Friday, July 27, 2007

Much to the disappointment, I suspect, of some of the human factors researchers tracking our mission, our crew has gotten along astonishingly well. I put this down in part to luck, but also in part to some common values, including the stereotypical Canadian ‘niceness’, which a lot of Americans (at least, the ones on our crew) obviously share. Matt is our poster boy for this trait: he’d make you breakfast in bed, then apologize for undermining your diet.

Even with all this harmony, however, sometimes a girl just gets up on the wrong side of the bunk. I had already snarked at both James and Ryan today for no good reason, when an issue came up that actually causes me some real stress: how to make sure that we get all the data we need before we leave (there’ll be no popping back for one more sample once we’re gone). Problem was, I was too irritable to deal with it in an even-tempered, rational way. So, what to do?

One of the human factors studies is looking at coping strategies, which seem to fall into a few broad categories: actively working towards a solution; seeking advice and support; emoting; denial; booze and/or prayer; and so on. Here, many of our habitual strategies just aren’t available: no pets to cuddle or oceans to swim in, for example. In this case, I just wanted to go somewhere else, and do something else for a while – but there’s nowhere else to go, nothing else to do. So, instead, I stopped working, went to my bunk, put in my earplugs, and played stupid computer games for a couple of hours. As coping strategies go, it may not be the healthiest, but when I came out I was able to discuss the EVA schedule without biting anyone’s head off. Mission accomplished.
Tragic News

The Weekly World News is ceasing publication. Not only did they introduce the world to my fave celebrity, Bat Boy, but they have been publishing insightful science stories on Mars for many years. It's a sad day for journalism.

Would someone mind grabbing a copy of that last issue for me?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

C'mon, people. I need comments. It would be too sad if I were to crack up a mere month away from the end!

One more LOST parallel: webcams all over the hatch/hab...

Friday, July 20, 2007

LOST vs. FMARS: a side-by-side comparison

We've become more than a bit obsessed with LOST, partly because it's a great show that we have watched through, as a crew, from the first season; but mostly because we have a sneaking suspicion that we're on that island. Yes, I know, the human factors researchers will be delighted to take this as evidence that we've finally gone irredeemably nutso, but check the evidence (I don't know why the software's putting a big space here, but live with it):

the hatchthe hab
polar bearspolar bears
Dharma-brand canned foodSafeway-brand canned food
Button must be pressed regularly; may be part of cruel experimentButton must be pressed regularly; definitely part of cruel experiment
The Others, mysterious researchers who live on the other side of the islandThe Others, mysterious researchers who live on the other side of the stream
Bulky suits must be worn outside; may or may not serve useful purposeBulky suits must be worn outside; may or may not serve useful purpose
Little bottles of booze from the plane, last way longer than expectedLittle bottles of booze from the plane, run out almost instantly
Guys at polar station receive signal from island, send helpGuys at Polar Shelf receive signal from island, know help is not needed

...and so on. We even have photographic evidence.



Our hatch:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mars Clock

If you'd like to know whether I'm up or not and can't be bothered to check the webcam, have a look at the FMars Time Clock. I particularly like that the 24th hour has 99 minutes.

Oddly, my circadian rhythm seem to be naturally on Mars time. On a 24hr day, I always want to stay up just that little bit later, and sleep in that little bit later, than a normal schedule allows. The extra 39 minutes in a Martian sol allows me to do just that, without throwing the whole day off. Kinda neat.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Recent hab food: chicken pot pie, a really good beef stew made with jerky (the first one didn't simmer for long enough, and the meat was still chewy), and Matt's chocolate tofu pudding (delicious). Just so's you know.
Kim vs. Mud Part II

I got my boot back! And Simon's! The mud dried out just enough to be diggable, so we dug. Here are the triumphant boot hunters:

For the sticklers out there, I'm not wearing my EVA pack and helmet because I'm just about to get on an ATV, so I've switched to a motorcycle helmet for safety. Ryan was our polar bear monitor for this jaunt, so is au naturale-ish.
Sedimentally Yours

One way in which the Arctic is not very Mars-like is that there is surface water, and several small lakes and ponds dot the landscape near the hab. One of our studies is looking at the sediment at the bottom of these ponds. The story goes something like this: there are little wormy critters called chironomidae that live in lakes and ponds. In warm years, there are more of them; cold years, fewer. When they die, their little skulls settle on the bottom with the rest of the sediment for that year. So, you can find out about climate change by taking a core of pond gunk, and meticulously counting every chironomid head in each layer using a microscope. It's a bit like tree rings, but with worm skulls.

Here's me gathering a core of pond sediment. Our regular EVA suits don't function well in water, so I'm working the nautical look:

Dog Days of Summer

For those of you who haven't met her, this is my dog Leia:

She's sweet and I love her, but she chose to welcome the new house-sitters by barfing and crapping all over the carpets. So, the poor folks came from the airport to find, not the lovely tropical getaway they had been expecting, but a place that looks and smells like a discount vet's dumpster. Thanks, Leia.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Mud, mud, gloooooorious mud

Before I show the picture, I would like to point out that I'm not a complete idiot. The ground looked OK, I swear. Besides, what's a little mud? You get dirty, it dries, you brush it off. A nuisance at worst, and a featured attraction at some bars.

I was stuck for one hour. Simon rushed in after me, and got stuck too. Matt then had to build a bridge out of tarp and rocks to get to Simon and haul him out, sans one boot. Digging away the mud didn't help at all - it just shlurped back in. I waited patiently, not that I had much choice, contemplating the fate of the dinosaurs and experiencing the first step of becoming a fossil. The guys extended the bridge to reach me, and started pulling. It took both of them - two big strong guys, hauling away with all their strength - 20 minutes to drag me out, and I too left a boot tribute. In the photo, you'll notice I'm not wearing my pack and helmet, which had to be removed before I could be extricated. This makes me 'sim dead'. Luckily, I will be reincarnated tomorrow, with a lesson learned: Mud sucks.