Major malfunctions with the well head this morning. I was awakened by an alarm that the well head pump had exceeded the capacity of the attached container. When I got out there, about 150 meters from the lander, it was clear what had happened. It seems that the heat tape failed and the well head had frozen. Simple physics will tell you that water expands about 20% after freezing, and the entire well head cracked, from the riser pipe into the container valve, resulting in a catastrophic failure. Interesting to note that water continues to come up and freeze on contact with the surface, making repairs nearly impossible. I recovered as much of the frozen water as I could, breaking the ice into large chunks and hauling back to the lander. Difficult since the containers I have are setup for a pressurized release – and have a 4 inch opening.
I jerry-rigged a plastic tarp inside the breezeway and have left containers under the tarp with a small drip hole to catch the water as it melts. Not the best solution – but it works. I now have enough water to sustain the lander for another few weeks. And should have some spare to feed the seperator and algae tanks.
11/24/2012, 11:54 PHX
I have the well head in the bunk house to see what I can salvage. I noticed an interesting phenomenon with the well. When I freed the well head, water continued to surge out, at about a gallon a minute. Not great flow, but certainly interesting. It seems the pressure below is greater than in the atmosphere. The water freezes into a flow pattern, but also evaporates into the atmosphere creating a general fog around the hole. A high pressure system came over while I was dragging the well head home, and the water ceased flowing. Apparently the balance of pressure is delicate.
Fortunately I have another well head, and will find a nearby area to create a new drill site and seat the well head. I plan to layer some insulation around the well head system this time to help prevent heat loss – and will connect another sensor to the heat tape in case it fails.
Need a break for lunch. yesterday I harvested some algae and have freeze dried it following the protocol. It dries in layers, not unlike nori used in sushi back home. Supposedly I can use it in broth, or toast the sheets and eat them. Will see. More later.
11/24/2012, 21:35 PHX
The temperature in the breeze way (or pressure lock if you prefer) is just barely above freezing, and I have been leaving open the lander hatch to let some of the heat into that area. It is very slow going. The safety timer on the door keeps throwing an alarm, so there has been little rest or relief. Every three minutes alarms blare and the system wants to go through a full debug check.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving back on Earth. I am thankful I have survived so far, but still not too sure about this mission.
11/25/2012, 08:15 PHX
Happy Turkey Day. I have set out the “T-Day” dinner pouches to thaw. Looks like turkey, yams and stuffing, with what appears to be pumpkin pie. Looking forward to the change.
Unpacked the spare well head last night. Yet another slightly different model from what I was trained on. Going to have to modify my tools and wrenches to properly fit. Today will install over the new well hole drilled over night. I haven’t checked the drill yet – but the computer shows a successful drop and water. Can’t go out just yet because of another dust storm.
11/25/2012, 12:10 PHX
I am giving myself the rest of the day off. I successfully installed the new well head and it is pumping liquid water into container, albeit a bit slower than the previous well. I suspect the old well has not fully frozen closed and pressure is leaking out.
I managed to gather enough ice to melt another 15-20 gallons of water. This will go into the fuel separator. I need an immense amount of hydrogen, and oxygen. For fuel and for air. The melt rig is working well, except I have a pressure lock with about an inch of slush and mud on the floor.
Turkey dinner, more like turkey slurry. Freeze drying takes more than just the water out of food – it takes the flavor and texture turning everything into a mush. I got a bit too much water into the turkey and it was more soup than meat. Still – the hint of familiar flavors brought back some interesting memories. The pie was the best… and I got the mix just right. It was more like a pumpkin shake with some flaky bits and lumps, but the sweet was really welcome.
I got the message today from Earth, checking in on things and wishing me a wonderful Thanksgiving. The afternoon is full of storms, some pretty rough, so no EVA the rest of the day anyhow.
Call me sentimental, but I called back watching parades and football at home. Didn’t have much of a home life, and most holidays ended in alcohol soaked fights, but for one or two perfect hours – it was nice. Anyway – no booze here – but cheers to my family and friends. I am well, eternally cold, and likely too freeze dry myself here. Tomorrow I have to make up the lost hours, but for now – I am grabbing my book (Ayne Rand, The Fountainhead) and a glass of tea and curling up in the bed for the rest of the day. Happy Thanksgiving.