Date and time: 29 April 2012, 
Written by: Haritina Mogosanu, Crew 118, Commander

0200 hrs

The day started very early with Operation Antipodes. Actually I never went to bed and neither Ali nor Mike. During the experiment I collected samples from the gloves and tools we routinely use in SIM and that was done in full gear, outside, at the engineering bay. The purpose of the exercise was more to verify if we can connect comms across the planet rather than analyse the samples. The mission was a partial success as the message did leave from MDRS and Wellington but never reached Dachstein (may be in the satellite somewhere awaiting in the queue). The connexion MDRS/ Wellington was loud and clear; Dachstein on the other hand lost the link as they lost the modem connectivity in the cave. Our very first attempt to engage in such communications across the planet taught us heaps (smile).

Whilst in EVA the temperature of the night reminded me of the last year's rotation and for once since our arrival this year it felt very comfortable and warm to be inside the 'space' suit. 

0400 hrs

I'm still here... outside and wide awake... by myself with the camera and my tripod a few hundred meters from the HAB, looking in awe at how the galactic bulge of the Milky Way rises above the hills… "OMG - how awesome is this place" - just the night time version. The HAB looks literarily as if hanging from the edge of the world! You can even see the stars through the helmet and I cannot resist taking one thousand and one night shots of it - definitely my favourite place on Earth! (more pics on the gallery for Day 9).

In the picture below, a familiar sight from home, my favourite sight in the ENTIRE SKY (beats Saturn), the Milky Way Kiwi, a Kiwi bird-shaped dark patch near the galactic center holding it (the center) on its head just like a crown. (Like I'm so not kidding, Sagittarius A is there on top of the head of the bird just like a crown). The reasons we could never figure out the Kiwi in the Milky Way from the Northern Hemisphere are:

a. The Kiwi bird is endemic to New Zealand hence one has to go there (or have friends there) to remotely understand the shape of this bird - see our mission patch!

b. Seen from the Northern Hemisphere the birdie is upside down which is why I had to turn the picture upside down as well to see the Kiwi. We actually know about those dark patches but call parts of it - The Horse (smile).  

c. New Zealand's sky is so dark that we can always afford to play "clouds' shapes" with the Milky Way, the biggest cloud there! So dark is there that one can actually see the Milky Way Kiwi say from Lake Tekapo for instance (world gold dark sky reserve) with the naked eye!!

I stayed outside till the sunrise that washed away my stars... Grrr!!

And felt like the old Freemen of Dune after I returned to the Hab to eat the "morning dinner”. Whilst doing that a couple of Muad’ Dibs said hi playing cheerfully around.

0730 hrs

After "dinner" I stayed awake for 10 more minutes to wave Jon Rask good bye and say thank you, then finally went to bed to try and catch some sleep. As it happens, the only room with a window is the Commander's room and the daylight rushed in, through the transparent glass straight into my (closed) eyes.

Rest of the day:

With not so much sleep for most of us last night and a week of hard work passed by, we discussed a break. I personally do not want to have a break, really, but some lifted eyebrows made me not comment on that too much (smile).

Personal thoughts:

I've been pondering this for a long time now, before the mission started and I can't keep but wondering however, if you are on a two weeks mission on another planet, do you really take a break? Or are we wired to only work in cycles? Something I have never thought about until now, how do other cultures take what we call "weekends" or "leave" - I mean historically... I personally find weekends very annoying when I work on projects, and I only feel like I need a break after I finished writing the reports to clear my mind for reviewing the material. Like almost total immersion (smile)... And how long can one go without burning out?
I really don't know which is the best way of dealing with these things... I guess it comes to personal choices, understanding each other and more studies about human factors in the end... 

So we took a break! 

We still went outside in EVAs but this time we took the rovers and roamed freely across the plains. It was simply recreational and different. Oh, yes and we almost got lost in the desert... for about five minutes or so - which is a long time when you feel uncertain for your future!! Almost means till we were able to see the hab (smile). Of course we could always go back on the same tracks we came in case you were wondering... 
The weather was ridiculously hot but beautiful.

It's peaceful and VERY quiet here on Mars, the Sun goes down as I write my report and I just know that the stars will come up soon in a symphony of colours and lights. 

Clear skies everyone,


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