I had the chance to be part of today’s EVA, and it was deeply interesting living it from the inside. Actually, it might be one of the first thing human would do on Mars: deepen the knowledge of Martian geology, to go further than the work current rovers are doing. Of course, they are efficient and provide a great analysis, but a human action would very probably be more precise and more efficient. Firstly, because you are not constrained by the remote control of a device millions of miles away… And in such a specific field as geology, one of the greatest advantages of being a human in flesh on Mars is the ability to adapt, and see what machines can not see. This experiment is thus focused on the operational aspect of conducting such a study in a hazardous context like the EVA one.
Léa was leading the operations, Mathéo, Valentine and I were here in support and sometimes operator. We headed to Stream Bed Connector (a little further than the first geology session). Marine and Léa had chosen this place to record data on a geological era transition, between two times named Cretacean and Jurassic. Here we are in the middle of a tectonic plate, which means that the transition is well conserved, and so is easily observable: a perfect terrain for training! There are many analysable outcrops here, on their bottom we can find the oldest layers, on their top the earliest ones.
EVA to « Stream Bed Connector »
And what strikes me the most was the almost constantly questioning that had ben running in the crew made of 4 martionauts. Should we go there? Should we go that far? Should we take altitude to have a greater view on the outcrop, despite the fact that our suits make our moves sometimes uncertain and energetically costly? Should we take that risk to provide a potential “ground-breaking” data?
This is where simulation is teaching us many things, and very useful for the future aerospace engineer we might become. The first rule here, is always to place SAFETY before science, before comfort, before anything else… Be aware: we are on Mars and a tiny deviance on Earth may be a huge problem here! And after more than a week journey in the MDRS I can assure you that we learned many things, and our precautions before leaving the airlock have been multiplicated since the moment we entered. As an example, one of our nightmares is the loss of communication. Several times, we had to shorten EVAs because of a headset that slightly moved out of our ear and complicated the communication: grey tape has become our best friend. On the field, precautions are pervasive even if it creates frustration for some of us (I acknowledge being part of these ones), but this is the game, you have to play by the rules! We are on Mars, try to survive before playing space cadets!
The PARROT drone, an essential tool during EVA
Each time we come back in the airlock, no matter if the EVA went well or not, we have new ideas to facilitate the next outing, and this is why I like it, why we are here.
For the rest of the day, the crew was mainly focused on human factor experiments. It is not always a pleasure, but we keep up doing it!