Sol 4 – “HabCom, do you copy?”
“You are a Martian!” The man smiled. “The word is not familiar to you, certainly. It’s an Earth expression.”
– – Chapter 4 of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
This morning, Mars offered us clear skies and biting cold: the weather station read -17°C at 6:45 when we woke up! As we were beginning to complete our daily surveys and health check, still half asleep, the power suddenly went out. Jérémy immediately contacted Mission Support, who responded quickly, and the power came back a few minutes later, though enough time passed for us to start to feel the cold seep through the Hab walls… and give us a taste of what awaited out there in the Martian atmosphere! The EVA to install MegaAres being scheduled in the morning, we regularly checked the temperature as we got ready. By 10am, we had reached -10°C! Warmly dressed and equipped with our spacesuits, Alexandre, Corentin and I stepped into the airlock for depressurization, led by Quentin, our HabCom.
This was the crew’s first high-stakes EVA science-wise, and we were all aware of the importance of this experiment: the MegaAres antenna is supposed to stay in place during the entire mission to collect data on the electric field of the Martian atmosphere. After collecting all the parts and tools in the engineering airlock, and loading everything into the rovers, the unexpected happened, as always. Alexandre, our EVA leader, lost radio contact with us. Fortunately, we were still close to the Hab and could return to the airlock, pressurize, and re-equip Alexandre. We then headed to the chosen site and worked as hard as we could to make up for the lost time. I started feeling more intensely what we had all noticed during our training EVA: exertion arrived much more quickly when performing the simplest actions required by the installation of the antenna, such as kneeling, standing up, even grabbing a tool… Every single movement was impeded by the thickness of our gloves, the impreciseness of our movements, the weight of our equipment. It took us half an hour to insert two screws and adjust the correct nuts…
Nevertheless, we succeeded! The antenna is upright, sitting on its four “legs” on the metal mesh serving as the electrical system’s ground. We can even see it from the Hab! And to the Hab we returned, exhausted but quite content. After debriefing the EVA over some lunch prepared by Alice, a nap was deemed necessary, and approved by our Crew Scientist who had even thought of including it in the original schedule. But there was no time to waste : tomorrow, another EVA to the same location is scheduled to set up a weather station! Quentin, Jérémy and Alexandre spent their afternoon preparing, while the others worked on their various tasks in the Hab. In the persisting cold, the generator is struggling to keep some of the appliances up and running. We are currently running the Coms window, gathered around scavenged flashlights! Luckily, the heater is still working miracles…
This first week, on which rests the correct implementation of our main experiments, is stressful for all of us, but we are still in great shape!