SOL 81 [3 January 2017]

I am on Mars, again! It feels wonderful saying that.

I recently completed the first phase of Mars160 mission. Now, I have joined the Crew 172. For this mission, I am the Executive Officer and Crew Biologist for another 15 sols.

It is my Sol 81. Before coming here as Crew 172, I was asked many times that why do I want to do this rotation when I had already been part of a long-term mission like Mars160. My answer has always been simple – ‘there is no obligation, of course; but I still want to do it. It’s important for me’. Actually, when you don’t wear the spacesuit when you don’t live under the constraints of the Martian life, you miss it. It’s a privilege to do this job. I was appointed to be the Crew Biologist for Mars160 mission and Crew 172 at the same time, and I had decided that I will come back to join the Crew 172.

The first phase of Mars160 mission was intense. In summer 2017, we are initiating our second phase at FMARS in the Canadian Arctic, which is going to be the real test of living in a simulated Martian condition that also involves lots of preparation. Having said that, Crew 172 is an important attempt towards exposing myself to the inherent discreteness of the nature of two different missions. This mission is also my attempt to test the flexibility in my approach towards the crew and the overall mission objectives. I say this because I realized the emotional intricacies involved in this transition. I came back to live in the same place for 15 sols, where I recently completed 80 amazing sols, but with a different crew. I keep missing the presence of my previous crew. Then I have many conversations with myself, reminding me that this is what it takes to be able to live on Mars – it tests your preparedness and patience.

The members of the Crew 172 are young and enthusiastic! They are equipped with advanced technology that they intend to test in the simulated Martian environment. What exhilarates me the most is their eagerness and excitement to experience the adventure of extra-vehicular activities (EVAs) for the very first time. I am happy to see them getting carried away by the spectacular landscape. I echo their emotions. At the same time, I am learning from them in so many ways.

From the perspective of science operations, I intend to continue my work on documenting the pattern and diversity of halophilic microorganisms that I started during Mars160 mission. Shannon Rupert, the principal investigator of the Mars160 mission, and I are interested in isolating highly salt tolerant microorganisms from soil samples collected during Mars160 mission. We intend to perform the molecular analysis of those peculiar salt-loving microbes. So, as Crew Biologist, this is the objective of my current sojourn on Mars!

Additionally, I am engaged in different human factor experiments proposed by my fellows of Crew 172.

Exciting!

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