Today started off as usual, with a small breakfast followed by a crew meeting. As everyone had been on at least one EVA, we all knew how to work the rovers, and the biology and geology teams were itching to get their hands dirty and pipettes cleansed, we planned two longer EVAs for the day. Darrel and I tossed up which one of us would be on which team, with Darrel getting the first EVA and me tagging along with the second.
I first went with Darrel and Carla on engineering rounds, although primarily I warmed up our three working rovers and revved up their engines. Opportunity gave me the biggest trouble to coax in idling, but eventually I got it to purr nicely. We’ve only been on the surface for three days, but I’ve already started to subconsciously know and respond to the different rovers’ personalities. For instance, while starting Viking I, I stood up on the foot rests and pulled the clutch before trying to start it, and it went perfectly. I’ve said it before, but Viking I is sort of my personal rover on EVA, similar to Pack #5 being almost exclusively reserved for me.
Anyway, Brian, Kiri, and Darrel went on the first EVA that was a joint geology and geophysics trip to scout out locations for ground penetrating radar locations and to collect rock and fossil samples. While all of the goals weren’t completed, the extended use of the unpressurized rovers is an accomplishment in of itself. The two-point-five hour EVA was our longest yet (beating the previous record of 1.3 hours set by EVA #3), as well as bringing back some souvenir fossils for all of us! Coupled with my excellent birthday gifts and our mission patches, I’ll have some great things to take back to Earth with me. The stickers are already on my computer to help cover up the whitespace, but that’s beside the point.
Since it was getting late when the first team arrived, we quickly turned around the suits to squeeze in a second EVA to collect biological samples and Carla’s sanity. We took the triumvirate of rovers out (with me on my trusty Viking I) and headed up a relatively unmarked and completely unnamed trail toward Olympus Mons, where we would turn to the west and over Sunday Pointe along Sagan Street. The initial plan was to head all the way to Clara’s Cliff, but due to the distance involved and the oncoming dusk, Carla called us to stop just before Schiaparelli Highway in the middle of Mid Ridge Planitia. If you don’t know where any of these locations are, don’t worry; I didn’t know where they were until today either. Luís took two biological samples as Carla and I took some pictures.
We remounted our ATVs, and after a few setbacks, we drove back along the trail to the Hab. Once we de-suited and settled back in, I topped off the ATVs’ gas tanks and snuck back inside. We ate a tofu-based meal, which was interesting to say the least, along with another amazing biscuit creation by Carla. I cleaned up the dishes, walked around the Hab checking in on the EVA suits and Luís in the lab, gave Kiri fodder for the journalist report, and tried to keep my composure while writing this and wearing 3D glasses for part of it.
All in all, a pretty productive day on Mars.