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The second week of the MARS2013 mission has gotten off to a strong start. Over the weekend, four members of the field team transferred their operations to a temporary second “landing site”, which is some 50 km south of Camp Weyprecht, the main base. The new site is named Station Payer, and the smaller group will remain there with the Aouda.X suit until Wednesday.
The purpose of establishing this smaller, temporary outpost is to explore a scenario in which a smaller research team breaks away from the mission camp to carry out scientific studies of more remote areas, just as a research team on Mars would do.
The expedition team at Station Payer spent the day taking geological samples at different locations near the site, collecting dozens of bags of mineral samples for later analysis. Analog astronaut Luca Foresta got quite a workout in the Aouda.X suit traversing the rough, hilly terrain around the station.
The remaining team members back at Camp Weyprecht carried out extended tests of the Cliff Reconnaissance Vehicle at three different locations near the camp. During the tests, the team discovered several caves in the nearby cliffs. In addition, the team worked with the Hunveyor robot, as well as with the YELLOW, MEDIAN and DELTA experiments.
The weather proved a challenge for both teams due to strong winds throughout the day, which in particular caused a moderate sandstorm in the area around Camp Weyprecht. This provided some additional realism for the mission, as sand and dust storms will be an even greater challenge for explorers on Mars, where the low atmospheric pressure means that even moderate winds can raise major dust storms lasting for a month or more.
Camp Weyprecht also welcomed a researcher from the MARS2013 partner institution The Ibn Battuta Centre in Marrakech, who will temporarily join the mission to study the occurrence of meteorites around the MARS2013 landing site.
Meanwhile, at the Mission Support Centre in Innsbruck, a new week means a new shift: New team members have come to join us, and we have said goodbye to others who had to leave. We are all of us excited about continuing the great work of the mission and the many interesting experiments that lie ahead.
About today’s experiments:
The Cliff Reconnaissance Vehicle (“Cliffbot”) is a cable-suspended rover designed to traverse and explore cliffs that are inaccessible to human astronauts. Hunveyor is a robot that can monitor local weather and environmental parameters. YELLOW tests a set of distance-finding radio transmitters that would be usable for navigation purposes. MEDIAN uses a set of nanolanders to detect and measure local sources of methane. DELTA measures the impact of wearing a spacesuit on an astronaut’s performance.
Luca Foresta, analog-astronaut in the Aouda.X spacesuit simulator on his experience today:
“It was a wonderful day here at Station Payer. I was scheduled for a MASC experiment and everything went absolutely fine. I could collect many concretions samples of different size which will be then analyzed and compared to other terrestrial sites as analog for Mars.
It was for me one of the most exciting moments so far in the MARS2013 mission. Out there, as part of a small group dispatched at distance from Camp Weyprecht, I could really feel like being on the red planet. The collection and description of samples lasted the whole day, while I slowly made my way into a small valley as suggested by the Remote Science Support group at the Mission Support Center in Innsbruck. It was quite exhausting as the ground was highly uneven and rich with rocks of considerable size, but absolutely satisfying! In two words, absolutely fantastic!”
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