Journalist Report – January 4th

Sara Paule, Crew 289 Journalist & Executive Officer
Sol 11
We awoke this morning to a surprise: snow! The landscape was completely blanketed in white and the sky in the early morning matched the ground with a thick layer of clouds. As the sun began to rise, the clouds began to thin making for a stunning sight. It was gorgeous. (And, I am still cursing setting my time lapse up incorrectly this morning such that I missed the transition from 8-9:30 am believing those images auto-captured!) A vision to behold, this snow day was not wholly welcome because the precipitation meant the cancellation of our scheduled EVA. This would have marked our eleventh EVA of mission and our very last EVA. Learning that yesterday actually proved our final EVA together as Crew 289 left us all saddened and somewhat at a loss. Beyond our rest day, each of our days was marked by balancing research at the hab, cooking and cleaning, and one or sometimes two EVAs.
We filled the day with further research, additional team bonding, and winding down our time here in the hab with the beginning of packing. As to research, Riya spent time building her CO2 sensor. She also examined the plants grown in her hydroponics set up under a microscope to investigate visually whether there was any difference between the plants exposed to hydrogen peroxide (radiation alternative) and her control plants. Eshaana was able to gather some additional data regarding the photovoltatics for her mini-farm after yesterday’s clouds foiled our attempts to characterize the shading with time lapse photography. Adriana wrapped up carbonate characterizations of her sediment samples and packed up her oysters for safe transportation back to Michigan. I was able to begin some calculations and cross-comparisons on my reporting research to better understand commonalities and differences between prior Journalist Reports and Sol Summaries. Tomorrow we will summarize our progress on our research during our time on Mars before we begin the journey back home.
On the fun side, we also played some games. The whole crew played a round of Zombie Dice, an amusing push your luck dice game where you are a zombie trying to eat the most human brains while avoiding gunshot wounds. It was quick and entertaining. Nathan beat out Adi 15 to 13 in a surprise defeat in the final round after Adi led the entire game. Fitting in a snack-sized ziplock, the transportability to fun ratio was right on. Then the crew broke out Terraforming Mars which is a substantially larger strategy game that resides in the hab games closet. Only 2 of the crew had ever played previously so learning the game and set up filled considerable time such that many opted out of gameplay. Those engaged in the game were optimistic they would be finished by dinner time, as were the rest of us and thankfully they were! It was fun to pull the game out from the cabinet and realize that the game is endorsed at the very top of the box by someone particularly important in our being able to be here at MDRS: Dr. Robert Zubrin, founder and President of the Mars Society.
We also took some time today to make use of the lower deck for a photoshoot. Donning our flight suits for the final time this mission, we attempted to capture semi-professional images of the members of the crew with packs on and helmets in hand and also versions without gear. We had a good time assisting each other to ensure collars were folded down, patches were on optimal display, and that flight suits were not weirdly bunched. I’m thankful the crew indulged me because I think we were able to have a good time. Also, those who may choose to return to MDRS or pursue other pursuits for space exploration now have themed photos to choose from for their biographies.
After the skies cleared up mid-day, melting away nearly all of the snow, we are hoping for cloudless skies tonight to do some star-gazing. Our first days at MDRS, the moon was too close to full to be able to see many stars. It lit up the whole landscape and drowned out the vast majority of starlight – a notable fact for those not used to this level of dark. (Light pollution has really changed the way that the vast majority of us experience the dark of night.) With luck and good weather, we hope we may be able to view the Milky Way tonight. Keep your fingers crossed for us.
Our time here at MDRS is rapidly coming to a close but we are still experiencing many firsts. In addition to new games and new photos, today we also experienced the heart-break of culling our rock collections. (How many pounds of rock samples is too many to take home is a very tough question!) Things are also coming full circle. Our first night at MDRS, Gabe and Adi made strawberry shortcake for the first time. They are teaming up again this evening to treat us and cement their knowledge. No one is sad about that.

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