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

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!"