Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mars Mission Day Four

Geology Survey (EVA#10)

It was an amazing day here at the Mars Desert Research Station. It did not snow last night as forecasted by, and instead it dawned with clear blue skies and warm weather (35F). We followed breakfast immediately with the crew briefing as we were slightly ahead of schedule and we planned a busy day of research and engineering today with three EVAs ranging from collecting data for the spacesuit mobility study, a geology specimen collecting EVA and a radio telescope assembly EVA. These are our primary research objectives and we will be continuing to conduct EVAs to complete these objectives this week and next week.

A beautiful day on Mars

During the crew briefing we unanimously decided to give the Hab a thorough cleaning. Floors were mopped, the lab was vacuumed, the toilet cleaned and the GreenHab neatened. Because of the desert conditions dust gets in and accumulates everywhere and the place just needed a thorough going over. Pile on top of that six people living in very close quarters. and you can imagine the place really needed a cleaning. Now our Hab is neat and clean. Right after that, Paul, David and I once again had a planning session on the assembly of the radio telescope. Completing this engineering project before our rotation is complete is important to all three of us. The goals for this EVA were to erect the North dipole masts and layout the guy lines. We really did not realize how time consuming this would be working in our analog simulation suits with bulky gloves and with the limited visibility of our helmets, and on top of that we had to click our radio ON every time we spoke. It took much longer than we planned and we ended our EVA after one hour and forty five minutes (EVA#9) so that I could go on a geology EVA with Steve and Bianca. This was OK since we had to do some further planning for the next phase of our assembly sequence.

Our second EVA assembling the radio telescope

The geology EVA (EVA#10) was a lot of fun. Steve is an amateur micro paleontologist so both Bianca and I were looking forward to this EVA with him. Steve is a great teacher and truly enjoys explaining things in layman’s terms and in great detail. We collected a lot of rock samples from within various layers including the Morrison Formation and the Curtis Formation.

Chipping away at the rocks to collect samples

Look at the big smile

We had a fantastic time with a total EVA time of one hour and fifty five minutes. This area is rich in microfossils and is one of the main reasons that the Mars Desert Research Station was located here. Immediately upon completion of our EVA Steve started looking at samples under 40 power magnification and he discovered a fossilized Ostracod (a class of Crustacia) that lived in the middle Jurassic period some 120 million years ago. This can be considered a significant find.

Ostracod Fossil

Diego also conducted several research experiments with his plant study (growing Physallis Peruviana using desert sand and dirt) and also his spacesuit mobility study. He made a great discovery as well in his search for extremophiles when he brought back a rock of siltstone that contained cryptoendolithic algae.

Extremophiles: Cryptoendolithic algae

Overall, it was a very exciting day full of science here at the MDRS. We filed a total of ten reports to Mission Support (Commander’s Report, Engineering Report, three EVA Reports, Four Special Science Reports and our Journalists Report).

It was a long day and it is time to go to sleep, so special wishes and good night from Mars.

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