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June 26, 2006

By Koby Van Beest
June 26, Monday:

At the start of the day, not surprisingly another cloudless sunrise, it promised to be a busy one for all in a scattered sort of way. The teachers from Chile would both working with their chosen scientists and preparing for their broadcast tomorrow while the Americanos—there are five of us left at the station as Karie and Geoff are off with the team from Utah doing some high altitude research on Andean volcanoes—did basically the same but with a bit less focus on their broadcast set for Wednesday.

I , Koby, personally spent the whole time gathering information on a possible project that Chris McKay and I were discussing about developing a self-supporting station here at Yungay. My original thoughts sprang from having spent nearly a week here and not once seen a cloud overhead. I mentioned to Chris that it would be so easy to use solar power in  a place like this. From that he arranged for interviews with two Chilean scientists, Luís Cáceres from the Universidad de Antofagasta and Armando Azúa Bustos from the Universidad in Santiago.

Luis was a wealth of information and the tour of the Yungay station, which he had helped plan from the beginning, yielded interesting and detailed insights. We looked at the structures and dreamed of future ones. He talked about the agricultural experiments in the past, and we theorized how they might be changed for the better. The issue of water and energy was discussed in detail. We even climbed down into the waste trench and planned out how things could be better used, reused, and recycled. At each step I was most taken by Luis’s enthusiasm for this experiment in desert research. Nowhere was that more evident than when we looked at the surviving trees from the original plantings. The dozen or more that were thriving were doing it on their own—“Nobody is watering these, “ Luis delightedly exclaimed.

The conversation with Armando, though much shorter, was equally spirited. Mainly, we talked of the collaboration between Chile and the US. Armando has been working with Chris and the Chilean government trying to get some funding to improve the Yungay station’s facilities. We discussed structure options, and I sketched some plans that I said I would finalize and send to him to aid in his presentation to the government officials involved. It all seemed very hopeful.

Speaking of which, I also cornered Penny Boston and had an encouraging discussion drawing on her extensive work on and in the Mars Habitat in the Utah desert. Right from the start she stressed the notion of prioritization and preparation. Her special concerns, noting her past experiences, focused on energy and communications. She recounted several disasters where scientists totally over taxed the always limited energy supplies as well as suffered countless headaches dealing with both internal and external communication problems. We bounced around ideas that would not only help my planning a new Yungay research station but could also be used to develop a “virtual” classroom station that could be used to study research station life from a systems stand point. All very exciting…if not overwhelming.

With the approach of darkness, again, not surprisingly starting with a cloudless sunset, everybody gathered for the evening meal. A group of us went up into the rock garden for some experiments involving equipment that liked cooler temperatures and darkness. Armed with headlamps and assorted sample collection paraphernalia, we spent an hour or so huddled around the two rocks (the ones with the depressions mentioned earlier) we had dubbed ‘Penny’s and Linda’s potholes.” As the temps fell and the wind rose, Rosalba, our resident sedimentologist from Italy, started to shiver in her native language…

Back at the station a couple of the Chilean teachers had cooked up a hot meal of habas con arroz (beans with rice)—guaranteed to help heat up our tents later. I know I was not the only one to go back for seconds.

This opportunity is brought to you
in partnership with
Mars Society,
NASA Explorer Schools,
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS),
National Society of Black Engineers - Space Special Interest Group (NSBE - Space),
Space Generation.


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Editor: Linda Conrad
NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated:February 2006
Teachers Contact: Liza Coe