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Archive: 10 Oct 2016

Sol Journal for October 10th

October 10, 2016 | Permalink

On the field

My first EVA in the new space suit and on ATV. Beautiful morning, no clouds, mild weather – just perfect! Four of us started the ATV’s and hit the road scouting the tracks. We have to identify important sights of the desert for biological and geological field research. Ten minutes after the start my ATV just stopped. I checked the fuel tank, there was still some petrol but as Yusuke said, not enough to continue the trip. We were lucky to be not far from the habitat, so Jon and Clade-Michel went to pick up small fuel tank to refill my ATV and add some to the three others. It was a good lesson to always double check all the systems. Yusuke and I were left in the desert, waiting for Martian help. What to do? Since the sight was not interesting in terms of geology and biology samples, we decided to test new suits! Move differently and give a load to see the convenience and usability of the space suits. They weight almost 13 kg. Bending, walking, climbing was harder but you can get used to it by keeping in athletic form. The helmet is so precise: no fogging, clear view of the anything in front of you.

Finally, the help arrived and my ATV was ready to hit the road again. We were driving slow, so could adjust to the new suits. The landscape was changing the colors, from red Martian dunes to white lunar hills. We planned to do three stops for the search of the lichens diversity. I never stop being surprised at what a beautiful masterpiece nature can create. Who would thought that lichens can be so attractive? Yellow, black, white and purple living organisms that we often don’t consider to be alive.

Four hours passed so quickly and we headed to the station. Thirsty, tired but happy!

Crew Photos – October 10th

October 10, 2016 | Permalink

Alexander on field

Alexander on field


Anushree on atv during EVA

Anushree on atv during EVA


Anushree sampling during EVA

Anushree sampling during EVA


Anushree scouting sampling site during EVA

Anushree scouting sampling site during EVA



Commander Alexandre and crew biologist Anushree in the airlock ready to egress



Crew engineer Claude-Michel getting ready for EVA



EVA Team on field



HSO Annalea is preparing patties

Science Report for October 10th

October 10, 2016 | Permalink

Geology Cross-Training: Evaporites on Earth and Mars and Its Significance for Astrobiology

*By Dr Jonathan Clarke, Annalea Beattie and Anushree Srivastava*

It is Sol 10. Our Crew Geologist Dr Jonathan Clarke started a cross training session with rest of the team members. He began his talk by first
explaining how deposits of salt are formed by evaporation of sea water.  He first used diagrammatic explanations to illustrate cyclic salt layering which is about how water evaporates and in turn salinity increases. The primary concentration of sea water is 3.5 % with the precipitated salt being calcium carbonate (CaCo3). As water keeps evaporating it becomes more salt saturated as gypsum (CaSO4.2H2O) begins precipitating once salinity passes 6%, then sodium chloride (NaCl) being deposited once salinities of 25% are passed.  When salinities pass 45% bittern salts start forming many different minerals such potassium chloride (KCL), sodium sulphate (NaSO4..H2O), calcium chloride (CaCl2.6H2O), and magnesium chloride (MgCl2) with salinity up to more than 40%.


Salinity Percentage

*Limestone (calcium carbonate) CaCO3*

3.5% – 6%

*Gypsum (calcium sulphate) CaSO4.2H2O*

6% – 25%

*Halite (sodium chloride) NaCl*


*Bitterns (complex minerals)*

>45 %



Figure 1. Diagram of Salt Cyclic Layering (Credit: Jon Clarke)

The physicochemical characteristic of the salt lake is highly dependent on the drainage from its surroundings which is complex and local factors play a great role. Generally, salt lakes are small compared to the ocean and are basic. Dry climate forms a salt lake. Catchment areas are rich in calcium that might have calcium carbonate. When it is low in halite, rich in sodium but low in carbonate you might end up with sodium sulphate. If it is rich in sodium and carbonate it will end up with sodium carbonate (baking soda). Another source of salt is purely cyclic salt from rainfall. The third type of salt comes from a salt lake that is fed by ground water. The water table crops out in the lower part of the depression and most salt lake are someway in combination of all of this, in most cases.

When it comes to evaporite deposits on Mars, calcium carbonate is rare but gypsum is common. Other complex minerals (bittern salts) are present such as epsomite (MgSO4.7H2O), hexahydrite (MgSO4.6H2O), Meridianite (MgSO4.11H2O) – the last known only from Mars. Fluid inclusions which are characterised as small amount of fluid or brine are entrapped inside the salt crystals during evaporation event. These fluid inclusions are significant from the astrobiological point of view because they contain minerals. Multiple studies have been conducted that propose that the minerals encased inside fluid inclusions provide the source of energy for halophilic microorganism to survive over prolonged period of time.

It is very difficult to detect halite on Mars because of it is transparent in the near infra-red wavelengths usually used to detect minerals from orbit. The other minerals were detected due to short wave length but halite can only be detected with spectroscopy at longer wave lengths which needs special instruments and which is hard to bring to Mars. Usually, absorption is looked for at the near infra-red to thermal infra-red wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum. Most minerals are visible in near Infra- red. Halite and Quartz are two prominent examples that cannot be detected near Infra-red and need to be detected in Thermal Infra-red.

Now why is gypsum more important for extracting water on Mars than from ice or soil? Three comparative studies have been recently conducted on water extraction on Mars. Soil is not a highly efficient resource for  water extraction because the amount of energy required to do it is too much. And then ice on Mars is hard as granite as well as the complexity in the process is also a factor that discounts ice as a source of water, although it is better than soil. We know that gypsum is present on the surface of Mars. To extract water from gypsum, it is heated at the temperature as high as 150 degrees centigrade that first gives calcium sulphate and hemi H2O and releases another molecule of water. This reaction further continues when high temperature is applied that gives anhydrite and releases another molecule of water. So gypsum seems to be the most efficient medium to obtain water on Mars.


Figure 2.


Figure 3. Close-up of the Martian gypsum vein. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU


Figure 4. Locations of chloride-bearing deposits (black) overlain on a Mars
Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) elevation map (grayscale). Inset is of a
region in Terra Sirenum investigated by Davila et al. (2011).


Finally, at MDRS astrobiological exploration of gypsum is important because they present an ideal shelter for microorganisms to survive. The capacity of gypsum to entrap water content facilitates these microhabitats with prevention from desiccation. Gypsum prevents microorganisms from high dose of UV radiation as well as its transparency allows the sunlight to enter into the crystals for photosynthetic organisms to survive. As MDRS is an excellent Martian analogue site and gypsum microbiology at MDRS is still poorly studied, the science objectives of our MARS 160 mission would address this area of astrobiological research and equip us with further knowledge of the possibility of microbial life inside gypsum deposits.



Davila, Alfonso; et al. (2011). “A large sedimentary basin in the Terra
Sirenum region of the southern highlands”. Icarus. 212: 579–589.

SSUlt Project – 1st Entry

October 10, 2016 | Permalink

SSUIt project – 1st entry

If you have to depict a Martian spacesuit, you would probably imagine it with a super cool interface either holographic or like a super swatch. After my two previous rotations at MDRS I get frustrated not having such neat feature on my spacesuit. After all, a spacesuit is a small spaceship and no one would imagine a spaceship without a screen.

And this is how a highly time consuming project began… What do I need?

Well, first I need an interface. Should I consider holographic one? Hum, probably no. So a touchscreen it will be.

Now I need something to display on my screen. Okay, I will need sensors. I will need sensors to monitor health issues, my environment and my position.

What else? Hum, no chance that I can plug sensors directly to the screen and having a cool interface with it. So I need a computer to record the sensors outputs and to display the information on the screen.



Well, no! This was not what I had in mind!

The screen should be small enough to be fixed on the arm. The computer should be small enough to be powered by the backpack battery.

When I started this project I did not know much about programmable electronics such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards and all the ecosystem of components that you can plug into them. But I learnt, I studied and asked many questions on dedicated forums.

I decided to have a Web-technology based interface. First I do not need to worry about how to draw a button, just a command line in HTML with an appropriate CSS style will suffice. Secondly, I can use a database to dialog between the local server and the daemons that record the sensors output.

But this project is not only about programming and electronics. It needs a proper case design and in that particular aspect of the project I have been very short on time. 10 hours before my flight I was still printing some parts of the casing.

I was so late preparing the hardware that I had to finish some wiring over here at MDRS… The first tests should be conducted soon, hopefully this week.


Sentence of the Day – October 10th

October 10, 2016 | Permalink


Recipe for Dal Makhni

October 10, 2016 | Permalink

Food Report for of October 2016.

Dal Makhni: (for at least 7 persons,but everyone will want more! )

2 cups of brown lentils
1 cup of kidney beans

A dash of Turmeric powder
A dash of Chili powder
A dash of Cinnamon powder
A dash of Curry powder

A handful of dried chopped Onion flakes
A handful of dried tomatoes

Some Butter Ghee
A dash of salt

Note: Adjust the amount  of spices depending on our spicy or mild you want your meal to be.

Step 1: Soak brown the brown lentils and red kidney beans in a mixing bowl with water. Reserve for 4 to 5 hours.

Step 2: Once the lentils and beans are softened, add all the spices and the salt to the mix.

Step 3: Boil everything you have in the mixing bowl in a pressure cooker for 15 to 30 minutes.

Step 4: In the same mixing bowl, hydrate all the vegetables with water.

Step 5: Mash the CONTENU of the pressure cooker with a turner.

Step 6: Add the vegetable in the pressure cooker, and mix.

Step 7: In a frying pan, fry the CONTENU of the pressure cooker for 3 to 5 minutes.

Step 8: Once the pressure cooker is empty and everything got fried, the meal is ready

WARNING: Be warn, this dish can be extremely delicious. Your guest, and family might take extra portions. Make sure you are making enough for everyone.Also please try this at home no need for supervisors if able to boil water and light the over burner.