The feeling of walking around on another planet is surreal and intoxicating. It is also somewhat overwhelming. Today I took part in my first EVA, and it was an incredibly memorable experience.
I joined Pierrick and Gwendal on their scheduled EVA to look for underground Martian water sources. But before you take even one step on Mars(One small step for Man, One giant leap for mankind, and all that) an exhaustive procedure of safety checks must to be completed. Every crew member wears a flight suit, boots, and gloves – along with a healthy amount of duct tape to seal the extremity gaps. Then each crew members dons a rectangular, roughly torso sized, Oxygenator backpack that is the primary life support system used while on EVA. The final piece of the equipment puzzle is a 2ft diameter plexiglass “bubble” helmet that allows each Marsnaut a 180 degree field of vision. Oxygen flows to the helmet by flexible tubes that are attached to the Oxygenator packs. You are now ready to explore another planet!
After the necessary three minute depressurization and the normal engineering checks around the Hab, we were off. The Frenchmen took Deimos (our larger rover, duly named for one of Mars’s moon) while I took one of the ATVs. After a 15 minute ride through the Martian landscape we arrived at what looked like an optimal location – a flat plain with signs of ancient water flows. G & P’s research is to use ground penetrating radar (on what looks like an ottoman sized sled you drag on the ground) that emits radio waves, at 200 mhz, into the soil. As the wave moves through the soil, it is reflected differently when it reaches each layer of soil. Water has high dielectric properties (good conductor), so when the wave passes through the ground and encounters water among the soil, this finding is sent as a unique reading to the control screen that is carried by one of the Marsnauts.
We got some partial readings that are promising, but further examination will be needed to confirm if the waves hit water or something else. You know the saying: Time flies when you’re having fun? Well that statement is just as true on Mars as it is back on Earth. Three hours after stepping out of the Hab, we were back inside the airlock waiting for the necessary three minutes of re-pressurization. Hot soup and tea were waiting for us which quickly warmed us up after being in the windy environment for 180 consecutive minutes.
After chow, the crew took our mandatory afternoon nap (as part of Commander Ilaria’s sleep study, more on that tomorrow). The rest of the afternoon was spent doing reports and planning tomorrow’s EVA. CAPCOM window is opening soon, and I can smell more food cooking. Until tomorrow, Crew 172 signing off.
Written by Nicholas McCay, Crew Journalist