It’s hard to believe, but this experience is almost over. This was really driven home today, as some of the crewmembers started packing their personal belongings. All we have left is one weekend, which will be filled with wrapping up personal research activities, and Monday, which will probably be very hectic with all the packing, inventorying, and tidying up the habitat.
In the middle of all this, I really wanted to write up a blog to provide a detailed update on all the things I’ve been busy with in the past few weeks. Time has been growing short, though, and my to-do list has been getting longer and longer, so I decided to just do a quick overview instead:
Outdoor thermal imaging
I’ve done a lot of outdoor thermal imaging since the last blog post, focusing mainly on lava tube entrances. A representative example is shown below: (top frame) Thermal panorama of the lava tube entrance, composed of 12 FLIR T300 images. Acquired on 7/17 @ approx. 5 pm. Temperatures shown in the panorama range from 10 °C to 21 °C; objects above this temperature are colored white, and objects below this temperature are colored black. (bottom frame) Simultaneously-acquired visible-light image for context. Crewmembers Yajaira Sierra-Sastre (left) and Sian Proctor (right) are visible.
These are large images that can zoomed into and explored. Acquired using a Gigapan Epic 100 unit and a Canon EOS REBEL T3i camera generously provided by crewmember Simon Engler.
We found two deep vents on the cinder cone ridge adjacent to the HI-SEAS habitat. On the last geological EVA of the mission, we lowered a device consisting of a GoPro camera and two headlamps, attached to a plastic first aid box, into the smaller of the two vents (labeled as “Deep vent #2” on the map below) to acquire footage of its internal structure. What we saw was something of a surprise: a humus-covered floor, densely-vegetated with ferns, moss-covered walls, and a lot of visible moisture. We found life on “Mars” at last! This stands in stark contrast to the generally barren, lifeless landscape around us, and makes us suspect that this vent is actively emitting water vapor and possibly other volcanic gases, and likely has elevated internal temperatures. Here are two pictures showing our improvised recording device and the process of lowering it into the vent (photos by Angelo Vermeulen):
And here’s what the camera saw. The first photo shows a white mineral precipitate near the top of the vent, and the second photo shows vegetation near the bottom:
Summary of EVAs
This will probably be my final blog of this mission. It’s been quite an amazing experience, but I’m also looking forward to exiting the habitat on Tuesday at the end of a very successful mission!