Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mars Mission Day Two

A day in the life of the Chief Engineer...

Inside the EVA Airlock

0500: As I have done in the last couple of days I woke up for about 5 minutes to check on all the power settings and listen to the sounds of the Hab. Everything was normal so went back to sleep.

0700: Woke up, brushed my teeth with baking soda, washed with a wash cloth soaked in icy cold water (boy that really wakes you up) and got dressed for a big day on Mars. Today I go on my first Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) to try out the GPS EVA tracking procedure.

0800: Breakfast of instant oatmeal with reconstituted blueberries and apricots. Water was somewhat lukewarm so breakfast was not that tasty. I hope I am not skewing Dr. Kim Binsted’s Food Study since so far breakfast has not been worked for me. The two cups of black tea was exceptional.

0845: Crew briefing complete. Spacesuit Mobility experiment (completing the control arm of the experiment), a Geology EVA, and a GPS EVA tracking experiment among other things like EVA suit checkup and trying to get the Musk HabCams working.

0915: Paul and I made a quick check on all of the Hab systems and found all systems functional at normal parameters.

Exploring the Red Planet (I am on the right)

0918: Diego and I went on an out-of-sim EVA using the Rovers (ATV’s Viking 1 and Opportunity) for the “control” part of the Spacesuit Mobility experiment. We completed our EVA successfully but had a minor issue with Viking 1 and we had to tow it back to the Hab. We were able to resolve the gear issue easily once we had the Rover in the engineering area.

1040: David and I made a trip up to the Musk using the simulated pressure tunnel. There are two Hab Cams there which are not working and we wanted to see if can get the computer there restarted to get the cameras functional again. These two cams take a picture every three minutes of the Hab/Engineering Area and the Hab/GreenHab. After booting up the computer at the Musk we were able to get the Hab/Engineering Area up and running. David being a software engineer in addition to be an award winning author was able to work his magic on the old computer. Both cameras appear to be functioning.

1145: Lunch of rehydrated potatoes, chili, soup, shelf stable flat bread that came from a vacuum sealed packet along with a cup of black tea. Now I am stuffed.

1225: Some free time to go over emails from the Mission Director and Mission Support on some outstanding items from yesterday. Updating checklists and procedures, taking photographs of the water hyacinths and piping under the Hab for Mission Engineering etc.

1400: Completed all engineering systems checks. Power consumption is low and the toilet is flushing well. Kitty is supplying all power. GreenHab functions are nominal and the water recycling system is operating.

1445: DG came to the Hab and I had a chance to go over some of the Hab systems. He showed me how to change the settings on the Inverter so that when Kitty is shut down the Hab turns to the backup batteries. There is a very small water leak outside that I have to watch out over the next couple of weeks. He showed me how to thaw it out if it starts to freeze.

Walking on Mars

1515: Started getting dressed for my very first EVA. Our purpose was an EVA orientation, a suit checkout and an EVA to a plateau for collecting biological samples utilizing the Rovers (ATVs). It was really exciting putting on “Analog Surface Suits” (NASA has an abbreviation for everything, so should I call this ASS?). We travelled approximately 3 miles on the Rovers to an area that looked just like the outskirts of the South Pole of Mars (the South Pole of Mars has a vast ice cap of frozen water and carbon dioxide) with red dirt intermingled with patches of frozen ice and huge towering rocks. Now while there is no life on Mars at the surface we wanted to collect some biological samples to evaluate our ability to work in these suits. It really was a learning experience: (a) my reading glasses that I had on the tip of my nose kept fogging up; (b) the reading glasses were not useful because you really can’t see any detail through the visor of the helmet, (c) you really have to adjust the microphone and secure it firmly or the bumps on the Rover ride will dislodge it. Mine ended up near my nose so other than using it to scratch my nose I had to shout out to be heard (d) trying to turn ON and take pictures with a digital camera or a digital video camera takes many tries (to the point of irritation). Well, these are just a few of the key learning’s on this first EVA. Total EVA time was 1hr 38min with a total round trip distance of 6.6 miles.

A setting Sun on Mars

1820: Completed and filed my Engineering Report.

1910: Bianca is preparing dinner for us of pasta, spaghetti sauce, reconstituted corn and shelf ready flat bread. I had that with a cup of tea.

1930: Dinner.

2000: Mission Support communication window open. Minor requests both ways including engineering questions and instructions for a GreenHab plant growing study.

2100: Mission Support communication window closed.

2230: Crew debriefing.

2300: Sponge bath with warm water (note that I did not say hot) and a clean change of clothes.

2330: Go to sleep.

I miss my family and a big part of me wishes I could be with them, but I have to say today was a great day on Mars!

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