Challenge of Day 1: Keep my eyes open.
After about 26 combined hours of flights, layovers, and airport snoozing, I arrived to our ranch home stay to news that I we would begin a half hour later.
Luckily, the first task of the day involved coffee.
Day one of training was very insightful. In addition to meeting my fellow crew members face-to-face for the first time, we spent much of the day being briefed on details of the mission and its carefully prepared studies. There are two high-level aspects of the mission objectives and study to note:
The All-Important Purpose of the HI-SEAS Study
HI-SEAS is a NASA funded study that focuses on Behavioral Health and Performance. Basically, the main study topics revolve around team cohesion in isolated environments and deal with factors such as stress, conflict management, and communication.
Basically, future astronauts who venture to other planets will face unique challenges brought on by the constraints demanded by the long distances. Mars astronauts will face large communication delays, meaning that speaking to mission control during emergencies or video chatting with family as they can on the International Space Station won’t be an option. This necessitates the ability to function more autonomously than in previous scenarios, with crew relying on themselves and one another to a higher degree. This study hopes to better understand how to select the right people for those environments, and to predict, understand, and avoid problems that may be likely to arise in isolated scenarios.
The Cool Narrative Part
Our scenario is not a trip to Mars. Instead, the first leg of the journey has ended and we have landed on the red planet. Having arrived, we will begin setup to understand and identify key points in our landing site.
(The one-way trip to Mars can take about 9 months, depending on when you launch. This is arguably more challenging than three Hawaiian air flights, although I cannot comment on the inclusion of tiny bags of complimentary peanuts.)
Training took up most the day, and one of the more interesting parts for me was First Aid and emergency CPR. I’ve taken this course successfully before, but I’ve never been engaged quite the same way as I was today, despite my lack of rest. Part of this was the added feeling of responsibility.
Myself and my crew mates will rely on one another in many ways. Similar to future Mars inhabitants, we’ll be each other’s first lines of defense and first contact in off-nominal situations. While we are mostly focused on preserving and improving each other’s mental and emotional well being, it was nice to build up confidence in how to act in a physically threatening emergency as well, even though none are expected.
End of Day 1
The long day ended with a Hawaiian potluck dinner with the crew, support and habitat teams, and several other Hawaiian natives who were every bit as warm and welcoming as you would expect. It was a pleasantly surprising international environment. We had good conversations with our Serbian trainer, traded jokes with leadership from New Zealand, and I even got to speak to a few Brazilian visitors who were happy to speak in their native tongue, a rarity in Hawaii they expressed. The whole scenario affirms that I feel most calm in diverse, cultural environments.
The conversations with my crew were very reassuring. Everyone seems committed to the cause, and humor seems to click very naturally.
It’s been an intense day. I don’t really know what to expect of this mission yet, but after initial crew bonding and training, I’m excited for it,
regardless of complimentary prepacked peanuts or not.