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Packing List | Moon Mission Simulation in Underground Lava Tube
Sometimes in order to aim higher you have to look down first. This time I went way down as I got selected by the EuroMoonMars research program as a backup analog astronaut for a moon mission simulation in an underground lava tube in Iceland. I’m sure you are all aware of the currently active volcano in Iceland, but “our” lava tube was a cold one… a natural cave produced by the flow of hot lava thousands of years ago.
The CHILL-ICE (Construction of a Habitat Inside a Lunar-Analogue Lava-tube) mission was an international event and experiment, with researchers from 16 different countries involved, who managed to make it work despite the Covid crisis.
I was there as a backup analog astronaut but also as a photographer and filmmaker, for a mission that included caving as well as filming aerial sequences. For my own safety as well as the safety of our crew and to enhance my comfort I packed different items including some quite “unconventional” ones. I was expecting the possibility of heavy rain, rugged difficult terrain, and the potential dangers related to caving.
The mission itself was a great success, and three teams respectively spent three days in total isolation in the cave, living in the ECHO (Extreme Cave Habitat One) habitat and conducting EVA (Extravehicular activities) outside the habitat wearing simulated astronaut suits with helmets and airflow systems.
I even got the amazing opportunity to stay a couple of days after the end of the mission at Reykjavik.
The Galaxy Pod Hostel ended up making this mission almost like a real space trip.
From top to bottom and left to right:
If the situation might have changed at the time this article is published, we were deep into the Covid crisis and some exceptional regulations from the airplane company prevented me from bringing two carry-on pieces, as well as a supplementary “accessory” bag (usually I pack my laptop in a Bagjack Travelbag as an accessory). This time in order to safely carry my photography and filming gear I decided to take an f-stop Lotus, a backpack slightly smaller than my usual f-stop bag that would fit with the airline requirements as well as for underground cave exploration.
Weighing every bag before departure, I finally got ready to visit the country of fire and ice for a sort of space mission. I packed most of my “soft” gear (clothing, helmet, boots, etc.) in my Nargear duffle bag that I previously reviewed here.
All my cameras and lenses went in the f-stop Lotus, with my laptop and a couple of other items including my DJI Mini 2.
I then secured my gimbal and other critical filming gear like my Nagra Seven audio recorder in an 822 Loadout Case made by the very efficient people at Underwater Kinetics, a very sturdy rugged case: three metal spring-loaded handles and stainless steel twist lock latches eased my travel and peace of mind. This case is quite a beast and of course all my gear went to Iceland and back without any problems.
Finally I used two Bagjack accessory bags for traveling and for filmmaking.
For travel and during my stay in Reykjavik I carried a Bagjack Sniper Bag that I already reviewed here. Since my last review nothing has changed and it’s definitely my favorite for anything from everyday commutes in the Paris subway to long-haul flights. I must add that my Goal Zero Sherpa 100 power bank fits perfectly inside it, a quite invaluable add-on for traveling.
During filmmaking I used a Bagjack Hipbag to carry an Allen key, SD cards or to keep audio plugs and spare items right at my fingertips while conducting filming and interviews on the go.
Talking about “unconventional” items, my Nagra Seven audio recorder was carried in a PortaBrace bag, a bag manufacturer company well known in the film industry, that I previously used for my Nagra LB, though it seems that this particular bag is discontinued.
It is safe to say that PortaBrace is a well-known name in the industry, and this bag is indeed perfect for field recording with a Nagra Seven. The transparent cover on top protects the equipment from rain and lets you access the screen data while recording. And the included shoulder strap sticks to the reputation of PortaBrace in terms of quality and I must say that I love that blue colorway.
Finally, the people at Cyalume were kind enough to let me field test a CyPouch, a tactical pouch specially designed for special forces and police to carry chemical lightsticks for marking areas, which we used inside the cave. A very well-made pouch that in my opinion could also be easily repurposed for other functions (like a key holder for example).
As a safety knife I brought an Extrema Ratio “Nightmare” folding karambit.
This is a more than amazing tool with a belt cutter and glass breaker. I’m a big fan of Extrema Ratio knives, like many other professionals worldwide, and this particular folding knife reinforces the reputation of the company. According to the Extrema Ratio website: “It has been adopted by the special units of U.S.I.V.P. Principality of Monaco Police. Its name comes from the development and consultancy department of Monaco special intervention units. It comes with a standard industrial-grade cutter blade which is easily replaced, a reversible pocket clip, a glass breaker placed in the finger ring.”
Finally, if you’ve followed my previous articles here, you know that I am quite addicted to “techwear”, so this new mission was also an opportunity to test some of my current favorite techwear garments and a couple of devices.
From top to bottom and left to right:
Zip vest from Asket, that I used as a layer, though this item seems to be discontinued. I really appreciate Asket’s line between techwear and formal clothing, and I also own their amazing Car Coat for more official events. From ethical manufacturing to the use of recycled materials, the brand fits with my own values.
Aeance Adaptive Shell Jacket: I could speak for hours about my pleasure wearing Aeance products. But let’s just mention this: “Swiss-made, ultra-light waterproof 4-way stretch fabric, leveraging a bionic c_change® membrane: the level of fabric breathability adapts to weather conditions and body temperature. Bonded, taped seams. Laser cut details. Articulated hood. 2 concealed side pockets.” One of my instant classics for traveling.
Team Wendy SAR Tactical: Thanks to Team Wendy I was able to field test this amazing helmet that complies with many different safety regulations, from mountaineering to whitewater rafting and from industrial helmet to Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) Blunt Impact Protection requirements. I loved wearing it while filming caving and rappelling sequences for our documentary, and the GoPro attachment was very handy as well. It feels rugged and well thought out and I do love its overall design.
côte&ciel Raincoat x K-Way: Look at the link and you’ll understand why I brought this one…an instant techwear classic in my opinion. It offers the technicality of K-Way mixed with the “savoir faire” of côte&ciel for a really innovative raincoat designed to also protect your backpack during storms.
Extrema Ratio Nightmare karambit folding safety knife
Hytera PD36X: A lightweight but very efficient professional two-way radio. I always bring a couple during filming as they can be handy for planning a shot involving interactions between drones and crew for example.
Voolex wearable 4K head camera: I’ve been looking for years for a 4K head camera, and thanks to recent Voolex innovation I was able to use this one during our mission. Though it’s a very basic camera, the resulting footage is convincing and I will definitely bring it for my next mission.
Arc’teryx LEAF Combat Knee Cap: Having participated in a location scouting mission in 2018 I already knew the terrain, so the Combat Knee Cap from Arc’teryx was one of the priorities on my buying list for this mission. If you have ever conducted photography and filming on volcanic rocks you’ll understand me.
Finally, I can now say it publicly as it has just been released that I was one of the early testers of the norda™ 001 G+® Spike.
I tested the shoe both during and after this mission. A shoe that is indeed “The world’s first seamless, trail running shoe made with Dyneema® and G+® graphene, the world’s lightest and strongest materials™.” As a techwear fan I was of course super impressed by the performance and weightlessness of the shoes and can’t wait to test its spikes on frozen ground this winter during training.
This mission went pretty well and as I am back home with all my gear, I am currently preparing for a Mars mission simulation in April 2022 at the Mars Desert Research Station in the Moab desert for the SMOPS Space Medicine Operations mission.
Many thanks to photographer, filmmaker, and all-round adventurer, Dr Benjamin Pothier, for the above post.