Journal Entry Mars Sol 1: Earth date January 16th 2017
The weather today was stunning, deep blue clouds contrasting the red earth of the Martian landscape that surrounds the Hab, our home for the next 2 weeks. And a perfect day for my first ever EVA- to the uninitiated, that means Extra Vehicular Activity, which loosely translates as an outside expedition. We had received extensive training from both the previous crew on Saturday and from Shannon, the Mars Desert Research Station Director, so we all have the theory part down. But you can read about things, watch other people doing things or be told things, or even learn things, but nothing compares to a real experience.
The restrictions of movements whilst wearing that suit makes you appreciate how many months of training and preparation must go in to each EVA that astronauts complete. I spent the morning preparing my camera equipment and testing various devices that I could attach to my person to capture the mission as best I could. Trying to troubleshoot for any potential problems that might crop up during EVA. You take so much of your mobility for granted when you can wander aimlessly about nature, touching and photographing anything you want, for as long as you want. How can you prepare for something you have absolutely no frame of reference from which to lean on? And as you might have imagined, once I put my suit on, everything became difficult – simple camera things like being able to focus, choosing a frame size for a photo, clicking the shutter, or altering the aperture – All pretty much impossible with heavy gloves and a large glass visor between you and the eyepiece of your camera. Thankfully I brought a really good wide angle lens along with me, so once I selected my light settings, I was pretty set. But most of my shots were simply potluck. Thankfully with the beautiful light of the day, I struck gold on a few of them.
But photography aside, the experience was a special one for me. I joined Roy and Michaela on their geological field trip exploring, prospecting and sampling in the vicinity of our Hab. It’s kind of hard to explain what it felt like, except that, in my spacesuit I got a new found respect for astronauts who have completed EVA’s in space. As someone who genuinely wants to don a real spacesuit one day and become a participating member of a legitimate space mission, the EVA brought me once step closer to that reality. I gained a real understanding of how much you rely on your support team to help you in and out of the suit and to remain in constant contact with you, there for you should anything go awry while you’re outside the protection of the Hab.
And as our support crew were helping us with our suits, and we left the airlock to venture outside, I had a little moment. I know now what this feels like. I would be able to make a decent stab at an EVA on Mars if I had to. And as long as I have an awesome team around me, I could survive it. Thats nice. Thats good. Go Crew 173!
Oh and it’s my Dad’s birthday today, back home on Earth- Happy 78th Birthday Dad- hope you had a good one. We celebrated here on Mars with pancakes.
Slán go foill
Niamh Shaw Signing Off
Richard Blake: Sol 1: Neil Armstrong’s Evil EVA
After the trials of Sol 0, today was a breath of fresh air. Literally. Gone were the clouds and the rain, and in their stead, sunshine and a cool breeze. It was a day that warranted a breakfast treat of pancakes and laughter.
My own work had me spend the morning in the GreenHab, repotting prior crew’s plantings into soil, whilst the temperature quickly rose. At its peak, the GreenHab reached a sweltering 43?C. As I worked, an exclamation broke the silence “In your face Neil Armstrong!”, quickly followed by a chorus of cheers. Engineering had had a breakthrough! They had finally cracked their printing woes, getting the Hab’s 3D printer to finally start working. Our engineer, Idriss, could then start the long process of printing bricks, which is still going as I write this.
The afternoon saw three members of the crew make the first EVA of the mission. Our commander; Michaela, geologist; Roy, and crew artist; Niamh, donned their EVA suits and boldly walked where only a few thousand have already walked before. However, it was not long before they returned, boasting a number of suit issues borne of an inexperienced first suiting up. They fit the picture of See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil to a T, with Roy unable to see out of his fogged up helmet, Niamh unable to hear as her mic had fallen out of her ear, and Michaela unable to communicate with the others since her radio was not set to VOX.
After Idriss and I smoothed out the kinks with their suits, the trio once again set out to sample a few locations close to the Hab, climbing some hills and getting a whole raft of great footage of the EVA.
This evening brings with it the promise of an Israeli culture night, with a feast courtesy of our crew member Roy. Should be a ripper.
Rick Blake Signing Off
If you missed Niamh Shaw’s first Journal Entry from the Mars Desert Research Station in the Utah Desert you can read it here on HeadStuff. Sol 2 will be published Thursday 23rd February 2017.
All Photos courtesy of Niamh Shaw