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It’s been a clear, cold day on Mars— so we clustered around Commander Nick Jewell’s pancake breakfast to plan how we’d take advantage.  The EVA achieved a comprehensive test of the prototype suit, and a thorough exploration of the NorCal’s navigation, terrain-handling and photographic abilities.  Commander Susan Jewell and Engineer Cocchiara concluded that the new prototype is much more comfortable and functional than expected, especially when worn while operating ATVs.  This is a very design-minded crew, and HSO Giammona’s suggestions for expanding the suit’s functionality to include taller crewmembers, with telescoping parts and a hinged helmet, is a great example.  Meanwhile, the rover followed the suit test and took many attractive snapshots.  Engineer Cocchiara then initiated a terrain-handling sequence for the rover during which it drove at higher speeds, ascended and descended challenging topography, and attempted to map the range of battery and wifi signal.  HSO Giammona and myself, who were remotely operating from inside the Hab, noted the NorCal’s ease of use and hardy capabilities.

After EVA, Commander Nick Jewell greeted crewmembers with a smashing pulled BBQ chicken and stuffing lunch.  I do not have empirical data to support this thesis, but trust me, this was the fastest that a meal has been consumed to date.  It was a nice way for Commander Jewell to conclude his leadership role, as he has officially handed over Commandership to his sister, Emmy Jewell after lunch— whose first official act was to declare the Tin Foil Hat Challenge, OPEN!  We worked in tireless synchronicity for the better part of an hour, became absorbed by our hats’ associated characters, and attacked the catwalk.  Not to  and strain journalistic subjectivity, but I am glad to report that I totally owned this one.  Always pack a tin foil mustache.

Last night’s report from the Musk Observatory: Astronomer Stoltz and Commander Emmy Jewell practiced two-star alignment to achieve better telescope calibration, and then had a close look at Jupiter. The plan for tonight is to bring the telescope camera fully online.  The ability to use this excellent telescope is certainly one of the high points of our mission (also our mutual appreciation for competitive gaming).  Astronomer Stoltz is hard at work making the operations manual into a comprehensive, accessible document so that future Crews can use it as well.

As our comrades from Crew 158 will be leaving us on SOL 6, Saturday, I’d like to introduce you to them.  Thus, for the next few days, I’ll dedicate a paragraph to each of the Jewell family.  We’re very lucky to have been joined by Crew 158 and it’s been a great experience to hear their perspectives.

This morning, Commander Susan and I spoke about her many experiences here at MDRS, her long-time involvement in analog Mars missions, and several deeply held convictions about medicine, space research, and exploration.  She is a courageous lady with many abilities.  I’d like to mention her work in the use of complimentary, non-Western modalities of medicine, such as acupuncture, yoga, and meditation, as a focal lens for making Mars research of immediate service here on Earth.  Commander Susan is especially interested in implementing this work in extreme climatic zones, such as the Antarctic and Himalayas.  

Pictures today come courtesy of the NorCal rover!