Journalist report, 03/01/17 – Sol 17: R.I.P little balloon.
Today’s EVA was all about the atmospheric balloon. It was forced to remain on the ground for many days, and finally, we were supposed to let it fly for 24 hours, in front of the hab, to have a look on it, even if we would not be able to intervene in case of any problem happening. Simon, Mouâdh, Arthur and Louis (who shot today’s photos) left at 9:00 am by foot to deploy it. After some time spent to attach it properly, it was time to inflate it. It is always the trickiest part: three crew members have to run together, holding it, to let air fill it up. It was not very successful at the beginning, being troubled by the wind. But after about half an hour, it went straight up, to reach its maximum altitude. This time, Simon had fixed the camera on the side, so that with a little luck, we would be able to have a picture of the hab. We now know that we had this luck, and the shot is absolutely stunning.
The balloon being settled, the crew went up the hill next to it, to have a god view on the balloon’s area, being able to check it during its few hours up. It was supposed then to go up and down following temperature changes, so that it will land at night, then go up again with the sun. We had determined a whole area, in which it was not supposed to be damaged to hard if it touched the ground, and did attach it well to the ground. The team left it at 11:00 after having removed the video camera from the balloon, as it would have lacked battery and memory long time before the next day, and we ate at noon.
It is only after lunch that we noticed it was missing. We had no visual of it from the hab, even if the area was chosen to allow us to check it. We received no other sign of its presence in the following hours. Different scenarios are possible: the balloon had a leak, so that it lost air, then altitude and fell on the ground, there is areas we cannot watch from the hab because of the terrain and it might be here. The rope might have broken, being cut by friction on a stone we used as the base, then is has gone far. The pod above the balloon might have broken, then it is more complicated, we might find it tomorrow, but the balloon might be lost, or we could find both parts of it. Anyway, even if it is not good news, we have another balloon, all the equipment (because we removed the camera), is not very expensive. We bought everything in double as we considered a potential failure.
To end with, I spend yesterday’s evening with Mouâdh on the observatory. It was the occasion for me to shoot some videos of him using the telescope for the mission video, and to learn a bit more about astronomy, while observing Orion’s nebula or Jupiter and its moons. I also brought the camera, and took some shots, just to make sure that Earth was rotating, while freezing in the desert night, waiting for my long exposition time shots to be taken.
Louis MANGIN, crew journalist MDRS 175