get a very short window between dust storms to perform a moonwalk. Cameron has also documented life in the habitat for outreach purposes, such as for the Space Frontier Foundation for which he serves on the board of directors.
Our Crew Systems Engineer Bill O’Hara has completed most of his data collection in support of a habitat design and operations case study. This project on HI-SEAS is for Sierra Nevada Corp., where he is a Senior Systems Engineer. Bill has also completed preparations to assess the livability of the lava tubes, while awaiting the possibility of performing moon walks. Like Cameron, he’s prepared all of his gear to be the easiest to use in the field, despite the time constraints on moonwalks and the restrictions of our analog space suits.
Jack is yet another crew member who has been limited by the dust storms raging outside. He therefore focused on a first catalog of habitat waste to be combined with materials collected in situ during moonwalks. Jack has been surprised by the results so far, which is why he is re-evaluating his preliminary estimates of the composition of the hybrid materials. The crew generates a considerable amount of waste paper, but much less plastic waste than they expected. For these reasons, he is investigating the possibility of adding some of the fibrous paper waste into the hybrid material to add toughness, which would be similar to how fiberglass works with resin.
Commander Musilova signing for another night of crossing his fingers that the alien dust machines are destroyed. “Space Force” might have better luck tonight so we can venture out on our first mission moonwalk tomorrow. Otherwise, I’m sure the crew will find another fun way to not go crazy on the moon.
Follow Michaela Musilova on Twitter @astro_Michaela. follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.