Day 5 - Thursday 11 April
Martian greetings, Earthlings!
We have now established our normal sailing speed and life continues normally with lots of joy, discoveries and excitement. We have the pleasure to announce you the sprouting of 22 new little sprouts in the potting soil tray in our living room and their big brothers and sisters that we observed yesterday are doing fine as well (the longest is already longer than 10 mm). But it seems like their cousins that we installed in the greenhouse are not as fast: we observed only a few coming close to the surface.
Over the last few days we have been discussing ‘Yuri's night’ that will take place on Friday 12 April, marking the anniversary of the launch of the first Earth cosmonaut. There will be parties all over the world, literally, as there will be a celebration on board the space shuttle, the International Space Station and in other ‘space’ places. We intend to have also our own celebration and you are invite to join in, only in mind and spirit unfortunately, to celebrate 41 years of human beings in space.
Today, I would like to tell you more about our daily life in our Mars Desert Research Station. First, let's make a quick tour of the location. The Hab is a cylindrical structure 8 m in diameter and 6 m in height divided in two floors. The ground floor has two airlocks, at front and back, an EVA preparation room, a large laboratory area subdivided in biology and geology areas, a small shower/sink room and... a toilet (yes, you guessed it right).
You have to climb some steep stairs to get to the first floor. One half of the circular floor is occupied by a common living area with a kitchen corner, a semi-circular workbench were all computers are installed, a table for six people where we have our meals together or where we hold our briefings.
The other half is divided into six small bedrooms. Additional storage space is found above the bedrooms, with a circular hatch on top of the ceiling. Two circular windows look to the East and the South. Smaller windows give additional daylight.
This is the home of our crew for two weeks and I must say that is relatively comfortable and spacious enough. We are generally so busy that we do not bump into each other and in fact, there are no personal space problems.
We are also participating in some long term experiments like the assessment of the quantity of water and soap we consume. Drinking and cooking water is not restricted but we are asked to refrain from using too much water for cleaning and washing. Yesterday morning I enjoyed my first thirty-second shower and it is at moments like these that you really appreciate this comfort. We also have 80 grams of special NASA soap for the two weeks. This soap is odourless, tasteless but foams like hell even for the smallest amount you take.
There were two EVAs today. The first one allowed Nancy to install some collecting apparatus to collect flying dust in the hope to find airborne living organisms. For the second EVA, Bill, David and myself went with the ATVs searching for two waypoints. En route, we found a geodetic point installed by the US Dept of Geodetic Survey and corresponding to a round GSP coordinate. We found also a breathtaking landscape full of canyons, hills, so colourful and extending as far as you could see, results of eons of erosion and geological rock crushing. So bare and desolate, you could expect to see a dinosaur popping out anytime from these ancient layers.
And so life goes on in this extraordinary environment, our time divided between conducting experiments and observations, writing reports, going on EVA expeditions and discussing on space and Mars exploration over meals. What a place for scientists to meet! Nancy just showed us a rock sample under the microscope - a still unidentified living organism trapped in some crystallised structure.
This evening at sunset, as the sky was incredibly clear, I showed to the rest of the crew where and how to observe the visible planets with a pair of binoculars from the roof hatch. We could clearly see Venus and its phase, Jupiter and some of its satellites, Saturn, and a double star. Simply great!
Jan is our DGO today and he is preparing us Candor Chasma chicken sauté and Wells war of the hash browns. What else would you expect in such a scientist's paradise!
Reach for the stars! They are nor far!
On to Mars!