Sunday, April 1, 2007

Day 5: The Voyage Home

Friday was the day they kicked us out of Zzyzx. The staff has done a incredible job in supplying us with a great environment for our program. The food was fantastic, and who has ever heard of clean showers and flush toilets on a field expedition? Thanks for going that extra distance to make space for all of us in your overcrowded facilities!

My original travel plans had me tentatively making the two hour drive to Las Vegas, spending the night on The Strip and making a side trip to the Hoover Dam and/or Zion National Park on Saturday. Unfortunately, I just have too much schoolwork due next week. An Optics midterm, plus my Astrobiology presentation on Terrestrial Planet Formation, to name two. Add in the LA traffic heading to Vegas for the weekend, and I opted out.

Once again, serendipity played a hand.

The rest of the San Jose Astrobio "crew" was heading to Death Valley, and if I could give Melissa a ride home so she could work on Saturday, Ben and Peng could do the reverse of my "Day -1", and hit Mono Lake as they drove home through Tahoe. Dr. Kress was also meeting her boyfriend there so they could head down to LA for the weekend.

Since I have never been to Death Valley, I thought it would be a great little bonus stop. Sure, it was a three-hour side trip and a little tourist-y, but hey, after a week in the desert, we were entitled to a bit of luxury, right? ;)

The side trip was worth it. The weather hadn't gotten outrageously hot yet, and the scenery was amazing. We stopped in Badwater Basin (where I happily paid the use fees!) and had lunch in Stovepipe Wells, with a side trip up Artisan Canyon.

Melissa had to be back early, so we left the rest of "The Crew" as they headed off to Mosaic Canyon for a quick hike, and finished our drive to San Jose.

I'm finally home, and it's Sunday, with my car still half filled with gear. I have lots of stuff to do, and am hating the idea of going back to "The Grind", but such is life. We have one more "Homework" assignment for Spaceward Bound!, which I'll post here once I get their final questions, and I'll also post an epilogue with my thoughts before signing off.

(The San Jose "Crew" (Left to Right), Me, Dr. Monika Kress, Ben Haller, Melissa Harker and Peng Yav)


Kel said...

I just read an article yesterday about how they can see huge underground caves on Mars, and they think that with the more moderate climate in the caves, there may be more evidence of life! So maybe your picked-up experience with the cave sensors will be the experiment most likely to find Martians! Yay! BTW: I have really enjoyed reading about your adventures! I will be sad when you sign off!

Mike Lum said...

Jud Wynne, the guy who led our caving expedition the first day was an integral part of that team. The techniques they used to find the sinkholes/skylights (they're not sure yet) on Mars, are the same techniques they are perfecting in the Mojave. The sensors that we placed act as a confirmation of the aerial IR scanning they were conductiong later in the week.