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Moon Simulation | Packing List
What gear might you pack for a moon simulation mission? Find out below…
If you’ve read my previous articles you are probably aware of some of my hobbies. Like living on active volcanoes or participating in analog astronaut training in extreme environments for human factor research, photography, and documentary filmmaking. I’m an elected fellow international of the Explorers Club and a human factor expert for the International Astronautical Federation’s human spaceflight committee. I also have a deep interest in technical bags, innovative luggage, and techwear garments.
Even though my latest mission didn’t take place in too much of an extreme environment in the geographical sense, it was quite unusual and frankly out of this world.
I recently spent 15 days on the moon. Or more precisely inside a remote facility offering moon mission simulations, in a habitat built in a repurposed nuclear bunker on a former military airport in northwestern Poland.
I got selected last year to act as the mission commander of an international team of 6 analog astronauts for the LunAres #11 Mission Orpheus. After a couple of Covid-related adjournments, we finally managed to organize the mission from 22 February to 1 March 2021.
All our crew members participated in various experiments during the mission. These included our psychological and physiological reactions to a lack of natural light for 15 days, a strict freeze-dried food diet, and every two days we participated in Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVA) simulations, exploring the surface of the “moon” in a separate hangar covered with 200m² of regolith simulant, to mimic the geologic qualities of the moon’s surface.
Before and after those experiments, we were also regularly tested. We had to fill out a daily consistent psychological form that was monitored by our “ground control” in order to make sure that the crew wasn’t running berserk…. Spoiler alert, the cohabitation went pretty well!
We used different types of equipment that mimic the constraints created by real astronaut suits. These included an exoskeleton, and various types of helmets, gloves, and prototype accessories that our team 3D printed on-site.
We also had a kind of “pet” on the moon, our beloved robotic rover LEO.
Our crew was truly international, with highly motivated researchers coming from Egypt, Mexico, and Poland. Ola was our grounded and fair vice commander, Alicja our crew engineer and overall tech and science genius working closely with our other crew engineer (and equally talented) Eduardo from Mexico on a DIY antenna to catch up satellites in their spare time! Marcin served as the crew media officer, all under the supervision of Sara, our crew medical officer who was also, and luckily for us, a skilled yoga instructor.
Pic 5: Mission Commander Dr Benjamin Pothier, Crew Engineer Eduardo Salazar Pérez and Space Architect Leszek Orzechowski at Lunares habitat
My packing list for this mission was one of the craziest so far. Except for maybe when I brought a life jacket to the top of the Himalayas to help researchers study glacial lakes on the Ngozumpa Glacier. I packed different types of bags, luggage, and pouches for this mission. I’ll describe them later but let’s have a quick look at my bags and gear for this trip:
From left to right and top to bottom:
Protecting my EMOTIV EPOC+ portable EEG headset for a human factor experiment
Analog mission blue flightsuit
Tilak Military NOSHAQ MIG official jacket for our mission
NAGRA SEVEN audio recorder for documentary filmmaking
NANUK NANO cases for my SD and XQD cards
HAIX Black Eagle Athletic 2.0 V GTX mid/coyote, official boots of our mission crew
First I had to pack our official mission crew gear:
A NOSHAQ jacket by Czech brand Tilak Military, that delivers both in terms of form and function. An amazing DWR-treated mid-layer jacket that can be used as a shell for light rain. It has multiple pockets and a beautiful origami-type foldable hood in the collar that never ceases to amaze me. I was therefore extremely happy to receive it as our official mission jacket.
A Sundström gas mask that we used for chemical leak safety drill simulation, likewise an amazing and contemporary design. Better safe than sorry and I hope that I’ll never have to use it again. Though it’s safely stored in my studio… let’s see what the next adventure will be though…
A pair of Gore-Tex HAIX.DE boots, a truly amazing pair of combat boots that are extremely comfortable. And I heard that they became an instant favorite for a couple of my crew members.
As my main carry-on I brought an Away Aluminum Carry-On case.
I must say that the experience felt very comfy. The smooth independent four wheels rolled perfectly even on Paris sidewalks that are sometimes bumpy, and it was a real pleasure to use it at the airport. And not forgetting the embedded and removable power bank that proved to be particularly useful during this trip.
On an aesthetic level, the Away Aluminum Carry-On is a true statement piece and delivers plenty for an upper mid-level luxury carry-on.
Smart inner separators and other items offered with the case ended up completely convincing me of the relevance of this piece of luggage for long-haul flights. I used it for work but will definitely use this luggage for my next vacation.
At home I currently store my “light” documentary filmmaking gear set in an amazing NANUK 935 case. I wanted to feature it a bit in this article but unfortunately wasn’t able to bring it as a carry-on for this specific mission because it’s a little bit too large to be used as a carry-on in most European flights. Nevertheless, it’s an amazing piece of equipment and luggage that I find as professional as similar cases from other brands. And I particularly like the design of NANUK cases. Due to Covid restrictions, my camerawoman wasn’t able to join us, and I therefore had to bring much more gear than what I usually bring for such types of missions.
That’s why I also brought another (and larger) NANUK suitcase for this trip. A NANUK 945 that I’ve been using since 2013. I used it to bring my mirrorless gimbal, tripods, a set of various microphones, and other filming gear as I was also there to document the mission.
I also brought a Hipbag by bagjack, and I particularly like the Bonsai size of this hip bag! For me, it’s really a contemporary take on a somehow usually boring accessory. I used it to carry spare SD cards and other audio plugs and pieces of equipment during filmmaking and my passport during travel. The reduced size helps the Hipbag to blend in and that’s why I appreciate it particularly.
I needed to bring quite a few pieces of equipment for filmmaking. This included my NAGRA SEVEN, probably the best portable audio recorder for independent documentary filmmaking, a Nikon Z 7II, lenses, a RØDE microphone, tripods, a mirrorless gimbal, and two two-way radios from BelFone to coordinate the shooting. And finally my DJI Mini 2 in a special NANUK case with pre-cut foam inserts. I edited and made safe copies of my shots daily on my ThinkPad, rocking the Flight Operations sticker that was offered to me by Holly Ridings, the first woman to be nominated Chief Flight Director at NASA.
All my gear went safely back to Paris after the mission, as I am currently preparing to join a team from the International Lunar Exploration Working Group to explore lava tubes in Iceland in July and test an astronaut habitat inside those amazing natural caves.
Many thanks to regular contributor, Benjamin Pothier for this article.