Slowly but surely, our stay at the MDRS is coming to an end. What seemed like a daunting two weeks at the beginning has passed right by us, and we are now only two days away from the moment our shuttle will take off from Mars and head back to Earth. Our experiments are slowly coming to an end, and we can all feel the end approaching.
Our commander, Maximilien, has been the cornerstone of our project since the beginning, a year ago, when we first began searching for funds and planning this very unique voyage. He has managed the team’s efforts with great precision, while at the same time giving more of himself than anyone else for the success of this project!
He is an industrial engineering graduate currently pursuing a PhD in organic synthesis (more specifically cyclopentane and 1,4-diene formation), and his experiment at the MDRS was centred on the characterization of physico-chemical properties of soil. His plan was to measure different characteristics of soils sampled at various locations on the Martian landscape, testing them for the factors which are most important for plant growth. These included pH, conductivity, B, total N, P, ions and macroscopic texture. Some of these factors are easy to measure with the basic instruments available locally, others with the spectrophotometer that we brought with us, and some needed more complex methods, requiring rare chemicals and solvents. These supplies were on the same shipment as Ariane’s culture media, which had an accident on its way to Mars and had to reverse directions and head back to Earth. This prevented Max from performing some of his planned experiments, but nonetheless, he has managed to isolate significant results with what was available locally. Still, this has freed up a bit of time for him, and so he has been able to share his extensive knowledge of chemistry to help others with their experiments – Mario to test the conductivity and pH of his hydroponic solutions, pH testing for Fred’s and Ariane’s bacteria, and calibration curves for Martin. As so, his time has been well used despite the unexpected outcome of his experiment!
Tomorrow, we will celebrate Michael’s birthday with an EVA in the morning, and some cake and board games or a movie in the evening! He sure would have liked some good beer on the side, but unfortunately there is a very strict policy on alcohol on Mars – it is completely forbidden! He will have to wait until we get back to Earth to enjoy a cold one..