Today we went EVA and I had my first opportunity to implement my research program. After helping out our Executive Officer and Engineer, Alexandre, with some soil sampling as a part of his research goals, I set to work collecting soil samples in the hillside immediately west of the Hab. A decision was made after the EVA on Monday to collect samples from a gulley that I discovered in between the hills that I thought may provide a thick enough substrate to deploy my gas vapor probe.
In geologic terms, I discovered that the lateral continuity of the Morrison Formation’s Brushy Basin Member extended to a shallow depth beneath my proposed drilling location. In laymen’s terms, I hit bedrock at 9 inches beneath the surface, far too shallow to deploy my probe and gather meaningful results. I attempted at another location nearby that I thought might yield more productive results but to no avail.
Post-EVA lab analysis of my core samples confirmed that the top layer of dirt overlaying bedrock is just weathered shale from the surrounding hillsides and didn’t contain a trace of visible organic material, as I had found in some of the samples I collected on Monday to the southwest of the Hab.
At the end of the EVA, the crew traversed to the east and I visited the next closest proposed drilling location I had selected sight-unseen before coming to MDRS, a location I called SVP-4. The site is near the confluence of two dry creek beds and both the presence of gravel/sand at the surface and plants growing in the dry channel are promising indicators I might get closer to
reaching a desired 2-4 foot depth to deploy the vapor probe. At the earliest, I’m slated to visit SVP-4 with my equipment on Friday, however I will be visiting a similar setting tomorrow. I have high hopes for the site I will be visiting tomorrow, but the results may impact whether or not I visit SVP-4 again. Tomorrow’s location, SVP-1 is not visible from the Hab, and the rocky hills surrounding it seem a foreboding obstacle, but scattered plantlife near the dry creek holds promise
I can reach depth. If not, I have already begun scouting out new locations to drill. Perhaps the closest target of interest is a small alluvial fan coming off the flanks of what other crews have dubbed “Picard Butte” about a mile northeast of the Hab. Its distance will necessitate the use of the ATV’s and I’m
figuring out what equipment I can bring and will need to leave behind to accommodate this trek. The ATV trail conveniently crosses the alluvial fan so I may seek out additional targets, such as Tank Wash, along the roadway to maximize the use of time spent on the vehicles.
Other than geological obstacles, the technical feasibility of a longer-term study at FMARS seems promising and no equipment issues were discovered today. Sample collection went smoother and a more concise naming scheme will allow for additional analysis of the samples back on Earth if needed.