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Acting MDRS CDR Report – Haritina Mogosanu
Crew had an early start at 7:30. The highlight of the day was the collection of the Earth Master Sample by Commander Jon Rask and Mission Specialist Randall (Randy) Dunning during their EVA to perform the SediChem experiment.
Concretions, which were the target of the SediChem experiment, could also be observed on Mars. They are generally signalling the past presence of water in that area. On Earth, they are formed often by the precipitation of a considerable amount of cement around a nucleus which is quite often organic, for instance a leaf or a fossil. Mars seems to be rich on concretions as well, also known by their nickname “blueberries”. The Martian blueberries are abundant in hematite – which is a mineral form of iron.
Scientists are getting very excited when they find concretions as they are indicators of either past presence of organic material and definitely of water. However they can also be formed from volcanic activity and so a scientist has to always consider all possible hypotheses when they are looking to understand how things formed on another place, especially one so remote as Mars. That is why it is very important that the people who collect the samples and the people who analyse them work together very closely in missions like this one. Most importantly is that the field scientists know what to look for in the immensity of a field and choose the samples that are most relevant for study.
This is the reason why, trying to understand Mars geology our closest “practice” lab is here on Earth, in places like MDRS, Antarctica, Morocco and many other that are considered analog to places in our Solar System.
Today Jon and Randy took pictures and collected samples at the site for our science team which will further analyse their composition and figure out how they were formed. The concretions near MDRS are small but hard and compact sedimentary rocks. They look mostly spherical or ovoid and are formed by the precipitation of the mineral cement within the spaces between the sediment grains. One last interesting detail is that the word concretion comes from the Latin “concrescere” which means to grow (crescere) together (con).
The team proceeded also to collect the Earth Master Sample, which proved to be not just your usual stone. The sample, according to Commander Rask, is “a piece of petrified wood, red like the planet Mars and proof that Earth’s biology is embedded within Earth’s geology”.
With this one last task done, Commander Rask returned to Earth, departing around lunchtime and handed over the hab to the rest of the crew. With one more day to go, the crew prepared very carefully and rehearsed the tasks for tomorrow when three analog astronauts teams will work together connected in a simultaneous interplanetary link by our great Mission Control at Innsbruck in Austria.
Just after lunch, the greenhab was reorganised by Jean Hunter and Haritina (Hari) Mogosanu, since the unusually high temperature today prevented the crew from performing any D-Trax experiments, which would have required them to be suited up. Just after that, Hari, Patricia (Tricia) Smedley and John Barainca (visiting from The Mars Society) went up in the orbit at Mesa Farm Cafe to acquire the new seeds for the greenhouse, which are to be planted tomorrow for the next field season at MDRS.
Tricia finalised the settings at the MDRS’s famous Musk Observatory that will allow students from around the world to connect remotely and take pictures of the beautiful night sky of Utah with all the celestial objects that are to be found at this latitude. As a resident of the Southern Hemisphere, I appreciate very much this opportunity as many Messier Objects are specific to the Northern Hemisphere and this will allow all students to enter the Messier competitions which are held around the world – to only count one great feature.
Jean, once again, prepared a regal dinner that was made of cheese biscuits, rice, freeze dried broccoli, chicken “a la King” and Carribean coconut bread. We are very lucky to have had the chance to be in the presence of the MDRS Food Study Lead, who accepted to be part of the World Space Week MDRS simulation. Jean has wonderful stories to tell about the food, that she says “it touches on all three of kinds of problems that we have to solve to go to space. Firstly it deals with the medical problems of the nutritional aspect of survival in space. Secondly, the life support and engineering problem of choosing the right type of food to be packed and supplied for crews living in space. Thirdly it touches on the psychological aspect on the long duration space missions because it provides choices and variety and creativity in an environment where the surroundings and the activities are strictly defined by other people. Food binds people together!” says Jean who is Professor of Biological and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University and Principal Investigator of the first NASA funded HI-SEAS mission in Hawaii April – August 2013. After spending the last days in her very gracious presence, having tasted the food prepared by her, I can also say that Jean is an exquisite chef, extremely passionate about her work and that the NASA Food study is in the best hands possible! Being around her is such an inspiration and I feel very grateful and honoured to have had this chance, and in such perfect environment for the space food study – at the Mars Society’s Analog Habitat.
Jean will feature during the World Space Week in one of our Videocasts where she will talk in detail about food in space and the Hi-SEAS mission.
One more day until the crew will return to Earth, we wish you all Happy World Space Week from the Mars Desert Research Station,
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