Journalist Report – May 19th

Journalist Report 19 May 2017

Prepared by Janet Biggs, Crew Co-Journalist

Sol 6

Cassie, Olly, Charlie, and I all woke up at the crack of dawn to catch the sun rise on EVA.  We were suited up and out the airlock by 6 am.  The light was incredible, and for a few short minutes we all basked in the first glow of the sun.  Cameras out and running, the sun made its appearance over the Martian horizon to great fanfare.  And then it all went dark … well, not really dark, but cloudy.  Between the cool temperature outside (which was perfect for Charlie’s thermal imager), and us moving about, our breath caused intense condensation inside the helmets.  For all intents and purposes, we were blind.  If someone moved more than 5 to 10 feet away from you, even in our bright orange spacesuits, they would vanish from sight.  We all valiantly kept filming and shooting, just pointing our cameras in different directions, hoping another crewmember or a stunning view was out there.  Lucky for us, the Martian landscape presents a wealth of stunning views, so we all came back with at least a couple good shots.

The early rise was especially hard as we’ve been enjoying movies at night.  Last night was Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind … none of us remember it being quite that long.  Post-EVA, Cassie and I crept back into our staterooms for a little more shut eye, leaving Charlie and Olly to solve the problems of the worlds, our new one and the one we left behind on Earth.

Once everyone was up and moving (for the second time, for some of us) we settled into our projects while Juan wrestled up something in the kitchen (after wrestling yet another massive Martian bug in his stateroom!)  We have found winged extraterrestrials that like to dwell in our staterooms.  We also discovered that we had some stowaways on our spaceship.  Our fellow mousetranauts took up residence in the Hab alongside us, but eventually (with a bit of convincing from crew 181) have moved on to settle a new Mousetian colony of their own.

Before lunch, the Hab filled with the smell of cut wood … and then the smell of burning wood.  Avishek was constructing a model.  Unfortunately, many of the tools here at the Hab are showing their end of the season usage and burn through the wood rather than cut it.

After lunch (from Juan … mac and cheese, rehydrated peas) we participated in one of Avishek’s projects.  He’s interested in designing an ideal Martian habitat.  We were all too willing to contribute ideas, everything from sound proofing insulation between the staterooms and gray water recycling systems, to goats and a swimming pool. 

I’ve been dying to use the observatory!  It was no easy feat to pass the test required to become crew Astronomer so I now want to flex my astronomy muscles.  It’s been so windy and cloudy that I haven’t been able to try any viewing and imaging.  Yesterday, during a calm moment, I went out to familiarize myself with the observatory.  I opened the top of the observatory, which slides open to reveal the sky, and then tried the rotating mechanism.  It clicked and clicked, but no movement.  I restarted the power and tried again, still to no avail.  I emailed Peter, my astronomy ground support back on earth.  He thought it sounded like a dead battery.  Charlie brought the voltage checker out and after checking voltage and consideration of the two replacement batteries that were both low, we swapped the stronger one in and let it charge for a bit.  We now have a rotating dome!  Now we just need a clear, calm night.

Avishek, Cassie, and I had an interesting discussion about the relationship between art and science and interdisciplinary approaches to space as well as to problem solving in general.  Avishek is creative and worries that a life in the sciences will not fulfill him the way a life in the arts might.  He wants to find a way to combine both the left and right sides of his brain.  Cassie and I talked about personal rewards and the freedom art gives you, the ability to pursue, really, whatever you want.  Both of us accept our role of being outsiders or witnesses, but strongly appreciate opportunities like MDRS where we are active participants and can engage in differing methods of research and implementation.

This evenings EVA was an all artist event.  We were on foot and willing models for each other.  Very productive for all.  Sadly, our honorary crew member, Olly will be leaving us, heading back to the UK (which is a long journey from Mars).  We look forward to keeping in touch with him upon his return to Earth … in about seven months.