Fake Mars Mission Befallen By Real Drama

The Mars Society is a group that prepares for man's eventual exploration of Mars with simulations in the Utahan desert. But their mission logs, posted regularly on the group's website, reveal a tension that is very real—and very funny.

The two-week simulations, including various experiments and equipment tests, take place at the Mars Desert Research Station, located outside Hanksville, Utah. The volunteers who participate are expected to take the matter very seriously—after all, our future Mars colony depends on it.

But of course, some pretend Mars astronauts are more dedicated than other pretend Mars astronauts, and when those discrepancies are magnified by logistical problems like a shortage of foodstuffs, the drama can get quite explosive. We're talking J-Woww and The Situation in Zero G's.

The current team occupying the Research Station, Crew 90, is led by Nancy Vermeulen. According to their "Mission Info" page, they are the first team comprised entirely of Belgians. In the wake of the trouble they've been having, it now seems ominous that the last line of their statement reads, "the media is following our project very closely." Indeed, Geekosystem picked up on the mission and faithfully documented its simmering turmoil.

After days of snits and snubs, the tension came to a head on February 15. In that day's report, Commander Vermeulen explains:

The growing frustration that after 9 days PE, Nora and Margaux are

still not able to manage the Hab systems/ standard engineering

reporting system (and even don't consider this as a problem!), exploded

during the lunch.

The lack of dedication to the mission of some people overloads the

others and it had to be spoken out. The problem was already there from

the first day, when it came out that some people didn't prepare

anything for the mission, didn't look at the manuals, which were send

to them months ago and didn't even prepare the tasks for their own


The accusation into my direction that I didn't brief enough about the

systems was too much. Nicky almost exploded.

Arjan reacted double: At one hand he couldn't stop criticising the

incompetence of some others during last week, but during the discussion

he acted as if he was from Barcelona (don't know anything). He has his

own mission and own world.

The Commander's Reports for the last days of the mission, which ended yesterday, don't explicitly discuss the interpersonal conflicts that have paralyzed the crew. Only a few bloody noses are referenced, perhaps as physical manifestations of the crew's frustrations.

You can read the whole saga unfold on the Mars Society site, or check out the abridged version at Geekosystem, who has done a commendable job tracing the drama as it unfolded. To Crew 91: Godspeed. The Red Planet makes beasts of men. [Mars Society via Geekosystem]

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