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2006-04-19, 2100h MST
AustroMars Mission Sol 12: “A Long-Duration geological Scouting Mission”
Today was a real hay day for three of our crew members, when Gernot Grömer, our Health and Safety Officer, acting also as EVA Commander, Christian Hutsteiner, the Flight Engineer and Alexander Soucek, the First Officer of AustroMars, took off for a long-duration geological scouting mission into the direction of Coal-Mine wash.
Two Experiments were particularly concerned, GeoMars, which is centred on collecting and classifying geological samples and Track and Trace, an experiment focussing on forward and backward contamination, the transportation of biogenic material from Earth to Mars and vice-versa. I (Norbert Frischauf) had the honour of being HabCom for this EVA, but as the EVA team was most of the time out of communication range, I could concentrate for most of the time on housekeeping and technical trouble shooting. With me in the MDRS were also Christoph Kandler, the AustroMars Mission Specialist for planetary Sciences and Markus Spiss, the AustroMars Mission Specialist for Life Sciences. As both of them had catched a minor cold at yesterday’s EVA, the flight surgeons back at the Mission Control Center in Salzburg decided that it would be better if they take a “day off”. This of course did not mean that Christoph and Markus were lying in bed, but concentrating on their scientific work, which meant that they classified and stored samples, wrote reports and stayed in contact with the Principle Investigators back in Austria.
Based on the wish list of the PIs, the EVA team conducted their geological sample survey around the two waypoints WPT 235 and WPT 239. There and along the route to the waypoint the team collected seven samples, including one core drill of 40 cm depth. Apparently one sample is very extraordinary, with a yellowish colour to it, where one immediately associates that this might be some form of sulphur – well, the scientists back home will definitely like that one a lot.
While looking for worthwhile samples, the EVA team did also a bit of scouting around, thereby identifying three peculiar places, which they added to the list of waypoints. As these waypoints are supposed to have a personal touch to them, they were consequently called “Olivia’s Rock” (Olivia is Gernot’s sweetheart) , “Hutti’s Dream” (Hutti is the nickname of Christian) and “AustroMars Gate”. Yes, it is AustroMars and not Alexander’s Gate as Alexander had already the pleasure to define a new waypoint, which he gave the name “Melanie’s Column“ (Alex’ girlfriend). At the same scouting EVA it was also up to Christoph to define a waypoint, which was named “Paul’s Sandpit” (Paul is Christoph’s 18 months old son).
While the EVA team was on its mission, I had the pleasure to shock my two crew mates in the MDRS with a simulated anomaly. MCC ordered me to simulate a little fire in the lab area in which I would burn my left hand and lower arm and would suffer from a minor smoke poisoning. The simulated accident had occurred, while I was working on life samples, as the Bunsen Brenner developed a side-flame because of a leak, igniting a nearby plate filled with alcohol and other stuff. I activated the test of the fire alarm and was positively surprised how quickly and professional my two comrades reacted. Christoph extinguished the simulated fire, while Markus started the first aid treatment. He lead me to the water tap and had me held my burnt arm for 10 minutes underneath the cold water flow. Accurately observed by our flight surgeons – through the MDRS’ webcams – Markus and Christoph performed flawlessly, including even a treatment of simulated shock, by infusion and other paramedic measures.
After this little excursion into stress-burdened on-the-spot hands-on applied paramedic treatment, the afternoon was relatively quiet. Markus and Christoh concentrated on their scientific data and reports, while I repaired the Aerobot’s structure, which had gotten damaged by a hard landing yesterday due to a unpleasant gust.
Finally the EVA team arrived again at the MDRS and after we had un-donned the suits it was time for some afternoon lunch at about 16:00. That may sound odd, but by now we have got used to live our everyday life at the MDRS in a bit more flexible way. While the wake up time is pretty strict, the rest of the day – although aligned at a carefully prepared flight plan – slides a bit back and forth, mostly defined by the needs of our exploration and scientific infrastructure. With that respect there is not too much of difference to the daily life on a sailing ship, where one is also required to quickly adapt to the needs of the ship, be it a routine activity like hoisting sails, cleaning the deck or immanent necessities, like surviving in a storm or navigating in dangerous waters in general. They say that the first Mars astronauts will embark on a mission very much similar to the ones of the famous explorers here on Earth, like Columbus, Magellan, Cook and Louis and Clark, charting unknown waters and territories. Of course the equipment has changed over the centuries, but I strongly believe that behind all these gadgets and tools it is still the human that is the deciding element. A deciding element that has to be prepared for its tasks, prepared in an as analogous environment as possible, like at the MDRS and other high-fidelity simulators…
Signing off for today
Commander, MDRS Crew 48 “AustroMars”
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