Archive for January 18th, 2010

MDRS-88 sol 9: The music of the spheres

It’s very hard to believe that we are now more than halfway done with our mission. We arrived at MDRS last Saturday and the next crew will arrive this Saturday. We have been working 18-hour days, so we’re pretty tired, but we’re still excited and we have plenty more to do before we head back to Earth. But the Best Western in Grand Junction is going to feel like the Ritz.

It being Sunday today, we decided not to have our morning briefing at any set time but just to sleep until we woke up. I woke up around 7:30 anyway. We’d turned the heat down last night because it was over 75 degrees F upstairs, but in the morning it was 41 degrees F downstairs. I needed to go to the bathroom, which is downstairs, but I hesitated at the top of the stairs like a cat at the door on a cold day.

Before breakfast I had to go into the EVA prep room to check out something that had been bothering me during the night. We discovered recently that the new radios we just got are much easier to use if you attach them to your suit with a belt clip instead of tucking them in a pocket, but I didn’t know if we had clips for all of them. But after I looked in a few places I found the clips for all six. I also verified that they were all properly turned off and charging — it’s really easy to drop them in the charger in such a way that they don’t actually make contact.

Breakfast was oatmeal with dehydrated mandarin oranges. Over breakfast we talked about how much we wished we’d had some kind of simple, up-to-date one-page checklist and troubleshooting guide for our most important procedures, rather than the detailed and, unfortunately, obsolete manuals we have. I responded to this challenge like a good technical writer and quickly whomped out one-page Quick Guides for the ATVs, radios, and webcams. Quick Guides for the power and water systems will follow as soon as possible.

In the latter part of the morning Laksen, Paul, and I continued setup of the radiotelescope, working mostly in the rover garage. Most of this work consisted of measuring out nylon ropes, tying knots, and drilling holes. We got just about ready to set up the masts when it was time for lunch. I snarfed some ramen noodles (amazingly, Steve didn’t know what they were — I thought every college student in America lived on them) and then headed back out with Paul to continue work, while Laksen and Bianca took off on an EVA to do GPS tracking and photo geotagging of all the trails around the hab. Paul and I got the four masts erected, the guy wires loosely wrapped around the stakes, and the antennas attached to the masts. The adjustable masts are currently at their lowest point, 10′ high, because we don’t have the coaxial cable necessary to reach the antennas at the 20′ height we need to pick up radio signals from Jupiter at this point in its year, but at least we could check out the antennas and make sure they work. And they do! We picked up a signal that seems to be varying with the time of day as the sun’s signal would be expected to do. It sounds like static, but it’s the music of the spheres.

We’d planned a fossil-hunting EVA in the late afternoon, but the geotagging EVA got back later than scheduled and we didn’t think there would be time to reach the fossil bed and return before dark. I was disappointed, but then Paul and Laksen invited me along on a second GPS run, looking for a trail the first run had failed to find. We did manage to find and tag the trail, and I had a fun time on the ATVs and saw some spectacular scenery. Thanks guys!

Dinner tonight will be Kung Fu Chicken, the first dehydrated meal we had and still the tastiest we’ve tried. We’ve all worked up a good appetite today and we’re really looking forward to it.