Dr. Steven Wheeler PhD, will be the Commander of the 88th mission to the Mars Desert Research Station. As Commander he is responsible for the safety of the crew and all operations during the course of the mission. He will be setting priorities on research activities, communicating with mission support and the mission director and in general managing the efforts of the crew to meet the goals and objectives of MDRS-88 and of The Mars Society. Steve will also have a secondary role as Chief Geologist and Principle Investigator of a micropaleontology study. This is a research project that Steve proposed to refine and improve upon field techniques and procedures for identifying and studying fossilized microbes in a Mars analog environment.
Laksen Sirimanne (that's me) has been appointed as Executive Officer (XO) as well as Chief Engineer. As XO I will be the second in command during the mission, assisting Steve in planning the daily schedule, the research activities and the Extra Vehicular Activities (EVAs). As Chief Engineer I will have prime responsibility for maintaining all systems necessary for routine Hab operations. This includes the power, water, electrical, plumbing, ATV, and Greenhab systems. This is an enormous task and reading the daily Commanders Reports and the Engineering Reports submitted by the last three crews of the current research season it looks like something or another needs fixing on a daily basis (most often than not there are multiple concurrent issues). The last crew (MDRS-85) reported electrical issues, thermal issues, plumbing issues with frozen water pipes and a computer malfunction at the Musk Observatory. But, if you had to choose to be Chief Engineer this would be the crew to be on. In addition to me, both Diego and Paul are Electrical Engineers, and both Steve and David are experts in software engineering and information technology. So there will be plenty of good help. Artemis (our Mission Director for the Mars Analog research Station Program) did warn me that I will be constantly fixing things... but this is no different from what we have learned from the International Space Station. This is what it will be like on an extended expedition/mission to Mars. I am up for the challenge!
Bianca Nowak will be our Health and Safety Officer (HSO) and our photojournalist. Bianca has a nursing degree with a post graduate degree in tropical medicine which makes her ideal for the role of HSO. Upon arrival at the Hab she will be given a crash course in telemedicine and will be required to go over all procedures and equipment before we are allowed to initiate the simulation. Bianca is also an expert amateur photographer and is planning several experiments including planetary and deep sky photography using the Musk telescope. Her research will allow us to test equipment and refine techniques in astrophotography in remote locations (night time outside temperatures are being reported at 15F at the Hab). Several of us have completed training and received certification on using the Celestron 14" telescope and will be ready to give Bianca a hand with her projects.
Diego Urbina will serve as Chief Biologist and also support the astronomy research. Digeo has a very diverse set of skills which will allow him to assist in many areas during our rotation. He has taken on the role of Chief Biologist and will become our crew expert on the GreenHab where he will support ongoing studies. He is also preparing several research proposals for growing a variety of plants.
Paul McCall will be our Chief Astronomer and will also support the micropaleontology and geology studies in a secondary role. As Chief Astronomer Paul will be the crew expert on the operation of the Musk telescope. He recently completed his certification to use the telescope. Paul will be completing his MS in Electrical Engineering this semester. He seems to be a hands-on guy and a willing team member and during this crew rotation I will be counting on his assistance with Hab engineering activities.
David Levine has been designated as the MDRS-88 Crew Journalist. He will also support all the other research activities during our 12 day rotation at the MDRS. David is an award winning author, and most recently retired as a software engineer and a technical writer. His fit for this role was an easy one. David intends to document our mission from start to finish including reporting on our daily EVAs. However, there are limitations to the amount of data that can be received and transmitted from the Hab (again to simulate an actual mission constraint), so assuming there's sufficient bandwidth, David plans to blog daily about our experiences including frequent small updates on Twitter and Facebook. Upon his return from the mission, he will write and/or edit wiki pages and other technical documentation on MDRS equipment, procedures, and policies, as required.