Journalist Report – November 12th

Tues 12 Nov Sol 2
by Guy Murphy
Shane Usher and Steve Whitfield undertook their first EVAs today, on a morning excursion led by our geologist and Mission Commander, Andrew Wheeler. Larissa and Jennifer helped them get ready. The process starts with the donning of flight suits and hiking boots. The astronauts then select and test radios, and put on headsets. They are helped into their single or double piece space suits, which have internal ventilation fans that need to be activated. Once ready, the crew stand in the intermediate airlock space as a 5 minute simulated decompression occurs – a patient wait for those on each side of the airlock door. The explorers then step through the outer airlock door and onto the dusty surface to begin work.
As Greenhab Officer for the mission, I spent spent some of the day working in the outside of the main Hab. The Greenhab is a freestanding greenhouse connected by a simulated pressurised tunnel which is large enough to partially complement the diets of crew with vegetables at peak harvest time. Utah is very cold in winter, but during the day the cloudless skies quickly warm the Greenhab interior. Lights and heaters come on at night.
The operational season for the MDRS has just begun, so we are still at the planting stage. Seeds for kitchen herbs have germinated. Larger plants are in terra cotta pots. Strawberries have begun flowering. Today I planted carrot and radish seed, and soon I will sow tomatoes, capsium and rocket. Given our diet of shelf storable dehydrated food, fresh greens are a luxury on Mars. While labour intensive, it is worth the effort of cultivation. Tending the plants is an enjoyable, relaxing activity. The presence of a Greenhab Officer in each crew should ensure continuity in plant care over the operational season of the campus.
We started lunch with Larissa’s entree of vegetarian pulled pork. (Ingredients included shredded banana skins.) Steve helped prepare a pesto pasta for dinner. Soon crew will be enjoying pasta with pesto made from Greenhab grown Basil.