Day 2 - Monday 8 April

Watering the freshly planted seeds
Watering the freshly planted seeds
8 April 2002

Martian greetings, Earthlings!

Our second day in the Mars Desert Research Station was excellent. We had a long briefing session this morning to discuss the different EVA expeditions that are planned for this week. We also decided to go for what Nancy called the Spanish schedule, that is, delaying all our external EVA activities until after four o'clock to avoid the burning afternoon sun. Actually, the temperature differences in the desert are quite marked: the highest temperature was 32 deg. C at 12:38 pm and 4 deg. C at 5:20 am.

The task for the first EVA of this rotation was to set-up the station greenhouse and to plant the various seeds that we want to observe. We have four kinds of seeds: radishes, Alfa Alfa sprouts, arugella salad and tatsoe cabbage.

Nancy and I started to prepare and rehearse the procedure that we would use with the EVA suits in the greenhouse. As part of this training, we also planted the seeds in growth boxes that would be left inside the Hab to be used as comparison with the seeds planted in the greenhouse. Nancy was quite resourceful in adapting a funnel ands some Eppendorf tubes to assemble a single-seed-distributor. So the plan was ready and rehearsed.

We started to kit up and as it was the first time for four of my fellow crew members to don (simulated) space suits, it took us more than an hour to go through the details of how to avoid getting your hair caught or your nose clipped by the helmet or your earphone to fall of your ear once outside.

Preparing seeds to be planted in the greenhouse
Preparing seeds to be planted in the greenhouse

Eventually we set off, first having checked that we had all the plants, the growth boxes and the seeds, but obviously forgetting some of the tools! Once in the greenhouse, we had to improvise with what we had to complete the plan, so we deviated from the rehearsed procedure and still managed to plant and water all the seeds.

Let me tell you that it is not easy to plant seeds of 1 mm diameter, one-by-one, using simulated EVA gloves (less flexible than ski gloves) in a greenhouse overheated by the Sun. After one hour the job was completed. Upon return in the Hab, we debriefed our colleagues and we let them go on the second EVA of the day, which was a pedestrian reconnaissance EVA for places exposed to the wind. More about this tomorrow.

As I volunteered to be today's DGO, i.e. Director of Galley Operations, that is the poor soul who has to do all the kitchen chores: cooking, cleaning, dish washing, garbage emptying, etc, I started to cook a Martian meal for my fellow crew members, and it was not easy. Try to prepare a four course meal with only two heating plates and the entire power system going down as soon as you try to use a third appliance. Well, believe it or not, I manage to prepare Valles Marineris delicacies (i.e. salmon toasts), an alien soup (um..., a mixture...), Martian rice with Olympian pork chops, and a Lycus Sulci fruit salad. We tried the "Ass in space" hot sauce with the Martian rice. Well, no more comment on this, except that it was... interesting.

So I finished my DGO duties at around 10 o’clock this evening, in time to write this report. The Commander just called us to watch a summary video of last year’s FMARS activities. Good memories and some good laughs too.

The plan for tomorrow is to do a reconnaissance EVA with the ATVs as long as the weather cooperates (it was cloudy this afternoon and evening).

So I will sign off here, before the traditional power cut of every 6 to 8 hours when the generator is refilled.

So again with a huge Martian smile, I wish you all a Martian good night and I sign off for this second day.

On to Mars!


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