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Sol 2

20230725

Morning song: Black and Blue Birds by Dave Matthews Band.

Today was my first Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA). Andrew and I donned space suit simulators, which are the basic space suits in the hab when we aren’t testing new equipment. They are made of common material and equipment you can get at a hardware store with a few custom parts. They simulate the bulk and lack of visibility of a real space suit. It was so funny, it’s space camp for grownups. I was laughing the whole time we drove away from the hab on the ATVs because this has to be the coolest thing I’ve ever done. We went out to explore this place where less than 50 humans have ever been. We made our way southwest from the hab a few kilometers to try to get to an area called Patterned Ground. Caleb followed as our bear watch.

The suits are canvas and have plastic backpacks that contain a 6 volt battery, ventilation fans, and controllers. The fans are a little noisy but they help keep us cool and prevent fog from forming on the helmet. We use walkie talkies to communicate with each other and the hab. We wear a very useful mirror on our left wrist outside the suit, it helps me see what tools I have attached to my chest like my rock hammer, and I can use it to see behind me. The backpacks hold the neck ring to which the helmet attaches. It is difficult to see, hear, and move when suited up. All this makes it incredibly realistic. This is the closest I’ve ever been and might ever get to being an astronaut and it’s so awesome.

Other things I have to consider are new, for example I have to duct tape a strap to my glasses to keep them on since I can’t reach them. I find that I can press them against the inside of the helmet to adjust them if needed. I have to take the time to feel around in my large suit pockets for tools because I can’t directly feel or see them, so I have to put them back where I got them and in the same orientation. We stop every 100 meters and Andrew takes notes about the waypoint and records the coordinates. We do this to keep the record of the area over the years and to note changes and explore new areas. It takes a long time to get anywhere, but that’s exploration. We are out for an hour when we run out of drivable land and have to leave the ATVs to try to get into the crater. We walk up a hill toward the center of the crater and it is clear the fans could be working better to remove condensation. We end up on the sloping rim overlooking the crater and can make out the dot of the hab in the distance. Here, the quick mud I talked about is devious. It is impossible to see, you can only feel it. I watch Andrew’s boots ahead of me to see if I need to change direction. Surprisingly the ground with running water is the hardest, hence the water running over the top. Where it looks dry is where the mud is soaked and it absolutely does not support any weight, you go right to the ankle and if you’re not careful, it’s going to be a rough time. We pick our way toward the Patterned Ground but it is clear 1.5 hours into it that we need to find a different route. We decide to take a waypoint and use a signal mirror to the hab so they can locate us. Then we turn back. On our way down to the ATVs, Andrew stumbles on the loose limestone and falls uphill. He’s fine and Caleb and I go to help him but he tells us no, to step back so he can try to get up himself. He wants to use the slip as a chance to test and report on how the suits are doing and how difficult it might be to get yourself back up. He’s always thinking about the science, it must have been difficult for him to put off the mission for so long to fix and clean the hab.

Andrew picks up a light colored rock that is out of place among the dark limestone. He says it should ring when we hit it with our hammers instead of thud. I can only hear the hammer ringing off it when I hit it and Andrew isn’t impressed with the sound, he was expecting a higher pitch. Regardless, he cracks the rock open with the hammer to show how white and crystalline it is inside. He suspects it is ejecta from the asteroid impact because this type of rock is formed deeper in the ground than any of the limestone around us, and the impact launched debris all around the island.

We had pancakes for breakfast, couscous for lunch, and curry over rice for dinner. I’m learning an incredible amount out here and I’m very much looking forward to tomorrow.

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