Author: Max Fagin
Purpose of EVA: Photography and sampling of the previously identified stratified cut in the canyon wall east of the Maxwell Montes region.
Destination: The canyons just to the east of the Maxwell Montes region.
UDM27 Coordinates: 522500 E 4254500 N
Participants: Max Fagin (Commander), Cesare Guariniello (Geologist), Sam Albert (HSO), Melanie Grande (Crew Engineer)
Narrative: We departed the Hab at 10:45 and arrived at the end of Cactus Rd. at 11:15. The initial descent into the canyon was steep but navigable, and we descended 200 ft east down a ridge line and stream bed before we encountered a cliff in the stream bed that we could not safely descend. Instead, we turned north west to follow an offshoot of the canyon in the general direction we wanted to go, then climbed up onto a dirt embankment that lay beneath the Muddy Creek canyon’s west edge. This embankment allowed us to travel a 0.5 miles north with no obstruction, but ended at the edge of a smaller canyon on the west of the Muddy Creek, still 0.5 miles south of our target. As we now had only 45 minutes left until our turn around time, we elected to descend into this canyon (which we named Boilermaker canyon) and sample the stratified layers on its north shelf.
Returning to the rovers was more difficult as we realized that the final slope we had descended into Boilermaker Canyon from the embankment was too steep to safely climb up again without scrambling. In hindsight, this was a mistake, as it made us completely dependent on our gps for safe navigation. The original intent had been to exactly retrace the same route into and out of the canyon so we could follow our footprints back to the rovers in the event that we lost our GPS. Instead, in order to avoid scrambling back up the south slope of Boilermaker Canyon, we turned down slope to the east and walked towards the Muddy Creek to find a more shallow slope back up to the west embankment that would allow us to rejoin our path. We eventually found a route up a ridge and back onto the embankment, but without the gps, this would have been nearly impossible. Our footprints on the embankment were invisible until we were right on top of them, and had we not had the gps to tell us where our track was, we could have easily gotten turned around in the maze of stream beds and side canyons. During the walk back, we made several wrong turns when we lost our foot prints. Because we had the gps, the wrong turns were noted and corrected within seconds, but had we not had the gps, walk back would have taken much longer, producing a late return. This was not a navigation mode that I would consider sufficiently safe for EVA operations, and I do not intend to repeat it in the future. We will no longer venture into terrain where a safe exit would be impossible without digital assistance, and we intend to carry at least one gps in the future to guard against the risk of failure.
We returned to the rovers at 3:00 and made use of the reserve water supplies through a camelback to avoid doffing the suits. The water had been reserved for this purpose, as a Mars suit would be expected to allow the occupant to drink, so we did not consider this a breach of sim. We returned to the Hab at 3:25.
Notes on comms issue: One of the radios indicated a low battery on the outbound trip. We elected to continue as communications were still possible, but turned the radio off between transmissions to maximize its lifetime. We also implemented the practice of the incommunicado crew member remaining close to another crew member who could signal via hand that they were needed on comm, or relay instructions via simulated helmet contact. The radio lasted until we reached the site, but then could not be used at all. We swapped radios and kept the crew member with the dead radio in the 2nd place of a single file line, ensuring they could not become separated.
As this is now the second time as apparently fully charged radio battery has failed on EVA, we are implementing a new EVA policy where two spare radios will be carried with the EVA team at all times, and swapped in in the event of radio failure.