Category Archives: MDRS

The Importance of the Self

I had an amazing weekend these past few days, and it has probably been the best (or, at very worst, second-best) since returning to Earth following my MDRS mission. A lot happened this weekend too, not even considering two amazing wins by the MSU Men’s Basketball team: first date, “Compton” reunion pub crawl, cleaned my room, and started GRE prep, among other events. I also had a chance to reflect on who I was as a person, and who I wanted to be in the future. Quite the mental exercise for someone still in the middle of an exam season and only a month away from finals.

What did I determine? Well, I’ll need to break this up into a few smaller categories, since they only have mild connections. Plus, it’s easier to read (and write!) if compartmentalized like this, even if the categories are somewhat broad.

I recently ordered and received my first GRE Prep book: Cracking the GRE: 2010 Edition. Since I don’t really have the time to go to a bookstore to pick things up, I usually just order from Amazon, and this book (along with a vocab book that will be arriving tomorrow) was no different. I also really like picking up packages from my apartment complex’s office, which was just icing on the cake.

Right now, I’m trudging through the English-related sections of the book, and I’m slowly realizing how inadequate the current extent of my vocabulary is. Yes, I do know quite a variety of words, but there are many more that I have no idea even existed (or ones I thought I knew, but really didn’t). I haven’t looked at the Math-related sections yet, but I’m sure I’ll be fine with that and the essay, but that English section is just freaking me out a little bit. Hence the inclusion of a vocab-specific book to aide in my studying. I have two months to prepare, but at the same time I’ll be focused/distracted by actual schoolwork that actual study time will invariably be much less. I did give myself a window of two weeks following finals before the actual exam, so that should help make up for any deficiencies stemming from completing my junior year.

Speaking of that completion, I’m doing reasonably well in my classes. I just had two exams last week (Quantum II and Analysis I), and I have one more this upcoming Friday. Tomorrow night I’ll be completing homework for the classes that require it so I can more fully dedicate the tail of the week to preparing for that exam, especially considering that it is currently my worst class grade-wise. Using some gained knowledge from after the first exam, I should be in a much better position than I was (and I won’t be coming off missing seven straight classes), so I am not as worried about it. Of course, we’ll see on Friday exactly how much that pays off.

Non-Academic but close to it
I started work on the UURAF poster this past week (Research on Mars: Limitations in a Martian Analog Environment), although I am still far from completion. I’m still trying to pin down exactly what I want to discuss on the poster and during the judging phase, so my work has been more of a detailed outline than anything else. Thankfully, Jason Black at Plot to Punctuation offered to proofread my poster before the presentation, so I’m planning to get that to him by the end of the week. That will most likely mean sending him an e-mail by next Sunday following a weekend of just working on the poster due to my other time restraints.

I’ve done almost no programming following the Collatz Conjecture exercise, not including some basic class construction exercises. I did find in some of my freshman notes a description of a problem that I was contemplating solving as part of my Calculus I H-Option but discarded in favor of my coin flipping simulation. I’ll probably go back on work on that, since it will combine a few different techniques that I’ve learned so far in my studies. Of course, this has lower priorities than everything else, so it may be a while before I can even start actively thinking about it.

Personal Gain
Right now, I am training for a 10-kilometer race, which I am currently two weeks away from. This will be the longest race I’ve ran since the Capitol City River Run I completed my sophomore year, as well as the first race I’ve actively trained for since the end to my high school running career. So far, I’ve racked up a couple dozen miles, and my per mile times are down to around 7:20, which isn’t too bad considering starting from basically scratch. I figured, with Opportunity surpassing 20k and the missed opportunity to run a 5k completely in sim, a 10k was the least I could do. Plus, my dad and I will be carbo-loading the day before with Pizza House, which is definitely a plus.

I’m also working on eating healthier, starting with the complete elimination of soda from my diet. This mostly stemmed from MDRS not having any on hand, and I’ll tell you that it’s really tough to turn down a 24-pack of Dr Pepper soon after starting. Yes, I could’ve just lapsed for a few days until my roommates and I finished those off, but then what would stop me from relapsing over and over again? I figured that it would just be easier to not drink it then, making it a better chance that I wouldn’t drink it in the future. I figure that, if I keep this up, then all the better for my overall health. On the food side, I’m working on making sure I get enough calories (but more just guesstimating…) to fuel my athletic and academic pursuits, plus eating a wider variety of foods than just pizza, cereal, and peanut butter sandwiches.

My room is also clean, and I’m going to keep that trend going for as long as I can. On a similar note, I’m not going to buy any new clothes for a while, after noticing exactly how many t-shirts I own and how many I don’t wear. I had contemplated buying a new one (or two) a week or two ago, but decided against it because of some other purchases I had made earlier in the week, but now I figure that I don’t need any more for a while. Yes, I’ll be buying at least one shirt should I get a summer internship (still waiting to hear back from all of them, but NASA should be getting back to me this week), because I will need something that echoes back to my host institution.

And that’s basically it. There’s a few other things in there that I didn’t put down, plus my still-active New Year’s Resolutions, but it shouldn’t be too hard to figure those out. Plus, there might be a life-chaning event coming up soon for me, so mentally preparing for that goes hand-in-hand (or is directly a part of) all of these other things…

Returning to Life

With one week passing from the end of the crew changeover to MDRS 90, and six days passing from landing back in Michigan, I felt it fitting to take an inventory of my life at this point to quell my Mars withdrawals. It’s been a tough first week back on Earth, especially school-wise, but I think that I’m finally starting to come back around to normalcy.

Life at State
Waking up in the morning for classes instead of EVAs still feels a little off, but thankfully my sleep regiment imposed by MDRS has helped out, with the exception of my late sleep-in today. While yes, it didn’t help out waking up at 0730 on Tuesdays to teach, every other day of the week is fine. I’m also a little quicker to get up in the morning too, making it more likely to stay awake once I am up. I’m also back to eating real food every day (not just every other), although we do need to go grocery shopping soon to replenish our stores. I’ve yet to clean my room from before I left for Mars, but I may have time today or tomorrow to take a stab at finishing that up. I haven’t slept in the sleeping bag since I returned, since I don’t want to take it out of the sack.

The actual classwork has been fine. I had two exams this week and a paper due, with my final exam for this season falling on next Friday. I didn’t do too well on the two exams, but I did get a 4-point on the paper, which is great! I attended two labs last week, and will have two this week as well, to make up for missing the first two labs for my electronics class, but after that things will be back to normal for even that. The fact that I’m back to doing homework every day instead of riding ATVs is a little depressing, but I’m used to the fact that I’ll be doing homework for quite a few more years anyway…

Since I am now twenty-one after having one of the best birthdays possible, a lot of different opportunities are present for me on the weekends. Last night, I hung out at the bar with my roommate and a few of our good friends, and it was great! The place wasn’t packed, there was no line to get in, and I genuinely enjoyed myself. I also woke up this morning to an e-mail from Carla to check my mail, and I was greeted with a sweet NASA sweatshirt, some freeze-dried ice cream, a lanyard, and a postcard, which, combined with everything I got from her while on Mars, makes for a huge birthday stash of gifts and delicious treats. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting a single thing, so she could have given me a piece of paper with NASA scribbled on it and I’d still be ecstatic. I also got a good “birthday gift” from The State News by appearing on the front page of the paper, plus a multi-media spot on the website. All very cool.

In the News

Front Page of the February 11 State News

Since I’ve already mentioned The State News article (you can read it here), I might as well discuss the media coverage that has surrounded my return to Earth. Our crew blog has a list of all of the news coverage we’ve received, as of February 12, which you can browse here and includes all the articles that I’m going to talk about now anyway. My hometown paper, the Birmingham Eccentric gave me the front page as well, on their Sunday paper for February 7, which coincided with me returning to Michigan post mission. Both of those articles had secondary information: the multi-media spot for my college paper, and a quote on my thoughts on the existence of life on other planets for my home paper. I will also have a similar article in the February Lyman Biggs newsletter, but since that hasn’t come out yet I can’t really link to it… While I am slightly surprised about the amount of coverage that we as a crew and me personally have received, that might just be because I had seen no coverage of any of the previous crews. I only recently found out that some footage for an episode of The History Channel’s The Universe (which I own the first three seasons) was filmed at MDRS, since I hadn’t watched that particular episode before. At the same time, it makes sense, since I’m almost positive that I’m the first State student (and greater Birmingham area resident) to take part in the program. Also, as a result of having the photo shoot at the Abrams Planetarium, I may be giving a talk there about my experiences sometime this semester. I also have an entire Google page devoted to me (just search “mike moran mars”)!

I am back to being a Calculus II LA for the semester. I love the job, but it will be strange once more standing in front of a class once a week and grading their exams and quizzes. I’ve also recently (i.e. yesterday) interviewed for a math tutoring position for the RCAH, just to get some more money during the semester and some more job experience. I should hear back early next week about whether or not I got the job, but not to jinx myself, but I think that I’ll get the job based on the final questions he was asking. Should be pretty sweet. I’ve also, strangely, been accepted for a position as a Physics LA for next year, which is strange considering the fact that I have already accepted (I think…?) a position as a Calculus LA for next year. The past two years, I was denied being a Physics LA since I was also a Calculus LA, so either they changed their minds, saw the paper and said, “oh shit, we need this guy to teach for us,” or didn’t realize that I’m still a Calc LA. Or I could have not accepted the Calc position yet… I’ll find out when I get the official statement of employment, which the professors said should be coming shortly, and stopping in the office to check things out.

I’ve also applied for some summer internships: REUs at the University of California, Davis campus, and Notre Dame, and the NASA USRP. Depending on which one I’m accepted to (if any), and where NASA places me, I’ll be spending my summer in California, Texas, Indiana, or Maryland. Any of those would be nice places to be for two months, and I should be hearing back about those within the next few months. I’ve also looked at the Caltech/JPL SURF program, but with a deadline of this Friday and all of the other work I need to get done, I may not have the time to complete the thorough application and round up a third reference, since the internships I’ve already applied to only required two (or one).

So, I have a lot going on still. I spent today in the shower, at a Chinese food restaurant, in my bed, watching TV and reading TIME, eating freeze-dried ice cream, and putting off studying and working on homework for as long as I can. Once this goes out, though, I’m actually going to clean my room to facilitate the homework aspect of my plans.

Earth Return Vehicle

Yesterday, MDRS 89 relinquished their occupation of the Hab over to the all-Belgian MDRS 90 crew. It was a bitter-sweet moment to say the least.

The morning felt almost somber, with all of my movements more sluggish than usual. I ate slowly, walked around the Hab checking on everything, and made sure that I had everything packed. I cleaned off the jumpsuits, removed our nametags, and helped Kiri laminate our newly-printed and updated Quick Guides. I carried bags outside and dropped them off on our “staging area,” which was nothing more than some plywood resting on 2x4s on the far end of the pressurized rover garage. As a crew, we were all set to leave once MDRS 90 showed up, but as individuals we weren’t ready to leave the Hab, possibly for good.

Due to some major car problems, Crew 90 arrived three hours late, along with their two separate news crews. It was a huge shock going from six people in the Hab, our Hab, to over twenty in a matter of minutes. The entire two-hour handover was a huge sensory overload, and the language barrier was a little tough at times, but eventually we got all of our things into our car (including Darrel’s jacket) and drove down Lowell Highway, saying one last good-bye to the Hab.

And with that, my MDRS mission ended. Once we rounded that corner, that was it. We talked about our first real meal, our first shower, Darrel wanting to get me drunk, all the normal conversational topics. We decided to drive straight to Grand Junction, after dropping off the geophone equipment with DG at Hollow Mountain, so that we could shower and eat and still have time to sleep before waking up for our flights in the morning. Especially for me, since my flight was leaving at 0625, but that also meant that I could drive the rental car to the airport and drop it off, which was really nice.

We got back to Grand Junction, showered, and got dressed (Carla quickest of all, surprisingly), and piled back into our ERV to head to Rockslide Brewery, which we had picked out earlier in the mission as our first meal stop. We pulled up, got a table, and started thumbing through the menus. I went straight for the Bacon Cheeseburger, with curly fries, a side salad, and a sampler of their microbrews. Our table got three of them, but since Kiri wasn’t drinking, Carla was helping everyone out with theirs, and we were partially celebrating my birthday, I got a full one to myself. Once those were gone, soon after ordering calamari for our appetizers, I ordered a pint of the one I liked the best.

All of the food was delicious, and we talked and joked the entire time (HabCom to EVA crew…), and ordered a few more rounds of beers. It was great to relax and eat some real food (I finished all of mine, then ordered dessert), plus to just unwind after staying in a Hab for two weeks. Near the end of the night, Luís ordered two pints, one for me and one for him, and I couldn’t really refuse, could I? The ride back was hilarious as well, with Kiri driving, Carla in shotgun, and the four guys in the back two rows joking and laughing. We got back to the hotel and hung out in Brian and I’s room for a while, then eventually fell asleep.

I didn’t sleep that well, but that might have been because I didn’t want to sleep through my alarm and miss my flight. I got up, got dressed, and double-checked the directions with Brian before heading out to the airport. I parked, dropped the keys off at the desk, printed both of my boarding passes, and checked my bags. I fell asleep on the flight out to Dallas and slept the entire way there, knowing that I would most definitely wake up during my three-hour layover and wouldn’t easily fall back asleep. The layover wasn’t even that bad, and I did spend quite a bit of time walking around and taking pictures, plus grabbing some nourishment while there.

I landed in Detroit after a mildly uncomfortable and packed flight, grabbed my bag, and met with my parents to take me back to State. We stopped at Wendy’s on the way, I told them all about the trip, they showed me a news story that had been published earlier in the day, and we got back to State (and got some Menna’s).

And with that, MDRS was officially over. I miss the Hab, I miss the crew, I miss the rovers, I miss the suits. I don’t miss the short showers, the Alpineaire meals, or the muddy snowy mess outside of the Hab (unless I was riding a rover…). I may see some of the crew later this year, depending on how my plans actually pan out, so that will be nice, but for now I am back on Earth with my friends and roommates.