Hello everyone! You are listening to the Red Shift - your connection to your piece of the sky! I'm your host, Emma Miller. Welcome back to the show! Last week was quite a doozy, right? We got to hear from Mission Three botanist Patricia Holzer about the making - and breaking - of the first piece of glass made on Mars. There have been some developments on that story, but first, let’s start with this week’s announcements from the ISA!
Last week, you all will have seen the bio for Mithi Mabaya! Isn’t that amazing? This week, keep your eyes peeled for another astronaut bio! I have it on good authority that this week’s bio will be for the same astronaut who sent in their “mars diary” this week - more on that in just a minute.
I do want to take a second to tell you a little bit more about Mithi Mabaya. I teased this last week, but I think it’d be fun to share an ISA training highlight with you all. Training courses for the Mars mission consisted of a lot of different simulated exercises where teams had to “survive” these really difficult scenarios. If looked at on her performance alone, Mithi wasn’t exactly the top of her class. She was comparable in terms of scoring for sure, but she wasn’t overwhelmingly better than her peers. What she did excel at, however, was that every single one of her teams survived. 100%. She brought out the best in everyone and always knew the right way to bring a team together. It is why, in the end, Adan chose her not only to be on the Mission, but also to be the leader.
I don’t know about you all, but I think one of the most important parts of being a leader is being able to do just what Mithi does. It's one of my favorite facts about her, so thanks for letting me share it with you!
For the Mars base, this week should also see the unveiling of a new user interface for our earth-to-mars web portal. The new look is designed to be both attractive and functional, with new layouts designed to make our job of managing the mars base easier. Take a look and see what you think! I saw a sneak preview and I am so excited for you to see it too!
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for - I know I have been - our next astronaut letter! This letter comes to us from John Alves. I know John’s name came up quite a lot last week in Patricia’s diary so I am excited to hear from John himself. I wonder if he will help to shed a bit of light on the situation with the pane of glass!
Once again, keep in mind that all the words I am about to read come from John Alves himself. He’s not a particularly fluffy person, as I am sure we will see in his writing.
John’s Mars diary
Did I break the glass? No.
Do I know who broke the glass? Not much happens at the base that I don’t know about.
If I tell you, does it fix anything? I guess you can decide.
I have been told that it is “my week” to write a note to be shared by the ISA to whoever it is that cares to hear from us on the base. I could imagine that there could be more pressing matters I should be attending to, but I will bite. I don’t see how my contribution could do any more harm than last week’s message.
Patricia’s entry didn’t exactly make me look good. I’m not going to apologize for what I said or how I said it. I meant every word. There are more important things to be concerned with than a sheet of glass that was manufactured in the base. We did it once, it could be done again. Well, it could be done again if there was some need for it. Actual need, not just some desire for a Martian greenhouse some years in the future. Again, there is more important work to be done.
Yet, here we are. I’m no storyteller. Patricia has quite the way with words. She, like her plants, are flowery in their approach to telling stories. I’ll just tell you what happened, consequences be damned.
The night of the glass incident, I’d been awake. There was an alarm in the hab - that is normal. Something is always breaking. This time it was the oxygen monitor. It was to be expected with all the fiddling everyone had been doing in the workshop. Expected or not, it had to be fixed. That is what I do. I fix things. On Mars, there is a lot of stuff to fix, likely because every single thing is actively trying to kill us.
I was just finishing checking various gauges and monitors to make sure we wouldn’t suffocate or explode mid REM cycle. Imagine my surprise when I turned to look at the monitors of the hab’s camera systems and saw Ida coming back from the place where we had left the glass.
Understand, Ida is a fireball. Full of energy. Full of that “can-do” and kick-ass that true optimists have. I envy that. I’ve been tired for five years. But that night just looking at the little image on my monitor I could tell something was wrong. What you never see with Ida, her shoulders were slumped and shaking.
So I did what I do. I tried to fix it. Stopped by the hab where she bunks and said I needed a hand in the Forge. Told her I’d seen her last night coming back from the base. Told her it looked like she was crying, which is obviously against regs because it wastes water.
That got a little smile.
She was pretty quick to admit she had smashed the glass, but didn’t say a word about why.
In my head, I’m thinking two things. On the one hand, with the pane of glass gone maybe the rest of the base will focus on the things that matter like - I don’t know - preparing for the storm the weather team says is coming. There is actual work to do. On the other hand, I’m as curious as the next person. Why would our kick-ass, cocky, race-car driving astronaut sneak out in the middle of the night to break the thing she had made herself?
She said she was sorry Patricia was pissed - but I made it anyway, so what’s the big deal! (Which sounded more like regular Ida, to be honest.) When I tried to find out more, she just said, Wait for Alliance Four to land and when I said what the hell does that have to do with anything she growled out something in Italian - a mali estremi, estremi rimedi. I don’t speak Italian myself, but the look on her face said, You better look the hell out.
Me, I know when to mind my own business but I know she’s got a man on that ship. Love does crazy shit to people. Evidently, it still does, even on Mars.
So I get back to my bunk. I’m trying to think of the right way to fix this situation. Sometimes when something breaks, you have to just patch it up and keep going. If you get a hole in your tire, you replace it with a spare until you can get it properly replaced, you know what I mean? I am not going to be able to fix the glass, I am also not going to insert myself into Ida’s business, either with her man or with Patricia. The damage is done, we have to move forward for the sake of the base and survival. We can save the emotional drama for a time when the planet isn’t trying to kill us. Ha.
Tried to tell that to Holtzer. It didn’t go over great. She hasn’t spoken to me since, honestly, and she certainly hasn’t shared any of her special crop of vegetables with me since that day. That is the real pity. John’s on the No Secret chili pepper list. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, but I’m telling you, after eating the same four Earth-Approved vegetables for two years, on a planet that makes everything taste bland, and then you don’t get the secret chilies? I’m telling you it hurts.
So a day later, I’m back fixing things. With this storm coming, the vehicles have to be monitored pretty carefully to ensure they are in driving condition. Rocks and sand on Mars aren’t the same as the ones they have on Earth. No amount of testing they do on the pale blue dot is ever going to perfectly replicate the conditions here. That means that when bad conditions come on the red planet, we have to figure it out ourselves. When I say we, I usually mean me. Not that the others don’t do their work, but when it comes to Mars-proofing the things that Earth sends us, it is usually my responsibility.
I was out checking the treads on the tires. Last thing we need in the case of an emergency is something to go wrong with the vehicles. There’s really two things I was checking for. The first were stones and pebbles that might have gotten into the treads. It would be a death sentence to have a puncture while on a drive, either from a lack of oxygen or some kind of vehicle flip. The second is sand.
I know what you are thinking. “But John, the entire planet is covered in sand.” Yes. Yes it is. And it isn’t the type of sand that you have on Earth. It is worse. Way worse. It has larger particles and it gets everywhere. Into every single nook and cranny. Also, the perchlorates in it cause certain kinds of corrosion. Ever seen car bodies where they salt the roads in winter? Imagine a whole planet that’s like those salted roads, only the salt is made of acid and it’s always getting into everything. Again, a death sentence if it causes a malfunction in our vehicles.
Titov comes out of the hab, looking to take one of the rovers, but I put him to work instead. There is plenty of time for his mineral-collecting joy rides once I’ve got the rovers checked and cleared to go. With two hands, he’d be out even faster. He’s a good worker and strong as an ox. Ask him for help, he’s all in for the price of a high five or a helmet bump.
Also, Titov likes to talk. A lot. He spent years on his own in Siberia but it didn’t make him quiet - just stored up all the chatty for later.
He starts telling me about Gareth or, more specifically, telling me about why Gareth was pulled from Mission 4. How he found out is beyond me. But, I don’t think he made it up. This leads me to why I actually agreed to write this note, so I hope you are listening, Mission Control.
Gareth was told he was pulled off Mission 4 because of performance. This other Civil Engineer “scored higher” in the ISA testing and so he was relegated to a back up spot. Fair enough. We get what we earn. Turns out, though, that story was a load of shit. Gareth didn’t score lower. He should have been the first choice for Mission 4. The actual problem? Ida.
To put it more bluntly, the problem was the fact that he and Ida had been intimate - and would, in all likelihood, be intimate again on Mars. Evidently, Adan Luziriga doesn’t like the idea of his crew on Mars getting busy when the lights are off. So much so that he was willing to spin this whole lie of a story to prevent Gareth from arriving on the planet.
Listen, I know exactly what he’s thinking. Love and lust is a surefire way to cause issues in a team. People get jealous, they get emotional, they get angry. I am the first to caution against workplace romance. Especially when your workplace is a giant, empty, dust covered hellscape millions of miles from your home planet.
But I will be damned if a person on a tiny spec sixty million clicks away can feed me whatever bullshit they want to manipulate my life.
We made the choice to come here. We worked our asses off and we have paid the price. I work sixteen hours a day, I got a kid back on Earth I might never see again, okay? And everyone here, same story. We are the ones crazy enough to be out here, the ones risking our lives. Someone sitting in an office chair behind a couple of monitors doesn’t get to decide how we live out here.
That was the final straw for me this week. I’m standing out in the freezing cold in a space suit cleaning Mars rocks from the treads of a rover with a monster storm inbound - and some bureaucrat who’s never even made it to Luna base is gonna make calls on my love life after hours?
I am not your puppet, Adan. Neither are any of the astronauts you put on this floating red rock. Don’t you forget it.
I talked to Mithi about this. She is usually the level headed one. Usually, she is the one to back up the decisions from the top. You know Mission Control has really screwed up when even Mithi won’t back them. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’d ever seen Mithi angry until we’d spoken about this. It was actually her suggestion for me to be the one to write this note this week.
Listen, I got a base to lock down before the dust hits, but let me leave you with this final thought.
We are from Earth. We were all born there, raised there, just like everyone listening.
But us twelve? We are not on Earth anymore.
We are on another world - so far away it takes laser comms five minutes to get here on our best day. We are living it. We are breathing it.
And we are doing everything we can to make the most of it. This is the bright future of humanity, no? The dream of the ISA, the dream of all humankind.
But understand, we are not yours to play with, yours to control. These are very serious people, okay? Mithi, I’d vote for her for Pope. Alex could thumb-wrestle a bear. Aurore came out of the slums doing calculus in her head. Emi’s got the mind of a magpie with a 200 IQ and Ida will kick your ass at 200 clicks an hour. Even Holtzer, I mean, she doesn’t love her some John alvest right now, but she’s relentless, man, she’s like a glacier, she’ll take ten thousand years and just grind you flat. Me, I’m just a kid from Brazil, I’m just the patch-up guy, but this team is special and you need to respect that. This planet fires cannonballs at us and we spit back nails. We are not your children to boss around. Do not forget it again.
End of John’s Mars diary
Wow, um. Wow. I am seldom speechless but I am feeling a little bit speechless right now. There’s a lot for us to talk about after our break. Wow.
Before I leave you though, I do want to share one of my favorite stories about John Alves because I’ll be honest, I just adore him. You can call me crazy. He’s like that grumpy mechanic who complains about everything but keeps your car running.
So, let me tell you this story. I think it's a great one. I guess they were just finishing construction on ISA Vulcan, the engineer training course in Peru, when they brought him in to consult about the curriculum or something and he took this marker and he wrote the first words ever on the white board in the main classroom: he wrote, in all capital letters, EVERYTHING BREAKS, and they’ve never erased it. It’s still at the top of that whiteboard. True story.
Which conveniently is actually a perfect transition for this weeks sponsor message!
Is Vulcan the only ISA training center? I’m glad you asked! Let’s go to our message from our sponsor!
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ISA Weather models show the base will soon have to deal with the biggest dust storm of Martian year 44 so far. This one could last for weeks. Windspeeds will be high, for Mars, but remember with only about 1% of the atmosphere of earth, even a high wind on Mars might not generate enough force to fly a kite.
The real problem is dust and power. First, dust high in the atmosphere cuts down the amount of light reaching solar panels that serve as primary energy for various vehicles and pieces of equipment designed to operate off the Reactor’s power grid. Then, dust on the panels themselves further degrades the solar collection.
Lastly, Martian dust particles are often slightly electrostatic, so they stick to what they touch, like styrofoam packing pellets. Get enough of these particles rubbing together, and we can get “static storms” where electric charge can build up in the dust cloud and discharge erratically. While these discharges are not as powerful as a Terran lightning bolt, they can be plenty powerful enough to mess with antennas, computers, or other kind of vulnerable electronic technology.
The next few weeks might be a little darker, a little colder, and a lot more nerve-wracking for our crew on Mars.
Alright. Now's the moment that I get to hear from all of you Shifters. What do you all think about John's letter? Do you have any thoughts about his interaction with Ida? Or how about the fact that Ida broke the glass? I'm overwhelmed. Why did she break the glass? What was that message that she said in Italian? I don't speak Italian, I don't know if anyone here speaks Italian but I have no idea what she said. I'm just really curious.
Now, it does look like we did get some questions, so let me jump into the questions first and then we can talk about it a little bit later.
Alright, so the first question that we got is from The Martian.
So the question is, “Hey, will there be water plants on M4?”. That's a super good question! I have it on good authority that there is going to be an ice mining plant, which will likely have a bioreactor and treatment, presumably to ensure that there is water for the astronauts. So again, a great question from The Martian - “will there be water plants?”. It'll be an ice mining plant, but, yeah, that'll be there!
The next question we got, which, actually, oddly enough, was answered, I think, in this letter from John, but it was actually from last week. Manja11 asked, “With extreme weather conditions like on Mars, did we already test all materials and mechanics on Earth by creating low temperatures?”, which is a fantastic question, and obviously something that the ISA has really had to think about, especially before they send any astronauts into space.
The answer is - yes, they have done everything that they can on Earth to replicate the same sort of conditions that the astronauts will face on Mars. It's why you'll notice all of the ISA training locations are all built very high up, typically around 3500 meters, in order to kind of replicate the conditions of Mars as much as possible.
It's very dry up there, very cold, there's low atmosphere. It works pretty well for testing for our astronauts. And then the ISA's construction center that they use in order to build all of their machines that they end up sending to Mars is actually in Tunisia, which, if you're familiar, is covered in dust and sand, so it helps to replicate, as much as possible, the same sort of conditions that, of course, you'd have on Mars, a planet that is almost entirely sand and dust. So they do do everything they possibly can. But as you heard from John in our letter, it's not ever going to be exact because, of course, it's not Mars here on Earth. But they do as best as they possibly can!
Another question that we got is from… I think it's FaSeanablyLate? Great name. “How spicy is the chili on Mars?”. That's a great question! So, what's interesting about space travel is that when you are up in that low pressure, your taste buds are kind of depressed, so you don't really have a very good sense of smell, which impacts, of course, your taste, so most food tastes fairly bland. It's why chili sauce actually has been a huge part of making astronauts’ food experiences better, actually - since the days of the ISS. Also why, of course, John, who is from Brazil, and presumably very much likes his spice, is pretty bummed, but Patricia isn't giving him any spicy peppers. In the end, the food that they're eating is quite bland. It's approved vegetables, and so Patricia's chilis are going to be the one thing that makes them, kind of, more interesting to eat… A little bit.
So those are the questions that we have, if you have more questions, feel free to ask them! All you have to do in the #ISA-comms channel is “/ask”, let the bot pick it up, and then just ask your questions.
I do want to say hi to Broccoli. I know I was so intent on reading through what I have written to get through the show that I didn't get to say hi to you earlier. And hello, April, as well! I hope you're doing well. Hello, April. Just reading through the chat is very funny.
It's interesting to me to see the way you are reacting to John. I truly think he's telling the truth! He seemed, in his letter, to be very authentically concerned about what was happening. I don't know about you all, but what surprised me the most, and kind of took me off guard, was the fact that Adan was meddling… in Ida's relationship? That sounds crazy! We're talking about space travel, but I just don't understand why. I don't know, I think it's really hard to… I think it's really hard to imagine why that would be the case, I just… I don't know. It's strange to me to imagine. What do you guys think? Do you think that Adan was in the right? Do you think he made the right choice? I don't know.
I can understand where they're coming from in terms of not wanting there to be drama or issues in a relationship. And obviously, I mean, something's going on, something's already happening. But I'm not sure... I'm curious if you guys agree with John and that they should... Yeah, I don't know.
I'm torn because on the one hand, I think that you have to trust your astronauts enough, right, to believe that they're not going to cause problems while on Mars. And you have to have known that they were in a relationship before you sent Ida. You have to have known that Gareth was… I mean, he was a front runner for Mission Four from the get go. I don't know why there would have been an issue. Such a strange... Such a strange thought process.
I think I agree with John, in the end. I think that there is no reason for anyone to involve themselves in what's going on between the astronauts outside of the professional part of all of it. I think that as long as they're doing their jobs, they should be let alone to live their lives on Mars. It is a colony after all!
I just… [Emma laughs] Broccoli, I'm reading your message and I enjoy your gif usage. “I want justice for the glass and a proper burial ceremony”. I wonder if they could do a burial ceremony. I think with a… It's probably not very wise for them to put out broken shards of glass right before a dust storm, perhaps that's not going to be the best idea, but maybe someday we'll get a proper burial ceremony for the glass. Or maybe they'll just repurpose it.
They could also just repurpose all of the glass pieces, maybe, and do exactly what Jon-Jon said - “Can't they all just get along, construct a glassblowing factor, and make beautiful art?”. They absolutely could! I think that would be fantastic! I think that would be a really great option for them to all just create a glassblowing factory. I don't think it would actually work very well, I think it would be a little bit too dangerous for them to just have a glassblowing factory. But maybe in the future, someday, and they'll look back on this moment and it'll be like a myth. A founding myth.
Exactly! It is a waste of time and resources for now, I think, probably, though it's a nice idea! It'll be really cool, actually. That's an interesting thought. It'll be interesting to see… Now that they know that they can make this glass... I feel like once you know you can make things that aren't necessarily utilitarian there's a possibility for art and culture that comes out of that. The culture of Mars could come out of glassblowing. There could be Mars-based glass art. How cool would that be? Maybe one day they'll be able to send it back to us on Earth. We'll be able to use it for… I don't know what we would use it for, but something!
“Punishment for John, oxygen in the sleeping pod reduced to 25%,” I don't think so. I don't think that John deserves… I don’t think John did anything wrong, to be honest. I can understand his point of view in terms of not wanting to oust Ida in terms of her decision to break the glass. It's a hard place to be in. I don't know if you've ever… They talk about... There are things about little white lies. Does it hurt anybody, really, if he knew but was doing it to protect anything? And… He made himself the villain in the end, and he's the one who's already been punished because he's not getting his chili peppers anymore from Patricia. And Patricia does not seem like someone who I would want to cross. So perhaps he's already gotten punished. In a way. He probably doesn't need any more severe punishment than that.
It does look like I have another question. So, the question is from s7𝒊.καιρός and it's “Hi Emma! Thanks for the podcast! Which gas will complete O2 for astronauts on Mars and on which proportion?”. That's a great question, so bear in mind, I'm not a big science person in terms of understanding everything, but to my understanding, they're using nitrogen that gets imported, and since running on oxygen alone is a problem - you can't just have oxygen - and they aren't able to extract any local gas from Mars at the moment. They're running richer oxygen on lower pressure, so they have more oxygen, but just less pressure for it, and that's helping to keep them all safe. So, they're using nitrogen at the moment, and then richer oxygen on lower pressure. To my understanding.
ShinyForce asked, “We need police on Mars?”, which is actually a kind of funny question, and I guess I can... It'll be exciting, there’s… I don't know if you all know, but there are new positions for our astronauts who are going to be going to Mars in this upcoming mission. So Mission Four is going to have some new types of astronauts that are going out there. We've already talked about the civil engineers, obviously, with Gareth there, but there actually is going to be a security officer getting sent to Mars in this upcoming mission, the currently in-transit Mission Four. So there will be a security officer, at least one of them.
No worries! Of course! Happy I could answer that question for you, ShinyForce, great question!
Alright, the next question comes from Spoons, and it’s “I wonder if the dust on Mars melts into really cool shapes when lightning strikes, like on beaches #JusticeForGlass”. That's hilarious! A great question. So, electrical discharges are a lot lower, to my understanding, so they aren't as likely to fuse. It's pretty wimpy, so it probably won't do a lot of neat designs on the sand, unfortunately. It's not very strong lightning. Does discharges that definitely do damage to equipment, but it isn't strong enough, like it is on Earth, to actually make that sort of an impact. Which is actually kind of nice because that's one thing that isn't actually worse on Mars than it is on Earth. It's kind of fun!
Of course! Happy I can answer that question for you, Spoons, very happy!
I think… Ooh, I do see a question. Okay, so Minnie just asked, “Why did they send Ida instead of Gareth? If Gareth was supposed to be top pick?”, that's a really good question.
So, Ida and Gareth have two different specializations, so that's why they would have been sent as two different– or, sent in two different things. They're both engineers, but Ida isn't just a standard engineer, she's like a mechanical engineer, and that's her role. So that's why she was chosen. She's very, very talented at what she does. That's why she was chosen in her mission. Gareth is a civil engineer, so he has a separate classification. And they weren't looking for civil engineers when they went to send the mission that Ida was on. So they were never in competition for a role or a position on the mission. They were just two different types of engineers. But a really, really fantastic question, and very fair!
He is a top pick, but he's a civil engineer. Or he was the top pick until Adan decided that maybe he wasn't the top pick, which is silly, in my opinion. Thank you for the question Minnie, I appreciate it. No problem!
Alright, I think we probably have time for one more question. But I want to know from you guys, this is important. Do you guys think John made the right choice? Do you think John made the right choice? Actually, two times over? Do you think he made the right choice in protecting Ida? And then, as the follow up, do you think he made the right choice in telling us all in this letter? I think he did.
“They cooperate,” well, I think that's exactly what's coming out of this, is, I feel like by owning up to what has happened and sharing all the information, I think that this will actually put the crew and the colony into a better position. I think that this is a unifying moment, right? Maybe… I mean, Patricia knows the facts now, Ida knows the facts. Everyone knows. “They need to rebuild trust,” I agree completely, Minnie.
“Do you need to decode all the transmissions sent from the crew?”. I did see another one of those weird messages come through. It looks like it came through for Mission Control, but it's with a weird username… “XenoMCa”... These are the same usernames that I saw last week…
You guys did a phenomenal job translating those messages last week! I wonder who all of the users are. Cause they each have a different username, right? There's “MCa”. “MCb”, “ISA-M4”, which, I'm guessing that's from the ship, right? I don't know who they are, but I'm curious.
“Hopefully a unifying moment,” I agree, I agree.
“It's from Mithi”... “It’sfrom Mithi”! Oh, what is the message? What did it say? Mithi sent a message? I'm intrigued. The message is:
“So the thing about working Comms is you see a lot of messages like this one:
From: Mithi Mabaya
To: Flight Director
The team needed a common enemy. Maybe don't listen to this week's show.”
Huh… Huh! Well, there is a lot to chew on there…
Huh! I'm back to being speechless!
“I don't understand the message quite well”... So.. So it's an intercepted message sent from Mithi to Adan. The Flight Director is Adan.
Well, maybe we'll have more to talk about next week about that. I think we should think about that for a little bit. For right now, let's answer our last question and we can circle back to that later.
Our last question is from ShinyForce as well. And it's “Do dust storms affect more to solar panels than fission reactor and mega power reactor?”. The answer is that, yes, solar panels get COVERED with dust and it's super staticky and clingy. It’s that,how did I describe it in the weather report, it was like styrofoam packing pellets, if you will, and they need to be cleaned CONSTANTLY. A lot of the old rovers on Mars basically just ran out of power as the solar panels just degraded and got gunky while they were on Mars, ao it can be a huge, huge, huge problem on Mars. And during the storms on Mars, with all of the dust in the air, it's super dark as well, which, of course, impacts solar panels because it limits the amount of solar that they get access to.
So, great questions you all! Thank you so much for asking them! I'm going to chew on that message from Mithi and think about that and when we come back next week, maybe we'll have some more stuff to talk about.
Hm… Interesting. Well, thank you guys so much again for hanging out! Thank you for being the most wonderful Shifters that this gal could ask for, and I will chat with you all a little bit later.
Thank you again for tuning into the Redshift. Have a nice day. Bye!