Journalist Report – March 5th

SOL 16: Sometimes you need to know how to start again…

“Actually, it wasn’t that those things, in themselves, revealed anything at all; it was just that people, looking at what was occurring around them, could find a means of penetration to the Soul of the World.” – The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

The morning was very busy for the Crew! We performed various cognitive assessments, in different modules, for the Orbital Architecture experiment. The aim is to study our performances in different places of the station. For this experiment, we are also wearing different sensors. For example, one of them indicates our location thanks to anchors that Lise placed everywhere in the station at the beginning of the mission. We need to turn them on in the morning and save data at the end of the day. We also have a Polar Band, placed around our chests, with a cardiac sensor. We wear it during the day, and Crew members that aren’t bothered by it keep wearing it during the night. All data will be collected by a researcher coming from KTH University leading the experiment. Finally, we also wear smart watches. They collect a large amount of data, especially about our sleep. At first, it was a bit tricky to get used to all these devices. After 16 Sols, we don’t feel them anymore. All these sensors are not that stringent for us, especially because we know that the scientific data will be used for interesting research!

Léa, our Crew astronomer, received this morning the pictures she took during the night thanks to the robotic Observatory. It is the first time since the beginning of the mission that she’s satisfied with her pictures. It is not that easy to do astrophotography! She processed data and obtained a beautiful picture of the M-42 nebula! Now that she understands better how it works, she’s hoping for other pictures to show us!

Today, we had a setback for our photogrammetry experiment. Let’s resume the events. We performed the experiment at North Ridge last week, to compare the performances of two teams: one with a 3D map generated thanks to the drone’s pictures, the other with a classic 2D map. The photogrammetry at North Ridge was a success, and we wanted to do it again this week in a second site called Candor Chasma. Thus, Yves, Mathurin and Leo went there to take drone’s pictures yesterday. They thought that the more they take photos, the more precise the 3D map will be. It is why they took 1400 pictures yesterday, versus 650 pictures last week. Even though they were happy about their photogrammetry, they were worried about the fact that the map could be more complicated to generate. How to explain? In the middle of the scarlet desert, stands North Ridge, chiselled by the wind, draped in the usual Martian red but also yellow, green, and white. Although massive in size, North Ridge is not as intimidating as mountains on Earth can be. By its gentle slopes and round shapes, North Ridge is an invitation to climb, guided by the colour gradients of its flanks. Filled with cracks and canyons, with a good visibility everywhere, it was the perfect place for photogrammetry. Candor Chasma, on the other hand, is a scar fracturing the ground. As deep as North Ridge is high, the canyon surrounds you with its sinuous walls, pierced from all sides, like a river joined by its affluents. Angles and sharp turns make for a reduced visibility, making it not a perfect place for photogrammetry. And after 11 hours of the computer processing pictures, the software gave us a map that was not satisfying us… Some points were not located at the right place, which distorted the map. Yves and Mathurin immediately thought of starting again the process by going back to Candor Chasma and tried to organize an EVA for this afternoon! This would have enabled us to not completely change our EVA planning, but this demand wasn’t accepted by Mission Support. We rescheduled the future EVA so Leo, Yves and Mathurin could go to Candor Chasma with the drone tomorrow. It was the first time that rescheduling had a direct impact on the end of our mission, which made us realize that we’ll have to leave the station in a few days… Yves and Mathurin then spent their afternoon trying to understand how to improve their photogrammetry for tomorrow, so they won’t encounter the same problems anymore. Indeed, it is a complex subject and nobody in the Crew is an expert on it. They read documentation and made some hypotheses about the map’s errors. They have developed a new strategy thanks to these conclusions. Tomorrow, Mathurin will pilot the drone. Yves and Leo will follow the drone and guide Mathurin to better cover the area. That way, Mathurin will be able to focus only on the photos and we hope the map will be better!

Despite this event, which mobilized a lot of our Crew’s grey matter, the afternoon was calm. For example, Léa carried on working on the 3D printer, to try and make it work, while Leo and I were playing chess!

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