Command Report – December 11th

Commander’s Report

11 Dec 2019

Shannon Rupert

It seems strangely familiar. Although I haven’t suited up for an EVA
in over a decade, the routine is the same. Slide flight suit on.
Well, this one doesn’t quite fit the way the last one I had put on
did. Instead of slipping into the oversized suits of the past, I pull
and tug and grunt as I squirm my way into a flight suit one size too
small. It was either this or steal the larger one from Atila, and
pride keeps me from doing that. Once the flight suit is on, I add the
radio. Earpiece, check. Radio with good battery, check. COMMS
check, check. I am ready. I chose the prototype for the one piece
suits, sometimes called the milk carton suits, for this EVA. It takes
three people to adjust it to fit me, because one shoulder strap,
incorrectly threaded, just keeps popping over and over. I can’t see
them, but I can feel them as they work on the suit. Finally, I feel
the strap tighten and stay that way, and I know someone has found a
way to fix it. Thumbs up. I’m ready now. Into the airlock. This too
seems familiar, something I am comfortable with. We wait until the
light goes off and are given permission to exit. I open the heavy
door and lift one foot, looking down. For one panicked second, I
hesitate, because this now seems strange. Whether from age or from
lack of practice, I worry that I won’t be able to walk. But I do. I
get to the rover and bump my suit a few times on the frame as I settle
in. I find myself in a reclining position as Jen starts the drive to
our EVA destination. I laugh as I sit there, getting flung from side
to side like a damn ragdoll. I spend the next twenty minutes trying
to get comfortable. I ignore the incredible Mars-like landscape we are
passing through. That I know like the back of my hand. What I don’t
know is how to get comfortable in this damn suit. Finally, I lean
forward and realize that there is a way to sit up straight. But it
comes at a price. When I sit up, the helmet pummels the hell out of
me. First my lip, then my teeth, then my lip again. And all the time
I am laughing, because what the hell do you do in that situation?
Finally, after what seems the longest rover ride of my life, we arrive
at the Moon overlook. I realize with delight that I am small enough to
just slither right out of the rover seat, and I’ve got my feet on
solid ground. We take a few fun photos, and then I head up the road to
scout for gypsum. I find a promising mound, then stop. I radio my
team “Do you think if I get down on my knees I will ever be able to
get up again?” I plop onto my knees and remember in a flash how hard
it is to collect samples when your vision is limited by the helmet and
your gloves make it difficult to pick things up. We gather some
gypsum and my team holds my hand so I can get up. We have two more
sampling sites, and as we head to the next one, I wonder why the sun
is getting so low in the sky. At the final sampling site I realize
that I had screwed up a long held rule at MDRS and I have scheduled
our EVA to end at sunset and not one half hour before sunset. That’s
what Atila had been trying to tell me, when I insisted the EVA go
until 5. We travel back to MDRS at a fast pace. Jen is enjoying the
hell out of driving the rover, but I am distracted by the way my
helmet keeps trying to punch me in the face. We park, enter the
airlock and in a few minutes I’ve put the murderous suit back on the
shelf. Both it, and I, will live to fight another day.