Flashline-16 Commander’s Report 05-07-2024

 In Commander Report

Commander Report and personal observations

July 5, 2024

Since our landing on 2 July, the weather has been a significant challenge, with storms, wind, and rain. Today, we had to postpone a long expedition due to adverse weather forecasts. However, we continually learn the importance of adaptability, even when our plans are disrupted. This adaptability, while frustrating at times, is a testament to our team’s resilience and ability to redirect our focus.

So, we are fully dedicated to indoor tasks. High-fidelity habitats like FMARS are not used year-round for several reasons. We are reorganizing the entire Hab from scratch, along with a few extra maintenance tasks, to provide future crews with inventory and information about everything here. It is incredible to realize that although we planned tasks ahead of time and are working full-time on them, there is still a lot of work to do. These activities will become very common and incredibly challenging on a real Mars mission, more so than expected.

Looking at everything here, I started wondering about the levels of redundancy for resupply and items in deep space missions. One of the most common questions in mission preparation is, “Is this item already there? How many shall we bring on the mission?” Redundancy varies across crews because the mission objectives vary, although operational priorities (such as safety, science, and simulation) might be shared. Often, mission preparation does not involve previous crews, so it is hard to transfer crew knowledge and needs from one crew to another. Reports cover just part of the lessons learned and might not be enough to capture the cultural habits of the crew. 

As of now, it is very difficult to aim for sustainability in human exploration of space and in analogue missions. Items at the Hab have been brought over the years since its establishment in 1998 and are useful for understanding the habits or solutions to problems faced by previous crews. As with any “space” payload, we carefully consider each item before discarding it, as it could be useful to future crews. It is not a written rule, but any activity in most analogue missions, especially those under my leadership, accounts for what we could leave to future crews to help them live on Mars. However, it is a shame that most hardware is not recyclable or compatible across different items but rather unique pieces. This is not news in terrestrial society, but on Mars and future missions, sustainability and compatibility across hardware might make a huge difference in crew activities.

Food waste is a hot topic across crews. I grew up with the habit of not wasting food, eating what was available, and considering myself fortunate to have multiple meals every day. It is common for previous crews to leave leftovers, like an open cereal box, for the incoming crew. In remote habitats, like FMARS, where crew rotation may be annual, there is a risk of wasting more than in other analogue missions. We are eating food we brought ourselves and found in the Hab, including some expired food if preserved properly according to our criteria. It is not just a choice of reducing waste; we are aware that, in the worst scenario, our stay here might get longer if the plane cannot land.

Analogue missions teach several lessons that could benefit terrestrial society in many ways. Although the scientific community is slowly realizing their importance for space research, I strongly believe that their value is underestimated in achieving sustainability on Earth.

I thank my crew and The Mars Society for allowing me to run a mission that aligns with my personal values.

Ad Astra.

Crew Commander

Ilaria Cinelli PhD FAsMA