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NASA Quest Spacewardbound Field Report: The Winter Solstice Transect, Day 1, June 21, 2006

Status Report From: Ames Research Center
Posted: Tuesday, June 27, 2006

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We were already coming together as a group and the packing of the vehicles took much less time. We rode in the same cars as the day before in preparation for another long day of driving interrupted by four stops for sampling along the transect. Our first stop was to get gas and we grouped to hear each scientist describe what they would be looking for and the tests they would do. Chris McKay announced that we would travel at a rate that would get us to Yungay by nightfall (6pm).

We drove a half hour out of town to the first transect site. The teachers separated and went with different scientist to collect samples of the rocks and soil. Our sampling tools consisted of sterile spoons, plastic gloves and zip-lock baggies. The scientists are all passionate about their work here and the teachers are excited to be doing real science along side the scientists. We were still working out the kinks of cooperation and communication. We kept hearing the term "herding cats", which was a good description of the progress of our group.

One of the reasons for the long drive was to view the changing landscape as we drove north from relatively arid to extremely arid environment. This was the first time a transect was done along this route for the primary purpose of determining the minimum water requirements for the threshold of life. We stopped and did collection of samples at 3 of the 4 places we had planned. The sun was setting so we headed for Yungay.

We arrived at the camp at ten pm, grateful for the cold sandwiches and hot drinks for dinner. It was very cold and very dark(the station is run by generator and our flashlights were packed). We jammed into the small kitchen area for introductions. The excitement level was high for both the travelers and the greeters at the station. The excitement carried us through unpacking the trucks and setting up tents. We settled in for a long, cold night.

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