Journalist Report – January 31st

Breaking out the Bubbles
Sol 10 was a fairly relaxed day. There was reduced focus on EVAs… with the crew having collected most of the samples they needed during earlier EVAs, today was more about processing what we already had.
For Andrew and Clare, this involved preparing their gypsum samples for water extraction. The samples first needed to be washed, to remove any lingering dirt and other contaminants, and then ground in a mortar and pestle. The resulting powder was then heated. This experiment, although small, yielded the amount of water expected and was generally a success.
At every step of the way, Steve also took the opportunity to spectrify the gypsum – in its dirty state, its clean state, its powdered state, and its anhydrite state (post-water extraction). This went really well, although the spectral readings of the powdered gypsum weren’t fully consistent with Steve’s previous readings of similar samples, possibly implying slight differences in chemical composition between them. The more excitable of us have named this strange new form of gypsum “Stevenite”.
Andrew and Clare also reacted their carbonate samples (or specifically, the clay matrices within the samples) with ascetic acid (vinegar) to extract carbon dioxide, resulting in some very visible effervescence. Meanwhile Rob spent some more valuable time in the observatory.
As the crew’s engineering officer, Scott alternated between spacesuit maintenance (several of the suits were having battery issues) and Greenhab duties. Apparently we have two cucumbers in the ‘soon-to-be-eaten’ pipeline, as well as a surprise new fledgling cucumber from one of the more feeble plants. We didn’t necessarily have high expectations of the cucumber plants given that they had a rough time prior to our rotation with heating issues, so as far as we’re concerned this is all a bonus – clearly they’re enjoying the steady warmth. If we don’t eat them, they’ll make a good welcome present for Crew 292.
Speaking of warmth, in half a week we’ll be flying back into an Australian summer. Alas, our time at the MDRS is steadily drawing to a close. We only have one more full day ‘in sim’ before the end of our rotation – as of 12:00 local time on 2 February, we’re free men and woman (or at least, able to leave the hab without gearing up and depressurising in the airlock). The plan is to make tomorrow count with several large EVAs.
Highlights of the day: Water from rock, discovering Stevenite, discovering dehydrated chicken, Scotty to Engineering, Rob’s epic ‘hunza’ pie, cucumber surprise, discussing volcanoes/space disasters/conspiracies, Clare’s ‘weird rock’ fizzed (in vinegar).
Lowlights of the day: Self-dissembling plant-beds, Clare apparently hates puns and the news as well, and also hasn’t watched any Futurama or Star Wars/Trek (and calls the Force “psychic powers”), spherical trigonometry.
– Alexander Tobal, Crew 291

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