Never a dull moment on Mars...
Last night, immediately after completing our reporting, the HSO conducted a
surprise 'carbon monoxide' drill. I was pleased with the performance of the
crew, although as always there are areas which can be improved, and Vince gave a
thorough debrief afterwards.
Later in the evening I encountered the less glamorous side of life on Mars when
the toilet system failed to operate satisfactorily. Not only was it time
consuming trying to obtain an adequate flush, it is also extravagant with our
water and at night makes a lot of noise with the water pump above the crews
quarters. The HSO took charge the next morning and after a a bit of effort
reported that he had gotten the flow rate back to where it was at the start of
At our morning meeting today, the Greenhab team reported that preparation was
complete, that daily maintenance requirements should be known by the end of the
day. Carmel and Vince are to attend to that as required.
Christiane reported that the Solar cooker construction is likely to be ongoing
during the day, and I asked the other crew members to assist with then when not
engaged in other duties.
We have been advised that our new spacesuit helmets will be arriving at Mars
shortly, so I asked Dario to inspect the air hoses and neck rings so that we are
prepared if the new helmets do not come with replacements for these items.
For the afternoon I scheduled an ATV supported EVA (EVA2) aimed at more extended
gene mining sampling, for the afternoon.
At the end of our meeting, we discussed contingency plans that could be adopted
if there is a complete failure of the toilet, and have decided that a bucket
with double garbage bag be left in the shower room for emergency use if the
toilet ceases to be able to deal with solid waste.
After lunch of Onion soup (unfortunately, the instructions on the packet said
'just add onions', which made things a bit difficult with the resources we had
on Mars)we started our preparation for the afternoon EVA.
The EVA,which consisted of myself as EVA commander, Dario as navigator/steno,
plus Cyprien and Vince as scientists departed the airlock at 14:15, and mounted
the ATVs. I took ATV 4 which gave us a bit of trouble when starting, as the
engine kept cutting out when trying to put it in to gear, but with a bit of
persistence it started and we reached our first waypoint at North Fork at 14:42.
Cyprien then selected two new sampling locations on a hill at 0519276 4251514,
and a third at 0519194 4251556.
We completed the sampling at about 15:30, and then attempted to proceed to
waypoint 14205 (River bed). Our departure was slightly delayed because ATV4 was
difficult to start, but were on our way after a few minutes.
However our progress was short lived, as after about five minutes ATV4 started
to lose power, and came to a halt at UTM 0518919 4252397. This time it refused
to re-start, and to make matters worse, we were now in a communications blind
spot and unable to raise the hab.
After spending several minutes unsucessfully trying to start the ATV, I sent
Cyprien and Vincent (as EVA2) back to our previous way point as (where we did
have good communications) to act as a relay and attempt to obtain suggestions
from Carmel who was the most experienced ATV user in the crew.
At 15:59 EVA2 established communications with the hab, but the communication was
difficult and considering the time, I decided to send EVA2 back to the hab, and
return with Carmel in taking Dario's place.
The rescue team left the hab at 16:49, and after an encounter with some local
authorities who took an unexpected interest in our EVA, arrived shortly after
Carmel took a look at ATV4 and determined that it started best with having the
choke full on and then once on engine would not remain running when the throttle
was released. Due to this problem the ATV would not engage into drive without
cutting out. She was able to start the vehicle using what she referred to as a
'double brake start', where the vehicle was in drive when started. This seemed
to have provided a workaround for the problem, and we were able to commence our
journey back to the hab. It was observed that any time the problem ATV slowed or
was halted, the engine would cut out. We made it as far as the first check
point, and then our progress was halted by a failure of ATV3. ATV3 was able to
start, but it would continue to cut out, even with the throttle engaged. Double
brake start did was not effective in this case, so the towing which we thought
we had avoided with ATV4 was required for ATV3.
At 17:50, we arrived at the hab, just in time to remove our EVA gear and start
work on the days reports.
I Usually start the day wondering how I will think of something different to
write about. So far, this has never proved to be a problem.
There is never a dull moment on Mars..