Status Report

Mars500 Diary: Decorating

By SpaceRef Editor
April 15, 2009
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At the end of the second week inside the special isolation facility, ESA-selected participant Cyrille Fournier describes how the Mars500 crew is managing to feel at home, decorating their sleeping quarters and eating fresh vegetables grown in the greenhouse.

Cyrille Fournier writes:
Well, here we are, we have just finished our second isolation week in the module. It seems to me important to realise that we have so far covered more than 13% of the total isolation time!

It is important because over the past two weeks we all felt that the atmosphere was still at the top, both for the working and leisure time. Of course we are all aware that tensions may still rise sooner or later, but for the time being, none of us has felt any uncomfortable situations or potentially irritating behaviours. This is definitely a good sign for the 13 remaining weeks to come.

What exactly has happened during this week? Well, we settled down even more comfortably, slowly upgrading our environment.

ESA Mars500 Isolation Experiment

ESA-selected Mars500 crewmember Oliver Knickel is ready for the ‘Pilot’ experiment. Knickel is one of six crewmembers to enter a special isolation facility at the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) in Moscow on 31 March 2009 for a 105-day stay as part of the Mars500 study.

First, as our accommodation is not that spacious, we moved all items we do not need everyday into the storage module, such as vacuum cleaners, our food, the experiment materials, the computers, the towels, linens, stationery, etc…

Meanwhile, we started decorating our individual crew quarters. I haven’t brought in too many personal pictures but Oliver had thought about it before entering the module: on his walls he has some pictures of his Russian girlfriend, along with a family–made nice reminder that his parents, his sisters and all his relatives are supporting him in this unique adventure!

But the one winning the first prize in decoration is definitely Oleg, who literally transformed his quarters: it is a real mess, but as an engineer and training cosmonaut, he managed to deflect the lights so that the lighting now meets what he wanted. He also brought with him large pieces of fabric that he has stapled on three walls, the fourth one being dressed with a pious carpet.

Finally, he stuck on lots of fluorescent stickers of space vehicles, planets, stars and cosmonauts, so that when the lights are off, stars and planets are glowing all around him!

He also took the initiative to decorate our shared crew module with… his own-style! A picture sometimes tells more than a long paragraph, here is Oleg next to our crew module hall of fame!

Another interesting point is that we are now eating at every lunch our home-grown plants! Ok, there’s not a lot because our greenhouses are not huge, but we all greatly enjoy every day one radish, some onion leaves and ‘Chinese cabbage’ leaves, as the Russians call them. And the best is still to come as we are checking every single day how mature our tomatoes and – above all – our strawberries are getting! Like we say in Russian: это будет вкусно! – it will be tasty!

During this past week we also thoroughly kept track with our scheduled experiments. Some are not easy (or interesting!) to describe here, but some are more symbolic than others. You can see here Oliver getting ready to undergo an experiment called ‘Pilot’. During this experiment, we have to conduct specific tasks (such as voice-guiding a target to a specific place, docking on the ISS) during which our heart rate, respiratory rhythm, eye movements, blood pressure, and brain activities are measured and recorded for further analyses.

Another one was to analyze the amount of hydrogen contained in our breath after a specific diet.

Along with carrying out experiments, our job is to assure 24-hour operations so as to monitor the system parameters inside our module. This is not an easy task as we have a normal working day, then stay awake for the whole night and then resume a normal rhythm onwards. To be truthful, sleeping may be a big issue in this experiment: having no idea whether it is daytime or night-time, our organism takes its own rhythm and we are slowly but surely extending our ‘days’, going to sleep later and later everyday… although we have to remain on a 24-hour cycle! We will see how we will deal with that.

Finally, we ended the week on a special day. Here in Russia, 12 April is the day of the cosmonauts. It is a tribute to the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, whose flight was on 12 April 1961.

Although four of us are not cosmonauts (or astronauts), we received lots of encouraging and supporting messages for the challenge we are going through and this made us feel very good, ready to keep going for week number three!

From inside the module, we wish you a very nice week!

SpaceRef staff editor.