> > > 8-month mission on "Mars": 2015

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! :)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Final Countdown

With only ONE month left to go, our theme song is finally singing true.. "It’s the FINAL countdown! Doo do doo doo, do do doo do doo!” The theme song for our mission, “Final Countdown” by Europe, first caught on during our halloween costume party / finally-able-to-watch-the-world-series party. Our mission support team was kind enough to record the final game of the World Series for us. However, for several days, there were problems with uploading such a large file, so we finally were able to watch the game on Halloween, which was the first holiday that we celebrated together in the dome.

As we were waiting for the file to download, I started playing the “Final Countdown” song, which is part of the movie Hot Rod’s soundtrack. The file took longer than expected to download, and we ended up listening to the song over and over; when the song restarted each time is was an ironic act of hilarity, so rather than waiting impatiently, we were all happily singing “doo do doo” until at last, the game successfully downloaded!

Since then, our theme song has debuted quite often. It's sometimes blasted on the speakers when it’s time to begin our NASA behavioral tasks in the afternoons, or to gather up the troops for dinner. Of course, we also played this song as part of our countdown for ringing in the new year. However, in one month, we will sing "do do doo do doo" together with more meaning than ever, as it will truly be the final countdown to our mission end.

On June 13th, we will exit the HI-SEAS habitat, affectionally called the “dome” and rejoin our Earthling friends and colleagues. After eight months of dome life, we will collide with our loved ones and stuff our faces with fresh fruits. I’m feeling peachy, and other crew members are craving fresh pineapple, watermelon, and raspberries. We are anxious to reunite with our friends and favorite foods. But that’s not all… 

The US Army Golden Knights jump team is planning to take us tandem skydiving as a simulated re-entry back to Earth! What an extreme transition, from being confined to this 1000-square-foot dome to free falling into a vast landscape!!! And if that’s not exciting enough, our 7th crew member who motivates us to workout everyday, Tony Horton, founder of P90X fitness program and his fiancĂ© Shawna will also be jumping back to Earth with us! We feel beyond amazed that this is happening and are so incredibly grateful for this opportunity. As Tony would say, this is the countdown to epic sky-diving X!!

Ironically, the first time I watched the Hot Rod movie, which made the “Final Countdown” song into a favorite of mine, I was with some of my Army friends from the ROTC program at Embry-Riddle. One of these friends from college, Capt. Darren Ekey, came up with the idea for this simulated re-entry back to Earth. The crew and I were so enthusiastic about the idea, but remained in disbelief about such an amazing prospect. Well now the plans have come together, and it’s starting to sink in. 

For our 1-month countdown to mission end, the dramatic nature of Europe’s “Final Countdown” song actually seems more appropriate than ironic for once. 

"We're leaving together,
But still it's farewell.
And maybe we'll come back
To earth, who can tell?
I guess there is no one to blame
We're leaving ground (leaving ground)
Will things ever be the same again?

It's the final countdown.
The final countdown" - Europe

We owe a big thanks to Ekey and mission support for planning this epic celebration of HI-SEAS mission III completion. June 13th will truly be making dreams come true, as we jump from the sky together as a crew, along with some of our amazing colleagues on mission support, Tony Horton, who we consider as our 7th crewmember, and of course, the Army paratroopers who have made this all possible. Hooah!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Immeasurable Heart

A heartbeat is the vital sign of blood pumping through our vasculature; but not only that, a beating heart is the opportunity to experience life and achieve goals. The figure of speech "having heart” describes a person's will to win, strength to endure, or compassion for helping others succeed. Here at HI-SEAS, the crew is pushing toward the finish line with immeasurable heart: one team, one goal. 

The countdown clock is winding down, only six weeks until the mission ends on June 13th. I’m feeling a bit sappy for this post. But I’ll also compare some heart rate data from workouts, so it's quant-friendly too. I’m thinking about a poem that I wrote a longtime ago called “Immeasurable Heart” that was expressing how people rise up to meet challenges. The symbolic "heart" is a desire within a person or the motivation of a team, that can be a boundless, mysterious force.

Certainly, Hollywood embraces the unpredictability of human nature. In movies and TV shows, plot twists from evolving personalities are often what inspire hope in the audience, or provoke fear. Some classic stories of transformation that come to mind.. the dysfunctional team that finds purpose, defies the laws of probability, and manages to win the championship.. the seemingly loyal friend who succumbs to temptation, betrays for personal gain, and becomes the despicable villain.. or the rich, powerful bully who experiences empathy, reforms selfish behavior, and becomes a compassionate person. Though outlandish, I think there’s some underlying truth to these “change of heart” scenarios, in that we are dynamic, sentient beings with capacity for change. 

The extreme nature of this mission has changed all of us in some ways. Necessarily, we have had to become more patient and accommodating in order to live in this environment. We also have had to adapt to limited modes of entertainment and exercise, so I've definitely watched more movies than ever before. In general, I feel more centered and in touch with myself, maybe because of the lack of social media and text messaging or because of the daily surveys and journaling. I'm not sure how else my personality may have changed but reuniting with the real world will most likely reveal some differences.

I promised some data to offset the talk about how we feel inside and stuff like that ;) So here’s some actual measurements of my heart's performance. I've been recording workout data with Hexoskin biometric shirts, which monitor cardiac and respiratory function along with the cadence and acceleration of movements. The figure below is Hexoskin biometrics data with added labels for each of the six circuits during the P90X plyometrics workout video. 

With the daily motivation of the crew (especially Martha and Zak) and thanks to P90X fitness program, I’m in better shape compared to when I started the mission. The tables below are comparing my performance while working out to the same P90X plyometrics video in November 2014 and recently in mid-April.

November 2014:

April 2015:

These Hexoksin data show that I have increased the intensity of my movements (more steps per minute and higher acceleration) while maintaining similar cardiac and respiratory output (heart and breathing rates are at the same level). In summary, Tony Horton is the man! We’ll be doing P90X3 workouts until mission end, pushing play and working hard with our 7th crew member! :)

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Purdue Day of Giving – an annual university-wide effort to build a better, stronger, more affordable Purdue – is next Wednesday, April 29th. There are several contests and competitions that make this FUNdraising effort into a truly FUN event. Get involved, promote the event on social media, and watch your favorite Purdue units climb the leaderboard! Click HERE to learn more.

I’m giving from “Mars” but don't be intimidated if you’re aiming for the "Donation from Person Living Furthest from Campus" challenge from 7-8pm (EDT) on April 29th, as simulated Mars is only 4200 miles away on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. However, I will be keeping an eye on the "Most Unique Photo with Purdue Day of Giving Logo” challenge from 11am - noon (EDT), as recently I went out on EVA to create the photo below. Boiler up!

Purdue Day of Giving flag on simulated Mars (Photo Credit: Neil Scheibelhut)

In the spirit of Purdue Day of Giving, I'm donating to two outstanding schools at Purdue, as I am forever grateful to the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering for giving me the chance to begin graduate school at Purdue and to the School of Industrial Engineering for enabling me to extend my stay at Purdue for doctoral studies!

My Purdue story begins in the summer of 2009, after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I was still eager to keep studying and jumped at the opportunity to begin graduate school at Purdue, also known as the cradle of astronauts! After 21 years of Florida sunshine, I packed up all my belongings and embarked on the road trip to Indiana. 

The view out my window changed from Florida orange groves to the wide open fields of Georgia, then I stopped for a couple nights to recharge in the Smoky mountains of North Carolina. On the road again, I snapped some photos of the rolling hills of Tennessee, passed through the horse farms of Kentucky, and I couldn’t miss the corn fields of Indiana! The sight of the Purdue billboards on I-65 confirmed that at last I had arrived!

During my master's studies in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, I furthered the development of biological scaffold for the repair and replacement of vascularized tissue under the advisement of Dr. Eric Nauman in the Human Injury Repair and Replacement Technologies (HIRRT) lab. It was “good stuff” as Eric would say! For my doctoral studies in the School of Industrial Engineering, I am developing data analytics for automated detection of health and stress states via wearable devices, such as Jawbone UP wristbands. By leveraging data to promote health and human performance, I aspire to improve the health of astronaut crews in space as well as citizens on Earth!

The 8-month mission here on simulated Mars is quickly coming to a close. I must say that I am increasingly excited to get back to West LaLa! I can't wait to be on-campus in August and soak in the freshness that comes with the beginning of a new academic year. I look forward to reuniting with my colleagues and waving at some new faces on the "Hello Walk" :) I will never again take that sidewalk for granted! After 8 months of confinement with only five other people, it'll be refreshing to see hundreds of Boilermakers on campus!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Green Spacesuit

I’m happy to report that golf fans here on simulated Mars are increasing in number!  With the recent adventure of hitting golf balls in our spacesuits (see last post) and our watching the Masters Tournament this weekend, the entire crew has developed a burgeoning interest and baseline understanding of golf.

The Masters, the first major PGA tournament of the year, is played at Augusta National golf club, a prestigious, private golf course with only 300 members; the club is invitation only, with members including Bill Gates and Condoleezza Rice. Each of these members receives a green sport coat with the club logo. This iconic green jacket is also awarded to the champion of the Masters tournament each year. Perhaps, golf champions on Mars should be awarded with a green spacesuit!

Jordan Spieth, 2015 Masters Champion (Photo: Jamie Squire/ Getty Images)

One of the signature sections of Augusta National is known as “Amen corner” which is a stretch of three holes that have been the stage for much drama over the years. This corner of the course begins with Number 11 “White Dogwood,” the longest and most difficult Par 4 on the course. It's 505 yards from the starting tee to the middle of the green, whereas the other Par 4 holes are on average about 440 yards. The 2015 Masters champion, Jordan Spieth, has an average drive distance of about 295 yards, so after an average drive, he’d have a 210-yard approach shot into the 11th green.. how would this differ on Mars?

Since Augusta National is seated on land that was formerly a plant nursery, each hole has a name that reflects the plant life decorating the hole. I can only imagine a red, desert-like landscape for a Martian golf course, so the calculations below should be further refined to account for differences in the distance that a ball rolls on carefully manicured grass versus hitting the dust-covered, rocky surface of Mars.  However, if 295-yard drives on Earth would carry 635 yards on Mars, here's the Martian equivalent of Augusta National:

The physics of golf is actually simpler on Mars. Without an atmosphere, Mars has just 1% of Earth's air density. Thus, aerodynamic forces such as lift and drag are trivial on Mars with magnitudes less than 10e-6. Simple projectile motion equations that only consider gravity are appropriate for computing the trajectory of a golf ball on Mars.  Opposed by only about 1/3 of Earth's gravity, every Mars explorer could hit the ball further than PGA tour players on Earth!

The club head speed of a tour player swinging a driver ranges from 100-150 mph. On Earth and Mars alike, momentum and kinetic energy are transferred from the golf club to the less massive golf ball, resulting in an initial velocity for the golf ball that is higher than the velocity of the golf club.  Most of the energy sets the ball into motion, but some of this kinetic energy is lost as the club hits the golf ball; this is accounted for by the coefficient of restitution (which USGA rules dictate should be less than 0.83).  An expression for the initial velocity of the golf ball is found by combining and simplifying the conservation of energy and momentum equations:

If we assume that velocity of the club head is 55.8 m/sec (125 mph), mass of the golf ball is .0459 kg, and mass of the club head is 0.195 kg, then the initial velocity of the golf ball is 82.7 m/sec (185 mph).

The projectile motion of the golf ball can be calculated based on the initial velocity of the ball and the launch angle.  A standard driver has a loft angle of about 9 degrees; however, the driver connects to the ball on the upswing of the pendulum motion of a golf swing adding about 3 degrees of loft. After combining the kinematics equations for both the x and y directions, the distance traveled by a golf ball on Mars is given by:

With an initial golf ball velocity of 82.7 m/sec and launch angle of 12 degrees, the distance traveled by a golf ball on Mars would be 748 meters or 818 yards!  

Let’s compare to the golf ball that I recently hit on simulated Mars (see last post).  I was restrained by my spacesuit and only hit my 7-iron about 90 yards, instead of the usual 135 yards when freely swinging.  Using simple projectile motion to analyze the corresponding differences in club head speed, I lost about 6.8 m/s (15.2 mph) from swinging in a spacesuit. Even with the handicap of a spacesuit, a tour player on Mars would hit 635-yard drives!  Better yell FORE!

Watch my swing in a spacesuit at https://youtu.be/B2Bm1miYTi8

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Merry Martian!

It feels like Christmas again!  I’m basking in the glow of my computer screen as I watch the finished product of my video seminar for Florida Space Institute. The deadline snuck up on me, so it's been a whirlwind!  But I’m proud of the finished product and obsessed with the golf footage that I added into it.

Last week, on a whim, before I was reminded of the seminar deadline, I asked Zak if he’d like to go out on EVA with me to hit some golf balls over the weekend.  I didn’t realize how hectic of a weekend it would become.. but in the midst of slaving over iMovie, golfing was a timely, much needed break!  Zak even designed and 3D-printed some golf balls for the occasion; once added to the few real ones that I brought with me, we had an even dozen!

On Sunday March 22, the monumental day when golf made it to "Mars" ;) I woke up early, had a cappuccino with Martha, and started practicing for my research presentation. Then, I sat down with the crew for our weekly brunch / debrief meeting to recap events from the last week and make plans for this week.  Afterwards, I spent 2.5 hours recording footage in the airlock, which Neil transformed into a media room for me.  At 4:30pm, I emerged from the airlock and asked Martha what time it was!  I felt exhausted and lost from all of the video taping, but I did not miss the opportunity for the golf EVA!  It was epic!!! 

Move over Alan Shepard, we golfed on sMars!!! (Photo credit: Zak Wilson)

Looking back, I’m so thankful to my sister’s husband, Lee who insisted that I take one of his golf clubs with me.  My last stop before heading to “Mars” in Hawaii was Naples, FL, as I was soaking up family time and cuddles from my niece Maura.  In fact, the day of my flight, I still had lots of little, last minute things to do before I’d be ready to catch my evening flight.  However, I just kept putting it off and relaxing with Maura.  We played with her toys, watched cartoons, and we didn’t even bother getting dressed for the day!

Quality time with precious Maura before heading to "Mars" in Hawaii

Tick tock, oh no!  I rushed around, Lee and my brother Steven rushed out to get a memory card for my camera and an 8-month supply of multivitamins.  Eric and I headed to the eyeglass store for my prescription lenses that were waiting for pickup.  We all met up again to say the last goodbyes, and Lee managed to fit a 7-iron into one of my bags!

The other sentimental part of this story is the 7-iron itself.  I took a look at it and realized it was the golf club of one of my close friends Cody Brownell.  I looked up at Lee with a puzzled face, and he explained that he had bought the clubs off Cody awhile back. Cody, how awesome that your 7-iron made it to Mars?!! ;)

My golf swing in a spacesuit! (Photo credit: Zak Wilson)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pinches and Sound bites!

My granddad, aka Papa, comes from Irish heritage.  In good humor,  after something unfortunate happens, I've heard him cynically say, "Well that's the luck of the Irish!" Despite not finding many four-leaf clovers or pots of gold, the Dunn family has made some lasting St. Paddy's day memories. So yesterday, I was proudly wearing my green on "Mars" to celebrate, but other crewmembers were not so festive.. I had to resort to a bit of pinching!  It reminded me of elementary school, which is fitting because I've been working a lot lately on preparing outreach presentations for K12 schools, as well as research institutes.

As part of the preparation, I’ve thought back on TED talks, the gold standard for science communication.  In TED talks, the message is always crisp and clear, delivered in a carefully-woven storyline that is both interesting and relevant to society. It seems that the merit of science communication can be judged by how clearly and succinctly one can explain research findings and why they matter.  This weekend, it was excruciatingly difficult to pick and choose what to include in a 3-min video explaining the scope and relevance of my research.  I can’t imagine what it’s like for the TED speakers who condense an entire research career into one 15-min talk!

To share this “Mars” experience, I need to effectively reduce eight months of dome life into the sound bite of a 3-min, 15-min, or even 30-min talk.  Now I’m realizing that this 8-month mission in itself is just a sound bite in contrast to a real Mars mission.  It will take eight months just to travel to Mars!  The story of our crew is like the abridged version of a book that has yet to be written on the challenges of living and working in a Mars habitat environment.

A quick overview on other upcoming outreach!  Last night, we took some video footage of our sushi meal (well, instead of fresh fish, we used canned albacore to make spicy tuna rolls) as part of our outreach with students in Japan. Recently, we’ve been working on a comic book for explaining the combination of educational backgrounds, talents, and personalities required for a successful Mars crew (this is still a work in progress, nerdy superpower ideas are welcome!)  And today, we will put together a tour of our habitat for all to see on YouTube sometime soon!  Please contact me if you're interested in collaborating on outreach with your local schools! (joceydunn2@gmail.com)

Well, it seems that everyone had exciting weekends, so I'll share a bit about our epic Pi day celebration!!  I even had to make an exception to my Lenten promise of no desserts, because of the special centennial Pi Day this year (3/14/15 9:26:53), just had to participate, also it was the first sunny day in two weeks! 

In celebration of Pi day: French Silk, Pecan-Apple, and Pizza Pies!!

Now that we actually have enough solar power to run the treadmill (yay for sunshine!) I’m catching up on my mileage (current total 25 miles in 28 days of Lent!) slowly running off the pies.. at least there's good sugar in my Irish blood!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rain, Rain

Lately, we’ve had some cloudy, rainy days, so we are not generating enough solar power to support our elaborate cooking or even heating!  Turning down the thermostat in order to conserve enough energy to make it through the night, so although I am not exactly living in solidarity with my friends who are suiting up in layers of wool and trudging through the snow, it’s cold up in here too!

Rain, rain, I love your sounds, but we might need you to go away soon.. there’s only so much gasoline and hydrogen supply on sMars.  Here’s our forecast for this weekend, it’s looking bleak.. but actually much better than it has been!  We need sunshine from morning to mid-afternoon for the batteries to fully charge.

HI-SEAS monitoring system, called UILA (hawaiian for lightning / electricity)

All the rain has made me reminiscent of Florida afternoon thunderstorms in the summertime.  I really can smell when rain is coming, and it’s not anything as distinct as those “Fresh rain” candles, just a dampness in the air. Here, though, I certainly cannot smell the rain, since we only go outside in spacesuits, but I do enjoy the sounds of the storms.  In yoga this evening, it started raining again just as we went into shavasana (aka corpse pose, lying down and relaxing at the end of yoga). It was blissful!  The yoga we did today was an audio class, so I think my sense of sound was on high alert from listening to the instructor.  

In the recording, I could also hear kids playing in the background and at one point I heard a couple seconds of a dog barking.  Such ordinary sounds are making me nostalgic!  The other night, I heard a plane flying over.  I became so alert and listened intently, savoring it!  The sound of the gas generator, which is our backup energy source, also has been reminding me of the ole days.  

In high school, junior year, there were several hurricanes in a row, such that we had nearly a consecutive month of school closings due to power outages.  Still the show went on, I remember finishing up a research paper and dropping it in the teacher’s mailbox, so that we could stay on track with our curriculum. I doubt that'd happen in the school system today.. makes me feel old! And so does the fact that our 10-year high school reunion is this year!

Florida landscapes: sunrise on Lake Jackson, Oak trees at my parent's house, my niece and Aunt Shirley playing by the pool as some ominous-looking gray clouds are drifting in, and a gator on the golf course!

During hurricane days, Mom and Dad would hook up the generator to power some of the more critical amenities, such as the refrigerator, freezer, lights, fans, and the stove.  I remember Momma Dunn making a huge supply of the best chicken and rice I’ve ever had.  Though it was brutally hot without air conditioning, at least we had some good grub and the hurricane breezes ;) 

Here we also have a refrigerator and more importantly a lab freezer that we do not want to lose power, but MOST importantly our composting toilets have fans that must keep blowing!!  Side note, it will be so strange to flush a toilet when I get out of here, since I'm sure it will feel like such a waste of water. But the water savings here definitely comes at a price, check out Sophie's great blog post about us being "halfway between Mars and Earth, halfway between start and finish, and halfway between astronaut and plumber!"