Journalist Report – February 18th

Crew 205 Crew Journalist Report 18-FEB-2019 Sol 8

Author: Dave Masaitis

Title: A Sol of Great Mystery

Sol 8 began as others have, with crew members emerging from quarters to start a tea kettle and make breakfast. Crew 205 quickly became inquisitive as they peered outside the portholes of our home to see a mysterious white precipitate covering the regolith ridges, with more falling from the sky. While it seemed to resemble snow on Earth, our previous understanding of Mars told us that the planet does not have enough water for such a weather phenomenon to be plausible. It was therefore imperative to treat this precipitate with suspicious caution, especially as it seemed to saturate the regolith and turn it to a rather slippery mud-type substrate. In the interests of crew safety, Commander Grulich reported to Mission Support and announced that our planned EVA would have to wait for another Sol.

Over breakfast, Commander Grulich and Executive Officer Alotaibi consulted with the crew to realign work priorities for a Sol at the Hab. The mysteries of Sol 8 did not stop there. GreenHab Officer Nathan Hadland was analyzing rock and substrate samples in the science dome, when he called on the radio for the crew to come look at something. He had found some samples that, when washed, appeared to be the fossilized shells of some form of invertebrate. Had the crew stumbled on an ancient sea bed while on EVA? By visual appearance, these certainly appeared to be fossilized shells but further testing would be required before any confirmations could be made. Given that some invertebrates on Earth make their shells from calcite, it seemed reasonable that testing a fossilized fragment with a diluted hydrochloric acid solution should create a reaction…and it did! Samples taken from a sampling site within a couple hundred meters of the fossilized shells rendered beautiful crystalline structures, which are suspected to be either halite or gypsum. Both of these pieces of evidence point initially to a region of planetary surface that may have once been an ancient sea bed, so further investigation will be required. While it is far too premature of a discovery to draw any firm conclusions, the mysteries of todays analysis prove even more interesting than the mysterious white precipitate falling from the sky. Are the two perhaps connected?

Some analysis of the fossils may continue into the evening, and the crew will enter its communications window to file their daily reports to Mission Support. Following this, the Commander and Executive Officer will discuss the crew’s priorities of work for Sol 9, before having a dinner of salmon and hushpuppies prepared by one of our more apt cooks, Communications Officer Hannah Blackburn. After dinner, we will likely engage in some table games or perhaps watch Apollo 13, before laying down to get some rest before another Sol.