Extra Vehicular Activities -EVAs- on Mars

It’s the morning of the first full day of the mission and engineering checks need to be performed. Engineering checks are basically equipment checks done on everything outside of the habitat. This includes checking the generators, the propane tank, the water supply, and the ensuring that the ATVs are still operational. This would be a piece of cake of an activity to do except for that fact that now we are live in simulation it needs to be performed in the full spacesuit: helmet, backpack, gloves, and all. Once myself and the others finish eating breakfast we head down to the EVA room so I can get dressed and ready to enter the airlock. Since this was the first time donning the entire suit it took us a few minutes to get everything on in the correct order that made it easiest to get the suit on and off. Once I enter the airlock the commander, acting as HABCOM, commencing the depressurization count of 3 minutes. Okay, so 3 minutes you would think is isn’t too long, right? Well when you’re standing in an airlock not doing anything it’s longer than it seems, especially when you can’t see anything outside of the airlock or back inside because the sunlight coming in is blinding. So, I proceeded to admire the inside of the airlock and the plaque that hangs in there displaying donors to the program from years back. I distinctly remember thinking that this was one of the times where it paid off to be shorter than average height because I didn’t have to do any bending to get into the airlock, but anyone taller would have had to do so…take that tallerish people!

The HABCOM gives the okay to open the airlock hatch. I acknowledge and proceed to open the hatch. Once, I got it opened and took my first step outside onto the platform I was amazed to see what a different world I had just emerged onto. I was just out here the day before and didn’t experience this same feeling. Wearing the helmet made it difficult to see my peripherals as well as added an extra challenge to breathing just because there was something directly in front of my face. Looking up past my immediate vicinity, as far out as I could see, existed this alien world of plains and hills of various shades of reds and browns. So there, I was the only person outside, on the surface, miniscule compared to hills surrounding me and the first thing I thought was “Hmm…my nose itches, bummer.” That would have to wait to be rectified after I got back in the hab and was able to get my helmet off for now, I was in a hostile environment that did not care if my nose itched. It was just there to try to kill me and I was there to best it.

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Crew Engineer and HSO during an EVA

I radioed back to HABCOM and notified them that I had made a successful egress and that I would be heading toward my first equipment check. Walking long distances was not as difficult as I thought it would be in the suit but the unstableness of the ground beneath my boots did take a little getting used to. After checking of the fuel levels for the hab I turned my attention back toward the hab where the water system was located. Once I made it over to the water and confirmed that it was still there, you know, you never know there could be thieves on Mars, I hear that Curiosity is always looking for water; who knows what it’ll do with it once it finds it. So to be on the safe side, a daily check to make sure it’s still there should put our minds at ease. I recorded the levels so I could pass them on in my engineering report to Mission Support team later in the day. Once I confirmed all my tasks were complete, I radioed in to HABCOM to request permission to do a couple laps around the hab because of course an active Martian is a healthy Martian. Once done I headed back to the hatch and received permission to enter and begin pressurization of the airlock. While waiting for the inside hatch to open and going over the activities for EVA even though I knew I was in a hostile environment that could kill me at any point…it definitely felt like home.

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