Journalist Report – February 22th

Sol 10 – Wuthering Heights and Rainy Nights

“The rockets came like locusts, swarming and settling in blooms of rosy smoke.”

– – Chapter 10 of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Yesterday, I wrote that Mars had spared us from rain… As though summoned, it fell during the night between Sols 9 and 10. Quentin, our crew engineer, the only crew member sleeping in a mezzanine above the Upper Deck, was woken up at 4 in the morning: “The Martian winds were so strong, I thought the Hab roof would be blown away. It was extremely noisy, and instinctively I climbed down the ladder to sleep on the Upper Deck.”

In the morning, a single question was on everyone’s mind: would we be able to go out on EVA to retrieve the LOAC, which we feared had been damaged by the rain, and execute the second phase of the photogrammetry experiment? During breakfast, after our daily workout, we let out a sigh of relief: Mission Support cleared us to exit the Hab and not only retrieve the atmospheric equipment, but to go to North Ridge as planned and conduct the photogrammetry EVA. This would be my first outing as EVA leader.

After depressurizing the airlock, Alice, Corentin and I stepped outside of the Hab, exposing ourselves to the Martian winds. Upon arriving at the MegaAres site, we contacted HabCom to bitterly report that the weather station and LOAC had been toppled by the wind. The PurpleAir atmospheric sensor was also detached from the weather station mast, and mud had infiltrated the electronics compartment. It was decided on the spot to retrieve this instrument as well as the LOAC, which is still operational! The MegaAres mast is also still in its upright position. According to HabCom, a cry of victory resonated in the Upper Deck when I passed on the news.

We then proceeded to North Ridge to begin the second exploration EVA for the photogrammetry experiment. Upon arrival, we noticed the winds were much stronger, accelerating in narrow gullies. This made it very difficult to communicate, with the sound of the wind resonating around our suits and effectively drowning out our radio communications. Radio contact with HabCom was also very choppy and faint. After about 45 minutes on site and having reached 3 of the 6 checkpoints, the wind had become so strong that we were starting to lose balance. We found temporary cover, and after trying to contact the Hab, I decided to terminate the EVA and return for the safety of the crew. I found that removing my spacesuit and warming up besides the Lower Deck heater after a trying outing was the best feeling in the world… After debriefing and drinking tea flavored with fresh mint leaves from the GreenHab, we stayed gathered around the Hab table to simply talk and debate amongst ourselves, taking a necessary break from “MDRS talk”.

By early afternoon, the winds had not waned, effectively cancelling the second EVA of the day, the purpose of which being to reinstall the repaired MegaAres antenna. The whirling and thunder-y sound of the wind was almost inebriating as I stayed in the Upper Deck most of the afternoon.

Some news from the GreenHab: the aquaponic system is nominal, all fishes are still alive and well, and the plants are steadily growing. Adrien is performing daily tests on the water, checking for excesses of any substances that could deregulate the system and affect the health of the plants and fishes.

Quentin is also proud to announce that all environmental sensors are deployed within the station and operational! They will provide additional data for our human factors experiments, and be used to test an AI developed by CNES, SPooN, and students from ISAE-Supaero. AI4U, whose protocols Alexandre has started testing in the last few days, is an AI designed to assist astronauts in their tasks, which we will specifically use to assist us during mock emergency protocols.

All crew members having gathered around the dining table for the Comms window, we laughed as we speculated on what Mars could throw at us next… clearly, he still has surprises in store for us!

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