Ben Durkee, Crew 218 Journalist
The snowy hill east of the Habitat delayed the sunrise just long enough for us to awaken to a sky of vibrant pink and orange. Nothing clears the morning haze from your eyes quite like gawking at the natural beauty of a Martian sunrise. We were fortunate to have such a gentle wake-up call, because the rest of the day was on a tight itinerary.
After an efficient breakfast of astronaut nutrition paste (dehydrated fruit smoothie) we promptly began preparing Shefali and LuzMa for their morning EVA. After an egress that went infinitely smoother than yesterday’s, they set off into the icy brink. The two ladies had the honor of taking our rovers "T" and "Custy" (formerly "Spirit" and "Curiosity," but some of the letters rubbed off) on their first voyage in a week.
The rovers persevered through the quagmire of snow, ice, and mud to deliver the duo to their destination unscathed. The two performed some meteorological surveys that are far beyond my pay-grade and returned to the Hab far ahead of schedule. In an effort to kill two birds with one Martian stone, LuzMa also performed her extravehicular engineer duties before they both entered the airlock for re-compression. Everything went off without a hitch, and they were inside and free of their cumbersome oxygen-backpacks with time to spare.
More time to dedicate to the most important task of the day. See, the past few sols have been consistently below freezing, and our water pipe has been an ice pipe for long enough that we are in full survival mode. The first thing to go when the water gets tight is dish duty, and by today we had a tower rivaling the wonders of the world constructed solely of dirty dishes. Our water reserve was so sparse this afternoon that we had to resort to creating a fire brigade. We spent the period between EVAs today assembly-lining water from the static tank all the way up to the accessible loft tank with our few clean kitchen pots. Our efficiency would have made Henry Ford proud – probably because we had pretty compelling motivation.
Once our liquid life reached an acceptable quantity, there was just enough time for a quick lunch before Cesare, Pat, and I had to prepare for our EVA. We raced to see who could be properly suited up first, and as expected our commander with multiple notches in his Mars belt pulled a clean victory. This time I abundantly confirmed that I was wearing the right footwear. I’m sure I’ll make many more mistakes this mission, but I will definitely not be making that one again.
While we were acting as a human aqueduct, our rovers were replenishing their batteries back to full. For good reason – we intended to use it all. We depressurized and embarked on our longest EVA yet. Our destination: as far north as we could go.
There is a clear division drawn in mud on my flight suit. A contrast between my left side: cozy within the roll cage of trusty ol’ "Custy," and my right side: exposed to the elements as I held out the antenna for some data collection on our northward exodus. We adventured far into the Martian horizon on a journey that felt like an eternity for the muscles in my right arm. We exited the zone of radio contact with the Hab, and then we pushed on even farther. Eventually Cesare’s rover read 60% battery remaining, our threshold for having to cease our migration. We pulled over right there, and the spot proved to be ideal.
It had a flat region – perfect for Pat’s seismic equipment – and a phenomenal view of the nearby mountain – a playground for me and my camera. We spent equal time setting up the equipment as we did gathering data. With our remaining time, we explored the surrounding terrain and then gave our rovers a good 20-point turn to head back home.
Naturally the journey somehow managed to be uphill both ways, but the rovers took it like champs and we were back in no time. By the time we got ourselves and our equipment back in the airlock, it was 4:00 PM sharp. A perfect three hour EVA. We raced out of our suits again, but this time it was fueled by the necessity to empty our bladders. We all parsed our data from the field and then put on some SpongeBob to turn our brains off and recover from the day. Much needed.
Through the yellow rectangle man’s uncanny ability to evaporate time, it was suddenly time for dinner and reports. As Pat slaves away in the kitchen, I’m hunched over my keyboard relaying the day’s events to the best of my ability. It took a week, but I think we’re getting the hang of this whole "Martian Living" thing. Now we wrap up today so we can do it again tomorrow, but even better.
Another sol, another dollar.