Mike, who had been up until the wee hours collecting data with the newly operational radio telescope, retired to his stateroom ensconced in his headphones to listen to the buzz of the night sky, based on recordings collected while the crew slept. Apparently this was sufficiently sleep-inducing that he succumbed to a nap. Actually, we’d all had something of a late night because we decided to stay up until midnight so as to transfer some large files (e.g., download printer drivers and upload movies to YouTube!). Our bandwidth from 5 a.m. to midnight is severely restricted, so the only practical way to do these tasks is to wait for that midnight to 5 a.m. window. To pass the time until midnight, we played several games of Guesstures, which is a variant on charades that we found to be quite entertaining! Carla emerged as a real champion of portraying a variety of characters and concepts with lightning speed. Mike is feeling inadequate and is intent on a rematch. Luis complained that the stress was killing him, so we strapped Brian’s heartrate monitor on him and found that sure enough, his heartrate would go from about 90 (when guessing) up to about 160 (when portraying concepts and trying to get his teammates to guess!).
It was a slow day in Internet-land today. An unattended download after our late-night session did not complete by 5 a.m. (and yes, we know better!). Therefore, around 6 a.m., we’d apparently consumed our entire bandwidth for the day and our access was throttled back (to a total allocation of about 3 kbps—aie!). This was excruciating for all involved. I found it particularly painful because I’d so hoped to use this slow, indoor day to make real progress on my actual research project: automatically associating geotags with images that don’t otherwise have GPS coordinates associated with them. I spent most of the day simply identifying which pieces of software I lacked and, because of the bandwidth restriction, could not download. Prior to the mission, I’d planned to do my analysis in Matlab, and had downloaded several packages that I would use to analyze the images with. But even on good net days here at the Hab, I can’t maintain a good enough connection to the Matlab license server to make that work at all. So I decided to switch over to Python, which I can run independently on my computer, without net access. Except that I then also needed to install new packages for the same analysis goals, in Python rather than Matlab. I’ve made some progress, but not nearly what I’d hoped for!The day was not, however, a total loss. After lunch, Brian and Luis suited up for EVA 13. Their goal was to traverse Radio Ridge Road to check out a potential site for a seismic survey, recommended by Carol Stoker, the Commander of MDRS Crew 83. That crew had surveyed an inverted channel feature with ground-penetrating radar. Luis wanted to collect some more rock, soil, and snow samples—the more diverse, the better. They set out with Luis in the lead, since he thought he remembered the way from EVA 6 (both EVAs headed up Sagan Street at the beginning). They made it to the base of Olympus Mons but at that point encountered a few dead ends, because the terrain looked quite different with snow blanketing it. The road was steep, and once Brian had to get out and push Luis’s ATV to help keep it moving. As the follower, lucky Brian was able to avoid the sticky spots that Luis discovered. They struck Radio Ridge Road without difficulty. From up on the ridge, they could see cliffs all around, with snow collected in patches on the red layers. They could also see the Hab from above, as well as Musk Observatory. They observed a lot of animal tracks along the way. They made their way south along the Ridge, seeking the GPS coordinates specified by Carol. As they went south, they encountered another ridge that intersected Radio Ridge perpendicularly—and this was the spot they sought. They walked the profile, and learned that it may not be smooth enough for the seismic survey, since the instruments need to be towed along the ground. As we had on EVA 5, they found a plethora of oyster fossils. In general, the whole environment was far more interesting than they had anticipated. Although it is largely a flat plain, it contains several small gullies that harbor microenvironments, ideal for Luis’s sampling goals. They found several sandstone samples containing more resilient layers inside which, when broken into, had streaks of what may likely be endoliths. Brian and Luis report that driving in the snow was really fun, and they felt they had good control, especially when shifting their weight to help the ATV maintain its balance and grip on the surface. The views, of course, were just incredible. Near the end of their return home (arriving as dusk was falling), they turned on their headlights and followed their own snow-bright pools of light back to the Hab.
Originally, we had planned to hold a third exercise session today, but after the hours of indoor cleaning, and outdoor EVA activity, we just didn’t have the energy (and likely had gotten a lot of exertion already).
Darrel and Carla cooked tonight, and it is our first experiment with the tinned corned beef, which I think most of us were apprehensive about. However, with a special BBQ sauce Darrel concocted, the pan-fried beef was actually quite tasty! Our meal was rounded out with potatoes au gratin and some peas and cauliflower—and for dessert, Carla had magically pulled together a pumpkin-spice cake with raisins. We’re still not sure how she is managing these feats of wonder, baking amazing desserts with no flour, no eggs, no milk, and barely any sugar. Yet everything is absolutely, mouth-wateringly delicious! Wow, Carla!
As I sign off, Luis is engaged in the unenviable chore of cleaning out that critical breadmaker pan. We are all exceedingly grateful.