Sol 2 – Command and Cake

I woke up better this morning, probably because I slept much better last night and due to the fact that my alarm actually went off this morning! I’ll need to adjust it to ring earlier, however, as I was either second-to-last or dead last to wake up and get out of bed. I ate oatmeal with some maple syrup, which didn’t taste that bad, before starting to plan the day. The agenda was primarily radio telescope maintenance, with one planned EVA to relocate the power combiner to directly underneath the north antenna.

Brian and I went on this EVA, with myself commanding. We disconnected the coaxial cable from the power combiner to the Hab, which required use of a razor to remove the tape. Once we got the tape off, we used the wrench to completely remove the cable, then wrapped the end in a plastic bag and secured it with tape to prevent any damage from dust or the elements. We then set about digging around the mounting post and ground, located on the western side of the array, so that we could relocate it to underneath the north antenna in preparation for raising the towers to the full twenty-foot height.

Removing the ground did not go over as smoothly as I had hoped. I’m not sure how deep the ground was set in, but after digging two feet down, we still couldn’t budge it. Brian and I moved the power combiner, then chose to grab a separate piece of metal to ground it. We did have to detach then re-attach the coax cable to the south antenna in order to unwind it to reach. Since we haven’t yet received the new coax cables, we couldn’t prepare the south antenna to be raised on this EVA.

After a great lunch of noodle soup, provided by our expert chef Carla, I tried to work on some homework (and ended up finishing an entire Quantum problem!) before being assigned to command a second EVA to the radio telescope. This EVA was to raise the north antenna to its full, twenty-foot height (there is enough give in that cable to complete this task). I took Kiri, Darrel, and Luís, complete with two ladders, a drill, two wrenches, a screwdriver, and working radios, out to the north antenna.

Darrel and I took the eastern pole, while Kiri and Luís handled the western one. We untied the guy wires from the mounting spikes (and I unwound the coax from around the post), then Kiri and Darrel clambered up the ladders. We needed to slide the inner PVC pipe up another ten feet, the remount the bolt to hold it in place. I had been warned by Paul McCall, Crew 88’s astronomer, that the holes may not be aligned, hence my inclusion of a drill in our equipment.

The holes actually lined up perfectly; the only problem was that they only went up to nineteen-point-five feet. Kiri thankfully caught this before completely removing the post; Darrel was not as lucky. I asked Darrel to simply not drop the post or fall while I silently urged the western team to quickly remount the holding bolt and aide our fourth member. Once Kiri and Luís moved the ladder over to our pole, Darrel straddled the two as he planted the upper pole securely in the lower one and bolted it in place. The north antenna had been raised!

Kiri, myself, Luís, and Darrel after EVA 4

We had only been out of the Hab for roughly twenty-five minutes, much shorter than our three previous (56 minutes, 64 minutes, and 80 minutes, respectively). We cleaned up our supplies, double-checked all of the guy wires, then posed for a few pictures in front of the radio antenna following a very successful second EVA of the day. We walked back toward the airlock, and then I hailed HabCom.

No response.

We tried all of our radios for a few minutes, knocked on the hatch and exterior wall, all to no response. After about five or six minutes, I made the judgement call as EVA commander to enter the airlock. “HabCom, we are now entering the airlock,” I said. “Copy that,” Brian, now our HabCom responded. That elicited quite a few giggles from us, especially due to the apparent calm in Brian’s voice. We spent the five minutes during cabin repressurization laughing about it, and Brian greeted us in the EVA Prep room to help us de-suit. Each of us went our separate ways to finish engineering rounds and file reports (I completed both EVA reports as the EVA commander).

Dinner was some beef tamales, with Luís forcing me to keep eating more and more, followed by me hiding downstairs while the rest of the crew performed a secret mission. When I returned, I was greeted by twenty-one candles sitting on a chocolate cake, made without eggs and milk (and it still tasted amazing!). Such a surprise! I bent low, after making my wish, and blew out the candles. Of course, that also ended up blowing the powdered sugar all over, much of which combusted due to the still-lit candles…

After, we had a chill night of Trivial Pursuit while discussing a few mission critical activities for tomorrow (primarily in the geology/geophysics and biology departments), plus some troubles with the Hab internet uplink. Oh the perils of trying to transmit between planets… All in all, it was a great birthday, and one I won’t soon forget.

One response to “Sol 2 – Command and Cake

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