Journalist Report – February 21st

SOL 3: Story of an EVA

“He had decided, the night before, that he would be as much an adventurer as the ones he had admired in books.” – The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

In the morning of Sol 3, The ambient concentration is almost palpable. We know that today, we’ll have a lot of work: we are going out on an EVA in the Martian atmosphere to deploy the atmospheric instruments. The experiment will provide data to researchers about the atmosphere, concentration and size of particles in the air, and electric field. The instruments are fragile and difficult to build. This is a high stakes EVA. We gather in the Upper Deck. The seven of us are seated around the table, listening to Léa, the EVA leader. She sent an EVA request yesterday during our Coms Window, approved by Mission Support. She takes us through every step of the EVA. Leo and I, who are part of the EVA Crew, are listening carefully to what we’ll have to do. Mathurin will be our HabCom: he’ll stay in the station, and we will be communicating with him throughout the EVA to make sure we don’t forget any steps of the deployment. Lise, Yves and Marie are here too, their help might be useful in case a problem occurs.

Once the explanations are understood by everybody, we go down to the Lower Deck. The EVA starts in 30 minutes, and we must equip three astronauts. We’re going to use Suits number 2,5 and 6. They are checked to see if there are no and if they are powered. This morning, after our daily sport session, we decided to wear warm and comfortable clothes. Over them, we put on our black space suits, protecting us from the hostile Martian atmosphere. We are helped by the rest of the crew to get equipped. There are a lot of steps, they are all very important: we want to be as protected as possible outside of our base. Marie is helping me put on my harness, useful to store and maintain a radio and a location tracker. On my right, I see that Yves has already equipped Léa with her full COMS kit. Each Crew member has one kit, containing all the necessary equipment to communicate while being on an EVA. It has a radio, a microphone, a headband to keep the microphone in place, and a wipe to clean our helmets. Nearby, Lise has just finished equipping Leo with Suit 5, well secured and resembling a large backpack, and she’s putting his helmet on just after cleaning it. When it is well adjusted, she closes the helmet. We are all three equipped the same way, a pair of gloves hermetically closing our equipment for the next three hours. Mathurin and the three astronauts test communications, and Mathurin informs Mission Support of the beginning of the EVA; the countdown has officially started.

Even though we’re aware of the importance of the mission and well-focused to succeed, the mood is still joyful. With the first aid kit, water and all the required equipment, we’re heading towards the airlock. We are happy to perform this EVA together, after such a long preparation. We’re communicating with our HabCom through radio, in English. After five minutes of depressurization, we can go out and tread the Martian soil. We drive slowly with two rovers, loaded with the atmospheric instruments, to go to the chosen deployment site.

Once we arrive on the site, we take out all the equipment from the trunk of the rovers. There are two instruments, and a lot of steps to deploy each one. Leo and Léa are screwing the supporting rods together, I am maintaining the mast. We spend 30 minutes on the first screw. With gloves and suits, everything is slower and harder, small pieces kept falling from our hands. For the next screws, we are a bit faster. The first instrument, Mega Ares, is deployed. We try to sink fixations in the ground, to make Mega Ares resistant to Martian winds. But we have a problem: Martian soil is way harder than we thought… At each step, we keep the HabCom informed of what we’re doing. Then, when the supporting rods are finally in place, we move towards the second instrument, LOAC. This time, we just have to fix it to the ground, but it is not working well… We choose to prevent LOAC from falling thanks to rocks that we found nearby. Everything seems well attached, we make some tests on the instruments, and everything is nominal. We take a picture to send to researchers during the COMMS window. We are very happy, the pressure starts to slowly alleviate. We had no problems, or few, to which we found solutions thanks to good teamwork. We drive back with our rovers towards the station.

During the five minutes of the recompression in the airlock, I smile behind my helmet, proud and glad of how well the EVA went. We join the rest of the Crew, waiting impatiently on the other side of the airlock door. They all have a huge smile on their faces, and they are welcoming us back with a little bit of food and water, we appreciate it a lot. They help us to take off our equipment, we eat. This EVA was long and challenging, with precise and technical actions to perform. We are exhausted but we laugh while recounting our misadventures. We debrief all together while eating a ratatouille cooked for lunch. Proud, happy, relieved: the day can continue with calmer activities, like the successful setup of the AMI platform!

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