Sunday on sMars

This morning I woke up with a wave of determination after more than a week of feeling like I had not accomplished anything. We’ve been working on the geology task nearly constantly which has left little time for anything else. Sure, we technically do things all day long, but it is easy to have the day pass by and be left with a list of things you wanted to accomplish. Last night we finally finished up the geology task, and then, while everyone else stayed up to watch a movie, I went to bed, still later than I would desire.

In the dome, we don’t really get weekends, every day is just another day of research tasks, cooking, cleaning, and just things that come up. My favorite thing about weekends at home with my family is the amount of stuff you can get done if you wake up at a reasonable hour. It is not uncommon for my dad to get four hours of sleep and then rise with the birds and get more done before breakfast than a lot of people will do in a whole day. There are an endless number of construction projects at home, and my parents are the supreme rulers in making or building anything you could think of. Seriously, they make everything!

Photo 1
Chester guarding the back deck during a long summer day 2015

This morning also had a strangely Montana feel to it. While I unzipped the airlock to grab some food for breakfast, there was a cool breeze and something about the dome smelled just like home. If I closed my eyes, I felt like I was standing on our back parch and there was a crisp spring breeze blowing needles and snow out of the trees. So, I decided to roll with it and with our recent resupply of assorted lumber, I knew exactly what my project for the morning would be… building a table for the plants that live under the stairs.

After installing the ISS lights several weeks ago, we made a makeshift table out of TV tray tables and some excess plywood. This worked pretty well but would not last forever as we needed the tables for one of our research tasks. So, mission one… make a table. Challenge one, have it fit I the tiny space under the stairs and not make it a permanent feature of the dome. Challenge accepted.

Photo 2

Challenge Two came when it was 8 am, I was feeling super motivated, but 4/6 of the crew was fast asleep. I didn’t want to wake them, so I had my trusty early-rising Montanan lock me in the SeaCan to noise proof the construction. With an evil laugh, he locked the latches and went back to working on his thesis. While I halfway trusted that I would re-emerge from the SeaCan someday, I wasn’t entirely sure if it would be before my two cups of tea would set in. Tristan is a very focused worker with noise proof headphones, and while that is probably really nice for him he also misses a lot of things that happen in the dome. Most of these things are probably nice to miss… people running up and down the stairs, pots and pans falling, treadmill thumping. Sometimes it is something like us making “surprise” mint chocolate chip ice cream for his birthday which needed to be blended three times and all of the crew was talking about it in a normal speaking voice. Needless to say, no matter how much banging I tried, there was a good chance that I wasn’t going to emerge unless he decided to open the door. The SeaCan is definitely sound proof.

Photo 3
From the back of the SeaCan looking towards the airlock. You can see the ‘shop’ on the left and the food/space suits on the right side

We recently received a Sawzall in the resupply, and while I love power tools, I decided that cutting each piece with a handsaw would be more meaningful and give me a better workout. I should mention that the SeaCan also doubles as our ‘shop’ and bulk food storage. Half of the container is filled with shelves of food and MX-C space suits, and the other half houses our batteries, the water pump, and the shop workbench. In the middle is a small aisle about 2.5’ wide.

During the last EVA, the team brought in a bunch of 2x4s that were left outside in the last resupply. These were all waiting for me in the SeaCan along with all of our tools and a morning’s worth of snacks. Our main IT guy has been super awesome at providing us with as many podcasts as we could dream, so for the Sunday project tunes… CarTalk. I am instantly teleported back to my parent’s garage with the stereo blasting so that my parents can hear the show no matter how far they travel from the garage.

The actual construction of the table is less exciting than the finished product. I made a 6’x2’ frame and then attached the legs. Remembering that part of the challenge was to get it to fit into the space under the stairs while not making it a permanent feature, I went for legs that could fold in like the plastic tables you would get at Costco. Luckily I was able to scrounge up some spare hex bolts, and with some quick shaping, I had movable legs.

Photo 4
Close up view of the leg attachments
Photo 5
Side view of the legs

Shortly before finishing I was released from the ‘SeaCan of Construction’, and while no one had emerged from their rooms yet, the morning was nearly over and it was a suitable hour to be making noise. After a quick bathroom break and checking the emails, I was ready to put the table under the stairs. Part of the fun came when we found that we had made the wooden equivalent of parallel bars and took a detour to do some ab exercises… ok, too much fun, time to get back to work!

After clearing off the old table of the assorted growing things, we guided the folded up frame into place. 3…2…1…deploy legs, scoot out from between the wall, lock into place, add the plywood top, and voilá! a brand new piece of the dome home. We added some of the growing things back, which right now are cyanobacteria ( and assorted plants including an amaryllis from Montana and the starts of the next ‘surprise’ Martian bulbs.

Photo 6
Final product in use.

Not bad for a Sunday morning.