Journalist Report – December 30st

Sara Paule, Crew 289 Journalist & Executive Officer
Sol 6
On Sunday, Mars astronauts rest, which means that Saturday is a full day when on a brief mission rotation. As such, all crew members went out on EVA today so we could conduct our seventh and eighth EVAs of mission. Ensuring we can complete our scientific objectives requires careful planning and management of personnel so that we can coordinate 1) EVAs, 2) research that needs to be conducted in the hab, and 3) normal day-to-day operations such as meals and cleaning. Eshaana a.k.a. Butter has taken point on EVA scheduling in cooperation with CO Adriana (Rocky) to manage geological sampling, LiDAR scanning, and testing of the Electronic Leaping Frog (E.L.F.) robot built by Scientist Michelin (Aditya) and the various steps along the way to get us to our final objectives.
After many days trouble-shooting E.L.F., Michelin finally got to take his baby out for a test run in the Martian terrain today. It was a moment of big anticipation for the whole crew. Shrub (Nathan) and Zinger (me) provided (moral) support. E.L.F. needed a little bit of an assist – simulating the reduced weight in Martian gravity – so Michelin and Zinger took turns feeding E.L.F. commands and gently tugging on his leash. E.L.F. performed successfully in loose rocky soil as well as on some larger rocks (~4 cm) with wheels initially in compact and then in expanded form. His true nemesis turned out to be a small desiccated plant, something he would not encounter on Mars proper, so it was a resoundingly successful first trial run, complete with astronauts crawling about to collect performance measurements. A LiDAR scan of the largest hill E.L.F. climbed will hopefully yield additional slope data at less cost to astronaut knees.
The afternoon EVA focused on geology and involved quite a bit more crawling, measuring, and also bonus digging. Rocky and Butter, assisted by Pots (Riya) and Terminator (Gabe) collected ~90 1mL tubes of sediment from Hab Ridge. Via the team’s close inspection and measurements, Rocky was able to gain a substantially improved understanding of the stratigraphy of the area. While out on EVA, Pots got to use a rock hammer for the first time ever and is now contemplating a change in career to become a geologist – not really but she did love smashing things with it. The crew at the top of the ridge also was able to capture some amazing views of the hab.
Other landmark moments in our scientific objectives include that Pots and Butter both have multipe sprouts now! The plant growth over the next week will help them measure the effects of radiation on growth and how minifarm shade affect growth of plants respectively. Pots also finished a lego and origami mock-up of her collapsible health station for use in the field. On the engineering front, Shrub was able to successfully troubleshoot the air sensor he built. While it is not yet working entirely as desired, he was able to collect CO2 data in the upper deck of the hab for the first time today. Terminator was able to determine exactly how to obtain intensity measurements for his variable star and is looking forward to graphing data points tomorrow to see how the light changes over multiple days. I also was able to make progress on both of my research projects today. The crew is using quite a few skills regularly each day – a mission like this requires a lot out of a person. Also, I now have Sol and Journalist samples from each crew over the past year to analyze and have word count data for those samples.
It is great to have accomplished so much in such a short period of time and today’s mid-mission report summary gave us a chance to reflect on what all we have accomplished to-date and to begin to plan for the next week (after a bit of a recharge tomorrow for rest day and New Year’s Eve).
It does feel like nearly everything on Mars is a chance to try something and see what works. Meals are certainly no exception. It is always hard to know exactly how much oatmeal to make and Nathan’s overestimate of yesterday yielded us breakfast for this morning, too. While EVA crew #2 was out playing in the sand, Shrub and Michelin teamed up to make some mashed potatoes and black bean burgers. They played with seasoning and both dishes turned out great. Meanwhile, I experimented with some more of the leftover oatmeal – adding chocolate chips, dehydrated strawberry dust from the bottom of a tin, brown sugar, and salt – to create an approximation of a cookie. While baking in the oven did yield a nice external crust, the inside remained a bit too moist to perhaps call the thing a “cookie” but there were no complaints about the flavor and none remaining post-lunch so the trial certainly was not a failure. For dinner tonight, inspired by the possibility of fresh basil from the GreenHab, I’ll be making savory tomato-basil pancakes. I can say, it smells delicious.

Copyright © The Mars Society. All rights reserved. | Main Site