> > > 8-month mission on "Mars": December 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dome's First Christmas

We're the first HI-SEAS crew to experience Christmas in the dome. Since previous missions were in the summertime for four months, it seems we're doubling the time and quadrupling the holidays! 

For some of us, this was also our first Christmas apart from our families. We tried to carry on Christmas traditions from home, played board games, watched movies, and made delicious treats. We actually used the rest of our sugar supply on cinnamon rolls, cookies, and icing. This should make my New Year's resolution of "no cookies" quite easy until February's resupply!

From left to right in first row: Allen, Sophie, Martha, Jocelyn (Me!)
and in the back row from left to right: Zak and Neil

Christmas in the dome might be as close as it gets to living in a snow globe! Rather than cute puppies and snow-covered fir trees, the contents of our globe includes an indoor garden, six adults in space pajamas, and gadgets galore. Sadly, snow does not fall when NASA gives our world a shake or twirl ;) but magically, we did have a white Christmas with snowfall on the peak of nearby Mauna Kea, as shown in the photo below.

Snow-covered top of Mauna Kea in the background with my radio call sign "Fancy" on display, this was a Christmas gift from Neil Scheibelhut aka "Rex"

Over the holidays, instead of shopping to the tune of classic Christmas songs, we laughed along to “Hung for the Holidays” album.. true story, the Christmas music selection here is rather limited. For gifts, I wrote poems, Martha was knitting, Sophie sewed stockings, Zak baked us treats, Allen made mnemonics in Russian out of our names to describe each personality, and Neil took beautiful photos for us! Thanks and photo credits to Neil Scheibelhut!

Two-Step is Sophie's call sign, her blog is http://domesoph.siterubix.com/

Foxy is Martha's call sign, her blog is http://martianadventures.wordpress.com/

Stitch is Zak's call sign, his blog is http://almostmars.com/

Sasha (Cawa in Russian) is Allen's call sign

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM "MARS" :) See you in 2015!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"It's all data!"

After two months of Mars-living, I’m starting to crave some food items from Earth, namely peaches and some type of pork (carnitas or bbq would be awesome), but still I am feeling satisfied thanks to some steady research progress and the desserts galore!  Tonight to celebrate our two-month milestone, our lasagna dinner was followed by brownies with homemade ice cream and fudge topping!  

It was nice to relax and celebrate, since lately I’ve been slaving over some code for getting data from our Jawbone activity monitors.  We are all wearing Jawbone UP wristbands 24-7, enabling constant data collection about our lives here.  However, from the Jawbone website, only simplified summaries of daily aggregate data are readily downloadable.  So, I recently finished a Python project that digs into the Jawbone UP app for a wealth of full and detailed data.

Check it out on GitHub and pass it along to your friends who use Jawbone:

For my research in data analytics, I am collecting and analyzing all kinds of data from the crew, ranging from data about our sleep and activity to recording our meals to logging our entertainment and media usage to identifying physiological markers of stress to tracking the jokes and memes that emerge and fade away!

Speaking of memes, the title of this blog post is one of our earliest jokes that still pops up and amuses us.  During training week, one of the NASA researchers, Pete, initiated this meme by commenting "it's all data" after we were being silly and ridiculous.  It's a bit sarcastic, but also points to a deeper truth that all data has value, even our quirky jokes! 

Living in this semi-controlled environment presents the opportunity to analyze social, physiological, and psychological impacts that are often too variable and unpredictable in our daily lives on Earth.  With limited factors on our lives here, it’s all relatively easy to track.  We are not going out to eat, meeting with new people, or catching flights across the US.  There’s a predictability that gives promise of good data quality.

I'm tackling projects that would have been overwhelming previously.  This big move to "Mars” has been a powerful transition for my personality as well, feeling stronger, happier, and more determined.  Change is good, but at this two-month mark, I am glad that I still have six months to live with this amazing crew and continue the research of my dreams! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Turkey Day on "Mars"

For Thanksgiving last year, I was at the family compound in North Carolina, we had three kitchens going as we prepared all the side dishes in the universe and cooked three turkeys, fried one, baked one, and smoked one!  It was quite the contrast to be cooking on “Mars” with two induction plates and one toaster oven!

Here in the dome, we made a list of the dishes that we traditionally have with our families, then brainstormed on how to make them with shelf-stable and freeze-dried ingredients.  We also discussed cooking plans in the context of our limited energy supply.  Typically, we prepare our dinners at around 2pm then reheat later, so that we do most of the cooking during peak sunlight hours when our solar panels are generating the most power.  

On thanksgiving we just started even earlier to squeeze in more kitchen time!  I woke up extremely exhausted because I was up until 5am coding. It was totally worth it, had a breakthrough with acquiring data from Jawbone API that made me feel like a python programming wizard ;) I felt very thankful, and, despite being tired, had a fantastic Thanksgiving!  (PS - stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on my research progress)

Sleepyhead making peanut butter- banana - chocolate chip cookies, delicious! 

We cooked all morning, then had a mid-day yoga break, which boosted my energy and helped me make it through the rest of the day!  We watched a couple recordings of football games, thanks to our amazing mission support team, while also treating ourselves to pedicures. Later we enjoyed our feast, played scrabble, and danced the night away!

Our Commander Martha watching football and getting a pedicure from Sophie!

As for the feast, amazingly it all turned out as hoped :) even our experiments like homemade marshmallows!  We have freeze-dried meats and veggies that are pre-cooked and diced.  On our EVAs, we didn’t see any turkeys to hunt ;) instead, we rehydrated some diced turkey and made a skillet with potatoes, onion, and carrots.  As for the fixins, we had sweet potato casserole with homemade marshmallow topping, green bean casserole, succotash, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes.  Zak followed his mama’s recipe for crescent rolls.  Martha made fresh bread for one delicious stuffing!  And our gluten-free crew members, Sophie and Neil, made a cornbread stuffing that blew my mind!

Our Thanksgiving spread on "Mars" did not disappoint!

After dinner, the crew decided to dance off the calories :) Here’s a little montage of our festivities, ’twas a happy thanksgiving in the dome!