Mars Desert Research Station Crew 124 Files Final Report
February 26, 2013
For further information about the Mars Society, visit our website at www.marssociety.org
The following is the final report of MDRS Crew 124, which just completed its tour. A full review of this year's activity at the Mars Desert Research Station will be given at the 16th International Mars Society Convention, which will be held August 15-18, 2013 at the University of Colorado, Boulder. For further information about the Mars Society, visit our website at www.marssociety.org
MDRS Crew 124 Mission Summary
Commander Summary (Kent)
The EuroMoonMars studies are conducted at the direction of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG) under Bernard Foing. MDRS Crew 124 is also known as EuroMoonMars-A. We hand off our projects to EuroMoonMars-B at the end of the rotation. This is part of a series of EuroMoonMars projects that are conducted each year at MDRS.
Multi-scalar Imaging Methodology (Kent, Dennis)
Our goal was to create a “satellite to sample” methodology for site documentation, while backing relevant samples for lab use by the sponsors of this project. To link the satellite and sample locations, we used a combination of geocoding and theodolite applications on iPad and iPhone. These stamp context pictures with the UTM coordinates, and maps with links to the photos taken during their discovery. Kent used Gaia GPS and Theodolite on an iPhone and iPad, and Dennis was using GIS Pro on an iPad.
Gale Crater Geology Study (Dennis, Åse)
During this rotation we have had a research goal concerning traverse planning from satellite images. This has been with special emphasis on the MSL traverses in the Gale crater. And to find similar features on satellite images from Gale crater on Mars, and MDRS. Analyzing satellite data in the Netherlands, We (Ester Velasco, Åse Svendsen and Dennis Oltheten) found eight locations that could be interesting to investigate in relation to Gale. The features include; bulgy terrain with layered deposits, inverted rivers, ridges, alluvial fans, possible mesa, possible crater, and a river cutting through rocks. When we went to the different places, we discovered more similarities at the MDRS area, to the MSL traverses than expected, in the scale that you cannot see in a satellite image. We also saw that a satellite image can be deceptive without enough experience in interpreting them. Hence, what was thought by some to be a mesa or a crater was not the case when we actually got there. During our visits to the different locations, we took samples of endoliths, and of features we found interesting. We also took close-up pictures to place them in a database, so one can see the places on a satellite image, and then context and close up of the final sample we took.
We did a small search for structural geological features that could say something regarding the stress regime and deformation history of the area. There are some big fracture patterns on Mars and if we could link this in a way to the deformation of the MDRS site, it could give even more similarities in the simulation of this Mars environment.
Endolith Study (Tristan, Åse, Dennis)
Tristan and Ase were able to find roughly a dozen samples of desert varnish, lichens, and other microbial colonies living on rocks for the endolith. These were also subject to sterile sampling and returned to cold storage. Ase will ship them back to Europe for use by the mission sponsors.
Dennis also worked on finding a correlation of endolithic sample locations and their habitability lithology (in other words, correlating the type of life form to the type of rock). If those would give a positive relation on one or some kinds of preferred rock types, we could give advice to the searching for life on Mars.
Drilling Study (Kent, April)
Kent brought a hammer drill and used a sample collection device on loan from Carol Stoker at NASA to gather drill samples of gypsum, mudstone, and siltstone. This system was designed to be a close analog of the drill on the Curiosity Mars rover. Kent and April gathered five gypsum samples from a canyon, two siltstone samples, and one mudstone sample near the Hab. These will also be handed on to the next crew for possible lab work.
The system was also evaluated mechanically so that any knowledge capture on drilling materials in the field may be transferred to NASA for later use. One key issue is that like any drill, the bit seeks the softest material or deepest point, and this is doubly true with a hammer drill that is designed to bounce. One solution was to cut a channel to the material being sampled with a rock hammer so that it tends to bounce into the seam rather than around it. April gained a good sample by drilling under and through an overhanging deposit (like a pocket drill slot). Because the sampler provided by NASA was designed to emulate a robot rather than function as a field tool for spacesuit use, April is considering a more spacesuit-friendly design for surface geology use.
GreenHab Status (Paula)
Melanie of Crew 123 left the GreenHab is excellent condition and we’ve done our best to keep the place and its green inhabitants in that condition. Overall the plants have done very well -- even the avocado is sprouting new shoots so perhaps it will recover from whatever trauma happened earlier in the season. We harvested a small amount of microgreens and kale/chard leaves on Feb 11 and Feb 14. The potted cress were fed on Feb 12 and the chard and kale were fed on Feb 20. The nasturtium, nodding onion, tomato and zucchini were transplanted into bigger pots as they outgrew the ones they were in. Two of the herb cuttings were planted as they had developed good roots in the vermiculite.
We collected temperature and light intensity data using an Ardiuno-based device for 24 hours from Feb 12 - 13 and again from the morning of the 20th through the end of our rotation. Perhaps this data could be collected on an ongoing basis as part of GreenHab maintenance and a daily or weekly plot of the data included in the Reports.
Observatory Study (Paula)
Thanks to the updated startup procedures from Peter and my experience working with the Observatory on Crew 119 I was able to get the finder scope and main scope aligned and did successful three star alignment each night I used the observatory. We had a nice viewing of Jupiter and the Moon on Feb 14. On Feb 15 I tried to get some CCD camera images of the Crab Nebula but discovered star streaks in the image. I worked with Peter to use the CCDOPS software to try to calibrate the system for tracking but kept getting an error in the calibration process when I tried on a subsequent night. Peter gave me updated instructions to attempt the calibration/tracking again but they skies have not cooperated and I have not been able to implement his updated instructions.
Temperature Logger Prototype Testing (Paula)
A custom-built Arduino-based temperature and light intensity logger was used to collect data on EVA helmet interior temperature and light intensity on 4 different EVAs. These data will be incorporated into the data collected during Crew 119. Another pre-built modular system was programmed to log temperature and light intensity in the GreenHab. The custom-built system collected data in the GreenHab for 24 hours on Feb 12 -13 and also the first 6 hours of data alongside the modular system, which collected GreenHab data from Feb 21 through the end of our rotation. The GreenHab system would likely be a useful addition to monitor GreenHab conditions for subsequent rotations.
ATV Study (Audrey)
This project focused on ATV use in sim. The objective of this project is to analyze the capabilities and limits of the use of small surface vehicles. In the framework of this program, we studied difficult terrains that could be encountered on Mars. Though it was not possible to drive off-road, we stopped the vehicle as close as possible to a difficult area while remaining on the road. Audrey took pictures and made comments on the difficulty by filling a questionnaire. Each crewmember has also filled this questionnaire to evaluate the ATV’s capabilities.
Habitablity Study (Åse)
A debriefing was conducted by Åse to walk through a survey on the various difficulties of living in the Hab and EVA work. This is a survey created by Irene Schlacht.
Rover Study (Åse, Kent)
After extensive repair and configuration work by Dennis and Tristan, we were able to get the rover working reliability near the Hab. We were also able to use the AC power at the observatory as a range extender to a nearby rock field. Åse was able to gather data for her rover sample image recognition study. Kent and Dennis also shot HD video for later use.
Health Safety Officer Summary (Tristan)
We started this trip with two crewmembers feeling very ill from cold and flu symptoms. In the confined space of the Hab where everything is shared, including space suit helmets, it's almost a miracle that the entire crew didn't get sick!
Overall, everyone has been quite healthy for the last two weeks, with most problems being related to the desert environment and adjusting to life in Mars simulation. Most of the crewmembers are used to living in humid environments, so the dry desert environment has led to problems with dry skin and nasal congestion but this rarely affected anyone's ability to complete their work. Difficulty sleeping was a problem for some members of the crew as well, which seemed mostly related to the warmth of the sleeping cabins. All of this was to be expected, but I think that placing a humidifier in the Hab might help to prevent similar problems for future crews.
MDRS is well served by remote medical support and we had one incident where it was necessary to make use of it. Knowing that a physician is on call when you are in a remote environment is comforting and was really helpful.
For myself, serving as the HSO was a unique experience. In the hospital environment where I normally work, I am used to every minor medical problem that someone mentions being fully explored and evaluated. This was my first instinct anytime someone mentioned that they felt a little sick or had a minor injury in the first few days of the rotation, but I soon realized that this wasn't necessary, and that everyone was more than capable of taking care of themselves for minor ailments. I hope this will give me another perspective when I leave MDRS and return to work in the Emergency Department.
For further information about the Mars Society, visit our website at www.marssociety.org