MDRS-88 sol 8: Picking cotton on Mars

Oatmeal for breakfast today, immediately after which I suited up and headed out with Diego for his study on “Determination of error in biological sampling due to EVA suit constraints.” Each trial in this study consists of one test subject spending 20 minutes going over a patch of desert and identifying, photographing, counting, and taking samples of each different type of plant found there, either in a space suit (experiment) or not (control). There are 5 patches of desert and each of us is doing all of them, randomly selected as to whether each is suited or non-suited. The luck of the draw was that I was scheduled for one non-suited trial and four suited.

I did the non-suited trial at the beginning of the mission, and today I did two of my four suited trials. Man, what a pain! The gloves are the worst part. Imagine taking a photograph, writing down a brief description, breaking off a bit of plant, and stuffing it in one of several plastic bags, all wearing heavy winter gloves. (You are also juggling the camera, clipboard, and plastic bags in your hands, which is not the way I think a real biological survey would work, but that’s neither here nor there because we did it the same way in both trials.) The helmet makes it hard to see, the backpack makes it hard to balance, and all in all it’s painstaking, tedious, hard work — stoop labor on Mars. The worst part is when Diego throws all the samples away at the end of each trial (we aren’t measuring accuracy, only number of samples collected). And I have two more suited trials to do. I can really see why the astronauts in The Right Stuff despised the scientists so much.

Right after I got back from that, I joined Paul and Laksen in the lab to work on the radiotelescope. We think we’ve thrashed out a workable design for an adjustable support structure that can be constructed using the materials at hand, and when we finished work yesterday we made sure all the relevant bits were taken inside so we could do as much as possible in the lab. We got the cables measured and cut, and later today we plan to drill the holes and tie knots so that we can do an EVA tomorrow morning and just set the thing up. Wish us luck.

Lunch was canned corned beef, which looked disgusting to me, but Bianca sauteed onions and added tomato powder and spices and served it over mashed potatoes and it was pretty good.

In the afternoon I was still kind of beat from the suit study in the morning and I decided to not participate in any EVAs and take care of some other business. I backed up my computer, rearranged my Monster Bag (there’s no place to unpack it, so I’ve just been digging in it for everything I need and it’s all gotten horribly jumbled up), vaccumed the lab (just to beat back the encroaching dust a bit), and took a nap. But when I saw the cool photos and videos everyone brought back I regretted not having done another EVA today.

While everyone else was returning from their EVAs, I cooked dinner. Usually at home I work from recipes, but Bianca’s an improviser and after consulting with her I whomped up something I’d call Tofu Enchilada Style: sauteed dehydrated onions, tofu, a package of enchilada seasoning, canned spaghetti sauce, and dehydrated cheese served over a mix of white and brown rice. It was darn tasty, actually, but the real hit of the meal was the muffins Bianca made.

Our daily reports at are supposed to include photos, but they take 24 hours to be posted when it’s working and it hasn’t been working lately. In fact, we only have photos posted for 1/11 and 1/13, plus two (of the seven we submitted) for 1/14. We’ve been going back and forth with Mission Support on this, but the webmaster’s on vacation and nobody else has the necessary passwords to address the situation. Frustrating. (I’ve been posting photos on my personal blog but they’re not the same ones.)

Comments are closed.