I got to spend an hour outside today, and by that I mean I spent an hour sweating in a plastic suit.
We don’t get out much, we’ve been in the dome for slightly more than a month and before today I had been outside for perhaps half hour total over the course of a handful of EVAs. All of these had been short excursions to check the status of the engineering systems or retrieve supply drops. I hadn’t been even 100 yards from my bed in a month.
Today I got to do my first geology EVA. We are being assigned occasional geology tasks just like a real crew on Mars would be, the idea being to keep the simulation as realistic as possible and also to keep us busy. The task was to take some rock samples we can use to determine the approximate mass of the rampart spatter cone (a type of volcanic cone/ridge) adjacent to the habitat. Our previous geology task had been to determine the approximate volume of the feature.
We only have one of the nicer simulated spacesuits (which currently happens to be broken anyway). The rest of our spacesuit are hazmat suits. They are cumbersome, hot, difficult to see out of and effectively isolate you from the environment, so pretty much everything a real spacesuit would do. The only thing they are really lacking is the weight of a real space suit which can be 100+ lb (on Earth anyway). Prep for an EVA involves getting a radio setup, hooking up the ventilation fans/batteries, getting a camelback filled up and then stepping into the suit and Velcroing it closed. Then we sit in our airlock for 3 minutes to simulate depressurizing it to Mars surface pressure. Once outside we walked the length of the ridge occasionally stopping to fill a container with rocks. The terrain surrounding the habitat is very rough, it would be a bit tricky even without the cumbersome outfit. The clear visor portion of the suit isn’t of great optical quality so while I had a decent idea of how everything looked it was interesting to come back and look through the photos and see everything in better detail.
In total we had walked perhaps a half mile and when we got back we were all dripping with sweat, our finger pruney from being in sweat filled rubber gloves for an hour. It was still nice to get of the house.