Monthly Archives: February 2010

Sol 13 – Last Full Day

And a full day it was! The morning started off with a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast dish which I happily ate, followed by Brian and I driving out to Hanksville in our pressurized rover to pick up Amnon Govrin and his twin sons. He has recently become very interested in space exploration, as his blog shows, and he and Brian have had an internet correspondence for a little while. He asked to come visit the Hab to see what it was like, so we agreed that he should come on our last day before the crew change-over, which is happening tomorrow. So, we drove back out to the Bull Mountain Market to pick them up, since his Prius would not have handled Lowell Highway well. We drove back to the Hab, while he asked questions and we gave him a brief overview of what we’ve done, and parked in the pressurized rover bay.

As I was to head out on the day’s first EVA with Kiri and Darrel, mirroring our EVA 2 team, but this time headed toward Valles Marineris, since we had already hit the other major martian landmark, Olympus Mons, quite a few times before. We got dressed, showing the process to Amnon and his kids (which was easier for me, since I already had my flight suit on from when we picked them up), and stepped into the airlock. During the five-minutes depressurization, we suggested that they go out to the pressurized tunnel to watch us head out. We divvied out the keys, with Viking I firmly in my possession, and exited out onto the martian surface for the last time in sim.

Because of the hectic nature of the morning, the ATVs had not been warmed up prior to our departure. Viking I took a while to warm up, and start, but once it was working and howling we were off. Kiri, as EVA commander, led us back toward the turnoff to Cactus Road, which we had been unable to find during EVA 16. Based on observations from Crew 88, which we received yesterday, we found out that we had been at the turnoff to Cactus Road, but had not recognized it for what it was, since it simply looked like a stream bed. Kiri led the way down the path, with Darrel bringing up the rear, as we made our way toward Valles Marineris.

While driving down the newly discovered road, we actually found ourselves right next to Valles Marineris without even realizing it. Instead of trying to figure out exactly how to get there, we drove on down the road to see what else we could visit, since we had only been out for not even half an hour at this point and were only a short drive from the Hab. So, we drove further down the road, toward Candor Chasm, trying to find a cool place to stop. Eventually, we turned around and started heading back, at which point we decided to climb up a large outcrop (later identified as Mount Sagewood) due to the presence of some interesting geological formations. We climbed up, but then decided that going to a particular part of the face wasn’t good enough, so we went all the way to the top.

It reminded me of our trek up Olympus Mons (back on Sol 8 for a number of reasons: I was with Darrel and Kiri, we climbed a large outcrop, we took a ton of pictures, we could see the Hab from where we were, and it was fun! The view might have been even better than from Olympus due to the presence of some large canyons that we could easily see from our perch. Plus, the sun was cooperating with us much more, so the colors really popped out, even through the scratched and dirty visors. Once our jaws returned to their normal positions, we started to climb back down, but instead went down a different path that looked to be much easier than the one we came up.

Once all six of our feet were back on level ground (with only a few slips along the way), we remounted our rovers, and I led us back to the Hab. Similar to the two other times I’ve done this, I felt great! Viking I just flew over the broken ground, and at one point actually flew when I hit a jump, and it felt even better than earlier in the mission. I periodically checked to make sure that Kiri and Darrel (who was filming the return) were still behind me, but otherwise just looked at the road ahead and drove the ATV back to the Hab. When we returned, Amnon and his kids were still there, so they watched our muddy rovers (and bodies) return to the Hab following our successful EVA 19, the second-to-last of the mission.

We left the rover keys in and re-entered the airlock, celebrating and congratulating each other on a great mission. Once the airlock was pressurized, we walked into the EVA Prep Room to start removing our dirt-covered suits and helmets. It was a great end of my ten EVA career (tied for second in the crew), plus really enjoyed myself. After we desuited, Darrel and I drove Amnon and his kids back to their car at the Bull Mountain Market (where we had picked up the food), and I drove back to the Hab. It was nice driving an actual car/pressurized rover for once, although the ATVs were possibly the best part of the mission dynamics.

After checking and refilling the oil, we returned to the Hab to find Brian, Carla, and Luís already suiting up for their last EVA of the mission. I helped them into their backpacks and helmets, inclusive of bungee cords, and saw them on their way. Once they were clear of the Hab, the three of us remaining went to work cleaning up the living quarters (and Darrel worked in the Green Hab) to prepare for the crew changeover tomorrow. MDRS 90 is the first all-Belgian crew, and I am very excited to meet them tomorrow around noon. We’ll be eating lunch with them before leaving, so that will be nice to pass off the information from one crew to the next.

The EVA team returned, we helped them get out of their suits, and we sat down to write reports before eating dinner. We had chili with cheese, but unfortunately it ran out before I could get seconds. Deciding to eat through some of our leftovers, I heated up a bowl of some sort of Alpineaire meal, but it did not taste good at all, so I decided not to eat any of it. I did, however, eat two pieces of birthday-reprise cake after blowing out the remaining three candles. After filing out my food questionnaire, and realizing that I’ve lost ten pounds in two weeks, I decided to eat two more pieces of chocolate cake while waiting for the rest of the crew to get ready for a last game of MDRS Clue, and our last night in the Hab.

Since today was hectic, plus I haven’t downloaded all of the pictures yet, not many pictures for this post. Since this will be my last post from the surface of Mars, I will see everyone back on Earth within the next few days!

Special Science Report – February 4, 2010

Note: This is my first and only science report submitted to The Mars Society. It took a while to complete the alterations on the radio telescope, and even longer to collect meaningful data due to the approach of Jupiter toward the horizon and the relatively inactive Sun. I did not collect any data today, our last day in sim, so I will not be filing any further science reports.

Ignore the solid line near the middle (caused by a passing plane), and the times don't line up due to cutting the data out of the entire recording session.

Project: Utilizing the Radio JOVE telescope to observe the Sun and Jupiter

Personnel: Mike Moran

Operations Data Collected: Short (s-) bursts recorded at 18:31:21 MST on February 3 lasting 4.3 seconds. Periodic lower count s-bursts were observed over the following 38 seconds, including a second maxima from 18:31:39 until 18:31:42. Data was recorded and filtered using Audacity and compared to available recordings of Jovian s-bursts.

Audacity and Radio JOVE receiver recorded signals between 18:22 and 18:56, during the fourth observing session of the day.

Technical/Equipment Issues: None. Guy lines on radio telescope re-tightened, but prior to did not affect observations.

Discussion: Signals recorded, saved, and timestamped for future analysis, specifically increasing and refining the noise reduction already used. Extraneous hum (due to airplane transit) to be removed to purify the recording.

Questions for CSO: None.

Questions for RSL: None.

Sol 12 – Home Stretch

This late into the mission, things are still running smoothly for the most part. All of us have been working diligently on our planned projects, plus a few more, and we’ve all meshed really well over the almost two weeks we’ve spent together so far. In two days, we’ll be on our way back to Grand Junction for some real food and real showers, leaving the Hab in the hands of Crew 90 from Belgium. I almost can’t picture sleeping in a normal bed again, or being able to stand on our balcony without waiting by the door for five minutes, or having fresh bread more frequently than every other day.

I’ve gotten so used to living in the Hab that I don’t think I fully realize exactly what is happening. I’m stuck in an eight-by-ten-meter cylinder with five other people, sleep in a sleeping bag, and can’t watch TV or fully browse the internet, yet I don’t even mind. Maybe the seclusion from the rest of the world changed me more than I realize, but if it did, it’s for the better. I don’t need to be constantly “plugged in” or always be in contact with everyone I know, but in some cases I’m still very muck linked to the world I left behind. I worked for a few hours on homework, most of which was due earlier in the mission, so that I can try to start off the rest of my semester on even footing (once I get past the first two weeks back, of course).

Getting close to the end of the road, the crew’s conversations have shifted away from EVAs and what to do that night and toward what the first real food we’ll eat once we leave the Hab is (bacon double cheeseburger for me). We’re already sensing that we’ll be back in civilization soon, and our minds are already starting to revert back to their old selves. It would be quite the psychological experiment to sign a crew up for two weeks, then at the end declare that they must stay a further two weeks… And now I need to go knock on some wood to make sure that doesn’t happen to us.

Similarly to yesterday, I spent the entire day in the Hab, with a few small exceptions: I returned our EVA rescue sled to the engineering/generator bay, adjusted the guy lines for the radio telescope, and snapped a few pictures of the scenery, since the snow had cleared considerably during the day and from days previous. It will be strange going back to a place where there are trees instead of sedimentary outcrops, cars instead of ATVs, people instead of rocks, and doors that are simply by themselves. I’m definitely looking forward to having sidewalks instead of muddy trails, if only for the fact that I don’t get completely covered in mud when walking or doing anything outside.

Michigan State will have undoubtably changed while I was gone. The snow might not be covering the group anymore my friends will have gotten used to the fact that I’m not there to hang out, and my roommates will have gotten used to having an empty bedroom (and no french toast). Even some of my classmates will have noticed my absence, especially in my smaller classes. Of course my professors will have, since I’ve been communicating with them briefly during my time here and informed them months ago about being gone for two weeks. Seeing my family, even if its just my dad, will definitely be welcome, and I’m ready for my dad’s comments about eating squirrels when he sees my unshaven face.

Pretty boring day again for me, with just a few MDRS-related things completed today, but that also means that tomorrow can just be focused on schoolwork (and a possible last EVA) and answering questions from a visiting blogger to get an impression on what simulating Mars is all about. He’s also bringing along his twin sons, who just recently turned nine, so it should be cool showing them all the cool things we do here… like sit around on our computers… I’ll show them the ATVs. Or the radio telescope and Musk, since I am the astronomer of this crew… Or just the scenery.

Right now, I’m just getting ready for our EVA team to get back (Brian, Kiri, and Luís have been out since 1240 and it’s 1812 right now) before starting dinner and getting the team out of their suits. After that, it’s either MDRS CLUE or Guesstures, both of which should make for a great night.