Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Great Mesa!

Pheww! This was a long day, but also very enjoyable. I'm so tired I can't even remember what was for breakfast. Ohh, I got it; a flour tortilla, strawberry preserves, organic peanut butter, and the best of all, NUTELLA!!! The morning briefing was quick, so the engineering crew headed out to fill the rovers with gas and oil, and check the tire pressure. Diego and Bianca headed out early to get their EVA out of the way.

After we saw them off safe and sound on the rovers, the engineering team went out to check the water and life support systems. We actually had to do some work today. The sump-pump used for pumping potable water into the hab was not functioning correctly. This could potentially be a real bad problem. With bad weather coming, there's a chance that everything might be iced over in the morning. If we don’t get enough water in the hab to last for a few days things can go wrong quickly. In the middle of the desert your body goes through water like Tiger Woods goes through… never mind, that was inappropriate. The delete button on my keyboard is not working, so I cant erase that. We took the pump apart and it started to work, we re-assembled the pump, and it decided to cut out again. We immediately moved to the backup pump, but we have to eat lunch, so "immediately" can wait.

As we were eating the best Martian split pea soup that you've never tasted, we hear the pump start working. Commander Steve walked by the pump and turned it on, viola, it works. We can't figure it out, but this might give us a better understanding of Commander Steve. Apparently he has the ability to plug things in and have them work. This is a problem for the engineering team because the pump is still not fixed, and worse than that, it seems to be random. There's two things I cant stand in life, people who are intolerant of other cultures, the Dutch, and when electrical systems have random problems. Anywho, Diego, the latin lover boy as he is referred to in his home town, said the pea soup was amazing. Don't tell him but I just poured the bag in the pot and told him I cooked it.

Now we had some fun work to get done. Since the Musk Observatory is shut down, we chose to turn our astronomy efforts toward the radio telescope. The radio telescope is not a telescope in the traditional sense of being something you point at the sky and look through a lens. The radio telescope is actually two single dipole antennas designed to pick up 20.1 MHz and send the signals to a power combiner. Our job is to replace two of the mast that make up one of the single dipole antennas. We're replacing two fixed height masts with two adjustable masts in order to pick up solar emissions as well as radiated energy from Jupiter over the next few years. We were able to get the initial design done and take down the two mast that needed to be replaced. Hopefully we will have the entire scope assembled by the end of the week.

The day ended early, so Laksen and I did the engineering rounds a little sooner. As we were walking out to check on the generator, I saw two slopes that lead up to the top of a very high mesa. I asked Laksen if he thought the two peaks were scalable, when he said yes my eyes lit up. I have never been mountain climbing, what a way to start. We hurried inside and told Daring Dave of our plans, he was already in his flight suit ready for departure.

We headed out and I took the lead. I didn’t know how to get to the base of the slopes we were going to climb, I only had a heading. We pulled the ATV's, I mean rovers(damn this delete button), to the bottom of the slope. I asked over the com channel if everyone was ready. I was a little shocked when Dave said he didn't seem too confident. This was because he thought I wanted to take the rover to the summit of the mesa. This guy is crazy; rover to the summit, man I wish we would have taken them to the summit, but this was impossible. We started climbing to the top, about halfway we stopped and setup a video camera to document our drive for the summit.

This climb was much tougher than I expected. I was consuming a lot of oxygen really fast. I had to keep myself from using so much air, so I held my breath for the entire climb. I'm just kidding. I stopped and caught my breath. When I looked at my O2 meter I knew I had about 65 minutes to reach the summit, descend, and make it back to base camp. I was committed, not just to the climb, but to my fellow Marstronauts. This would be the highest climb ever attempted here. I couldn't back out now. So I did my best impersonation of the guy in the Dos Equis commercials and attempted to be the most interesting man on this world by controlling my breathing.

We reached the summit, My first summit. Hopefully, the first of many. This was a great feeling. There is something special about looking out over the horizon and seeing nothing above you but sky and space. I turned around only to find another great mesa in the distance that was about 1000 meters higher. That one is next I thought in my head. However I only had about 30 minutes of oxygen left, so it was time to head back. We took some great pictures at the peak. Ben Linus himself would be envious. He's never climbed a mountain on Mars.

In my eyes the summit was symbolic of life. You set a great goal and you plan to attain it. When the goal is close you realize you going to have to sacrifice, its gonna take much more work to finish than it took to get you where you are. Then, somehow, the human will takes over and you will not be denied. You reach the summit, you attain your goal, you win the race. You've accomplished something truly special, only to find out that there is an even greater accomplishment waiting for you if you are willing to try. Every nerve, molecule, and thought tell us we must strive, to reach farther, to go higher. This is what life, this mission, and the entire idea of space exploration is all about. I must, we must, press on! I guarantee we get that next "Great Mesa" before this mission is over. After all we're on Mars, this is one big adventure, what's the worst that can happen? I'll be laying my head on a blow-up pillow on top of a wooden bed tonight, but it sure feels like I'm on cloud nine!

It's great up here,
Astro Paul


  1. Re the "O2 meter"--do you in fact have a timer of some sort, on the suit or just from HabCom?

    And if you "die" by staying out too long, then what?

  2. There is in fact no O2 meter, the packs are rated for 2 hours of air at this point, so I just use my watch. Each suit has its own personality, and they all have different specs. The idea is if we run out of air, we break simulation and that goes against the whole point of the mission. If we do "die" we just head back to the hab,and re-charge the packs. Nice Question! Thank for reading!

  3. Really bored in class, just read everything you wrote. Very interesting, thanks for putting the jokes in there. Come back safe from Mars. See you in a couple years...