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Archive: 08 Oct 2016

Sol Journal for October 8th

October 8, 2016 | Permalink

Space gloves  

This report was filed by Anastasiya Stepanova- Crew Journalist

Jon Clarke was preparing for the Extra Vehicle Activity (EVA) putting on space suit and his new gloves. They looked very different from our bulky ones. “You are cheating Jon”, I said with a cheeky smile. Jon had a hurt look, went to his room and came back with the files showing a guy who was working with a geology hammer in tight gloves in the field. “Do you know who this is?” said Jon with a smile. I didn’t recognize this man and looked forward to hear the story.

James Waldie is an Australian aerospace engineer, who presented in 2005 a prototype of mechanical counter pressure EVA glove. The mechanical counter pressure (MCP) suit is when the body is compressed by tight garments except the head, which would be in standard gas-pressurized helmet for breathing. Future Martian astronauts will be doing a massive amount of geological and microbiologic field research work as well as all the engineering tasks. Therefore, their body and hands should operate as naturally as technology can allow us in order to save the time, take better samples and stay safe.

What is wrong with the gas-pressurized suits? Well, let me quote James Waldie on that: “Gas-pressurised space suits have been highly effective as a life support system, but are a severe hindrance to astronaut function and capability. They are rigid, heavy, bulky, costly, leaky, and require high maintenance due to the complexity of constant volume joints and associated bearings and restraint layers. For future planetary exploration, revolutionary suit designs must be developed to satisfy requirements for a light, durable, puncture resistant, low leakage suit with excellent full-body flexibility”.

Since James is a member of Mars Society Australia, together with Jon, they have tested these gloves out on the field. While wearing Waldie’s gloves Jon felt like all the time, someone was giving him a painfully firm handshake. The reason for this was the Earth pressure. Since mechanical counter pressure glove is made to use in the vacuum or on the Moon, Mars, here on Earth it had double pressure on hands and caused discomfort. But in the vacuum chamber Waldie could use his hand as easily as if he was without a space gloves. His MCP glove allowed to collect small objects with 10 mm diameter in the vacuum chamber, whereas shuttle gloves could not.

Jon brought to our Mars simulation station a mock sample of such gloves and hopes that MCP/skinsuits will be used on Mars, which will give more freedom in movement, greater science data and better safety.

“A planetary suit for a Mars mission must safely and efficiently accommodate and support an astronaut for hundreds of hours during rigorous activities on jagged surfaces of significant gravity and dust” – James Waldie

Crew Photos – October 8th

October 8, 2016 | Permalink

Anushree working on samples in the lower deck

Anushree working on samples in the lower deck


Anastasia Claude-Michel and Yusuke during EVA

Anastasia Claude-Michel and Yusuke during EVA


Anastasia and Yusuke at sampling site

Anastasia and Yusuke at sampling site


Anastasia on the field

Anastasia on the field


XO Yusuke is sampling - an example of cross training

XO Yusuke is sampling – an example of cross training


EVA team collecting samples

EVA team collecting samples


EVA team on field

EVA team on field


EVA team sampling

Science Report for October 8th

October 8, 2016 | Permalink


Jonathan Clarke

Gypsum at the Mars Desert Research Station

Gypsum is hydrated calcium sulphate – CaS04.2H20.  It is a common mineral found in salt lakes and coastal lagoons on Earth, and also in veins, hydrothermal systems, weathered rocks, and desert soils.  Its presence in soils and sediments points to low rainfall and high evaporation, when found in veins it is evidence for the passage of saline groundwater, in hot spring deposits to groundwater saturated in oxidised sulphur.


Gypsum crystals on the shore of Lake Tyrrell, Australia

The Jurassic and Cretaceous sediments (200-100 million years in age) that comprise geological succession near the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) near Hanksville, Utah contains many different styles of gypsum.  The prevalence of the mineral reflects the hot dry climate of the time and evaporation in coastal lakes, lagoons, and inter-tidal flats.  The oldest is found in the Carmel Formation, which has thick-bedded gypsum deposited coastal lagoons.  This formation crops out near Goblin Valley, familiar to people who have seen Galaxy Quest.  It has received almost no study by previous crews at MDRS.  The Mars 160 team plans to change that!


Well-bedded gypsum-rich sediments of the Jurassic  Summerville Formation exposed near Hanksville, Utah

Closer to the MDRS and higher in the succession (which makes it somewhat younger) is the Summerville Formation.  The thin horizontal bedding of brown, cream, white and grey of this Formation is familiar to anyone who has done a rotation at MDRS.  Gypsum in The Summerville Formation occurs as scattered crystals and large nodules that crew in intertidal mud and sand flats.  Much later, percolating groundwater flowing through fractures dissolved some of the gypsum and then redeposited it as veins.  These veins can be both parallel to bedding and cut it at a steep angle.


Close up of the gypsum-rich beds of the Summerville Formation.  The lighter the colour the more gypsum is present in the rock.  Cross-cutting gypsum veins are also visible

Still higher in the succession is the Cretaceous Mancos Shale.  This is a dark grey rock unit, full of organic material and the iron sulphide mineral pyrite.  Fossils show that it was deposited in a deep water marine environment.  But gypsum is common in outcrop, which is apparently contradictory –why is a gypsum, which forms in water of twice seawater salinity, common in a rock that we know from fossils was deposited under normal marine conditions?

The answer is that the gypsum has formed much later.   Oxygen-rich water percolating through the shale has weathered the pyrite, forming sulphuric acid.  This has reacted with calcium carbonate of the fossils, forming brines which have precipitated clear sheets of gypsum in near surface fractures in the weathered shale.


Clear veins of gypsum formed by weathering of the Cretaceous Mancos Shale

Gypsum has great potential importance to astrobiology and astrogeology.  Understanding the occurrence of gypsum can tell us a great deal about the surface environments on an area, both during deposition and weathering.  Furthermore although gypsum, like other salts, is soluble, is also very impermeable.  Organic molecules and entire microorganisms can be trapped during the formation of salts such as gypsum and can be preserved for hundreds of millions of years.  In the second phase of the expedition the crew will endeavour to visit and sample the much thicker and much older gypsum deposits of Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic.


Gypsum vein on the rim of Endeavour crater on Mars imaged by the Opportunity rover mission (NASA)

Gypsum on Mars

How does this help us understand Mars? Mars is a salty planet, different salts occur as rock coatings, in the soil, as thick deposits, and as veins.  These salts include gypsum.  The mineral has been detected by remote sensing from orbit and by rover missions on the surface.  As on Earth the distribution of gypsum can tell us much about the history of the surface of Mars and of the presence and movement of water on the surface and in the subsurface.


Crystal impressions of salt minerals, probably gypsum, in Gale Crate (NASA)

Bedded gypsum crystals and gypsum veins in fractured bedrock have been observed by scientists of the Curiosity rover mission in Gale crater, supporting the idea that the Crater was once the location of a large lake that later evaporated, leaving behind deposits of gypsum-bearing sediments.


Gypsum veins in fractured bedrock in Gale Crater (NASA)



Phrase of the Day – October 8th

October 8, 2016 | Permalink


Recipe for Russian Sunset Potatoes

October 8, 2016 | Permalink

Food Report for the 8th of October 2016.

Russian sunset potatoes : (for any number of carbs eaters)

A dash of Paprika.

A handful of dried Bell pepper,
A handful of dried Tomatoes,
A few cups of dried slice Potatoes,
A hand full of dried chopped onions,
A dash of dried Jalapeno pepper.

A dash of salt

Note: Adjust the amount of vegetables base on how much you feel like eating. We had about 4 times more potatoes than all the other vegetables combine, but any other proportions is fine too. Go with your guts. Be careful with the dried jalapeno pepper, they can turn to be very spicy.

Step 1: Soak all the vegetables, beside the jalapeno pepper, in a mixing bowl, reserve for 1 hour.

Step 2: Once the vegetables are well hydrated, remove the excess of water.

Step 3: Heat a large pan to medium low heat with some vegetable oil.

Step 4: Cook all the vegetables in the pan.

Step 5: Add the paprika with the jalapeno pepper, mix well and stir for 15 minutes.

This Dish is simple, delicious and full of energy, great to prepare for the next EVA or to refuel after one.

As mentioned, in yesterday food report, we ate this with the 3,1415pinash, both are awesome together. Full of carbs and full of taste.

Enjoy and as usual, please try this at home.