Sol 86 [8 January 2017]

My Sol 86 - “HabCom, HabCom, This is EVA Team… Over” – An unforgettable EVA

It was Sol 86. Actually, for Crew 172, it was Sol 6, but I would call it Sol 86 because for me this mission is an important continuation of Mars160 science operations.

So, we all woke up at 7 am and got ready for the breakfast by 7:30 am. This was going to be a busy Sol for me because at 8:30 am, I was supposed to meet with an Earth-based Microbiologist Dr Rebecca Merica, and in the afternoon I was to be part of an Engineering EVA. So, after about 2 hours of meeting with Dr Merica, I performed my cleaning duties both in the Science Dome (which my crewmates call “Anushree’s Lab”. And I love it :) and the lower deck.  We had rehydrated spinach pasta with quinoa in lunch at about 12 pm. After one and a half hour, we started Space Nap wearing a mask as part of Photic Sleep Enhancement study in simulated Mars mission. Space Nap usually lasts half an hour. We woke up at 2 pm and started gearing up for the EVA.

The EVA team consisted of our Crew Engineer Troy Cole, Patrick Gray who is our Green Hab Officer, and I. This EVA was basically focused on the routine engineering check. We usually consider the engineering EVAs – short and sweet, but after this EVA, our Crew Engineer Troy (a person who talks to himself and we call him Mr Helpful because he can fix almost everything :) decided to stop calling it so  The reason is interesting, believe me!

As soon as we got ready in our spacesuits, we did the radio check and commenced depressurization inside the EVA airlock. After three minutes, we egressed the habitat, being oblivious to the fact that the 15 minutes EVA is going to be a two-hours procedure. We opened the front hatch and exposed to a beautiful milky white landscape, entirely covered with a sheet of snow.  The temperature outside was as low as minus 5 degrees C.  So, we started with diesel and propane level check and notified the HabCom Nicholas McKay, who is our Crew Journalist.  After finishing the fuel check, we proceeded to the water tanks. We were supposed to check the present level of water in the static tank. The static tank is the source from which the water is pumped into the loft tank inside the habitat for our daily usage.

First, we were not able to see the level of water inside the static tank because our helmets were fogged up due to the extremely cold temperature outside (sometimes we get icicles formed inside our helmets). But anyways, we had to perform our duties as EVA team as best we could. Somehow, we managed to see the level of water and notified the HabCom.  The water in the static tank was supposed to be transferred to the loft tank. However, we found the pipe attached to the pump, as well as the pipe that goes inside the hab, was completely frozen and blocked. Now, the adventure began!

During all that, we were constantly in conversation with our HabCom through radio transmission.  We decided to break the ice inside out the pipe somehow. We requested HabCom to provide us few tools and equipment, such as hammer and screwdriver. One by one, we three tried our hands with these tools. We were succeeding. However, the ice inside the pipe was still as hard as a rock. We thought only hammering and scraping will not work and we need some hot water to melt the ice. We had to be cautious to not to damage the pipe in this process as well. So, we requested a bucket of hot water.  Usually, engineering airlock (rear hatch) is used for these operations.  Once we received the hot water we started pouring it inside out the pipe many rounds. It took us 20-25 minutes. But, to our delight, it worked! Little chunks of ice remained in the pipe, but we decided to attach the pipe back and tell the HabCom to turn on the pump to see if it works. We did the same.  But as soon as the pump was on, pipe got detached and thrown away by the heavy flow. It was not screwed properly (our helmets were fogged up and barely could we see anything). So, we lost almost a bucket of water, which means a lot on Mars. We all shouted altogether in the radio – Stop, Stop! (we were telling our HabCom to stop the pump). We repeated the procedure, but this time, with a great care. In the meantime, I noticed that one of the pipes attached to Patrick’s oxygenator got dysfunctional. So, again our Crew Engineer Troy - Mr Helpful - stepped in and fixed his suit on spot!

The pump was about to switch on, and we crossed our fingers. This time, it worked! Buuut… we found a leakage in the pipe. Complications seemed to be unending. We had to stop the pump again and requested duct tape and scissor. We secured the pipe with the duct tape and turned on the pump.

Finally, our “operation water” was successful!

I would say this EVA was the best example of a great team work. I had been part of many such EVAs when I put myself into precarious situations and challenged my physical and mental strength; having said that, this EVA gave me a new perspective of living on Mars. I learned that on Mars, you are not just a scientist, an engineer, a doctor, or a journalist. On Mars, you have to be everything. It’s not only about performing herculean tasks or conducting field science, but also, using the presence of mind to solve household puzzles. It is also about taking care of your home and ensuring a smooth life for the people living inside that home.

On Mars, you may not have similar issues but your attitude towards those issues would have to be the same. I think that’s the essence of being part of a simulation.

When we entered back into the front hatch for re-pressurization, our Crew Engineer Troy (Mr Helpful) screamed with joy – “Oh I got a new job! Now, I’m a plumber as well!” :)

Patrick and I after finishing the engineering task. (Image credit: The Mars Society)

Views: 111


You need to be a member of SAGANet to add comments!

Join SAGANet


  • Add Photos
  • View All

Blog Posts

Using tried and tested methods of constructing habitats from ethnobotanical and ethnozoological useful species for self sustainability on Mars

Posted by Andrew Planet on June 26, 2020 at 8:00am 0 Comments

To maximize crop yields on Mars it would be advantageous to do away with annuals and biannuals by engineering the latter into perennials as standard. Not only would that entail far less work to grow produce as the act of replanting is made obsolete, but per given cultivated area perennials bring forth more food and materials with less demand from the soil than the equivalent of annuals.

Imagine a superfood annual such as lentils engineered into a lentil tree for which there already…


Free astrobiology webinars for kids, summer 2020

Posted by Julia Brodsky on June 13, 2020 at 12:28pm 0 Comments

This summer, Art of Inquiry hosts free space exploration and astrobiology webinars for middle-school students and their families all over the world.

Here is a list of what was covered so far, as well as an updated schedule of webinars:

The search for life in the Universe, Dr. Alex Tsapin, JPL (retired)

The history of SETI, SETIQuest editor, Larry…


Radiolysis-powered life

Posted by Andrew Planet on June 11, 2020 at 9:56pm 7 Comments

This paper greatly extends the possibility of what a Goldilocks zone can be.  Its no longer the Goldilocks zone as a single expanse, its the Goldilocks zones for a particular area

¿Are the Venusian sulphuric acid clouds the by product of long dead anoxogenic photosynthetic organisms?

Posted by Andrew Planet on May 4, 2020 at 2:51pm 2 Comments

I just read the piece at the link below entitled "Study: Life might survive, and thrive, in a hydrogen world."

I'd been thinking on similar lines recently, on different atmospheres with early life, but I was considering anoxogenic bacteria whose byproduct is sulfur instead of molecular oxygen. ¿Had life evolved on Venus could its sulfuric clouds be the signature byproduct of such life with no branches ever evolving to produce the equivalent of Earth's Great…



  • Add Videos
  • View All


Ask your questions here!

Started by Gina Riggio in SAGANet Discussions. Last reply by Pritha Jaipal yesterday. 127 Replies

If you are trying to ask a question live during Ask an Astrobiologist, please do so in the main chatroom at the bottom of the screen! You can also ask on twitter…Continue

Inhabitation on mars, with plants or without?

Started by Chirag Parmar in The Cutting-Edge of Astrobiology. Last reply by Chirag Parmar on Monday. 2 Replies

hello there, Chirag Parmar this side!i am a biotechnology student and currently on research of plants on other planets! The main issue is the gravity of the planet! If we take mars as an example, the…Continue

Tags: #plantsonplanets, #mars, #plants

Have we been looking in the wrong time-frame? Requesting feedback on a recent paper.

Started by Christopher J Reiss in The Cutting-Edge of Astrobiology. Last reply by Greg Bowen Jun 30. 5 Replies

Let me first say Hi to everyone as a new member here!   I hope you are all safe, sound, and not too stir-crazy during this Pandemic.I recently stumbled upon a notion for SETI which seems so simple I…Continue

Interactive Online Astrobiology for 10-12 yr olds

Started by Julia Brodsky in Education and Public Outreach Mar 9. 0 Replies

If your 10-12 yr old child is interested in space science, I would like to invite them to our courses. I am a former science teacher,  mom of three, and a former NASA astronaut instructor. I also…Continue

Tags: school, education, middle, astrobiology, STEM

© 2020   Blue Marble Space, a non-profit organization committed to science and science outreach.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service