RIO TINTO EXPEDITION – Day 7: Oh rainy day…

Apr 21, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: PolAres, PolAres Rover "Phileas", PolAres Suit "Aouda"

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A concerto of mobile phone ringtones disturb the quiet of the camp. Getting up means to crawl out of a wet sleeping bag in a wet tent, put on some damp clothes and grabbing a wet role of toilet paper before heading out into the open – if we manage to find three minutes without rain. Getting washed is not a problem any more, and the talk of installing a solar powered shower has become not much more than a joke. At the moment, every minute where we do not get any more wet, is precious.

While some start the coffeemashine, the others are looking in the light of electric torches for an expensive lens. Luckily the lens hasn’t been lost at all as it turns out. We have time for a quick breakfast, but soon after everyone has gathered in the OPS tent, the rain starts again.

It continues raining for the rest of the morning, which forces us to prepare everything to be ready once the rain stops. While Daniel Schildhammer – today’s suit tester – donnes the suit, Erich Proell documents everything on film. Every couple of minutes we have to stop and explain what we are doing for the cameras. By now we are sure he has got several kilometers of film!

Meanwhile the rain turns into a storm and it is raining cats and dogs (more dogs, as someone mentions). We are right in the middle of Donning on the suit, but now it also starts to dribble through the roof, and a small lake builds up in our makeshift tent for the final stages of putting the suit on. Still, we try to keep going.

Until a Sebastian Sams, our IT-genious, shouts alarm: Some of the water gets through the tent and drips onto a power charger. Using some tape, we try to insulate the tent. The generator stops working several times and has to be restarted. Our green raincoats are now proving their worth: umbrellas are worth than useless with the current strong winds(no one wants to get blown away!).

At 12 o clock Daniel comes back into the tent. The plan had been to go to the rock garden to take some samples. But when we get asked by MCC team members if we have got them already, all we can give them is a weary smile.

Rock Garden

(c) OEWF (Paul Santek)

The situation gets worse: Half an hour later, the desert where we are camping, turns into a lake. We start to put some of the most important things into the vehicles. Others labour to deepen the trenches around our tents. At least the people from Eurobot’s team take pity, and give us some dry “Mars 500” T-Shirts.

While we are trying to kill some time by reading articles on the forums website, it finally stops to rain. Quick now, we have to take some photos for our sponsors before it is too late.e „Mars 500“ T-Shirts.

Daniel jumps out of his chair and we run outside – after three minutes, we are done. Not too early: Just seconds after we are back in the tent, the storm hits us again, worse than before. It seems to be the end of the world. All communication is lost, and for secuity reasons we take our laptops of the network.

(c) OEWF (Norbert Frischauf)

Suddenly, a small river finds its way through our tent – but then, the storm ends. A few volunteers head out to get the samples for our geologists. They manage to get the samples and return wet (it never stopped raining…) but happy back in our tent. Not only did they pick up great rock samples, but also water, tainted all shades of red.

At 3PM it finally gets lighter and drier. Eurobot gets switched on for one more time and accompanies our astronaut on his mission. As soon as they reach the rock garden, the rain returns – Eurobot gets covered with a tarpaulin, Daniel takes Aouda back to the tent. To rescue Eurobot, the team of ESA comes with a portable tent, and while we drive a van next to it, it slowly goes back to the camp. Nearly there – and the sun is back. The only constant in todays weather is the constant change: Between a nice sunny day and rainstorms which seem to bring the end of the world.

Other geological samples have been taken in the rock garden, and Daniel goes through another Contamination Vector experiment. This experiment shows the contamination which happens between ground and astronaut, when samples are taken.

At 7PM everything is done. Our partners from ESA pack up Eurobot in its tailored box (which has been heavily warped from the wet weather), and head of after thanking us for the collaboration. We too have a GO for an early departure from MCC: tomorrow morning, we will start packing.

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