HI-SEAS habitat on Mauna Loa, there's no place like the dome!
Here, I'm interacting with crew members to accomplish our mission goals and to maintain a healthy team chemistry, while also gaining confidence in applied engineering and insights for proposing novel research. This past week, we worked on the first Geology task of the mission. Our task was to estimate the volume of a nearby ridge-like feature that is composed of a type of lava called spatter, which is a possible insulating material for building surface shelters on Mars. So, the question was basically how much spatter is deposited in this geological feature.
An aerial photograph of the geological feature
We divided the task into two separate EVAs. On Monday, Sophie and Allen suited up and headed out with the goal of determining the location of the ridge-like feature relative to the habitat and gathering information about where to start measuring and about the difficulty of exploring the terrain. From this information, we decided to tackle measurements with a three-person crew. On Tuesday, Martha, Neil, and I went out to track the feature and completed the longest EVA we’ve had so far. It’s hot and sweaty in those suits, but we kept going up and down the slopes of the 575-meter ridge to measure angles, input GPS waypoints, and to wave hand signals when radio communication failed.
At times, it felt as though I was skiing, when on the way down rocks would start slipping and rolling away. If it was not too steep, sometimes I would decide to just slide along with the lava rocks, in my clumsy hazmat suit holding a trekking pole! My golf experience also came in handy as I was pacing yardages to verify GPS calculations. The 1-yard stride I have ingrained on manicured golf course fairways still ended up being quite accurate on the rough terrain of a lava field.
Steep slope of the ridge with loose surface rocks, tread lightly...
What a great day, experiencing awe and wonder as if we really were exploring another planet! We faced challenges, stayed positive, and pulled together to successfully complete the task (estimated 155,500 cubic meters of spatter).