Journalist Report – January 29th

Staring at the Sun
Yesterday (Sol 7) marked the half-way point of our rotation. Aside from one easy EVA in the early-morning, and a jigsaw puzzle that tested our wits more than it probably should have (barely managed to complete it and sign the back), we all pretty much had the day off, and Andrew submitted his commander’s report in lieu of a journalist’s report.
That’s not to say it was all sunshine and rainbows – we had a few illnesses as well. Happy to say that as of writing this on Sol 8, everyone’s pretty much back to normal.
Today involved a pair of great EVAs. The first pitted Steve’s rover against the ‘Mars 500’ racetrack – i.e. a custom course designed to test how quickly the rover could traverse a set course while sampling terrain. Steve tried several runs – one involved driving blindly and being guided by Scott (something that might be necessary in an actual Martian environment), the next involved driving the rover directly (which understandably streamlined and sped up proceedings), and the last involved Steve driving the rover while collecting samples en route. He also did a human test to compare results (again, the human clocked in more impressive speeds). During this EVA, while not helping Steve, Scott also experimented some more with his angular measurements, using his theodolite app and new protractor techniques.
The second EVA explored the area west of Tharsis Montes (about 4km due north of the MDRS), in search of gypsum (the ‘drinkable rock’ that can be heated to yield water) and petrified wood. We found plenty of the former, not so much of the latter, and got some incredible views of Skyline Rim (the dried-up streambeds we were navigating were pretty spectacular as well). In practice, the search for gypsum felt almost a little too gamey – if it glinted in the sun, we picked it up. We also discovered some endolithic colonies (microbes that live beneath rocks) in the process, partially by accident.
Following Rob’s previous stint setting up the observatory’s telescope and studying the sun, today he managed to take a cool photo of the sun’s surface.
The crew also passed another cool milestone today… our first self-grown tomatoes! Scott came back from the Greenhab bearing gifts, aka the most ‘tomatoey’ tomatoes we’ve ever had. Hats off to Crew 290 for laying the groundwork – we hope to do the same for Crew 292.
Highlights of the day/yesterday: Rob’s pic of the sun, jigsaw sleuthing, tomatoes, hot beverages with dairy milk, Greenhab now has a bee.
Lowlights of the day: Illness, burned fritters, the saltiest chips imaginable.
– Alexander Tobal, Crew 291

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