There is no such thing as silence.
Sometimes it is good to take a break from all the noise inside the
Hab: we are constantly surrounded by the deep hum of the diesel
generator, the regular drop hammer of the water pump, the proverbial
quarrelling of the card game (“why on earth did you throw away that
ace of spades?!”), the occasional scratch of the walkie talkies, the
hunger-triggering rotation of the bread machine…
That might partly explain why Xavier wanted to perform Sol 18’s EVA
with the radios turned off. Other explanation: it allowed him to take
notes on how natural is the set of gestures we established, based on
scuba diving. The EVA had three main objectives: first, I tested the
newly-implemented vocal recorder of the AR glasses during the
engineering check, given that we could not transmit the measurements
to the Hab.
Then, Xavier took the lead to investigate the area where the balloon
was last seen. Still silently, Mouâdh, Xavier and I recovered the
anchor and the rope that had visibly been violently pulled out of the
balloon’s platform. No more evidence have been found on the balloon’s
destiny, but it is likely to have fallen down at night when the air
inside could no longer be heated by the sun. Given the wind direction
yesterday, it must have gone south of our settlement, many miles away.
The final task we performed was to recover the seismometer before the
end of the mission. The briefing we did yesterday was precise enough
to allow us to pack everything silently and go back to the Hab with an
ATV and a rover. In the end, it appears that we were perfectly able to
communicate instructions with gestures only, if we were correctly
prepared. Normally in such a situation with all the radios off, the
safest decision would be to abort the EVA and go back to the Hab, but
it seemed important to test it and improve our protocols.
At noon we figured out that we had just enough dehydrated eggs left to
mix them with flour, sugar and milk, following the traditional French
recipe of crêpes. The psychological effect was overwhelmingly
positive, in these times of end-of-mission food shortage.
The afternoon was very calm, everyone working on his part of the
Mission Summary Report, listing the results of our experiments and
repairs. It seems that we have been very inspired: now we have to cut
half of the text to meet the format required!
Commander of the silent Crew 175