Thursday, January 21, 2010

Waiting Game

Sometimes thing are out of your hands, and you have to make the best of the situation. We didn't appreciate how beautiful the weather was when we first arrived here. For the last three days it has snowed at night. This makes for a really fun morning, snowball fights considered. However, in the afternoon when things tend to heat up around here, the beautiful snow starts to melt. Melting snow might not be a problem in the city, but out here the melting snow gets mixed in with the desert dust and turns to a muddy clay.

We attempted an EVA today, only to find ourselves regretting the decision two hours later. We should have heeded each others advice and not go out, but each one of us said "If you go, I'll go." This turned out to be the worst of situations. So we left the hab and took the rovers out for our geo-tracking EVA. We attempted to take a few trails up onto the mesa to the west of the hab. Halfway up the first hill my rover got stuck and started to slide backwards. There was no traction, the situation was much worse than I originally anticipated. As I'm sliding backwards, I look over my left shoulder and see that I am sliding sideways off of the side of the hill. This is not good. I stepped off of the rover and turned it around manually.

Laksen said he knew of another trail up the mesa, that was further down. We headed to Laksens trail and took it for what seemed to be miles. I found myself admiring the view, because I was no longer leading the EVA, I got a chance to take in the sights. It was astonishing, seeing the opposite sides of the mesas that we usually don't see from the hab. They were covered in snow; smooth from top to bottom. As my attention turned back to the trail, I saw the convoy ahead of me stop. The trail suddenly ended. We tried vigorously to find the trail and press on, but under these conditions it was simply not possible. After a little debate we decided to head back to base.

Since I was in the back, when we turned around I was now leading the way home. This was the most enjoyable part of our afternoon. I let the rover run wide-open around some of the turns. This was a great idea for the adventurer in me until I saw that a lot of the snow had melted since we had been off the main trail. This meant that there was water everywhere. I decided to go through some of the puddles instead of getting off of the trail, which could be dangerous at this point. I was getting further and further ahead of Laksen and Bianca. As I looked back to see where they were I hit a huge pothole, my hand went smashing into the accelerator, and my foot came off of the rest where the rear brake was. Luckily I didn’t go over the handlebars, I was able to regain my stability and realize what actually happened. The water had melted earlier in the day in some spots, and turned into a mushy clay that filled a hole in the trail. The weight of the rover was more than enough to overwhelm the clay and that’s why I didn’t see the hole.

As I was assessing what happened I felt a throbbing pain radiate through my right arm, my thumb had went squarely into the handlebars and was now beginning to sent jolts of pain through my upper extremity. As if that wasn’t enough the freezing water somehow seeped into my boots and was no covering my socks. My feet felt like a block of ice. No more games, its time to get home, and fast. I got back to the hab as fast as I could and behold, there is a cup of steaming hot chocolate waiting for me. Needless to say, the hot cocoa healed me up real quick and I called it a day.

As beautiful and welcoming as this place can be, it can change in a heartbeat. You've got to respect your surroundings, and I learned that lesson quite well today. I was hoping to get some science into this report, but the weather gods had a different agenda. Tomorrow if the weather holds up, it's lunch on top of the world, you'll see what I mean.

Astro Paul


  1. When you blog like this you should first enter I am OK MoM, first. When do you leave?

  2. Tonight is our last night. Sad to see her go, but happy to say Im leaving!