Day 11 - Wednesday 17 April
Martian greetings, Earthlings!
Today we are still battling against strong winds from the South. Our ship is again rocking and swinging. The greenhouse, which nearly blew away, needed to be secured and repaired. So Jan and I spent a good part of the morning securing cargo straps around the greenhouse structure and retightening the ropes holding it down. The door of the greenhouse was ripped apart by wind gusts more severe that two days ago. We taped the door with duct tape as best we could but I am not sure it will hold overnight.
Today the EVA expedition involved biology and geology field exploration. Our Commander Bill Clancey took geologist Andrea Fori and biologist Nancy Wood for an explorative EVA in Lithe Canyon where, rumour has it, there are dinosaur bones hidden in the ground. Jan, David and myself are on guard duty back at the Hab, hoping to prevent it from getting blown away or buried in the sand.
I spent nearly all day writing and polishing up reports, fixing what could be fixed on the greenhouse and thinking about how this simulation is different and how it is similar to the one I participated in last year in the Canadian Arctic Circle.
Firstly, both Habs are very similar but there are certain differences. In this Hab the stairs from the ground to the first floor are steeper and placed in the other direction, which makes the ground floor bigger and provides more room for the biology and geology labs. Another change to the Hab from last year is that the individual rooms are all fitted with working space and shelves (although they are not sufficient!).
Secondly, this time around the scheduling of our activities is different. We have two weeks here in the Hab to carry out our research work compared to only one week last year in the Arctic. We are probably more relaxed in organising the work, but this does not mean that we have less to do (on the contrary...). We are also more involved in discussing daily schedules and decisions.
Improvements have also been made to the EVA equipment and suits. For example, we now have portable rear view mirrors that can be strapped to the arm or the glove.
Another change is the introduction of the greenhouse. Of course it is not yet fully operational, but we are already using it for growing plants and for some biology experiments. It will become a major area of research in the coming years to see how crews can successfully grow some of their food supply.
There are still things to be changed and improved, but gradually all feedback and lessons learned are incorporated in the design of future Habs. The next one to be built will be installed in Europe in 2003 in Iceland. This Hab is near completion and will be on exhibit in Chicago from June to October 2002, after which it will be shipped to Europe. The fourth Hab will be installed in the Australian outback desert sometime in 2004.
Tonight, we will go out and watch the sky for the planet and Moon alignment.
On to Mars!