I Spent a Year in Isolation Pretending to Live on Mars

The thing I missed most? Avocados

by Carmel Johnston, as told to Andrew Fiouzi

Mars is cold, volcanic and dusty as hell. What would it be like for humans to live there? A team of six scientists tried to find out — by holing up for a year in a geodesic dome on the desolate slopes of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, as part of the NASA funded HI-SEAS (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) mission. The purpose of the simulation was to determine what would be required to keep a space flight crew happy and healthy if we ever sent one to Mars. Carmel Johnston, the 28-year-old crew commander, opened up to MEL about her year in the dome.

The simulation began once we entered the dome — around 3 p.m. on August 28, 2015. The two story geodesic dome consisted of a large main floor and a lofted second story. The main floor houses the kitchen, living room, biolab, and a bathroom with composting toilets and a shower. The second story is a semicircle divided into seven equal rooms: six bedrooms and one bathroom. The dome is only about 1,200 square feet, but the layout and lofted second floor made it feel much larger. It was designed to have much of the common space be multipurpose, which allowed us to do many activities with a single space.

For me, that first day was fairly anticlimactic. They just closed the door and said, “Bye, see you in a year.”

We started unpacking; someone started cooking. Our food consisted of freeze-dried meats and other food that would remain stable during a long-duration spaceflight. Another member of the crew started growing plants. Our garden was a mix of plants grown for experiments and for fun. We had a variety of vegetables: lettuce, chard, kale, radishes, beans, peas, tomatoes, sprouts, as well as lots of flowers for enjoyment. There were a couple different places around the dome that we grew plants, but the main goal was to grow plants in every available space with every available container.

It took us nearly three days to realize that we’d been so busy getting everything prepared for the long stay that none of us had even thought to go outside.

Obviously, at that point we could have just opened the hatch of the dome and walked outside — after all we were in Hawaii, not on Mars. But part of the exercise required that we suspend disbelief. It helped that in preparation for the mission, we’d never been to the site of the simulation beforehand. Which is why it wasn’t as difficult to pretend that we were on Mars and not on Earth. Putting on a spacesuit to explore the the slopes of the volcano quickly became routine, and we would go outside on EVA (extravehicular activity) two to four times a week depending on what we needed to do — including maintenance, collecting samples or exploring the area.

I remember exiting the dome for the first time on the mission’s 10th day. Because we only had to wear the spacesuit once we were outside the dome and because we’d never walked around in them before, the whole thing felt really weird. The suit added about 50 pounds and since I couldn’t see clearly out the visor — everything was blurry. I couldn’t see my feet, which made it difficult to walk on the big lava rocks beneath me. Away from the dome, some of the surfaces were smooth and some were giant angular pieces of lava. The location itself used to be a lava rock quarry but because of the curve of the mountain that we were on, it basically looked like a field of rocks as far as the eye can see…




The Deception Technology. Hollywood Oscar for Fake Movie

white helmets

By Firas Samuri

The 89th Academy Awards held in Los-Angeles on February, 26, was full of curious incidents. Of five films nominated in the short documentary category, three were devoted to the Syrian crisis and the problem of refugees. To everyone’s surprise the Netflix film titled “The White Helmets” took home the Oscar. This movie tells us about volunteer rescue workers who are allegedly engaged in rescuing people trapped in the combat zone in Syria.

The movie has numerous frames captured by the White Helmets crew members where they ‘selflessly’ render assistance to a peaceful population. Peculiarly enough, they work only in the areas controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra’s terrorists.  At the same time the representatives of the White Helmets unanimously accused Syrian and Russian air forces of indiscriminate attacks, which allegedly lead to a huge number of civilian casualties.

It should be mentioned that since the beginning of the conflict Syria witnessed the creation of multiple non-governmental organizations. Among these organizations was The White Helmets group, which was formed in 2012 with the declared purpose of advocating for the rights and freedoms of Syrians and providing them with humanitarian aid. This organization was initiated by former British intelligence officer James Le Mesurier who participated in various conflicts around the world, namely in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Palestine.

Funding of the organization comes from donations and international grants, but the principal sponsor of the organization is the Open Society Foundation. the OSF has been heavily funding international organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, in order to discredit the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. According to experts, the organization annually receives sums ranging from 30 to 50 million dollars from the United States, Great Britain, the Netherlands and the Gulf monarchies. It doesn’t take much to guess that the Western countries won’t waste such a big sum of money without a reason.

The White Helmets continues to play a leading role in the Western cyber warfare as a weapon, which is used against the legitimate government of Syria. Due to a great number of fake photos and videos in the social networks picturing rescuers who ‘risk’ their lives to save civilians caught in the country’s devastating war, the Western audience receives a distorted picture of the military situation in Syria. Western TV-Channels including Pan-Arabic Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya promote White Helmets as the only humanitarian organization which is allegedly engaged in rescuing Syrians. At the same time in their coverage they have never mentioned the actual efforts of the Syrian government and its allies for the sake of settlement of the crisis and supplying the affected population with humanitarian aid.

It seems that the winner of the best documentary short was decided long before the ceremony, with powerful figures wit a finger in a pie of the jury’s final decision. It follows that the Academy Award has become a completely politicized event. Apparently now the statuettes will be given not to the films that actually deserve them but to the ones that have been bankrolled by magnates to promote Western interests. By promoting this film the Western world has shown its true colors in relation to ordinary Syrians tired of injustice of the terrorists, the indifference of the world community and yearn for peace.



Mozart’s Daily Routine

How a day is composed in the hours between sleep o’clock and symphony o’clock.

“The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us,” Mary Oliver wrote in contemplating how our routines give shape to our inner lives. This, perhaps, is why we’re so transfixed by the daily routines of great artists, writers, and scientists — a sort of magical thinking under the spell of which we come to believe that if we were to replicate the routines of geniuses, we would also replicate some dimension of their inner lives and, in turn, their outer greatness.

Still, magical thinking aside, without insight into the routines of those who lead creatively fruitful lives, we would have never been able to study the psychology of the ideal daily routine. And few lives have been more creatively fruitful than that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27, 1756–December 5, 1791). In a letter to his father from December of 1777, found in Letters of Mozart (free ebook | public library), 21-year-old Mozart describes his daily routine at Mannheim, where he had traveled in search of employment. Unable to find work, he moved in with the musical Weber family he had befriended and fell in love with Aloysia, one of the family’s four daughters, who rejected his suit.

He describes his days at the Weber house:

I am writing this at eleven at night, because I have no other leisure time. We cannot very well rise before eight o’clock, for in our rooms (on the ground-floor) it is not light till half-past eight. I then dress quickly; at ten o’clock I sit down to compose till twelve or half-past twelve, when I go to Wendling’s, where I generally write till half-past one; we then dine. At three o’clock I go to the Mainzer Hof (an hotel) to a Dutch officer, to give him lessons in galanterie playing and thorough bass, for which, if I mistake not, he gives me four ducats for twelve lessons. At four o’clock I go home to teach the daughter of the house. We never begin till half past four, as we wait for lights. At six o’clock I go to Cannabich’s to instruct Madlle. Rose. I stay to supper there, when we converse and sometimes play; I then invariably take a book out of my pocket and read…

But as he struggled to reconcile the growing demands of his evolving career and with those of his romance with Constanze, the third Weber daughter, his daily routine changed considerably. In a letter to his sister penned in 1782, a few months before he married his beloved, Mozart outlines a routine so intense that it left him a mere five hours of night’s sleep:

At six o’clock in the morning I have my hair dressed, and have finished my toilet by seven o’clock. I write till nine. From nine to one I give lessons. I then dine, unless I am invited out, when dinner is usually at two o’clock, sometimes at three, as it was to-day, and will be to-morrow at Countess Zichi’s and Countess Thun’s. I cannot begin to work before five or six o’clock in the evening, and I am often prevented doing so by some concert; otherwise I write till nine o’clock. I then go to my dear Constanze, though our pleasure in meeting is frequently embittered by the unkind speeches of her mother, which I will explain to my father in my next letter. Thence comes my wish to liberate and rescue her as soon as possible. At half-past ten or eleven I go home, but this depends on the mother’s humor, or on my patience in bearing it. Owing to the number of concerts, and also the uncertainty whether I may not be summoned to one place or another, I cannot rely on my evening writing, so it is my custom (especially when I come home early) to write for a time before going to bed. I often sit up writing till one, and rise again at six.



Kitten Meditation

Kitten Meditation
Photo by Carolina Barría Kemp | https://tricy.cl/2l8ylQS

Thai Forest monk Ajahn Brahm invites us to start meditating by choosing something easy to love in this excerpt from his book

By Ajahn Brahm

I continue to visualize my imaginary friend, picturing it as abandoned, hungry, and very afraid. In its short span of life it has known only rejection, violence, and loneliness. I imagine its bones sticking out from its emaciated body, its fur soiled with grime and some blood, and its body rigid with terror. I consider that if I don’t care for this vulnerable little being then no one will, and it will die such a horrible, lonely, terrified death. I feel that kitten’s pain fully, in all its forms, and my heart opens up, releasing a flood of compassion. I will care for that little kitten. I will protect it and feed it.I imagine myself looking deeply into its anxious eyes, trying to melt its apprehension with the metta flowing through my own eyes. I reach out to it slowly, reassuringly, never losing eye contact. Gently, I pick up that little kitten and bring it to my chest. I remove the kitten’s cold with the warmth from my own body, I take away its fear with the softness of my embrace, and I feel the kitten’s trust grow. I speak to the kitten on my chest:

“Little being, never feel alone again. Never feel so afraid. I will always look after you, be your protector and friend. I love you, little kitten. Wherever you go, whatever you do, my heart will always welcome you. I give you my limitless lovingkindness always.”

When I do this, I feel my kitten become warm, relax, and finally purr.

This is but an outline of how I begin my meditation on metta. I usually take much more time. I use my imagination and inner speech to paint a picture in my mind, to create a scenario where the first flames of metta can arise.

At the end of the mental exercise, my eyes still closed, I focus the attention on the region around my heart and feel the first warm glow of the emotion of kindfulness…




21st Century House Slaves

by Sylvain Lamoureux, Contributor, Waking Times

For thousands of years, the ‘house slave’ has been one which was treated better than the other slaves; allowed to live in the master’s house or at least apart from the others which were usually beaten into submission to carry out the toil of the day. The house slave was also something to aspire to, for it offered a hope of relief from the worst of their existence. The house slave was loyal to his master and was often used as a spy and as someone to ‘negotiate’ with the others and coax them into accepting their fate with a smile.

The Stockholm syndrome was not just borne out of Sweden. Looking throughout human history, one can see that slavery and money (gold) are both very predominant within the story of humanity. As the ages progressed, slavery had to take on a clandestine form, as it was no longer ‘acceptable’ and a ‘soft slavery‘ was introduced.

An interesting read was Michael Tellinger’s Slave Species of the Gods in which he relays information translated from ancient Sumerian clay tablets which indicate that humanity was actually created as a slave species but alas such information is merely dismissed as myth and legend. I won’t go into detail here but the book was well worth the read and within me, stirred up the question of why today’s modern ‘terrorists’ seem to revel in destroying ancient artifacts and sites which may contain further information?


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