> > > 8-month mission on "Mars"

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dawn or Doom?

Is technology awakening the light of day or bringing on unintended dark consequences? The Dawn or Doom conference at Purdue hinges upon this theme, here's the link to my talk

Imagine the fragility of living in the harsh environment of another planet, in a habitat or spacecraft, confined to a small space with five others, far away from Earth’s protective atmosphere and the familiarities of home. That will be the reality for the first human mission to Mars, which is projected for the 2030s. 

This will require a concerted effort in sustainability, lifestyle adaptation, health monitoring and advanced medical interventions. The advances that are required for mission success are convergent with the technical and cultural developments that we need to meet our Earthly challenges today as well.. by promoting sustainable resource usage, human health and relationships, adaptive and resilient systems.. the list goes on.. But really, I want to hear from you!

What orders of living would be acceptable "house rules" for a Mars crew?  I asked this question to a class of about 100 students enrolled in psychology at University of Hawaii.  I received some intriguing ideas, but before I reveal their answers, I'd like to hear from you! 

Think about principles / rules / orders of living that you believe would help guide the success of a Mars crew. Please comment on my blog or even better, record your responses at this survey link: https://purdue.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_24c7IinnR9l40U5

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Moving Anchor

After living and working for eight months in a 1000-square-foot dome on Mauna Loa and never going anywhere besides on short, rigorous hikes in mock spacesuits, it’s been a welcome change to have the freedom of travel. Whether it’s by aircraft, car, bus, or even just walking somewhere to grab lunch, the movement in my life has given me the feeling of being as free as a ship at sea! I’m no longer anchored to one small habitat, so I feel the excitement of being out at sea. But I also feel the relaxing calm of being anchored, as I stay inwardly centered amidst the movement and change going on in my life.

The transition back to “Earth” has been a fantastic journey. I am still having “first” encounters with different types of food and culture that were absent in dome life. Having instant forms of communication is a delight. It still catches me by surprise when someone responds quickly to an email. So grateful to no longer have 20-minute communication delays each way! There’s a novelty in interacting with friends, family, and colleagues, and I still have many more plans to make as I look forward to reuniting with everyone again. But I’ve also been savoring my alone time. 

In August, when I moved into an apartment at Purdue to get back to PhD life, it was a shock to realize that it was actually the first evening of alone time I had experienced in almost 11 months! During the mission from October to June, I was obviously never alone in the habitat, and then this summer I was traveling and staying with friends and family. So it was long overdue; finally I set in some roots in Indiana and had a lovely evening to myself in my new apartment. 

While unpacking, I felt girlish excitement about having a closet to hang up all my clothes, most of which I had not seen in many months! After a limited wardrobe comprised of mainly athletic wear for eight months, I have a new enjoyment in getting ready in the morning as I choose from a myriad of styles and colors all hanging in front of me. I don't miss my tiny slice of a room in the dome, nor digging through a bin of clothes under my bed.

After four weeks of focused PhDing at Purdue, now it’s time to play again, I’m in Toronto for a Wearable Technologies conference. Can’t wait to demo some gadgets and converse about wearable device data analytics. My talk is about wearable devices for space exploration, you can read more here!

As an alumnus of HI-SEAS, I’m enjoying my days at sea in this great big world! I feel like a moving anchor, focused and centered even though it has been busy, busy, busy.. as Kurt Vonnegut describes best in Cat's Cradle, “Busy, busy, busy, is what we Bokononists whisper whenever we think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.” Interviews, research, meetings, dinners and yoga classes.. this busy life is good. 

Also, my TEDx talk should come online soon.. it's about time!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Touching down

During the past four weeks of post-mission life, I’ve been traveling in new surroundings. Soon I’ll have my first encounter with familiar places, and it should be interesting to observe if I can feel any differences in myself compared to how I felt in these situations before, in pre-mission life.

I’m touching down, after being in Hawaii for 10 days and Europe for 20 days. I have been fully immersed in both the luxuries and the stresses of life that were absent on sMars. Here’s a brief summary of my traveling: 1) Hawaii: The Big Island, Kauai, Maui, 2) Italy: Vicenza, Venice, Napoli, Roma, Verona, Bassano del Grappa, 3) Spain: Barcelona, Ibiza, 4) Portugal: Porto.

I’m thinking about writing a book titled “100 ways to *almost* miss your flight” whew.. now I’m down to my last couple of flights, and it should be a breeze traveling to familiar places for reunions with familiar faces. Annually for a week in July, the Dunn family migrates from all over the globe to North Carolina to party it up. I can’t wait to hug on 30+ family members, most of whom I have not seen in 9-12 months. Besides the stock of Port wine I am bringing back for my family and friends, what are my takeaways from all this traveling? I have redeveloped my sense of self, while also affirming and growing my team of people.

In Vicenza, I met some outstanding scholars with “ideas worth spreading" who I have been staying in contact with throughout these weeks of travel. I intend to stay close to this group who inspired me with their talents and deeply touched me with their acts of kindness. The TEDx Vicenza team put together an event of inexplicable convergence. I was in awe of how the stories of this body of 16 speakers from diverse backgrounds had such an alignment and connectedness in theme. It was a full day of awesome!

Leading up to my TEDx talk, I must admit that I was in an inner state of panic! My confidence was tested by the impressiveness of the speaker list, the intimidating venue of Teatro Olimpico, and of course, the fact that an audience of 400-500 people, plus online viewers, is orders of magnitude greater than the audience sizes that I’ve had at conferences and academic seminars in the past. Being jet-lagged and being the last speaker of the day applied some additional pressure. It turned out great though. Despite being absolutely exhausted from traveling allllll the way from Hawaii to Italy, a 12-hour time difference, I think I performed well with plenty of energy. Tony Horton and the crew would be proud, as I channeled our P90X training and did push-ups in the dressing room in the minutes before my talk to get my blood pumping in a positive way. 

I’m still awaiting, somewhat anxiously, the video of my performance, so I can watch and confirm, but I have received enough positive feedback to put my mind at ease. It seems that I did my job as last speaker, energizing the audience and sending them home on a high note.. with something to think about, or at least smile about :) And similarly, the TEDx Vicenza team certainly did their job of welcoming me "back to Earth" in style, introducing me to the Italian way of life, and sending me out on my travels with a relaxed, confident stride.

As I rejoined Earthly life in a new continent, the amazing people that I bonded with in Vicenza helped me to fully enjoy and reflect on all that I was experiencing. I have a couple blog posts coming up about my Euro travels. I’ve re-imagined the future of my blog, and I think you’ll enjoy it, so stay tuned! My TEDx talk, “Real Stress on Fake Mars,” will be viewable online in the next couple weeks. Additionally, I hope that you will watch ALL of the speaker videos from TEDx Vicenza. I will share the links as soon as they are available. Similar to the “Back to Earth” celebration, I am sorry that the live streaming of the event did not work properly for some of my friends and family. Thank your for your support :) Really, endless thanks to my team of people for encouraging my adventures and having an influential role in my experiences and development.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Back-to-Earth Checklist

Here's a list of some "Back to Earth" luxuries that I've already had the joy of re-experiencing!

Produce: Grocery shopping is so exciting! I have made salads nearly everyday with fresh kale, spinach, herbs, tomato, cucumber, peppers, etc. It's heaven to have all of these fresh foods again! We were very lucky to have Martha's indoor garden, yielding a small salad every month or so. But having salad as an entree feels amazing! Rehydrated veggies just aren't the same, there's no crisp or crunch, just kinda soft or mushy at worst. So I really have been appreciating veggies and fruits that are both crisp and hydrated, biting em releases this juicy freshness that I now fully savor!

Bubbles: After drinking just boring ole still water with the occasional lemonade powder, it's such a luxury to order drinks and carbonated beverages. Just finished a Dr. Pepper with an Ono fish sandwich. Last night I popped some champagne with my birthday cake, yay bubbles! Also had some delicious kiwi (been dreaming about peaches and kiwi while in the dome) with my birthday dessert, but on the topic of drinks, I have yet to have a really great juice.. might need to seek one out soon! Worst case I'll wait til Florida to have some fresh OJ!

Flying: Leaving the Big Island felt so rushed, but still it was freeing to travel again after 8 long months of dome life. I was excited to head off to vacation with my family, just wish there was more time to decompress and enjoy Earthly life with the crew. We had several days of debriefing after the mission, but it would have been great to vacation together for a little while too. We're all spread across the Hawaiian Islands now with our families and friends. Soon I'll be taking a marathon of a flight to Italy. It will be my first time flying solo and for longer than an hour, since so far I've just been island hopping with my parents and one of my brothers Eric. We're having a blast together, already explored Kauai, and just landed in Maui today.

Swimming: The day of re-entry included some pool and hot tub time. We also did a manta ray night snorkel in Kona, and I enjoyed some waves with some amateur body surfing in Kauai. So I guess the swimming boxes are mostly checked off, but I can't get enough! Hope to do some snorkeling soon and more hot tub time definitely needs to happen!

Occasions: Each day feels like playing dress up! In the dome, I basically just wore gym clothes or the occasional outreach attire of jeans and the red HI-SEAS polo which I'm sure you've all seen! So wearing summer dresses, sandals, or really any kind of shoes for more than an hour or two has been a big change from the dome life of slippers all day, except for hiking boots on EVAs and running shoes during workouts.

Alone time: I have yet to spend any significant time alone, but I did have an hour or two in the hotel room on Wednesday morning that involved packing and media phone interviews. I'm not anxious for alone time, but I do have quite a bit of work piling up.. deadlines approaching at the end of the month. Also I haven't had the chance to make full use of my newly restored phone privileges and need to call my friends soon. Even writing this blog post is a bit of a strain, using my iPhone while riding in the back of the rental car! But soon I'll have a long flight to Italy to catch up on all my bidness! Part of me wonders if I'll be afraid to be alone. I will have roommates at my new apartment this year, because I think it will just be too stark of a contrast to go from dome life to an apartment for one.

Meat: During the mission we taught Allen (aka Dad) about the meaning of "foodgasm" and I'm sure he's using the term often these days. Our first Earthly lunch post-mission involved some rotisserie chicken that had us oo-ing and awe-ing. The fats, juices, and bones were all foreign to us and made for taste explosions. Last night for my birthday dinner, my real Dad grilled some steaks to perfection. I couldn't believe how much I had missed the flavors and textures of a juicy steak. We basically never had to use a knife while on sMars because all of our ingredients were ground or diced. Cutting into the NY strip that filled my plate felt like the equivalent of slicing into a 10lb roast. Each tender slice was foodgasmic, my eyes were closing with each bite, and my Mom was sitting across from me thoroughly entertained.

Monday, June 8, 2015

What I will miss: Top 5 list

The end of the countdown is only five days away! It's definitely hard to believe. So much anticipation in the past month or so, and now the end is near. It's time to start packing up. Even though I've been anxiously counting down the days until our "re-entry back to Earth" I know there are many aspects of life on simulated Mars that I will sorely miss. Here's the top five list:

5. Unlimited food stuffs! Yes, our food is a bit strange, but it's virtually unlimited. We have a huge supply of all the staples and even though at different points in the mission we have run out of sugar, carrots, chicken, ground beef, and gluten free flour. Who cares, there's so many other options, no plain sugar, use the brown sugar, powdered sugar, or maple syrup, no carrots oh it's alright Martha's garden is about to birth some, no chicken or beef, ahh well we have ham, turkey, tofu, bacon, sausage, etc., no gluten-free flour then make a new combo with almond flour, buckwheat flour, rice flour, and xanthan gum. We never ran out of ideas for new meals to prepare either. We have eaten cuisines from all over the world from Martha's Ghanaian dishes to Sophie's Tex-Mex to Allen's Russian meals. We have cooked from-scratch so many baked goods and desserts that I never even considered making at home before. 

4. Cooking once per week. I'm spoiled. We have been eating so well for so many days in a row, and each of us on average has only had to cook once per week. It just tastes better when you aren't the one cooking it. All of us have treated each other to elaborate meals that we have slaved over for the entire afternoon. We have desserts several times per week. And our daily workout routine has kept our appetites up for the duration. After Tony kicks our butts in P90X, we are ready to devour some food. I can honestly say that boredom with food was never an issue here, which was a great surprise. Stay on the lookout for the "Fake Food on Fake Mars" cookbook! It's coming together nicely.. here's a brief summary: Martha has mastered croissants and scones and all things curry, I have bagels, pretzels, and pizza dough in my repertoire, Sophie makes some delicious homemade cheese and migas brunch that couldn't be any tastier, Neil somehow has managed to make gluten-free bread reliably work, Allen is the man when it comes to using magical binding agents to form cutlets or meatballs, and Zak is the king of barbeque and homemade mac n cheese and actually he's the master of anything that he cooks! 

3. Inside jokes :) I'm pretty sure that 99% of our jokes will not even be remotely funny to my family and friends. It's all about the context. The only population that has any hope at joining in on some of the dome humor are cult-like fans of P90X fitness program. Tony Horton, our honorary 7th crewmember, has added so many one-liners to our excel spreadsheet for joke tracking. Yes, we have been tracking our use of jokes and memes throughout the mission. Some of our jokes are purely entertainment, some are for diffusing conflict, some are for bonding, and some are motivational. Humor analysis, it's real science on fake mars! 

2. Slippers! I will never be the same. It has been such a beautiful thing to wake up, throw on my slippers and robe, grab some coffee and start working away. After a couple hours, then I commit to the day and actually get dressed in daytime clothing. It's so perfectly efficient. There's no commuting, no meetings or classes to attend across campus, no weather issues. I don't even have to worry about packing my lunch or remembering to bring gym clothes. Life in the dome is an efficiency-minded person's bliss.

1. Sense of belonging. This was an 8-month commitment, one team, one goal. No matter how stubbornly persistent I am, from my all-night workaholic nature to my Lenten promises to TEDx practice sessions, the crew has endured my revolving door of obsessions, and they have blessed me with their quirks too. We have a lovely and productive arrangement. There's a solace in certainty. I guess I got a taste of marriage, albeit a hexagon of relationships rather than a dyad. We have given each other loyalty and commitment, through the good and the bad, we belong to the crew. We give it our best and forget the rest.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pretend Red World

Here's the simplest (and most entertaining) description of HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) that I've come across:

"We want to know how to keep people happy and safe in space. What foods will they like? How much sleep will they need? Can they stay friends, not go crazy, and work well together for the two to three years it will take to go to the Red World and come back again? To answer these questions, six people will live in a small space-like place. They can only eat space food, and can only go outside in space clothes. When they talk to friends at home, it will be slow, because of the time it takes for their words to move through space. Light is fast, but not that fast! It will be hard, but the team is very good. We expect that they will do a great job, and give us lots of facts about how to live and work in space."

Note that three of the words in the HI-SEAS acronym are not even on Up Goer Five's list of words to use for writing simple descriptions! Well done. Soon I'll have to try to describe my research with these simple words.. wish me luck!


Since Mother’s day is in May, it seems like the perfect month for capturing my Mother’s perspective on the mission in a guest blog post. And don’t worry, I asked her to do this after Mother’s day, so I did not spoil the occasion by assigning her homework! Actually, even though I’m not a mother, this Mother’s day was an extra special day for me too. I woke up to an email from my Mom with old family photos and words about how she loves being our Mom. Such a lovely gesture. This month my Mom, Erika Dunn, is shining in many ways!

By the end of the week, Momma Dunn will be retired from the Highlands County Clerk of Courts. Everyone's favorite IT gal, hard-working and pleasant, she's one classy lady with an easy-going and optimistic attitude who is impossible to replace. 
Congratulations to Mrs. Erika T. Dunn, Retired! And my condolences to those who will miss her presence in the government offices. Here's a fun photo of the IT crew from this past Christmas (she's in the front left). I know she'll miss everyone but probably will be glad to leave behind ID10T and PEBCAK errors ;) 

And now some words from the one and only, Momma Dunn:

“I remember you watching me cook before you left on the 8-month mission. You were in the kitchen telling me how resourceful I was to you. I feel you have well surpassed my resourcefulness after your time cooking on this mission. I'm amazed at how you can make cheese and other from-scratch items. Those pretzel rolls looked yummy, can't wait for you to make them for us! In a sense your mission is discovering a new frontier by making a satisfying life with what limited resources are available. Even little Maura sees the adventure of your work in Hawaii. According to her, you’re a real astronaut and live in a turtle! :)

Even as a child you were always very inquisitive and wanting to learn. No need for toys when you were so adventurous in learning about your surroundings! You had the most fun when you could help with a "grown-up" task or play outside finding treasures. Like your first geology lesson with your Dad on one of our North Carolina vacations, you spent hours sifting through rocks in a stream behind Papa's cabin. Such a love for learning, even after a long day of school you'd go into your little reading room. There were so many days that I found you passed out in there with a book in hand.

As a family we've all missed your presence at the holidays and family events, like Kayla and Lee’s wedding. But it was truly a memorable and special toast that you gave at the reception using technology. Those photos of wonderful memories and your heartfelt words captivated us all, not a dry eye in the wedding crowd. As your video was shown on the projector screen, everyone could hear Maura shouting "That's Aunt Jocey!" She was so happy to see your face on the big screen. I was so proud and grateful that you took the time and made the day special even though you could not attend in person.

I can’t wait to greet you in Hawaii and finally give you a big hug and kiss in person. It will be very interesting to hear more stories about the mission. I love that you were able to play golf on simulated Mars. You showed how much you love the sport by writing out those equations to explain what it would be like to golf on Mars. Golf on Mars became a trending topic on ESPN, who would have thought?! But that is my Jocey, your mind never turns off, always exploring and wanting to do more, even when you should be resting your mind and body.

After your summer travels, I'm excited for when you'll meet us in North Carolina and make memories at our new family homestead. It will be relaxing to know you're home. It will take some getting accustomed to the normal, sometimes routine, life here on Earth and back to your research at Purdue.. but now that I’ll be retired, you will have some entertainment from teaching me to play golf!”

I have to say that Momma Dunn was more timely in turning in her homework compared to my Daddio ;) He did a guest post in February that can be found here in case you missed it. Only two weeks until my family will be here in Hawaii to celebrate Mom's retirement and my retirement from the HI-SEAS crew too! :)