Journalist Report by Brandon Barth
Today we ended our simulation and after breakfast we landed back on Earth to the sound of Shannon’s three dogs. After breakfast we went back out to the science Dome and had a lesson on biosignatures (signs of life). These signatures don’t have to be directly life itself but things life leaves behind (like footprints or poop-coprolites-or worm burrows). So, we looked at a lot of different examples of biosignatures and then identified them. I learned that a rising theory is that Desert varnish, which I was always taught was like sunburnt rock, is actually a biosignature, and that bacteria that are trying to survive in the desert will pull manganese out of the air and cover themselves with it like a protective coating to protect themselves from UV radiation. This hardens into the varnish but it takes thousands of years. They are doing lots of studies with it and Atila wants to do research if Lichen and Desert varnish compete, cooperate, or even know the other exists in nature?
After that we were able to go outside on about a mile hike. Along the way we picked up more rock samples and practiced identifying pieces and Shannon showed us some amazing dinosaur bones that have been discovered in the rocks of the Jurassic time period. One was a huge leg bone standing straight up about up to my waist! Truly amazing. But it was nice to have freedom outside and the weather has just been gorgeous up here. We’ve gotten so lucky since it is already November! But the air was just so fresh and crisp that even at noon it still felt like fresh morning air. We all loved it! On the way back from the hike we talked star trek and Star Wars and I loved that too!
We then decided that for lunch we would go into town (Hanksville) to the burger place called Stan’s Burger Shak (that they kept talking about) as a whole group. And along the way there we stopped at the Rockin’ Riddle Rock Shop run by a super nice lady named Kathy. I decided to buy a large piece of Coprolite, A desert Rose, A beautiful piece of Quartz Crystal, some Rose quartz, 3 beautiful smooth white stones called Chalcedony for the kids (said to bring peace and joy) and 3 small pieces of a cool stone called Kyanite (from Brazil) for the kids too. The quartz pieces and desert rose are for my wife! The poop is for me haha! But it was a lot of fun looking at all that lady’s samples. She had some petrified pine cones that were very small and going for $150 a piece! But they were awesome!
After the Rock shop is when we got lunch at Stan’s and it did remind me of another restaurant called Stan’s when I was in college. Just a good greasy burger and a big ol’ shake (I got peach cobbler, very good!). Another member of the Crew paid for all of us to eat since they felt so bad about having to sleep on the couch on the main level and not being able to go on the EVA’s and making us work more. We said it was no problem and they didn’t have to do it but they insisted. We were all very grateful.
Getting back to the HAB we made our final plan for the day which started with launching our rockets we built yesterday. We all had our rockets ready to go so after setting up the launch pad, positioning baby Yoda in the perfect spot, the countdown began! Tracy launched her rocket first and it was a perfect take off and her parachute deployed. The wind was blowing a little bit so her rocket blew over the ridge but it was easy to retrieve it. Everyone else went in sequence but only a total of 3 rockets had their parachute deploy. David’s rocket did a perfect nose dive into the soft sediment in the hill by the Hab, but Shannon told him not to retrieve it since she didn’t want more erosion on that hill. So, it will be a reminder to others of the dangers of space travel. Those that were able to retrieve their rockets were able to do a second launch and we all had a lot of fun! We got a bunch of group pictures to round out the event.
Before the sun went down, we got permission to go out and explore one more time. Five of us went out in three rovers and went south down the road until we passed the rock called the squirrel where we turned off the main road and drove west on a quest to find what we affectionately call “purple galaxy rock.” We were all very successful and all of us found our own pieces plus some for those that stayed behind. We stayed out for about an hour until the gnats started getting us and then headed back for the Hab.
Upon arriving back at the Hab we all moved our cars back in front of the building, loaded up our rocks that we all had collected and then made cleaning assignments. Let the cleaning begin! We all worked very hard and effectively and are all ready to go to finish off the final little things in the morning. We ended the night by talking out our biosignature lesson ideas from what we learned earlier and then typing up our summaries of our experience here on Mars, and what a great experience it was!