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2006-04-16, 1900h MST
AustroMars Mission Sol 9: “Geology, Biology and Exploration after all”
Only five sols to go, it is incredible how quickly time can fly when one is in the MDRS. Today saw the first real planned anomaly by the Mission Control Center (MCC) in Salzburg, a solar radiation storm that forced us to take shelter in the airlocks in the afternoon. Sitting there for two hours, we thought on the whole mission and then we decided to give it in its last five sols a completely new spin.
But before that another EVA had to be undertaken, this time devoted to GeoMars and Track and Trace, an experiment centred on forward and backward contamination that is the transportation of biogenic material from Earth to Mars and vice-versa. HabCom for this EVA was assessment Christian Hutsteiner, our Flight Engineer, at least for the beginning and the end, as in the middle we had to repair the MDRS’ roof together with Markus Spiss, the AustroMars Mission Specialist for Life Sciences. A small part of the tent-like structure had got caught be the strong wind, most likely due to a broken upper ring on the shell. The danger was that the wind would slowly tear the whole roof apart, so quick action had to be taken to fix the material to the structure. This action was performed by our “special forces” team, Christian and Markus, whereby we could make good use of Markus’ profession as mountaineer at the Tyrolean mountain rescue service, since he was pretty much exposed on the MDRS’s roof. The whole exercise lasted for about 1 hour and finished successfully thereafter.
In the meantime, the EVA had started, leading us (Gernot Grömer, the Health and Safety Officer — acting as EVA Commander, Christoph Kandler, the AustroMars Mission Specialist for planetary Sciences and myself (Norbert Frischauf) to the south of the MDRS, driving along Lovell Highway to our first waypoint at the White Rock Canyon. While Christoph was taking samples, strongly supported by Gernot, whose spacesuit was adapted for forward contamination measurement by three patches prepared with micro-spherules, I could only participate in a limited way, as I was an experiment in itself — the “Track and Trace backward contamination probe”. As I stood there, acting mainly as photographer, I looked mostly like a silvery shining Michelin man or as an alien from the 70’s. Covered in an all-body silvery gown above the analogue suit, I was mostly immobilised because of this sterile armament. All this was necessary to make sure that our scientists way back in Austria would afterwards b!
e able to quantify backward contamination. To do so I had eight biological sample collection patches attached to my silvery space suit, which would during the whole duration of the EVA collect every bacteria, spore and fungus that would come along the way, hitting one of the patches.
When I said armament before I meant that literally, as moving in this suit was extremely difficult, especially because I wanted to make sure that both I would not loose any patches or tear the suit apart. Having learned from the first track and Trace EVA we fixed the bio-sample collectors with additional tapes, to not loose anyone. This strategy worked and so when the EVA had finished I still had all the collectors on, Track and Trace was therefore from this perspective a major success, as was GeoMars itself, since we were able to obtain 7 samples, including one 55 cm deep drill. The biggest issue in the silvery space suit was the thermal balance, as there was nearly no ventilation inside, cooling was very minimised. It was somehow strange; outside was a strong storm and inside I couldn’t feel anything beside that the wind was sometimes so strong that I was close to get blown away because of the bulky space suit.
While Christian was occupied fixing the roof, Alexander Soucek, the First Officer, acted as HabCom.
In the afternoon MCC ordered us into the airlocks to take shelter from a solar storm, which had been detected already yesterday passing by Earth and was supposed to hit us for approximately two hours in a somewhat weaker form.
There in the airlock we reflected on the AustroMars Mission. Looking on the things that went well and not so well, carefully the scientific results we have achieved so far, we thought that the last remaining 5 sols should be devoted primarily to the one goal, for that humans have gone to the Moon and will once set foot on Mars — Exploration.
The target is already set. We have a clear strategy in mind. Now all that we need to define is the way. When I have finished this report, all six of us will get together to define roles, responsibilities and immediate actions to maximise our chances for success. This mission we have embarked upon for the last remaining sols is supposed to reaffirm the spirit of AustroMars once again.
Signing off for today
Commander, MDRS Crew 48 “AustroMars”
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