Flashline-16 Crew Journalist Report 06-07-2024

 In Journalist Report

Our first day of simulation (SIM), sol 1, is coming to an end! It was a busy day, much like our previous days of the expedition, but with an added layer of complexity: SIM. A simulation involves running activities in the Habitat where the crew, acting as analogue astronauts, follow protocols to replicate the fidelity of a space mission. For example, opening an airlock would be fatal in space, so we mimic depressurisation by waiting 5 minutes before opening the airlock. This waiting time is symbolic and might not reflect the exact reality, depending on the spacesuit and infrastructure future astronauts will have, but it helps recreate the context. The more rigorously the crew follows the rules, the more realistic the SIM becomes—like a mind game!

After years, I had the opportunity to don a (prototype of a) spacesuit again and perform a surface EVA with my crew! It feels great to be back in full SIM! The feeling is akin to what a sports enthusiast might experience after a break from training. Though a little rusty, I am happy!

The best part of being in SIM is adopting the astronaut mindset in your work. During an EVA, I focus primarily on the objectives and try to achieve them as an astronaut would. Walking outside can be challenging, considering the rocky ground, and if it isn’t rocky, it’s wet due to the recent rain. The helmet can become very foggy because the ventilation system does not adapt to the breathing rate and volume of air. A foggy helmet limits visibility and increases EVA risks, such as the risk of injury. Yes, there are products to prevent fogging, but the point is to figure out the right solution to a problem on the go. The easiest way to mitigate it is to rest, reduce breathing frequency, and let the ventilation system do its part. It sounds obvious, but when you lack visibility, the first instinct is to remove the helmet and clear it out. What if that weren’t possible? Using futuristic helmets with advanced technology doesn’t help develop an astronaut’s mindset. However, such technologies may be valuable for reaching other EVA objectives and mitigating safety-critical tasks. 

On Earth, it is common to prefer advanced or more recent prototypes to old bulky props. Learning to use old-fashioned tools has advantages, mainly related to developing problem-solving abilities. Tools and systems on the International Space Station or other space infrastructure that can be considered outdated do not allow easy integration with more recent technology. So, the old prototypes we are using are good enough to achieve a decent level of fidelity and develop problem-solving skills on an EVA.

Ad Astra!

Crew Commander, 

Ilaria Cinelli PhD FAsMA