Mars Desert Research Station Crew 152B Files Final Report
We arrived at MDRS, on Saturday, April 4, 2015. We received the handoff from Crew 152A. They oriented us; we settled in and began our Mars simulation on Sunday, April 5, 2015.
Our crew members are as follows:
Melody Flowers—Commander in Training, Astronomer
David Moran—Executive Officer, Journalist, Health and Safety Officer
Arwhil St. Thomas—Engineer, Chemist
Hannah Burgess—Photographer, Biologist
Monday through Friday of our simulation, we followed a daily schedule of breakfast, engineering rounds, EVA, lunch, work on individual projects, dinner, CapCom reports and on various evenings, an astronomy activity.
Our first day of simulation was spent orientating to the suits, helmets, packs and ATVs. We rode in two directions to view the land for future EVAs that would be beneficial to the crew member’s projects and to take GPS waypoints of these locations.
Our consecutive days were spent going to the various GPS waypoints around MDRS to meet the needs of each individual’s research project.
The individual projects and their preliminary results are as follows:
Arwhil St. Thomas: The purpose of this project is to study the power generation of photovoltaic panels and thermoelectric generators with blackbody absorber in an analog environment.
The readings from the project have been producing valuable numbers in terms of voltage drop readings from both photovoltaic device and thermoelectric generators (TEG). Readings were obtained from all three thermistors. The ambient air, blackbody and aluminum sink temperatures have all been taken into account to analyze the relationship of temperature shifts to the voltage production of the TEGs. The photovoltaic device, as expected, produced a much higher rate of voltage than the TEGs. It was also noted that when clusters of clouds momentarily covered the sun, there was a steep drop of voltage rate from the photovoltaic device but the thermoelectric generators had a much more steady (somewhat linear) voltage production rate. The process of the main cause of low voltage production of the TEGs is still being determined. It is possibly due to the hot-side surface of the TEGs not being fully intactive with the blackbody. This may have happened during setup, or faulty frame design.
Hannah Burgess: The purpose of this project was to create a video documentary of “MCC on Mars”. Video was successfully collected and obtains almost all the footage needed. Filming will be completed on Saturday. The footage is been put in the editing software and is beginning to come together nicely. The completion date goal is May 5, 2015, and at this rate, it should be met successfully.
Crystal Webster: The purpose of this project was to prove that there have been multiple episodes of flooding in this area which is validated by the presence of graded beds and evaporate deposits. This would prove that the region was once a lush, forest landscape, with flowing and pooling water, as opposed to an arid desert region the area is known to be today. The method for this project is to identify in the rock record, information that proves this hypothesis by studying the different sizes of graded beds, evaporate deposits, petrified wood, and fossils. This will show that the landscape has changed multiple times. So far, during the daily EVAs, evidence has been found of flowing and pooling water in the form of huge outcrops of graded beds and gypsum formations. Also found, were several pieces of petrified wood scattered about the area. The EVA to Burpee Canyon, proved to be beneficial as well. Petrified wood was abundant throughout the canyon, and while bone fragments were not found, it is known that dinosaur fossils can be found in the area. In conclusion, the findings indicate that there was indeed flowing and pooling water with abundant trees during the Jurassic period.
David Moran: Mars exploration up until now has been primarily done through the use of satellite images and rovers. When the first crews arrive on the surface of Mars, a good portion of exploration will be done on foot. The use of a miniature sized, cost effective rover would greatly help in accessing areas that may prove too difficult for humans to go. This project is an exploration into what it takes to build a rover-style robot that could one day prove useful on the surface of Mars.
This being David’s first project in robotics, and first time coding, it was difficult taking the idea to fully functional autonomous robot. This past week here at MDRS has been a true test of the rover’s object detection system, as well as weight distribution. The terrain helped expose some of the design flaws, but also highlight the abilities to improvise and make improvements. Overall, MDRS has provided the adequate environment in which to truly test the rover to its limits.
The Crew has worked together well during the week. The food studies are not in progress and therefore, the crew did have some fresh fruits, but other than that, we have been creating meals from the shelf stable supply provided by the program. We have been very satisfied and actually, pleasantly surprised with the taste of these meals.
The crew has participated in astronomy activities using the observatory and Celestron telescope. This has been one of the definite highlights of our week. The consensus was that the favorite object viewed was the planet, Jupiter, in which we were able to see the bands on the planet.
On Tuesday, of our rotation, we had a visit from an NBC affiliate news station out of Las Vegas, Nevada. They interviewed the crew and filmed footage of our life at the HAB and of suiting up for EVAs. They were definitely intrigued with the program.
On Saturday, April 11, 2015, our rotation will end. We will hand over the HAB to Crew 153. Our time has been personally beneficial beyond words. What a monumental week this has been. The uniqueness of this experience is so invaluable. So many advancements take place personally and for mankind as we challenge our limits. Through the experience and challenge of our time here at MDRS, we have grown personally. Our horizons have been expanded and we have been inspired even more than we already were to seek to expand life to the Red Planet.
We would like to thank the Mars Society for this invaluable experience and their inestimable support of Capcom during our rotation. We are deeply grateful for the opportunity. As Commander of Crew 152B, I would like to close with a quote I believe sums up our hopes and desires in our pursuit to achieve the goal of getting mankind to Mars.
“Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.” ---Mary Kay Ash
Liz Painter, Commander, Crew 152B –Lone Star Highlanders, McLennan Community College, Waco, Texas.
For further information about the Mars Society, visit our website at www.marssociety.org