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

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!