Letters From Mars

Adventures of the first Martian exploreres, testing our resolve here on Earth before making the real journey. Feel free to put your name in anonymous comments if you would like!

Location: Vermont, United States

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year!

Best New Years celebration ever :)

We break sim tomorrow, and then back to SLC on the second, and I fly home on the 3rd...

It's been an amazing two weeks.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Massive Update - Tons of Pictures

No EVAs for the second day in a row today - the snow melted, but the regolith here on Mars is almost as slippery when it is mud as it is when it is ice, and our suits are too important to expose to such abuse. So I have time to post a whole BUNCH of old pictures that I haven't had time to put up before, from Christmas until now. This post is going to be huge, I apologize ahead of time if you are on dial-up internet access.

12/25/04 - Christmas Celebrations

Opening stockings for Christmas

Christmas dinner...mmm..bright flash though!

12/26/04 - EVA

Standing in front of the Martian flag - ready for and EVA with Nick to take biological samples.


I survey the Martian landscape, deep in thought as my hyperactive senses absorb everything around me despite the isolation of my suit.

My parents always let me hold the Map on Earth...I guess it really paid off! I talk to Nick on the radio as I guide our EVA to two targets several kilometers apart and seperated by a partially washed out road.

Isaiah proves to Crew 31 that he can dance with a book on his head. Go Isaiah!


Remote Power Module for the Observatory before I repaired it - it was found in a place it did not belong in the Hab in this condition.

Check out the new gold screws! Bling Bling!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Journalist Report

Mars Desert Research Station Crew 31
Logbook for December 29th, 2004
Journalist Report
Andrew Bingham Reporting

The past 12 days on Mars with MDRS Crew 31 have been an amazing learning experience for all of us. Planning our meals and shopping list on the first morning the 18th, none of us had any idea what to expect of the coming days. Challenges, triumphs, laughter, and stress all lay ahead of us, but in what order we did not know.

I spent the afternoon and night of the 16th alone in Salt Lake City, waiting for my crewmates to arrive. The next day, Isaiah and Frog arrived after a 33-hour bus trip, and we spent the day exploring Salt Lake City and Temple Square. It was at that point that my worries and fears began to melt away. My usual shyness around new people my age disappeared and we had a grand time running three blocks to catch the bus to the hotel.

Later that night we met Louise and by the next evening we were safely asleep in our staterooms in the Hab, convinced that all of Mars lay outside the walls waiting for us to discover. Less then twenty-four hours after arriving at the Hab, we decided as a crew that it was time to enter simulation. What had been the Utah desert became another world with Earth hanging in the sky among the stars at night.

Our first EVAs were timid steps no further than 0.3km from the Hab, as we learned to use the radios and feel comfortable in the suits. With experience we have ventured further, scouting terrain as if we had an entire two year mission to explore it. Notable sites were marked and photographed for later return by members of the crew with specific research objectives relating to those areas, as the entire crew worked together to further each individual’s work.

Tonight at dinner we all discussed what our response would be if someone walked up the Hab stairs and asked “are you ready to leave for Mars….now?” As we went around the table, each crewmember answered yes and gave several reasons. Isaiah was even willing to go if he couldn’t tell anyone on Earth until after he had already left. Personally, I would want to at least tell my family first, but I would strap myself onto an Ares stack right this minute if I had the chance.

Life at MDRS hasn’t been easy. From a hungry mouse to frozen pipes, temperamental observatory equipment to hard to reach sample sites, and interesting meals to depleted fuel supplies, we have endured our fair share of challenges during our time here. In addition to our original research objectives, we have had to work just to survive. This is perhaps one of the most important analogs to actual Mars missions. Hard work, no pay, eternal glory indeed – it is not going to be easy, but we can live, work, explore, laugh, and play Scrabble on another planet.

As an engineer, my experiences have reinforced my drive to give a human crew the opportunity to make the real journey to Mars. If two weeks of simulation are as profound and life changing as they have been for Crew 31, then the actual mission will be beyond the comprehension of anyone who has not actually walked on the red planet. Even for those of us who remain firmly planted on Earth, the emotional effects will be deeply moving and overwhelmingly positive. As we empathize with the crew’s first Christmas on another planet, we will grow closer together as members of human culture, and upon their return we will celebrate as one planet that has successfully visited another.

On to Mars!

Busy Busy

Only three more days of simulation, and then we break sim and head home. Wow. It's been an amazing two weeks.

I've been on two more EVAs since I last posted here. Pictures tomorrow, I promise! I'll get right at it in the morning. I have some good before-and-after shots of Observatory hardware that I've been in the process of repairing as well. Still not up and running, but I'm working on it. May have to wait until the next crew for it to be perfect.

We had fried Ramen soup noodles with corned beef and peas for lunch. Sounds icky but it's great! The noodles give it a little bit of crunch, and the seasoning from the Ramen adds lots of flavor. We have sure eaten some weird food here (spam anyone?) but anything is good when you're hungry, and we have had three good sized, balanced meals a day. Much better then Clarkson food anyway.

I need to shave. But no one here cares. Being scruffy is part of being on Mars. Due to water system issues, we haven't been able to shower since the end of the last week. I've only taken one shower since I've been here. Shaving is the least of my concerns after freezing to death or drowning in gray water from the showers and sinks (joking! our propane tank was refilled to 100% yesterday and all the water is in well-marked and capped tanks in the ground behind the Hab).

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christmas on Mars

We opened stocking and stuff this morning, it was a lot of fun. We all miss our families but we made the best of the situation. Nick's students made us all awesome cards, how cool is that! We all bummed around for most of the day and watched movies and stuff. Tomorrow, back to work!

MDRS Crew 31 celebrates Christmas Eve by hanging stockings decorated for each other.

Oh Christmas Rock-with-bulbous-plant-and-old-dead-bone, your leaves are sooo...non-existant...

The Moon over the Martian surface at sunrise on Christmas Day.

More pictures tomorrow...sleep now

EVA 8 - Lithe Canyon

Isaiah, Ryan, and I went on a 3.5-hour EVA yesterday, venturing 4.25km from the Hab to visit Lithe Canyon. Our original target was Skyline Rim, but that road was washed away and we aren't alowed to make new ATV tracks due to BLM rules, so we diverted to our secondary target and took some samples there.

Suited up and ready for EVA 8

Self portrait of an areonaut.

Suited up for an extended EVA away from the Hab.

Isaiah and I skate on the frozen pond - water on Mars!

I climb a hill to get a radio check with HabCom from our remote location.

The Leaning Tower of Pancakes

Lithe Canyon

Lithe Canyon 2

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Hard Work and a visit to Candor Casma

I spent the day today cooking and doing dishes (as per our chore rotation schedule), as well as getting my crewmembers ready for our EVAs. Ryan and I also put in a good days work on the frozen water line that has prevented us from recycling our sink/shower water into the toilet supply sytem. It was frozen solid, and we had to actually dig up the whole pipe, scrape as much as we could with a pipe snake, and pour hot water down it to open it up again. Gloves and masks were a must, as the water is full of bacteria that feast on our waste. Better then black water from the toilet, but not by much - safety first.

With the grey water line thawed, I should be able to put some time into getting the observatory up and running tomorrow. This is one of my research objectives, so it will be nice to get down to business and work on it.

Yesterday Ryan and I went on an EVA to Candor Casma, an awesome canyon about 3km from the Hab. It was well worth the effort to get there on the ATVs while wearing suits, and the pictures are amazing. We took geological and biological samples from the surrounding area, and scouted routes by which future EVAs might reach the area for more detailed study.

Our EVA target for the day, Candor Casma. Beautiful.

I radio back to base after dismounting my ATV to inspect the surrounding area.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

First Steps

Yesterday we made our first in-simulation EVA. Ryan Anderson and I took the first steps on the Martian surface, and we proceeded to scout towards a radio repeater that serves as one of our primary communications links.

Planning EVA 2, the first in-simulation EVA

Suiting Up!

Riding the ATVs

At the top of the hill where we turned around.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Happy Happy Hab

We awoke this morning with the promise of a long day of work, and hit it all head on. From testing communications gear to flushing the antifreeze out of the water system, we hit them all head on and got ourselves ready to enter simulation in a flurry of work in activity. I worked on the communications gear and helped get the water system up and running, Isaiah worked on the front door to the hap, and we all contributed to get things up and running.

Mars at sunrise through the hap window

Mars Desert Research Station Crew 31
Frog, Nick, Andrew,
Isaiah, Louise, Ryan

The Martian Landscape

After a nice lunch, we headed out on our first EVA, climbing a hill and getting used to using the GPS system and radios before we enter simulation tomorrow.

Looking back at the Hab

EVA Landscape on Mars

We Have Arrived

We arrived at the Hab at about 9:00pm. It was so awesome driving up to it in the dark...real suspension of disbelief about being on Mars...so amazing.

As we begin our journey to the Hab, the moon rises over the rocky mountains.

More Mountains