Sol Summary – January 12th


Our Crew Engineer, Troy Cole wrote today’s Sol Summary. Here is his take of our crew activities from an Engineer’s point of view:

Hello from Mars! We are in the home stretch of our mission here, and I honestly feel odd about our eventual deviation from our Martian daily routine. Today we awoke for our brief breakfast and overview of the day’s activities. The weather took a turn for the worse , so we delayed our planned EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) until the afternoon giving each crew member time to go about their personal tasks and projects beforehand.
My tasks today as Crew Engineer mostly involved tidying up my little domain, the Engineering Bay, in preparation for handoff to the next crew’s engineer. After a couple hours of task/project work, it was time for lunch which I happened to be assigned cooking duty. I treated my (meat-eating) crewmates to the first taste of bacon we’ve had since our mission began – which they greatly enjoyed. After our space nap, our French colleagues accompanied by our crew journalist, ventured forth onto the Martian surface to continue testing their geo-location recorder. The excursion proved successful and the crew settled in for dinner, report filing, and some well-deserved R&R.
From an engineering perspective this mission has been most enlightening and really helped broaden my perspective on how engineers in the future will work extra-terrestrially. For example, little innocuous irritations can have outsized and grave consequences on places “off planet.” One such irritation is when you are out on a warm sunny day and once you enter an air conditioned room your glasses tend to fog up. Now this is no big deal, you merely remove them from your face, wipe them off, and go about your business. However, if instead of glasses it was your EVA helmet fogging up while walking around on severely rocky conditions with no way to wipe it off, then that minor annoyance becomes a major one really quickly. This particular irritant has been a constant during our mission and we all have had to learn ways to mitigate it as best we can and when that is not enough adjusting our operating procedures to maximize crew safety.
Another feature of working in a remote location is the lack of access to information. On Mars we have a severely limited internet access, with only 500 MBs of total data available to a crew of seven. That means I can’t quickly Google search for the operating manual to a random AC power supply in the tool chest to verify if the voltage is compatible with charging batteries for a science experiment. All you have is your own knowledge and experience to work with, so you must be comfortable with the “trial and error” approach to making repairs with anything available on hand and the inherent risks that some with that. The vast majority of repairs I’ve had to make during this mission were things I have never fixed before but knowing that mine and my crews continued survival depended on me doing a good job steeled my nerves against self-doubt and focused on working the problem. While tending to things in the Hab, I’ll regularly steal a glance at the Order of the Engineer ring I wear everyday and recall what it symbolizes, “Do your best work possible, for the lives of the public depend on it.”
These past two weeks have pushed my engineering skills to their limits and I’m glad to know that I have the capacity to handle most any problem that comes my way and keep people alive. Crew 172 signing off.