Journalist Report – March 06th

Crew 223 Journalist Report 06Mar2020
Author: Clément Plagne, Crew Journalist
Sol 5
Title: Grounded
Mars is a colourful place. Today on EVA, we explored the North Ridge, a
hilly area a few miles from the Station. The exploration was rather
athletic, and we once again saw all sorts of terrain as we trudged up
and down the steep sandy slopes. It felt like we walked for hours and
miles, despite the area being rather small and us being done in about an
hour. It probably was because the terrain changes so much – in a matter
of minutes we went from red hills to rocky areas to grey, Moon-like
zones. It’s also probably because the heavy suits make us slower. Most
certainly, it’s a bit of both. The other great news is that the more
comfortable suits that had failed on our first EVAs have been handsomely
fixed by Luc and Aurélien, and now work fully. Begone, back pains!
The ground out there is barren and lifeless. Still, there’s somewhere
not too far where the soil is life-giving and fruitful. The greenhouse
is in full bloom thanks to the good work of Valentin, our devoted
GreenHab officer. Aromatics, radishes, carrots and many others are busy
growing all day long and may at some point be food for us. But there’s
another, odder, thing growing in the warmth of the GreenHab. In glass
tanks lives a green, bubbly mass called spirulina. They’re algae that
shine by the low area needed to grow it, and the massive amounts of
nutrition value it creates with very little input. In those two tanks
that occupy very little of the water consumption and space of the
greenhouse, they have the potential of feeding us much better than all
the rest. It’s not as tasty as rosemary or basil, but some day we may be
forced to be as efficient as possible, and we’ll be happy to have it.
The Science Dome is also on the cutting edge of vegetal research. Today
was the official start of the Music for Plants experiment. It posits
that in harsh environments, sound waves may influence the durability of
plants – in other words, plants may enjoy music! To test this, Valentin
puts different batches of radishes and watercress under strong UV
lights, basically giving them sunburns, and tests different sounds on
the plants in the meantime, seeing how they evolve every day. With the
thin atmosphere of Mars, plants will inevitably be put under stress from
sunrays, so finding out how best to protect them and have an agriculture
on another planet is fundamental. In that same Science Dome, a tower
breathes. No soil this time: little pods on the tower are filled with a
special foam and fed with a nutritive liquid mix, and plants grow just
as well. Aeroponics and vertical culture are possible keys to
efficiently feed a colony on Mars, and working with the first
small-scale examples of these is a privilege for us.