Journalist Report – March 9th

Sol 16 – Another day at the office

Author: Nicolas Wattelle

Another intense day on Mars, the kind of day we will remember once we will be back on Earth.

The program: the last session of ultrasound medical surveillance for everyone, finishing up the geology work in Candor Chasma for Mathéo, Elena, Cerise, and I, repairing the HF radio transceiver… and others.

Definitely, the ultrasound experiment might be our favourite. If you are a subject, you just lie on a comfortable bed, and for the next half hour, until you become what we call “first operator”. This latter is the actual person experimenting. This person has the probe in one hand, and the phone screen with the EchoFinder app on the other.

As I described for you in Sol 2’s report, it is then like a “game”, and to win you have to make a great picture. In the crew, we almost take that as a way to challenge each other, and as you might know, Elena is always the most valuable player… And once you have checked all organs asked, measured your performance, and given your feedback on the protocol given by CNES, you are done.

You become “operator 2”, to assist operator 1’s performance measurement. And because it is finally a time to do experiments together, to talk while changing probes, to share a moment, it is always a great time.

As I said before, the crew went back in Candor Chasma, to complete documentation of the zone, which began yesterday. But, because it was the same kind of “sporty EVA” as the previous one, this one was performed by the crew members that stayed inside yesterday. We had much fewer difficulties to go to the points of interest, for the simple reason that we were wisely briefed by the Martianauts who went there, not to make the same mistakes. And more, we flew the PARROT drone several times, which allowed us to have a clear vision of our environment.

We loved this outing. Being an operator in such conditions is unique, especially when it goes well: our “laser gun”, the LIBS Z-903, worked perfectly. The weather was good, the colours were magical. Take a look at the drone shot of the day!

During the last few days, we had trouble making our antenna setup work. Our last problem was on the feed line, where a transformer decided not to deliver enough voltage for a reason we ignore. We received advice from the Toulouse radio club to solve the problem: using a car battery charger and a car battery (that we usually use for atmospheric experiments). And it worked! You might see that it looks way more “handcrafted” than before, but we safely wired it: Safety first, even before science.

It is interesting seeing us working now, we feel like living in “normality” but in fact, we do not. The sequence of activities throughout the days, the station maintenance, the experiments, the EVAs … All of this makes our daily life, and we almost do not question it… It is just when taking a step back on it that you realise concretely. We might have become real Martians!