Day 3 - Tuesday 9 April
Martian greetings, Earthlings!
Another great day in the Martian desert of Utah, USA. Our third day was another busy one.
But first, I want to share a special moment with you. Three of my colleagues (Bill, Nancy and Andrea) are on an EVA; as I write, I am in the Hab with Jan and David. We are working on our computers, listening to an old American song (‘A horse with no name’) and in the background we can hear the radio hissing with the conversation between our three EVA companions. The sun is shining and it is warm in the Hab. And suddenly I feel transported to another place while I am writing to ‘Earth’. It makes me feel like we are really are on Mars doing the exploratory work. It is a great feeling!
Well, as I said, again a busy day. An early start allowed me to finish Zubrin's book ‘First landing’ (excellent!) and to start another book on evolutionary biology. After breakfast, the traditional morning briefing where we discussed the day's activities. I would not go on an EVA today. Instead my priorities would be, with the help of David, to sort out the Internet connections, which are still not functioning properly. It would take too long to explain the different systems that we are depending on, but not everything is running as smoothly as it should.
David is also the DGO (Director of Galley Operations) for the day and we were treated to a Martian Lander sandwich (tuna fish with red peppers, celery and pickles) at lunchtime. It would satisfy the hunger of any Martian explorer.
Together with Jan, we took care of other chores, like setting up our GPS. For those interested, the coordinates of the MDRS Hab (1st floor) are UTM12 S 0518236, 4250730, elevation 1378 m, with a theoretical accuracy of 5 m (based on six satellite measurements).
Knowing this we cannot get lost when we are on an EVA. Actually all the preceding MDRS crews have also relied on the GPS system and more than 100 Waypoints have been logged at interesting places in the desert. One objective for our crew is to revisit some of these locations to assess the possibility of finding them again and to collect more samples. It also raises the question of how the first Martian astronauts would find their way around. They would definitely need a system similar to the GPS on Mars and it would be an interesting idea to already consider placing GPS-like transmitters on Martian orbiter satellites that are planned for the coming years.
Another chore that we took care of is to refill the generator. This obviously is an ‘off-sim’ activity for safety reasons because of the risk of fuel spillage and unencumbered handling of the generator. We have to refill it three times a day. Explorers on Mars would rely either on small nuclear reactors or on generators fuelled by methane produced from Mars atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The goal of today's EVA expedition was to find two places, one that is intermittently wet and a second that is exposed to wind gusts, to collect soil samples from both places and to start ecosystem cultures back at the lab. The sustaining idea for our biologist Nancy is to verify whether it would be possible for potential Martian bacteria-like organisms to be transported by Martian winds. It is true that the weather today is supporting that idea, as it is windy with gusts of more than 50 km/h and clouds of red desert dust.
Tonight our DGO has promised us out-of-this-world fajitas so I will sign off here for this third day, as I do not want to miss out on that!
Martian regards to all.
On to Mars!