Journalist Report – February 23rd

Sol 2 – A day on Mars’ North pole

Author: Nicolas Wattelle

Today was supposed to be a very busy day, and even if it didn’t go as planned, I will be happy to sleep well tonight.

The EVA program was completely full for the whole morning. Changing batteries for the field mill, putting back the LOAC that we took out yesterday (because it cannot stand too wet weather conditions…), installing the antenna for the HF waves propagation study, first look at Candor Chiasma in order to find a great spot to begin the geological experiment (and use LIBS for the first time!).

But it felt like we moved to Mars’ north pole during the night: when we woke up, there was snow everywhere, about 4cm around the MDRS. At first sight, this was really beautiful to see, but we changed our minds when we understood it was compromising our plans… Doing an EVA as long as we had planned would have been risky, so it was decided that the EVA would just aim to change the battery of the field mill (this was the only thing necessary, waiting another day to change the battery would have put at risk its lifetime…).

Also, the snow completely covered our solar panels. Usually, these work in pair with a generator, and they provide enough energy to endure a day at the MDRS, with a crew living and working. So, we had to cut our electrical consumption for the day, keeping only essential devices plugged. This explains the pictures of preparing for the EVA, only using the light coming through the narrow windows to see.

I think this is what trying to live on Mars would look like, everyone will have to get out of their comfort zone, living day to day with the recurrent hazards… But Crew 263 is here to live this experiment, so we accept our fate and hope for better days!

During the afternoon, we were almost all together in the upper deck of the Hab. We made rotations around different experiments, in which sometimes we are operators and sometimes, subjects. On my side, I was mainly focused on producing the first podcast episode, for curious students (and all other curious!) we collaborate with. We hope people on Earth are interested in our mission.

We tried for the first time the ultrasound experiment using a CNES protocol and a Sonoscanner device. It was really interesting, the method is very smart: with one hand, we handle the ultrasound probe, on the other a smartphone with Augmented Reality software. It shows where to place the probe and is thus like a game: we have to put 4 spheres in 4 cubes, and when it is done, we record the sequence. None of us are doctors, but thanks to this protocol we can manage to get great pictures of our organs! We are really grateful to CNES for letting us participate in the conception of this futuristic device!

On another topic, I have to confess something. We are not only 7 in this station… Since we have arrived, someone is there in the Hab upper deck, looking at us all day. He proudly stands at the window. His name is Tomarsto, and he is always there, during great moments and hard times. We hope he will stay there until the end of the simulation, and even more! Take a look at him in the picture of the day!