Sol 4 began with fritters and cereal. It was tenuous as to whether we’d be able to proceed with planned EVAs due to weather, but luckily the rain subsided and the ground remained roverable.
The sky was still overcast, and with the hab’s solar panels struggling we were instructed to conserve energy – which meant a switch to gas. Later in the evening this spawned a discussion regarding the role(s) of hydrogen on Mars. Water will be electrolysed for oxygen, which as a byproduct will also produce hydrogen – this hydrogen will likely be reacted with exhaled carbon dioxide to form methane, for use as rocket fuel (or perhaps other things)… but what else could hydrogen potentially power on Mars as it becomes a more prevalent fuel source on Earth? Assuming that any early human population on Mars will need to continue obtaining at least some of their oxygen from electrolysis, in addition to various other methods currently employed aboard the ISS (or ideally photosynthesis), what will become of any excess hydrogen once those humans have enough methane? Commandrew says it gets vented. I say (with zero expertise on the matter) that they double down on Mars’ ice supplies and turn it into a green (in multiple ways) hydrogen utopia. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable than me can reach out for my edification.
ANYWAY, the EVAs. This morning’s EVA took three of our crew out to Kissing Camels Ridge to look for calcium carbonates – which once reacted with various acids would serve as a source of carbon dioxide on Mars, which in turn could be reacted with hydrogen to generate methane (see hydrogen rant above). The team found some good deposits and sent back coordinates. It’s been too cold so far to reach the gypsum deposit approximately 4km north of the MDRS (the rovers’ batteries deplete too quickly in the cold), but multiple members of the crew would benefit from gypsum samples and so we’ll launch an EVA to that site if that becomes possible. Today I learned that gypsum is a hydrate material that when processed via heat or other techniques can yield water (literal water from rocks!). For the geologists in the room, this is all pretty ordinary fare, but for myself (with a biology background) it’s fascinating.
The afternoon’s EVA set out to Cowboy Corner. It was supposed to extend further, to the area north-west of Tharsis Montes, but Opportunity hit the 55% power threshold and the team was forced to disembark… where we discovered an adjacent ‘target-rich’ site anyway. This site was stunning, with the geomorphology of the long-dried stream-bed proving spectacular against the rocky mounds (“hills”?) and distant mesas. Steve was able to get several gigabytes of spectrophotometer data, from multiple types of material.
Highlights of the day: Steve’s taste in music, EVAs being greenlit, incredible geomorphology (like the stream-bed) near Cowboy Corner, Commandrew’s minerology lessons.
Lowlights of the day: More extraterrestrials (this time we also observed a symbiotic quadrupedal species).
– Alexander Tobal, Crew 291.