Sunday, January 17, 2010

And It's Done; Almost

Look Closer! That's me on the cliff!

I've realized that breakfast is going to be the same everyday, so I will stop writing about it as if it is news worthy. Since today is football day, I mean Sunday we decided to sleep in. Well I decided to sleep, seemed like everyone else was up at the normal time like it was just another day. We knew Crew 89 would be counting on us to complete the radio telescope so they could do their monitoring of Jupiter, this prompted us to give up our Sunday-Funday and devote it entirely to getting this telescope working.

Last night we finished drilling all the necessary holes for the scope, and this after noon we erected all four masts of the telescope. The final assembly design requires that the height to the two single dipole antennas be at 20 feet, as of right now we don’t have enough coax cable to get it operational at 20 feet, so today our goal was to get the antennas working at 10 feet and outputting their signal to the receiver and thus the computer. At around 2PM we put the final pole in the ground and we tied down all eight guy wires. Now it was time to see if our design worked. We turned the receiver on; this is the over-hyped moment of truth. What do we hear? Static, can you believe that, damn static. After all that work in designing and constructing the telescope we get static. Hooray Static! In this case static is actually a good thing because during the day the radio emissions from the sun far out way the radio emissions form Jupiter so all we would get would be static. Pheww, that's a relief, the scope is pretty much done, all we have to do is raise it to 20 feet and move the power combiner.

Radio Emissions from Jupiter

So on to things that are a little more fun. Bianca and Laksen went out today geo-tracking some rover trails so that we can superimpose the GPS tracks on GoogleMars. The other day Diego and I were able to see a nice trail when we were atop Olympus Mons. This trail was not viewable from the ground therefore, Bianca and Laksen were not able to find the trail to the top of the mesa behind the hab. I told Laksen I could get him up on top of the mesa if he really wanted to go. As soon as I said that, Daring Dave is breathing down my neck saying "Of course we want to go." So we suited up and headed out. The trail was a little rougher than I remembered, but nonetheless I was leading us out there on the rovers and I was not going to let them down. Alas we found the trail, it's hidden between two nice sized hills. We took the hill to the top of the mesa and the view was extraordinary. Everything here on Mars is dangerous, but this trail is something else. Every twenty meters there is a cliff that runs about two feet into the trail. This is nice because you can see straight down the cliff, which is about 300 feet.

The trail kept going, we got farther and farther away from the hab. It was getting dark, the sun was poking its' nose out from behind the Great Mesa, it was time to head back. Laksen said we had about three more minutes, he had been tracking our ride pretty closely with his GPS watch, so I trusted him and pressed on, this was the best move we made all day. Better than the final assembly of the radio telescope. As we were about to turn around we saw where the edge of the mesa stuck out about four feet beyond the wall of the cliff. With Laksen urging me not to. I had to step out on the edge of the overhang. Laksen told me that the sediment below my feet would crumble pretty easy, but I told him I couldn't hear him because he was too far away. I realized it was pretty dangerous as I saw some of the rocks flying off of the cliff below my feet, but at that time I had come to far, the edge was only two steps away. Now I really couldn't hear Laksen, but it didn’t matter. My auditory senses were useless, the visual stimuli was overwhelming for my brain. You could see everything, every peak for miles, every valley, there was snow everywhere, and the cliff edge added all the excitement needed for a brief state of pure euphoria.

I got so caught up in the moment I failed to notice that the Sun was very nearly removed from the horizon. This was much more dangerous than standing on what I thought was a weight bearing cliff, if we're left out here in the Martian cold that could be it. See here on Mars there is no search and rescue team, there's us and that's it. We needed to get back to the hab and soon.

We were flying back, the trail was a little rough but that didn’t matter now. Dinner would be waiting and that is all I could think about. I hope we still have some of that cajun seasoning, man I hope there's some food left when I get back. Luckily as we're powering down the rovers the last bit of sunlight escapes from the atmosphere and it's dark. That's it, it happens so fast. The sun goes and hides behind the horizon not to be heard from until the next morning.

Well that's it. Another successful day here on Mars. I wonder how things are going for Jack, John, and Kate on that little island of theirs. You know what, I don’t care, this is one of the most adventurous and exciting things I've done in my life. It’s the end of week one and the remoteness of this place is peaceful. It lets you sit back and recount what is actually important in life, I don’t think Tony Romo had as much fun as I did today!

Over and Out,

Astro Paul


  1. Good work your doing on "Mars" man, repping FIU well !

    All seems like great experience and a lot fun.

    <-- FIU Football Fan

  2. Thanks, always repping FIU, thats my home! Even on Mars I will still keep FIU in my heart!

  3. I just read the article featured in the Miami Herald's FIU blog. Congratulations and I wish you the best! Don't forget to take a little FIU flag to plant it wherever you go on your first mission!


    FIU Fan
    Panther Rage Treasurer 2009-2010

  4. I told you you could get the telescope done. You will never stop taking my breath away. Always on the edge, no pun intended. Did you get the steak? I can't wait to see the pictures. Everyone is on reading and following. Pretty impressive article in the Herald. Stay safe and warm.
    Love you,