Storyline: Colony Reports, Zeus found

12/15/2012, 13:15 PHX

I found the remains of the Zeus Rover this morning while on a hike searching for new geologic samples. Since I have finally gotten the routine maintenance down to a couple of hours, and the fuel conversion is fully supplied, I decided to take on the extended sampling mission. 

The Zeus Rover went silent several years past its prime and expected functionality, I think late 2009. It seemed that an unusual storm was heading into the area near the rover, and after the storm passed, no new signals were sent. Interestingly, the original Phoenix and Opportunity took on a special “life” at NASA and JPL, and were bestowed a kind of honorary status. My understanding is that I am to only recover a key memory module, and leave the wreckage intact, while carefully marking the spot.

I set out about 10:15 PHX this morning heading north, intending to climb out of the crater, and sample at 100 meter points on tangent from the lander. This process is extremely tiring and time consuming, and I can only carry 4 properly bagged 15 gram samples at a time, due to limitations in the suit. I found an unusual shape, a long cylinder, with a shiny black window, barely peeking out of a rock pile. This took me about 20 meters off my target tangent, about 380 meters from the COHAB. I logged this into the GPS and took two samples nearby.

It took me a couple of hours to carefully remove the rocks and dust from the top of the rover. The damage is extensive, the camera boom is entirely detached from core body, and the solar panels are smashed. Protocol requires a system check, however the rover was unresponsive. I could not locate any of the external access hatches, and did not have the proper toolkit with me in any case. 

I returned to the COHAB, and will make another EVA to the site later.

12/15/2012, 16:12 PHX

A minor dust storm swept through on my way back to the COHAB. I am simply not prepared to deal with these amazing winds, nor the noise they generate. While minor in comparison to other such storms, a very strong gust was blowing nearly vertical up the crater, and I could barely move against the wind, and visibility was nearly zero. It took me almost a full 40 minutes to fight my way back to the COHAB.

Kudos to the engineers of the COHAB, the insulation effectively buffers the noise outside, with the occasional exception of small debris raining down. It has been several hours of silence, preceding this storm, and I had adjusted to only the sound of my breathing and the scraping sounds of the geo sampling. The storm ramped up the noise about 60 decibels inside my helmet, and the small rocks that struck my suit sounded like a fastball hitting a catcher’s mitt less the “Steeeeeriiiiike” from an umpire. It’s incredibly disorienting and I have a loud ringing in my ear. This was NOT covered in the training. Fortunately, a few meds have taken off the edge.

Another pressure system is moving in. I will not make it back to the rover today.

12/16/2012, 9:18 PHX

Beautiful calm day today. Made it back to the rover with my toolkit. I was only able to expose a bus connector, and connected my computer to download the information. Fortunately, my kit contained the proper adapter and was able to fit into the bus. It was clean and no dust or grit had gotten in. I found a couple of the wheels, one smashed and one more or less intact. and returned them to the lander. Against protocol, but I feel as if I have found the body of a former Colonist, so I stacked some rocks around the wreckage, forming a sort of cairn. I didn’t dig up the whole wreck, and certainly couldn’t lift the rover, so I wrapped some plastic around Zeus first. Perhaps someone can return and fully recover the relic.

The GPS location is 92 495 1262. The cairn fully covers the wreckage, and I have planted a pole into the cairn to mark the location. I wish I had a flag, seems more fitting. Around the cairn, I scratched out and laid out large rocks in the form of a 4 point star, aligned to the poles. We should have no problems finding it again. That said, some of these storms can bring several inches of dust and debris. I expect it will be covered again soon, leaving only the pole.

I cannot explain my feelings on this matter. I feel sad, as if I have lost a friend. I know the rover was a robot, and served well past any wild expectations. Perhaps that is it… a feeling that I should persevere and refocus. Get this done so we can return and start building the colony.

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