> > > 8-month mission on "Mars": The Occasional Insect

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Occasional Insect

In my last post, I mentioned that here in the isolation of our home sweet dome, we only have live interactions with each other and an occasional insect. I went for a long run on the treadmill yesterday and had some thoughts sparked by a fruit fly. We setup our treadmill directly in front of the only window in the hab, a small porthole with a view of the lava fields.

 Our only view to the outside is through this small porthole, also pictured is a determined fruit fly attempting to return to the outdoors.

This fruit fly was desperately trying to get outside, bumping into the plastic window, regrouping, then diving back in for endless more attempts. I only spend time peering out the porthole when running. I can feel my pupils restrict from the sunshine and enjoy watching the clouds of fog (or vog) sweep over the generally static, lifeless landscape. We also occasionally glance at beautiful sunsets out this porthole in the evenings. But besides while running, I rarely spend time in front of this window. 

However, I do grasp for the outside world through delayed email and Voxer communications with my friends and family, mostly on a weekly basis. Such a contrast to this poor fly spending all its time and energy in front of this window longing for the outside world.  In order for me to let the poor fly outside, I’d have to catch the bugger, request an EVA, and then go through the airlock before opening the door and letting em fly away. I’m not sure if fruit flies are just bigger in Hawaii, but this one is quite plump!  We keep a tidy dome, though it seems there’s plenty of crumbs around to feed our insect friends. 

As for me, I’ve been cutting out sweet stuffs from my diet lately. My new year’s resolution was “no cookies” but I found all kinds of loopholes, such as vanilla wafers, brownies, etc.  So, for 40 days, I’m not eating any desserts and challenging myself to run 40 miles on the treadmill.  So far, I’m on track with 11 miles in 11 days, and I’ve bypassed my sweet tooth by savoring my daily caramel-flavored calcium chews, peppermint teas, and even lemon-honey cough drops! I want to moderate my diet, so that I can receive the maximum benefit from our workout regimen.

Fitness is a primary goal for our crew, as we need to plan workout activity in order to stay fit while confined to this small space. As you may know from my other posts, in the first few months, we completed Tony Horton’s P90X program. Next, we had one month of a combination of P90X2, Insanity, TurboFire, and yoga. This was our first week of a new schedule, we went back to some of our favorite P90X workouts, and introduced some new Insanity and T25 core workouts. We do 3 weeks of the same schedule, then have one recovery week of mainly yoga. During some of the cross-training and plyo workouts, we often wear Hexoskin shirts to quantify and compare measures such as respiration rate, cadence, and cardiac activity. Here’s a snapshot from Hexoskin during a plyo workout with six circuits:

Output from Hexoskin biometrics during a plyo workout with each circuit labeled

Recently, I put together a video that shows how we are utilizing Hexoskin wearable device technology in tracking our EVA and workout performance, and it also has some amazing time-lapsed footage of our surreal views on simulated Mars:  http://youtu.be/gX8NWmT2ptc

I’m sure my Earthlings are getting pumped for Spring Break. It was always interesting to see how the Purdue gym would become packed in the weeks before Spring Break as students prepare for their swimsuit debuts. For those of you enduring such a bitterly cold winter, I hope you will soon join the Spring Break-ers in an escape to the beach!

In the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling out of touch with the world. Even though we receive daily news headlines and some full articles about what’s happening out there. Still, I have felt out of the loop, wondering what I’m missing, and imagining that I will feel lost in conversation once I rejoin Earthly community. 

Thankfully, upon sharing these thoughts with some friends, namely Albane, Kori, and Maddy, these lovely ladies filled me in on the news that they’ve been hearing about. From these comms, I received a photo of the famous dress that I’ve been seeing in the news headlines. I showed the crew, and it turns out that 4 of us are seeing blue and black, one sees blue and gold, and one sees white and gold! After months of slippers, hiking boots, and athletic wear, I can’t wait to don a dress! Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised that I’ve already at least heard about the topics that my friends mentioned, so in reality, I was not “out of the loop” in terms of knowledge. However, I was lacking the confirmation that comes from interactions with more than just the occasional insect!


  1. Great post. I am a PhD student here at Purdue studying history. When I saw the Mars mission experiment covered inthe newspaper I started following the blog to see how it would go. The observations on seeing the occasional insect made me wonder if the crew and you have noticed a difference in experiencing sound? Is it more quiet overall? Or with that many people in the space is there no real difference? Thaks for keeping the blog. There are many of us on "Earth" finding it very interesting.
    -Wes Bishop

  2. Hi Wes! Funny you should ask, I actually heard a plane fly over last night, and it was sooo amazing! Normally though, there are no sounds other than those created by the crew. When part of the crew goes out on EVA, those who stay inside always comment on how quiet it was for the couple hours while half the crew was out exploring. So it seems we are sensitive to sound and quiet alike!

  3. I found out you guys like Dr. Who, right? :) Have you guys ever watched the BBC show (and American spin-off) "Life on Mars"?

  4. Tristan BassingthwaighteMarch 19, 2015 at 7:59 AM

    I would have been sorely tempted to do that entire process of catch and release for the fruit fly, simply out of stubbornness. I'm amazed at the level of exercise you guys indulge in. I'm currently writing a thesis on different approaches to healthy living in outer space at UH, and this is a great find. I wish you guys would post more often.

    Out of curiosity, do you have a summation of information you've gained on your physical, mental, and social experiences? I think that'd be an amazing bit of knowledge.