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RSoFM on the News


Check out this clip:×9&auto_next=0&auto_start=0&page_count=5&pf_id=13012&pl_id=33432&rel=3&show_title=1&tags=story+news+cool-at-school-students-help-plan-mission-to-mars&va_id=5796501&volume=8&windows=1

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Growing Pains

Hello Dear Readers,

Just a quick one today because I’ve been up since 8am and sleep has been a bit elusive this week.  I’m not going to talk about the 90’s sitcom, or about watching my little brother become bigger than me, it is my robot has had some growing pains.  It was only last week that it finally became fully made and it was glorious!  Splendid and imposing, inspiring, magnificent, awesome… and stationary.  Not the best trait for an exploration rover.

Call sign Two-Step, why wouldn't I make a robot with boots?
Call sign Two-Step, why wouldn’t I make a robot with boots?

The much desired hum of a powerful motor propelling it forward on spindly legs to walk over all obstacles in its path was instead replaced with the click-click-click of a motor stalled out and trying, a touch pathetically, to do something it had no possible chance of accomplishing.  I could almost hear Scotty telling me that we didn’t have the power.  And so we grow and we learn, and we remember back to every teacher that ever told us to do the math before putting a part into production!

And so instead of growing taller we grew shorter and stronger; Zak 3D printed some gears for the shaft to wring ever last drop of torque out of it and we got the ever important forward motion!  Wheels may not be as snazzy as legged hubs but hey, gotta start somewhere.

With some big ol' monster truck wheels and sweet rubber band treads out baby makes tracks on the HI-SEAS Mini Mars Yard
With some big ol’ monster truck wheels and sweet rubber band treads our baby makes tracks on the HI-SEAS Mini Mars Yard

The great thing about where you start though, is that you don’t have to end up there.  Hidden beneath those rubber band treads are 12 slots just waiting to try out some foot designs.  Something to give this baby, which I have just decided to name “The Giddy-up”, a little more edge.  Following after my childhood fix-it hero Tim the Tool Man Taylor, I’ll be giving it a bit more power with a better motor and maybe even a gear box to really crank up the torque.  Of course that’ll all happen back on Earth, I may have to build a little Idaho Mars yard to continue the work.

Stay Tuned!

Two Step, out.

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To take stock of

To catalogue the things in your life

This is my job right now, I am taking stock of all the shelf stable food that we’re going to leave behind for Crew IV which will start up in August.  One of the most important things on the mission has been the food and the amazing things that the crew members have been able to do with it.  Allen’s Kingal is still one of my favorite things that we’ve made and Zak’s red beans and rice have me subconsciously calling him Uncle Ben (which is weird because I actually have an Uncle Ben who lived in Louisiana and has never made me red beans and rice).  Neil’s Chicken Carbonara was amazing and second only Joce’s Chicken Paprika with dumplings.  Martha even did what my vegetarian brothers couldn’t and made spiced chickpeas and alugobi that I could NOT stop eating.

We’re putting together a cook book, and I have quite a few recipes that I still need to write up to put into it.  I’ve never made a cook book but I feel like its going to read a lot like a regular book; I’ll be seeing “empanadas” but thinking of Christmas in a dome, missing one family and enjoying another.

I’ve also been taking stock of the sensors, motors and other parts I’ve ordered.  Some of them stay behind, some are mine, and some I get to borrow to finish my projects back on Earth.  Each part a piece of a dream, a fanciful thought, a project.  Cleaning water with sand, teaching a garden to tend itself and imbuing an amalgamation of parts, motors and sensors with a sense of exploration.  As is so often the case with dreams some seemed to materialize on their own, some are dragged kicking and screaming into the physical realm, and some I just couldn’t spend enough time in the clouds to coax them down to Earth.

“Now Sophie,” the Subtly Insightful Reader intuits, “surely this talk of dreams cannot just relate to servo motors, ultrasonic rangefinders, and accelerometers.  You may build robots but you aren’t one.”

Well SIR, you obviously don’t know about my plans for SophBot 2000, however, that doesn’t make you any less right.  I have said before that we here are all parts of a whole; its almost impossible to live only for yourself here in the dome.  And like my garden sensors and Cave Crawler wheels sometimes the plans made for the parts don’t work out right away and the design needs to be changed.

The wiring diagram for this crew has had its fair share of revisions but the components have all been the same, constantly reintegrated as some systems fade and others rise.  And through it all the is the hum of gears meshing, turning, and bringing each other to new revolutions.

HI-SEAS Crew III: An electrical schematic in constant flux built on the foundation of dome-cooked love and respect.  Metaphors meet the blender of thine doom!

Basically, despite being confined to a dome none of us have stayed still very well.

Dome family!
Dome family!

May the sun be bright that thine batteries charge quickly
May the breeze be cool that your space suits stay chilly
And may your dome, or home, be as full of great people as mine is!

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The Final Week

Dear Readers,

The blue green marble looms more like a beach ball now as we approach the final week of our time here on sMars. Today was the first of the lasts, the last Sunday we’ll spend here on sMars.  We’ve done the last toilet cleaning, we’ve eaten the last salad from our garden, and now we are gearing up to remove any trace that we were ever here.

Many people ask what I’m looking forward to most and what I want to do first after getting out.  I give some reasonable answers, like eat a pile of fresh fruit and veggies, go sunbathing, eat my weight in Mickey D fries but honestly, I have no idea.  I have no idea what it is going to be like outside of this dome.  I cannot imagine being surrounded by people I don’t know.  I cannot imagine sitting down to a dinner table with food that hasn’t been rehydrated.  More than anything though, I cannot imagine hugging my mom or my best friend.

Things will be busy this week, but I’m going to try and keep everything updated so keep checking back.  Looking back on some of the things I’ve done since coming in here it is hard to believe that it has almost been 8 months.

The ride back home is here, now all we gotta do is jump on a light those rockets
The ride back home is here, now all we gotta do is jump on a light those rockets

The ride continues, and with it the promise of more thrills and excitement.

Two-Step out

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Congrats Vandal Graduates!

My friend Dirty Mike told me that I was mentioned at the U of I graduation ceremony.  Time has flown  and I completely forgot about all that so for all my friends who are graduating and moving on to do great things with their lives, I wanted to say congrats and good luck with your futures!

Congrats to all the Vnadals, can't wait to graduate with too! Photo credit: Neil Scheibelhut
Congrats to all the Vnadals, can’t wait to celebrate with you!
Photo credit: Neil Scheibelhut

If you want to read more about things, U of I had a really lovely piece at:

Your Two-Steppin’ Vandal Alumnus, SophBot Mars Edition

Posted in Dome sweet dome

Some time away from home

Martha and I got to spend the day outside, we did science, we sun-tanned, we took a few lovely walks around the neighborhood, and I got to see how it would feel if I suddenly weight 200 lbs.

So first things first, no I did not just gain 60 lbs for fun.  This EVA was to test the feasibility of long duration EVAs in the MX-C suits that we have, aka the White Suits.  We recently got our second suit, it has red accents instead of blue, and Martha and I went out in them to do some science with a field spec (measures reflectance of light from rock samples to see what is in them… I think) and see how long we could last without a battery dying, or either of us needing to go to the bathroom.

Me in the new MX-C suit, Shelly
Me in the new MX-C suit, Shelly

So first off let me introduce the suits: Phil, who you all know from past blogs, is blue and Shelly is red.  Yes, I’m super proud of having come up with names that so properly reflect the suit’s purposes!

Phil is a bit smaller that Shelly, but that’s quite common for many species other than our own.  The skeleton of each is a backpack frame and the parachute pants are a quark of simulated pressurization as well as a statement on how much style you can put into a mock space suit.  As for circulation, these bad-boys each come with a 4 gallon cooling reservoir that gets filled with ice water and pumped through a vest that is basically a network of tubes.  Respiration comes in the form of 5 major air hoses, one for each leg and arm and one for the helmet.  The helmet one is super important and basically controls how much physical exertion you can do because if you’re breathing rate increases past a certain threshold things can get a little PANIC-y and no one wants that, trust me.

So Martha and I did science, which was fun and exciting seeing as it has been a while since we got to play around with equipment we don’t fully understand.  And whats better, it gave us the opportunity for some really cool photos of science, WOOOO!

Mars Science, look at us go!
Mars Science, look at us go!
Check out all our science!
Check out all our science!

Also, pictures of me using science as props for a James Bond-y picture, more WOOOO!

Call me Step, Two-Step *pew pew* (thats the noise a ray gun makes)
Call me Step, Two-Step *pew pew* (that’s the noise a ray gun makes)

Since we were doing science at semi-specific solar incidence angles,  we had some time to kill between “zenith” and “high” and decided to get some cool pictures taken of us (Thanks Neil), go for a walk, do a foot race (Hahaha Space Race!), and mostly just sitting around trying to keep the weight of our space suit worlds off our shoulders and getting a little sun!

Martha and I resting after a nice walk around the neightborhood
Martha and I resting after a nice walk around the neightborhood

And of course, photos of our epic Red vs Blue “space race”

the epic battle of RED vs BLUE rages on Mars with a footrace!
the epic battle of RED vs BLUE rages on Mars with a footrace!
Hey, I had 25lbs on Martha, lets see you try running with that :)
Hey, I had 25lbs on Martha, lets see you try running with that 🙂
Martha won our "Space Race"
Martha won our “Space Race”

So I lost, but Martha was a very gracious winner!

Re-reading the post I did about my first venture with Phil (DONT PANIC), I realize that I have come quite a ways from who I was when all of this started.  Most of you have taken this journey with me and for that I’d like to say thanks.  I know that as things draw to a close I’ll get busier and busier so while I’m thinking about it, and procrastinating on writing reports, here it is:

Readers near and far
All the adventures we’ve had
Bring smiles joy and love

Thanks for staying tuned in and lets see how irritating it can be posting to Facebook and Twitter 😉

❤ always,

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Eurovision on Mars

Hello Europe (and Australia) this is MARS!

We are watching Eurovision, and for all you Americans out there who don’t know what this is please google “Poland Eurovision 2014” for a wonderful introductory video.

Eurovision is a wonderful and amazing combination of music, smoke machine, pyrotechnics and SPARKLES

This years winner was Sweden and wowzers did he win my heart! He can be my Hero anytime 😉

According to our own vote he also won Eurovision of Mars but we also had high hopes for:

Russia, who we very affectionately called Elsa our Disney queen

Estonia, who we would always wake up for

Austria, how can lighting a piano on fire on stage not win you a vote?

Belgium, loved the singing!

Georgia, how could you not be a warrior with shoulder pads like that?!

Some of our favorite lines and moments from Eurovision:
Time is like thunder
Your love is the torch that lights our way
Sexy dancing cops
If you wear capes, which are apparently very in this year, you need to make proper use of the wind machine
On stage costume changes are always a crowd pleaser so thank you Spain and Serbia
Conchita, I love you
Greece, the plunging neckline/high skirt slit combo was much appreciated, thanks for keeping it classy

I have to admit I was expecting more sparkles and spandex or just overly sexual milk maids churning butter but this was good too, you can be SURE I will be tuning in again next year!

Love from Mars!

Two Step

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Knobber Bobber on Mars

Along with a 4.5 hour EVA doing some serious field spec science, Neil came out and took this great picture of the Knobber Bobber.

Lakes on Mars are hard to find!
Lakes on Mars are hard to find!

I had a bowl of water that I had brought out to make into a “lake” but there was so much wind that the KB kept would get to the edge of it and start diving so we had to dry dock it.  It’s a beautiful little boat and floats amazingly well.  Perhaps when I go to visit my family in Colorado this summer I’ll bring it along and let its maiden voyage be in the waters I remember playing in as a kid.

Well James K, we made it!  Don’t let the blue skies fool you, we’re on Mars for reals!

Two-Step the Shipwright signing off.

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The Knobber Bobber

Here it is, the first picture of the Knobber Bobber!

Love you James K and miss you tons!

Thanks to Zak for holding the fan off a little ways, I tried having it closer and the Knobber Bobber tried to fly!
Thanks to Zak for holding the fan off a little ways, I tried having it closer and the Knobber Bobber tried to fly!
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Boats, archery and dixie-land jazz

What do all of these things have in common?

My grampa, James K.  He was gentle and patient and always seem to be humming, or at least that’s how I remember him.  My three brothers and I would drive from San Antonio, Texas to Aspen, Colorado to go and visit my grandparents and aunt and uncle.  It was where I learned to ski with the Powder Pandas, and where we would go for endless hikes through the mountain fueled by Baba Lily’s inexhaustible supply of starbursts, craisins, and sandwiches with buttered bread.  We would get into all kind of trouble running around and playing in rivers and scree slopes and when we fell, twisted an ankle, or managed to get a tiny pebble shoved under our toenail (no judgment, Poobah) James K would sort us out, wrap us up, or poke a hole and fish out said pebble.

He would also help us make boats out of popsicle sticks or twigs, he taught me how to shoot an arrow from a bow and not thwap myself with the string, he could play a mean trumpet and trombone, and he always had ice cream in the freezer.  I find myself thinking of him often while I’m here, when I catch myself humming, when I build robots, and when I think of getting back to Idaho and bowfishing.  I try to be patient and kind and gentle, and although I know I fall short I keep trying to be the kind of person that he was.

I had a dream about him not long before he died when my family was visiting him in the hospital.  We were in the big park in Aspen where we used to watch the 4th of July fireworks, next to the gazebo, and I was looking up at the moon being sad.
“Why do you look so sad, Sophie?”
Suddenly I’m six years old again and my hand is lost in his,
“Because I don’t think I’ll ever get to go there”
And its the saddest thing I can think of, a heart-broken little girl who just want to go to the moon, but he laughs, all deep and rumbly, and as he says “Sometimes things look difficult or far away when really they’re just within your grasp” he swoops an ice cream cone through the sky, catches the moon and gives it to me.  It’s the best orange-vanilla ice cream I’ve ever tasted and just like that, no more sadness.

And so in honor of my grampa, I made one more popsicle stick boat.  The six-year-old in me would be proud, for I’ve combined all of the things I’ve learned these past 20 years and put them into a design that Kevin Costner (Waterworld rocks!) and James K could be proud of.  Zak helped me 3D print the parts and I can now present to you, the 3D design for crown jewel of the Martian Naval Force:

The Knobber Bobber

Pontoon style sailing ship, ready to be tested on the  open waters of sMars
Pontoon style sailing ship, ready to be tested on the open waters of sMars

The actual Bobber has been constructed and pictures will be taken as soon as the long-awaited 6 hour EVA commences.  Check back for pictures and such then.