My Martian Birthday

Today is my birthday. I've actually spent my 20, 21, 30, and 31st birthdays all in the arctic. The pictures below compare me when I turned 21 on the Juneau Icefield Research Program expedition with me at FMARS earlier today. I'm actually wearing the same pants and shirt in both pictures! In the photo on the right, I'm showing off the pancakes Kristine made for me in honor of my birthday this morning. This decade has flown by, and it's certainly had it's fair share of twists and turns that I could never have anticipated.


Today is also the first official day of our full Mars mission simulation. That means we can no longer go outside without space suits, we have to observe a 20-minute communication delay protocol with "Earth," and we're finally starting the research phase of our mission. This is why we're here. I wish it hadn't taken us until the midpoint of our expedition to reach this point, but we'll just have to adjust our plans accordingly.

I spent the morning and early afternoon preparing for the re-deployment of the seismometer in a new more remote location. After downloading all of the seismic data I had recorded over the past week at the temporary seismic station near the Hab I realized something was wrong with it. There were huge spikes on all three channels (vertical, north-south, east-west) every hour on the hour. It was obviously either some kind of electrical interference. Since were were in sim, I couldn't just call my contact at Nanometrics to ask what was going on, so I emailed him instead. I didn't get a response by mid-afternoon, so I decided that deploying the station today wasn't a good idea until the issue was resolved. I opted only to scout out a site and maybe install the radio tower for the station today instead.

My first full sim EVA

By about 3:00pm, we started getting ready for the first full simulation EVA of the FMARS 2009 mission. I served as the EVA Commander, with Christy as Scientist and Stacy the out-of-sim bear lookout. The main goal was the travel a far distance in the ATVs and return with the aid of the GPS. Since the ATVs have been giving us so much trouble, this was important to establish their reliability for future longer EVAs. The vehicles performed very well, and navigation wasn't a problem beyond the normal difficulty of pushing small buttons with bulky gloves.


It was an absolutely perfect day with clear skies and balmy temperatures. We chose to go to Marine Rock, which is about 3 km northwest of the FMARS Hab. After bumping over the Von Braun Planitia in our vehicles, the team arrived at our destination and began scouting the area. We found evidence of intelligent life in the form of a large 6-foot tall Inukshuk, so we had to snap a few pictures with it.


We climbed the rocky slopes of Marine Rock and were treated to a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.



We had line-of-sight visibility to FMARS, so I decided it was as good a place as any for the seismic station. I climbed down from the peak of Marine Rock and began looking for suitable places for the station. I found a good place with rocky (but not too rocky) soil that was sheltered from the wind and paced out a distance about 100 m to the edge of the escarpment. Christy and I retrieved the pole, guy wires, and stakes we had brought with us and proceeded to set up the rudimentary tower onto which I'll mount the ethernet radio antenna when I return with the seismic equipment in a day or two. The radio antenna pair here and at the Hab will allow me to retrieve the seismic data and monitor the state of health of the station remotely.


We quickly discovered that simple tasks are much more complex in a spacesuit. The installation of the tower took about 45 minutes as it involved staking down six ropes and tying multiple knots to hold them tight. Tying knots in gloves is quite a challenge, so in the future we may want to consider steel wire and turnbuckles instead as it may be easier for astronauts to handle. Following the installation of the tower we loaded back up on the ATV’s and headed back up to the Hab. You can see an image of the whole traverse here. The data for this image game from my Garmin Forerunner 305. The periods of high heart rate are when I'm climbing Marine Rock, hammering stakes for the tower, or carrying heavy rocks to support the tower.

Tired but excited about the successful EVA, Christy and I stood in the airlock for the obligatory 2 minutes upon return to simulate repressurization and then came inside where we were greeted by our other crew members. Later after dinner, they surprised me with a yummy pineapple cake that Kristine made, complete with candles and the happy birthday song. The crew even gave me a card they had all signed. It was a great way to wind down the first day of our official simulated Mars mission.

You can read more about this EVA in the EVA #3 Report.


PillowNaut said…
Great pictures! I have to say I am fascinated with "bear watch" (???) and the idea of trying to do even simple tasks in spacesuit gloves. Glad you got to celebrate your bday with new friends even if you couldn't be at home with your family...

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