Journalist Report – February 13th

Sol 9: Rocking and Rolling

The Mangalyatris woke up to the smell of blueberry pancakes that Annalea and I cooked this morning. We took it slow and easy as we knew that today included a big EVA as well as all of us trying to start to wrap up our research. Our breakfast conversation revolved around the possibility of another, future, research project here at MDRS focusing on materials science and engineering that would allow for more recycling of materials like aluminium and plastic. The crew was also a bit shocked to learn that “biodegradable” wipes are only biodegradable at certain conditions (specific temperatures and pressures and sometimes even specific microbial communities). We also talked about the importance of both creative people and scientists and engineers working together in the design of spaces to be used for science or engineering, to make workspaces equally beautiful and functional.

After breakfast, our crew split up to do various work. Rajvi and I worked in the Science Dome, putting different sized fractions of crushed concretions into vinegar to test for the presence of carbonates in both the concretion and the matrix. While both contained carbonates (indicated by fizzing in the vinegar), the matrix definitely fizzed more, and it is probable that the larger size fractions (the concretions, themselves) still contained some matrix. I also showed Rajvi that you can sometimes test for carbonates by just pouring the vinegar onto rocks and listening, though sometimes this can be mistaken for a liquid seeping into the pores of the rock. Also in the Science Dome were Daniel and Annalea. Annalea continued to draw rock samples, today focusing on honeycomb weathering. This morning, Daniel did a targeted PCR to identify various microbes in samples.

Back at the Hab Aditya was doing another analysis of images from the robotic telescope of the Crab Nebula. Mehnaz was cleaning data to code and analyse weather and evapotranspiration rates.

It didn’t take long before it was lunchtime. The EVA crew (Annalea, Bharti, and myself or ‘ABC’) had a quick bite to eat before heading off on our longest EVA yet. We all chose to wear the one-piece suits, and our reviews are in: we LOVE them! Today’s EVA went to Candor Chasma and what a treat! We saw the contact between the Brushy Basin Member and the Salt Wash Member of the Morrison Formation, as well as the contact between the Morrison Formation and the Summerville Formation. It was gorgeous geology and very different to anything close to the Hab. The EVA crew were a little put off by the mountain lion paw prints (with claws out) that were closely following antelope tracks, and then the discovery of mountain lion scat. We didn’t really worry about that while looking at such amazing rocks. However, when heading back to the rovers, Bharti and Annalea were sure they saw something moving up on a ridge, and claimed it to be a mountain lion, despite not actually seeing anything but vague movement. It was a little disconcerting to hear all this over the radio while they sat in their rover and I was continuing to walk to mine, but I heard and saw nothing, and we all came home in one piece!

During the EVA time, Aditya continued his image analysis, and Mehnaz continued to code back at the Hab as well as looking after the GreenHab. Daniel continued working in the Science Dome made up media and inoculated it with samples from yesterday, another targeted PCR for yesterday’s samples. Daniel also taught Rajvi how to use his Bento Lab equipment so she too could learn how to extract DNA and run a gel electrophoresis. Rajvi also continued this morning’s work by hammering, crushing, and sieving a different sample of concretions for carbonate testing, but will need to continue working on it tomorrow. Daniel also taught Bharti how to do the same after the EVA today.

The night is ending with Rajvi making us pizza with the help of the rest of the Mangalyatri Crew! We’re very excited about how it turns out.

Learning from what’s around us (both people and rocks),

Clare Fletcher (292 Mangalyatri Journalist)

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