> > > 8-month mission on "Mars": Halfway Home

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Halfway Home

Guest blog post from Daddio, my first and forever Valentine, Mr. Tommy Dunn!

Jocelyn asked me back in November to write a guest blog post. I told her I would after the holidays and after her sister’s wedding. I am generally a private person especially when it comes to family. But I think writing this will be an easy task, since Jocelyn gave me so much information to help me get started with writing my first blog post. She's an amazing woman.

Aloha is a greeting that I thought was well outside the compounds of Sebring, Florida. But it will stay with me forever now. When people ask what Jocelyn is up to these days. I tell them she is in Hawaii on top of a volcano, doing research for HI-SEAS and NASA. Then questions follow. I advise them to google Jocelyn Dunn and read more about her and the mission. When I mention isolation, they are surprised and wonder if they could do it, most say no. 

Myself being born and raised in Florida, I grew up watching the Apollo program and then the Space Shuttles lifting off from Kennedy Space Center. We could see them from Sebring. In elementary school when Jocelyn was assigned her first formal science project, I suggested that she do something about the space program. By chance an early morning launch was planned for the very next week. So, Erika and I got our four children up before dawn, made them a bed in the floor of the van, and headed out for the 3 hour trip over to Titusville. Once there, we ended up parking next to a TV news truck. Jocelyn pretended to be a news reporter as we recorded the launch for her class project and witnessed her interest and curiosity in the space program blossom.

The four Dunn children growing up in Sebring, FL - Jocelyn in green hat, sister Kayla beside her, and twin brothers Eric and Steven enjoying bottles of milk.

Let’s begin this with some background in how she reached this point. Jocelyn was an exceptional student, even in elementary school. Her mother and I taught her math and reading at a very early age, I remember her enthusiasm for adding and subtracting long columns of numbers before pre-school. Then by high school, she ran out of math classes to take, so she turned to college math classes. Straight A’s her entire grade school career. I used to jokingly tell her that anything above a C is wasting effort, just trying to protect her from being too hard on herself.

Her interests in space led her to Embry-Riddle in Daytona Beach, where she excelled in academics in aerospace engineering and played for the varsity golf team. They did very well also competing in national championship tournaments each year. Then onto Purdue, for graduate school in biomedical engineering and now a PhD candidate in systems engineering. As you can see, she is a very driven and disciplined person, student and athlete. 

When the HI-SEAS project popped up, she called me very excited and wanted to become a part of it. As a parent, I cautioned her that spending time isolated, would change her, and we spoke of missing holidays, friends, family functions, weddings, funerals, and time in university. I tried to take a very objective look at what she was saying and advised her to do her homework, find out the who, what, when, and where of it. She did, then applied, but was disappointed not to get in on the first 4-month mission. I told her if it was meant to be it'd happen. 

It did happen, in record speed, like a 60 day notice to participate in the 8-month mission. For Jocelyn to make arrangements with her PhD program, find a sub-lease, and move all of her belongings out of Chicago, was a feat in itself. Before she went off to Hawaii, we had some one-on-one time with her, enjoying some golf, good food and spirits with neighbors, family, and friends. Everyone tried to give her lots of positive influence prior to going into the habitat. 

The last hoorah before heading to Hawaii for HI-SEAS 8-month mission

As for her Mom and I, we relied on that knowing that she is a smart young woman, and we just need to trust in God and her decision of participating in the project. And just in case, to do our part, her Uncle Billy and I worked out a rescue plan if things didn’t go well in the habitat. Let’s just say he is a helicopter pilot and myself being a firefighter trained in air rescue, it would be a piece of cake in getting her out. 

Jocelyn visiting Dad at Road America, American Le Mans Series Race 

For me, I guess the best way that I can look at this is, that we all could be on a beach somewhere looking out at the ocean and still believing that the Earth is flat. It takes people like these six crewmembers who are willing to sacrifice time away from friends, family and fun events, to move science and research forward. They are pioneers. And Its NASA’s way of doing their homework finding out the who, what, when and where.

Daddy Dunn and young Jocelyn on a beach in Florida 

Thank you to the University of Hawaii for supporting the crew. Thank you to friends, family, and interested readers for encouraging this team. A special note to the six of you, continue taking care of each other, I know it must be difficult, all of you are in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your sacrifice. 

And congratulations, you're halfway home!


  1. Great blog Tommy! Congrats Jocy!! You're halfway down!!

  2. What a great blog. Thank you for your insight Mr. Dunn. It is hard to believe four months have flown by so fast.

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