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Sol Journal – November 9th

November 9, 2016

Twin EVA experiment

by Stepanova Anastasiya

Mars 160 mission is unusual in many ways and Twin EVA experiment proves it again. Our Principal Investigator Shannon Rupert came out with an interesting idea. How does the simulation affeсt science return work? For the first time at Mars Desert Research Station Shannon implemented a strategy to actually test it on the field. The plan is to have two EVAs in the spacesuits and two EVA without space suits doing the same science exploration at the same site.

The day has come and five of us drove ATVs following Shannon to the specific location. Jon (geologist), Annalea (artist), Anushree (microbiologist) and Yusuke (cross trained for lichen exploration) dressed in the space suits and were waiting for further directions. Shannon gave two hours to the crew of research time on the field. Jon was examining the geology structure, Annalea drew lichens, Anushree and Yusuke scouted for lichens and took samples. I was there as camera person recording their work. The video footage will help in the analysis of Twin EVA experiment. The next day crew was unsuited and performed the same field work for the same amount of time.  

For the second part, several changes were made: the site, the crew, the subject of sampling. Jon and Annalea proceeded with their research but Anushree had now a new trainee with new data to collect. New person to be cross trained was me. I switched my camera to a hammer! We had to scout for gypsum and collect samples. Why gypsum? It is the most likely place to find a salt loving microorganism called “halophiles”. 

We started our first trial day unsuited. I never would think that gypsum can be so beautiful. Broken pieces of glass scattered all over the ground – no this is transparent gypsum. Snowflakes in the layers of soil – no this is fluffy white gypsum. The amber trapped in the sandstone rock cracks – no this is again the gypsum! Two hours pass slowly and tiring! I was expecting that the next day in space suit will be more difficult, but it turned out to be easier. I don’t know how to explain this paradox, but in the space suit I felt more strength and time flew faster. Maybe it is in my subconscious that the space suit gives you the super power. Also the helmet made me more concentrated and careful. Even though it was a little bit harder to climb the rocks, the bulky gloves intervene in a smooth sample collection, the spacesuit increased the sweating, we operated as good as unsuited or maybe even better! 

Do we really believe in super power? Does the mind seek extra support from suits, instruments, vehicles? That is another research topic for human factors, which one day might be studied at Mars Desert Research Station.