Mars500 diary: settling in

Cyrille with the crops growing in the facility's greenhouse
7 April 2009

One week into their simulated Mars mission inside a special isolation facility in Moscow, the crew of six are reported to be in good spirits. ESA-selected crewmember Oliver Knickel sent the first diary entry since starting the 105-day stay for the Mars500 study.

Oliver Knickel writes:

After the excitement and stress of the weeks leading up to the start of the experiment, we were all happy and relieved after the hatch closed behind us on 31 March at 14:00 Moscow time. We first cleaned the whole module and had lunch together.

Cyrille gave me a good laugh when he tried to warm up a German dish called 'Kaiserschmarren', which consists of hot pieces of pastry, eaten with cold apple sauce. He was warming up the Kaiserschmarren package consisting of two separate parts (one with the pastry and one with the apple sauce) in the microwave and wondered why only one half of it was getting hot. After a good laugh and the pastry almost having been vaporised, while the apple sauce was only getting a little warmer, I showed him how to eat Kaiserschmarren.

Mars500 crew prepares to enter facility
Mars500 crew prepares to enter the isolation facility at IBMP

The rest of the first day we spent fitting out our new home for the next 3.5 months and made it as nice as possible. The following days we started to get familiar with the experiments that we will be carrying out for the next weeks. For keeping physically fit, Cyrille and I are both using a device that stimulates the muscles by sending electricity through them with a regular frequency. This is new for us and quite a funny feeling, especially since we are wearing our devices for three hours in a row.

We all slept very well during our first nights, not waking up for anything, although in the crew quarters you can actually hear all sounds from anywhere in the module, even if the doors are closed. I realised that in order to fit in the bed I have to open the door of the wardrobe behind my bed since both the bed and me are exactly 1.85 m long. But while sleeping you need a little more space than your usual body height because of the feet not being in a 90 degree angle to the legs, as when standing, so I would need 1.95 m, which is only possible if I open the wardrobe behind the bed and sleep with my head between my books and folders.

Oliver Knickel uses telephone inside facility
Oliver Knickel uses the telephone inside the facility

We are still very enthusiastic about the great food we are provided with. Although in the beginning it was strange only to eat what we were allowed to, we appreciate it and always have a good time coming together for supper especially since our crew commander started to spice up our food with vegetables from the module’s greenhouse.

At the end of the first week, we had the first opportunity to try out our sauna which is just one sq m, heats up to 60ºC, and can be used by one person at a time. Cyrille and I stayed in the sauna for 15 minutes each and enjoyed very much to be in a sauna under such unique conditions.

Concerning the work, we are getting more used to all details of the numerous experiments that we have to carry out. On the one hand it is very interesting, but on the other hand it keeps us busy most of the daytime. Since we are carrying out a nightshift once in six days (which means no sleep), in the evenings we are tired enough to immediately fall asleep without caring about the conditions we are living in.

Having finished our first week inside the module we are now eager to go forward and carry out the different tasks that we have trained on for many weeks.

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