Day 12 - Thursday 18 April

Centruroides Exilicauda scorpion
The venomous Centruroides Exilicauda scorpion found by biologist Nancy Wood
18 April 2002

Martian greetings, Earthlings!

There was a lot of excitement yesterday evening, as Nancy found a scorpion under her bed. After looking it up on the Web, we discovered it was a Centruroides Exilicauda, or Bark Scorpion. We also learnt that it had a highly venomous sting, which is lethal for children. Amazing, such a small creature, just 2.5 cm in length, yet so antipathetic. We were reminded to check our shoes in the morning as they like dark, warm, humid spots.

The weather turned cold over night. The coldest temperature was 5 deg. C. This morning during our briefing we discussed the rapidly approaching end of our simulation. Time has passed so quickly, but we were so busy that nobody really realized that we are nearly at the end. In three days time, we will be leaving. In fact the isolation will end on Saturday, when European and US television and newspaper journalists will pay us a visit. After the isolation, it will feel like an invasion. With the help of David, our resident journalist, we started to prepare what to say and how to say it. Tomorrow will be a big clean-up day. Our Station Engineer Jan Osburg noticed that the ‘Biolet’ was not functioning optimally (which is an understatement...). So he decided to give it a good clean before tomorrow. We had to open all doors and hatches and for once the blowing wind was more than welcome.

Dusting off the greenhouse solar panels
Dusting off the greenhouse solar panels

This afternoon, everybody suddenly had a lot of things to do as they realized that in just a couple of days, it would be all over. Nobody was really interested in an EVA, except for Jan and myself. So, in the middle of the afternoon we suited up and did a few things in the greenhouse, like replacing the data logger and brushing up the solar panels (yes, that is also something that Astronauts on Mars would have to do after each sand storm). After that we left for Candor Chasma to return to this splendid place that we visited on day 4 with Andrea. It seemed to me that it had already changed after the sand storm and rain we had over the weekend. Could it be that landscapes on Mars are equally rearranged by wind like they are on Earth?

Candor Chasma canyon
In Candor Chasma canyon

We left Candor Chasma to tackle our next task, which was to find a way to climb Skyline Rim. Well, Skyline Rim is an altogether different challenge, and a particularly big one. It is a huge plateau made of cretaceous sandstone, which rises nearly 130 m above the surrounding plain. Not easy to pass and not easy to climb with ATVs. We tried first towards the North without success, so we headed towards the South. We drove, and we drove, until we came across a small river and so we could not drive any further, but still no way in sight to climb Skyline Rim. Eventually we had to turn back as we noticed that Jan's ATV had a flat tyre. We measured the coordinates of several geodetic points on our way back, so as to be able to relocate our exact path on the map. We returned safely to the Hab well in time for dinner.

On dirt track in front of the Skyline Rim
Dirt track in front of the Skyline Rim

Our plants are doing well, thank you. They are growing like mad: the tallest radish stem is now 10.5 cm. Although a tatsoi stem in the lab downstairs has caught up – it is now same height. Which one will win? We will know on Saturday night when we will harvest them all and make a (small) salad.

This evening, we will feast on Nirgal sate prepared by Nancy. Don't ask what it is! Although I think there will be meat, unknown vegetables and some herbs from our Martian greenhouse. The herbs are what make the meal so special.

This evening we will have a break and watch another film. Discussions are on-going whether it will be The Matrix, Spaceballs or Starship Troopers.

Well, as you can see, even on Mars, life carries on. Like any other house on planet Earth, with the day coming to an end, we humans still have the same preoccupations.

On to Mars!

Vladimir

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