One Month Down, Eleven to go. Feeling Fine!

So today is the 1 month and 1 day anniversary of us actually getting into this half sphere playhouse and remarking that despite everything, we’re still completely sane. It’s to be expected I suppose, I mean what’s a month really? Only a big deal if you’re hanging out with your in-laws or trying to hold your breath am I right? The time actually flew by, I feel like it’s been two weeks tops, but if you’ve ever seen a movie where people were stuck for awhile, it’s the second half that drags. I’m imagining that next February will feel like all of 2016, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!

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This particular post is more focused on generalities, not a specific topic like food or an EVA, but the general things of life over this last month, a vaguely comprehensive overview that leaves out a lot of stuff you wouldn’t be interested in anyways, like how the decomposting toilets work. That’s a nightmare, just no. So what have we been up to from time to time and why are we still sane? It all boils down to a few big things; food which is surprisingly delicious, research and work we do as part of the mission, and filling our spare time with fun things instead of wasting away under the inescapable onslaught of time. First up, some of the most recent delicious munchies that have graced the table and our bellies, before ending up in that previously mentioned topic we won’t be discussing.

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First up, yesterdays lunch! A rather fantastic Mac n’Cheese if I do say so myself, and Carmel generously helped on making a custom cream sauce out of rehydrated cheese, reconstituted milk, flour, gee, and a bunch of other things. I’ll throw in a picture series for ya showing you a bit more than just the final product. Making the cream sauce takes the most work, but you still have to make some stuff to go with it. Vegetables, summer sausage, and of course the chunks of cheese that eventually melt into the sauce. Good stuff! Heavy though!

It's not cooked yet, but this stuff morphs into some amazing eats if you give it twenty minutes and some water!
It’s not cooked yet, but this stuff morphs into some amazing eats if you give it twenty minutes and some water!
Ok so that' s just home-made cream sauce and dehydrated cheese, but it turns into a very nice macaroni sauce after awhile!
Ok so that’ s just home-made cream sauce and dehydrated cheese, but it turns into a very nice macaroni sauce after awhile!

Mix that all together and what do you get? A mean that is fantastic, with enough calories to jog for at least a week and still put on weight. No joke! I thought I was going to lose a little weight in here but it’s turning into a constant battle between the amazing edibles laying all over and the exercise bike which always stares at you with a guilty look.

See? And you were worried. Food here is like the ugly ducking. You're horrified at first because it looks like a mummy, but some tender loving care and you can get almost anything you want out of that freeze dried stuff!
See? And you were worried. Food here is like the ugly ducking. You’re horrified at first because it looks like a mummy, but some tender loving care and you can get almost anything you want out of that freeze dried stuff!

But what’s that I see on my bowl of veggies? Why, it’s more amazing bread we cultured from Bob, our amazing Martian yeast that tried to devour the telemetry room our first week here. He’s a tempestuous lout to be sure, but makes great bread when you give him the time and the warmth to grow strong. This is my most recent attempt at being a wizard with dough, still a heavy bread, but we’re getting there. The egg I painted onto the top of the dough before putting it into the over made for a nice browning!

This loaf had parmesan cheese, basil, garlic, and a few other things in it to boot! Doesn't look like it, but it's got a lot of flavors mixed in! And the egg glaze makes it look so professional! -proud!-
This loaf had parmesan cheese, basil, garlic, and a few other things in it to boot! Doesn’t look like it, but it’s got a lot of flavors mixed in! And the egg glaze makes it look so professional! -proud!-

And this was all lunch, how nuts is that? I still have about a pound of macaroni in the fridge just waiting to be eaten, the people who cook the day after me could be so lazy if they wanted to, I make leftovers in abundant quantities. Probably a vestige of my days trying to make extra to last me during undergrad. Never knew when you’d have time to cook, had to stock up!

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Dinner was equally delicious and even heavier. I don’t have process pics of this one, but let’s just say that space lasagna is good stuff! Black pepper sausage, lots of mozzarella, rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, big old lasagna noodles, the works. We’ve still got like half of it in there, just taking up fridge space! Tomorrow’s breakfast is going to give me a heart attack and I’m SO looking forward to it!

There's a whole lot of goodness in there! I seriously can't wait to go to sleep so I can wake up again and have this for breakfast. My inner glutton adores cheese...
There’s a whole lot of goodness in there! I seriously can’t wait to go to sleep so I can wake up again and have this for breakfast. My inner glutton adores cheese…

Oh and while I won’t drag you through all our gastronomic escapades, I had to include a few fun treats of the last week!

Just an amazing spinach and artichoke heart dip that Carmel and I made. Creams, cheese, spices, all baked up and served with crispy bread chips we made ourselves? Oh...the hedonism! I would fight my own grandma for another tin of this stuff!
Just an amazing spinach and artichoke heart dip that Carmel and I made. Creams, cheese, spices, all baked up and served with crispy bread chips we made ourselves? Oh…the hedonism! I would fight my own grandma for another tin of this stuff!
Shey blew our minds with another fantastic
Shey blew our minds with another fantastic “build your own pizza” day that did not disappoint. I had chicken, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, cheese, and….ok so more cheese but can you blame me? Look at those little squares of heaven!

So you have some idea of the munchies we get hanging out here. To be fair, we do have to make all this ourselves, very little is just add water and enjoy. Living on Mars is what you make of it, so having a few people that love to cook and are willing to teach you for a hand in the kitchen is something that will work out for you every time. I get to eat all the delicious, and when I get out of here I’ll be a guy that can cook some fine grinds, such a win win! Home made ice cream from here on out, yes!

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We also have stuff to do for the actual mission. It’s not just relaxing for a year and practicing meditation or anything. While it would be cool to be a space hermit, we actually have plenty of research (I’m a test subject, even if it’s not for Aperture, ah someday…) and are required to perform plenty of tasks. The most involved, and probably most fun, to do is the famous EVA. These suits make your butt look unbelievably frumpy, but at least you get outside and feel the occasional strong gust of wind try to push you over. Seriously, you can’t feel the breeze at all, so it seems like there’s a rude ghost just trying to nudge you sideways. Still getting used to them.

Mauna Kea is looking mighty fine today! We're often just sitting in a blank nothing, clouds often envelope the habitat. But when you get out and it's a clear day, man...you can see forever! Can you spot the teeny tiny telescopes on top of the mountain?
Mauna Kea is looking mighty fine today! We’re often just sitting in a blank nothing, clouds often envelope the habitat. But when you get out and it’s a clear day, man…you can see forever! Can you spot the teeny tiny telescopes on top of the mountain? Carmel took this once we got out of the dome!

My last EVA was sort of a geological study, but more than anything was an excuse to get out of the habitat and see some new places. The quarry is all cool and everything with its holes to the center of the earth and crazy ridgelines, but it’s all busted up lava. Been ages since I’ve run around on the real stuff. Carmel and I decided it was time to change that, and being all light footed and comfortable with tough hikes (Go team Montana!) we decided to venture wide, looking for collapsed lava tubes.

This is where we decided to head off into the wild unknown. There's good lava and bad lava out there, general rule is unless it looks like a pillow, just don't touch!
This is where we decided to head off into the wild unknown. There’s good lava and bad lava out there, general rule is unless it looks like a pillow, just don’t touch! Carmel also took this one, my camera died!

We actually thought we were getting close to having some luck in this crazy adventure when we came across this huge crater. It very much looks like a lava tube or molten colloseum that just collapsed in on itself. We couldn’t find caves down there, or even a way to check closely as this thing was sheer on all sides, but hey, were there’s one giant caved in hole there must be other cool stuff right? Onwards!

Pahoehoe on the right, yes, gooood lava, you're nice. A'a lava on the left, that's bad lava, it crumbles and cuts and is mean. We hates it, don't we precious?
Pahoehoe on the right, yes, gooood lava, you’re nice. A’a lava on the left, that’s bad lava, it crumbles and cuts and is mean. We hates it, don’t we precious?

While we didn’t find anything that gigantic again, we did come across smaller examples of cool stuff. No actual skylights into lava tubes, but we at least managed to find one of the lava tubes itself. Almost big enough to climb in, so very cool for that, but I’m still desperately interested in walking around an actual big one and pretending my Mars habitat is in there. I mean how many people get to galavant around inside a big tube in the ground wearing a hazmat suit? That’d just be so cool! Oh we also found really quirky rocks too, which is easier than you think because you can’t go ten meters without finding something you haven’t really seen before.

This is just a cool rock, I mean...look at it! Yeah! -poke poke-
This is just a cool rock, I mean…look at it! Yeah! -poke poke- And in case you haven’t figured it out, Carmel likes taking up close pictures of lava.
Oh man, the collapsed wall of a little lava tube! Neat-o! These things are so cool because they can be surprisingly thing, out of rock that's not that strong really. But the geometry of the stone will easily support huge amounts of weight. Natural structure!
Oh man, the collapsed wall of a little lava tube! Neat-o! These things are so cool because they can be surprisingly thing, out of rock that’s not that strong really. But the geometry of the stone will easily support huge amounts of weight. Natural structure! Courtesy Carmel
Check it out! We shoved the camera in there and took a picture down to where we couldn't get through. How awesome would it be if you were 8 inches tall and had a remote control jeep? Adventure is out there!
Check it out! We shoved the camera in there and took a picture down to where we couldn’t get through. How awesome would it be if you were 8 inches tall and had a remote control jeep? Adventure is out there! I had to pull Carmel’s head outa this tube!

But it was getting a little later in the day at this point and despite trying to fit my head in that lava tube, it was still pretty hot out! These suits try to steam you like a dumpling, so before our camelbacks ran dry and we melted into puddle-nauts we had to get back. Thankfully the landscape had evened out a bit at this point. We’d started the day by battling a lot more A’a lava than you’d think was healthy, but the closer we got to home, the more Pahoehoe seemed to come out of nowhere. I practically found a road of it heading right back to the quarry!

Nice smooth rock road heading back to the red quarry where we live. And yes I know the suit gives me frump butt, stop looking at it! Oh...I'm almost as tall as Mauna Loa in this picture, nice!
Nice smooth rock road heading back to the red quarry where we live. And yes I know the suit gives me frump butt, stop looking at it! Oh…I’m almost as tall as Mauna Loa in this picture, nice! I obviously didn’t take this picture, Carmel did. If I’d taken this…how could I have done that?!
One of the very few pictures of me, I only allow it because I'm still vaguely hidden in there! And if I look like I'm dying it's because these things slowly cook you to death! I feel like a prawn at Red Lobster.
One of the very few pictures of me, I only allow it because I’m still vaguely hidden in there! And if I look like I’m dying it’s because these things slowly cook you to death! I feel like a prawn at Red Lobster.

And that particular EVA was complete! The dome may be small, but you always feel excited to get back into it once you’ve spent a couple hours in those suits. A lukewarm shower, no radio tucked in your ear, and no throat-mic trying to choke you to death? Yes please! If you think your place is too small, or could be cooler for whatever reason, try spending an hour sitting in your oven while you work and people tap on the glass to shout things at you. EVA’s are both fun and make you realize how good the dome is to us!

Home! It ain't big but we love it.
Home! It ain’t big but we love it. Somehow Carmel got the sun to reflect off just one triangle.

Of course we keep busy in the dome as well! I can’t show pictures of everything because either I’m not taking them, or I don’t want to assail you with fifty images in a single blog post. But we do try to keep busy, there’s enough time in the day for exercise, hobbies, naps if you must, and keeping up with Doctor Who, which is the most amazing thing ever. Season 9 started with some momentum, oy! One site that has been pretty common for awhile now is Andrzej fixing up Igor the quad-copter and putting it through its paces so we can use it for fun things. I can’t check out those crazy holes in the quarry, or go down a skylight into a lava tube…but Igor can! You can check out Andrzej’s blog here.

You can just tell Andrzej wants to mount a laser on there and take over a small city. The guy loves Igor, can you blame him? That thing can do some amazing stuff, even if it does sound like a swarm of angry bees.
You can just tell Andrzej wants to mount a laser on there and take over a small city. The guy loves Igor, can you blame him? That thing can do some amazing stuff, even if it does sound like a swarm of angry bees.

The rest of us have our major hobbies as well. Christiane is teaching us Salsa, which I will so never put a picture of because I’m incredibly shy about dancing, and you can occasionally hear Sheyna screaming things in Russian so her mic will pick up her accent correctly. We even have post-it notes with translations all over the hab now, ha! And when Andrzej isn’t flying Igor he’s probably strumming the guitar or Minecrafting it up.

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My big thing is working on drawing, I’d like to get a lot better than I am, and learn all the tricks I can in Photoshop as well. I’ve got a Wacom tablet, and architecture necessarily has a great deal of art in it, so being good at sketching, playing with digital works, or 3D modeling comes in handy. I’ve included an incomplete work below, doing a fun version of the 1-Up mario mushroom, and have managed to give precisely one drawing class so far to everyone. We’ll see if we can keep that up. Takes a lot of work to stick with it!

Just playing around with a Mario themed drawing, hobbies will keep you sane, invest heavily!
Just playing around with a Mario themed drawing, hobbies will keep you sane, invest heavily!

So that’s a brief overview of life here so far. I’m sure things will change as time goes by. Experiments will get more complex, we’ll all be great at salsa, and if the bike wins out over comfort food I might even get in shape. It’s been a ludicrously fast month, and I still feel like I’ve only started getting to know everyone, so hopefully the remaining 11 will have some surprises. We’re all trying to make this crazy experience work for the better, and learn all we can while we’re in here. It’s been fun so far, and hopefully I’ll keep you entertained and informed till the end of this thing!
See you around the cosmos!

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