Greetings from Crew 173! We are a crew of five (for now, our 6th crewmate, Arnau Pons Lorente, a Spanish Aeronautical Engineer will be with us soon, but not for now)- our Commander Michaela Musilova from Slovakia, Executive Officer Idriss Sisaid from France, HSO Roy Naor from Israel, GreenHab Officer Rick Blake from Australia, and then my good self, Niamh (pronounced ‘Neeve’ by the way- its Gaelic, and a girl’s name) Shaw your Irish Crew journalist.
We arrived yesterday afternoon to a lovely warm welcome from Crew 172 and their commander Ilaria. After our group photo outside the Hab, Ilaria and her crew gave us an extensive training session (Crew Engineer, Troy was especially awesome with his 3hrs of ‘Hab Top Tips’, thank you Troy!). Patrick cooked up a lovely meal of curried rice and vegetables and we shared with them a toast of sparkling apple juice in their ceremonial bowls in honour of the completion of their mission. We all bedded down for the night and while it was pretty snug, we had a reasonably good nights sleep on the communal area floor (well, for those of us on the inflatable beds that didn’t deflate anyway!).
At 7.30am on Sol 0, we waved goodbye to Crew 172 and we began our time on Mars in earnest. The last thing Ilaria said to us was that our toilet had become blocked overnight. Little did we know in that moment the impact those words would have on our first day here.
It rained quite heavily overnight, so the terrain outside is very muddy and we were confined to indoor duties for the day. After unpacking food supplies and selecting our state room, we had our first breakfast of oatmeal, Cheerios, and dried apple, washed down with an assortment of tea, coffee and for some, nutritious servings of Tang. We worked on our cooking and cleaning schedule for the mission, which includes Pancake breakfast duties (for special days including my Dad’s birthday tomorrow, Roys mothers birthday on the 24th and Australia Day on the 26th) and preparing special meals of our countries on alternate evenings (we’re calling these Culture dinners).
And we began to tackle our first major objective of the mission- getting the toilet unblocked.
I made a somewhat successful lunch (a hearty serving of gumbo and brown rice) and afterwards Shannon arrived to take us through additional training. She informed us that due to the inclement weather, we will have our ATV and Rover training Tuesday, if all goes well. And then we talked a lot about the plumbing problems and the various permutations and combinations of flushing and plunging and other alternatives.
Roy and Idriss ventured outside and pumped the remaining water in to the main water reservoir, emptying both tanks on the trailer. As I write this, they are recounting enthusiastically their adventures in learning how to use the pump (without electrocuting themselves) and acclimatising to the cold and wet muddy weather. It was a big moment for them, for they claim that their relationship was found in that moment working together on this new daily task.
Our plumbing problems continued throughout the day and Roy (who has worked as a plumber in his native Israel) assessed the septic tank with Shannon and concluded that the issue with the toilet is attributable to a full septic tank rather than an ‘at source’ problem. And so we ceased our incessant flushing and plunging. We agreed for the foreseeable future, to poop in plastic bags and disposing of the biohazards material in a dedicated refuse sack (to be burnt at a later date when the rain stops and the plumbing problem has been resolved). We discussed other methodologies. It was an extensive discussion but believe that we have found the optimum solution, given the circumstances.
Idriss and Roy worked on setting up the 3d printer, but discovered that the filament spools didn’t work. They then tried to heat up the extruder to force the filament to go out, but the filament remains clogged in the printer. They are currently working on solution.
We are still figuring out how to optimise our limited toilet options. Trial and error is the general consensus.
Rick monitored hourly temperatures of the GreenHab, outside, the lower floor of the Hab and the grow tent in the greenHab. He also took an inventory of our spices. He’s also on dinner duty, he’s baking bread. Its looking very promising and may inherit the title ‘The Breadmaker’ if successful. Michaela re-planted her spinach seeds in the bespoke apparatus she has brought, designed by her students in Slovakia.
Our first CAPCOM is imminent and we are looking forward to an evening of settling in to our new home for the next 2 weeks on Mars as our plumbing problems continues.
Crew 173 signing off.