Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Final Report to the Mars Society - my duties/accomplishments

On the last day of our mission  we submitted our MDRS Crew-88 Final Report to the Mission Director for the Mars Analog Research Station Program. Our report was recently published in the Mars Society's Newsletter. Here is my section of the report:

Laksen Sirimanne, Chief Engineer and Executive Officer, is the Vice President of Research and Development of the Transcatheter Heart Valve Replacement Program (THVR) at Edwards Lifesciences. THVR is a non-surgical procedure that allows a diseased heart valve to be replaced in a catheterization lab while the patient is awake and on a beating heart, eliminating the need for anesthesia and open heart surgery. Laksen has four advanced degrees, has traveled to all seven continents, and is a private pilot who set a new World Record by flying a single-engine Diamondstar DA-40 from Orange County Airport to First Flight Airport in Kittyhawk, North Carolina in 17 hours, 24 minutes.

 
Engineering: For the most part Crew 88 did not experience any major engineering issues with the Habitat or the GreenHab. At the end of the rotation all systems including power, water, recycling system, rovers and simulation suits are in working order. This is due in great part to having more than one engineer on the crew and each one taking responsibility for one or more maintenance tasks to keep the Hab functional on a daily basis. In addition, engineering walk-arounds were completed at a minimum of twice a day and all minor issues were attended to and fixed immediately. With David Levine taking on responsibility to keep our communications equipment (radios and internet) functional and also maintaining the EVA suits on a daily basis, and Paul McCall taking responsibility for the daily maintenance of the rovers and also assisting in Hab maintenance, the crew could complete its engineering and science mission objectives unimpeded. We conclude that it takes more than one engineer to keep up with the daily maintenance of all Hab systems.

 
There were a few issues that were encountered early on in the mission, including a brief system-wide power failure due to the installation of a new diesel generator and some intermittent water pump issues, but these issues were corrected immediately and since then all systems are functioning nominally. Perhaps the most notable issue we have encountered is a degradation of Internet connectivity during the last four days of the mission. We bring this up as an exception to the high level of Hab functionality that we have maintained during the course of this mission since we have not been able to troubleshoot this issue at the time of the writing of this report.

 
In addition to Laksen’s duties as Chief Engineer and Executive Officer he was also a participant in several research and technical experiments. Laksen was the primary investigator along with Bianca Nowak on a GPS geo-tagging experiment to GPS-tag EVA trails for creating trail maps in the vicinity of the Hab on Google Maps and Google Earth. He also collaborated with David Levine and Paul McCall on the assembly of the Radio Telescope. Along with the rest of Crew 88, Laksen was a participant in Diego Urbina’s spacesuit mobility experiments.

 
Executive Officer: Laksen also served as the mission's Executive Officer, which involved communication with all members of the crew both before and during the mission, managing paperwork, and assisting the Commander in his duties. In this role he coordinated the following two studies:

 
Food study: Crew 88 also completed the food study proposed by Dr. Kim Binsted. The study consisted of alternating days of eating dehydrated food where only boiling water was added to precooked meals, to days of eating dehydrated food that was "cooked" where several combinations of ingredients were added to complete the meal. Each crew member completed the Food Study Form each evening and forwarded the completed forms to the Crew Commander at the end of the rotation.

 
Habitat architectural layout evaluation: As part of a study conducted by NASA Johnson Space Center, Crew 88 filled out architectural layout surveys on days 3, 6, 9, and 12 of the rotation. The purpose of this evaluation is to determine the efficiency of the Mars Desert Research Station’s (MDRS) architectural layout with a crew of six, to assist in future habitat configurations. The two areas evaluated included both the MDRS upper HAB deck areas (crew quarters, galley, communication station, and translation paths) and the lower LAB deck areas (geology station, biology station, engineering/maintenance station, Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) station, and waste containment system (WCS)). The purpose of this assessment is to reveal gaps in habitat operations and provide input for areas of opportunity for follow-up human factors studies.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Best wishes to Crew-89


MDRS Crew-89

Our two week rotation at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) ended yesterday Saturday the 23rd of January, 2010.

The next crew will be MDRS-89 (January 23 to February 6, 2010). The Crew commander for this mission will be Brian Shiro. Brian is a Geophysicist by training and works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is on his second mission to a Mars analog after having spent a month at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) this summer. I followed Brian's mission at his blog site Astronaut For Hire and also through the FMARS web page and was so inspired by the research done, I too wanted to participate and contribute to the efforts of The Mars Society. It was also Brian that made the necessary introductions that got me the invitation to be a crew member of MDRS-88. Brian, it was great finally meting you.

Carla Haroz has been appointed Executive Officer and Engineer. Carla spent ten years working for NASA and most recently has been accepted to pursue her Ph.D in Bioastronautics at the University of Colarado.

The Crew Astronomer for MDRS-89 is Mike Moran. He is a Physics and Astrophysics undergraduate at Michigan State University. You can follow him at his blog site Inside a Calculator.

The fourth member of the crew is Darrel Robertson who will serve as Chief Engineer. It appears that the crew (and the Hab) will be in good hands with Darrel. He has a PhD from MIT in Aeronautics and Astronautics, spent two summers at NASA JPL and is currently designing a robotic bird for remote exploration and reconnaissance. Darrel lives in Dayton, Ohio.

Luiz M. R. Saraiva is the Crew Biologist and the Health and Safety Officer. Luiz has a Ph.D in Genetics and Neurobiology from the University of Cologne in Germany. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Rounding out the crew is Kiri L. Wagstaff who will serve as Crew Geologist, Information Officer and Journalist. Kiri has a Ph.D in Computer Science from Cornell University and an MS in Geology from the University of Southern California. She is currently a researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. You can also follow her on her blog at http://www.wkiri.com/today/.

Amazing backgrounds and obviously a very talented crew. You can follow the MDRS-89 crew on their website at http://www.wkiri.com/mdrs_crew89/ and on Facebook.

Crew-89, best wishes for a very successful mission at the Mars Desert Research Station.

On Earth and almost home...

We arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado yesterday in the evening. In a couple of hours I will be enroute from Grand Junction to Denver and then to Orange County. Mai and the kids are coming to the airport to pick me up. I cant wait to see them.

I wanted to share some pictures of our final day at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS).


The Mars Desert Research Station - my home on Mars for the last two weeks


The Crew Habitat "The Hab" and the GreenHab


One last picture in front of the Crew Habitat - I am going to miss this place


One of the highlights of the mission was completing the assembly of the Radio Telescope with Dave and Paul


Crew handover briefing with MDRS-89 on the upper deck


Getting ready to leave the MDRS


Crew-88 January 23rd 2010 - its time to go home


Drive back from Hanksville to Grand Junction


On the way home


Extra lean bison burger's and red wine - and we did NOT have to add hot water


David's wife Kate sent us a surprize package of gingerbread cookies in the shape of astronauts and Mars

Now it's time to head to the airport. In a few hours I will be home with Mai, Kaitlyn and Taylor.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

MDRS-88: Mission Accomplished



Mars Analog Research Station (MARS) Astronaut Laksen Sirimanne

After thee continuous cloudy and snowy days we woke up to a beautiful morning. Today we complete our mission at the Mars Desert Research Station. I have such mixed emotions today. On one hand I am so looking forward to a long hot shower, fresh food and most of all to get home to Mai, Kaitlyn and Taylor. They are coming to pick me up at the airport and I can’t wait to see them. So much has happened in the short while I was away on Mars. Mai tells me that Kaitlyn has lost one of her front teeth and that she is waiting for me to get back so that we can put it under her pillow for the tooth fairy. Taylor will insist that I cuddle up next to her at night, and she usually gets her way. Taylor turned four last week Thursday so we have to plan her birthday party for the weekend after I get back. I am also looking forward to getting back to work as we are launching a revolutionary new delivery system and heart valve in Europe in a few months and there is a lot to do. I do miss work too and look forward to getting back to it.

I am also going to miss this place a lot! My job as Executive Officer and Chief Engineer was to keep this place humming so that the crew can continue our engineering and science research unimpeded. With David and Paul’s assistance we did just that and all systems in the Hab have been functional with the exception of a few glitches that we overcame quickly and easily. Even the power system shutdown the day after we got here and the pump issue that seemed like such a big deal two weeks ago seem trivial now that we have become so knowledgeable in Hab systems. I have got to know this Hab inside and out. It’s a living breathing machine and makes all sorts of sounds that tell me how it is doing. David who is an award winning author and our Crew Journalist wrote in one of his reports that going to sleep in the Hab “is like sleeping on a park bench, with a semi idling right next to it”. As for me, my subconscious seems to have cataloged and categorized all those sounds. I can tell when the furnace comes ON, when the water pump has been turned ON or shut OFF. I can even tell which sink has been opened by the sound the water pump makes. Even the creek of the opening and closing of the engineering and EVA airlocks have a distinct sound. I have got to know all of these sounds. The Hab certainly has a unique personality and I have enjoyed tending to it everyday. Even the Rover’s have distinct personalities. Opportunity is the easiest to ride and behaves very well. Spirit is quite spirited and likes to take off and run ahead of the other two. Viking 1 needs a lot of patience and is a grouch and only Paul volunteers to take it out. All the things we had to do to keep this place running... the transfer of grey water twice a day, fixing broken pipes and water pumps, fueling and checking the oil in the Rovers, propane levels, diesel levels, tending to the GreenHab plants... I have enjoyed it very much. Yes, I am going miss the Hab that has been my home on Mars these last two weeks. Crew-89 will get here later this afternoon, and like the eighty seven crews previous to us we will go through the ritual of the crew handover and I expect that by 1500 there will be a new crew and a new Chief Engineer at the Mars Desert Research Station.

It has been an incredible mission and we completed all of our mission objectives. Diego completed his space suit mobility experiment; Steve found micro fossils and dinosaur bones. Paul, David and I completed the assembly of the radio telescope and Bianca and I GPS tagged almost all the trails around the vicinity of the Hab for creating trail maps on Google Earth. We also completed the Food Study and the NASA Crew Habitat Architecture Survey. The only study we were not able to complete was the meteorite retrieval and we simply could not do it as we could not acquire a metal detector before our mission started. The crew stayed healthy during the mission, we kept all systems functioning and did what we came here to do and in the process made friends and accomplished a lot. Crew-88 had an awesome mission.

This brings us to the end of this amazing journey. On behalf of the crew of MDRS-88 – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Laksen Sirimanne
Executive officer/Chief Engineer
Crew-88
Mars Desert Research Station
9-23 January, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Last day on Mars



Mars Desert Research Station

Today was our last full day at the Mars Desert Research Station. It was an overcast, cold and windy day. Only Paul, Bianca and Diego dared to venture out and they came back quickly to the safety of the Hab. Today we finished up the last of our reports and research. Most of the day was spent cleaning up the Hab for the next crew. There is a rule here at the Hab that everything that is brought to the MDRS needs to be taken away. Even samples collected need to be removed from the Hab, however unique and interesting they may be. So all the rock and plant samples had to be disposed of and instructions and checklists were prepared for the incoming crew. Overall, it was a boring day compared to previous days. At least the Internet is up and running after giving us a series of headaches these last few days.

It’s raining right now (2030) and we are all worried that Crew-89 will have a hard time getting to the Hab because the trails are muddy and very slippery. We expect the next crew to get here sometime between 1200 and 1300 and after the crew handover briefing we hope to leave for Grand Junction GJT, Colarado no later than 1500. We met ALL of our research and engineering goals, and as much as we have thoroughly enjoyed this unique experience we are all ready to go home.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Remembering my first day at the MDRS



Crew-88: Thrilled to be at the MDRS


First day on the job


First time on an ATV (our Rover's)

I can't beilieve our time at the MDRS is almost over. Tomorrow is our last full day.

Mars Mission Day Eleven - Last day of simulation

NOTE: Intermittemt internet activity. Just received a connection so I am hoping this blog post goes through
- Laksen


Early morning outside the Hab after a fresh snowfall

A cloudy overcast day today although OAT was around 40F. The outside of the Hab is a complete mess and is very muddy with the melting snow mixing with the red desert sand. You could barely walk outside and my boots were completely covered in thick red mud. It was also very slippery.

Today is a non-cooking day and since I am sick and tired of the packets of bread and also with oatmeal I decided to have a packet of beef flavored Raman instant noodles for breakfast.

Internet problems have plagued us for a couple of days now and it appears that the issue is with the satellite link. We are not certain of this and since we have no internet access other than Gmail with Mission Support we really cannot troubleshoot the issue from our end.


Having fun during the Rover Checkout

In the morning we completed several reports requested by Mission Support and the Mission Director. After that Bianca, Paul and I decided to attempt one more EVA up to the huge Mesa behind the Hab to GPS track the trail up to Radio Ridge Road, Copernicus Highway, then follow Brahe Highway and return on Schiaparelli Highway. Now, although these are called highway’s they are nothing more than ATV trails that are barely visible. Our first attempt to get up there via a trail along the Harris Hills was not successful. The trail was very steep and the melting snow and mud made the entire section very slippery and quite dangerous. We decided to turn around and follow a longer route down Lowell Highway and connect to Brahe highway near Sheep Knolls. We found only one trail that was visible through the layer of snow and followed that but came to a dead end. Later we found out that the road is aptly called Dead End Road. By this time the roads were completely turning into mud with huge puddles of water and small streams crossing the trails so we decided to turn around and head back to the Hab. Total EVA time was approximately 2 hours.

Lunch consisted of another packet of Raman noodles mixed with rehydrated onions, peas, carrots and Worcestershire sauce. This turned out quite nice.

Most of the afternoon was spent completing all the engineering checks and daily maintenance and writing reports. By late afternoon the internet connection had ground to a complete halt and we had no connection to the satellite uplink. I think I was one of the few people who got their reports transmitted (perhaps the only other person was David).

Dinner was really good. Bianca made a fantastic salad of sprouts (the second batch that Diego grew in the GreenHab) mixed in with rehydrated sweet corn. It was very good! The other dish was rehydrated Western style Tamale Pie with Beef which was OK. I also had a packet of bread. Yikes.

It’s 2100 now and I have finished my blog post for the day but with no internet connection I am limited by what I can do. So I might turn in for the night a little early. Paul has a copy of the movie District 9, so I might watch that on my laptop in the privacy of my cabin until the movie ends or I fall asleep... whichever comes first.

Tonight after dinner we ended the simulation and I did not hear any complaints from the crew. That means tomorrow is an open day for hiking (without our ASSs), perhaps a fossil finding walk, a trek to Olympus Mons and a thorough cleanup of the Hab.


Radio Ridge Road a few days ago

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mars Mission Day Ten - Part 3

1530: Just returned from a GPS tracking EVA with Bianca and David. We travelled along Lowell Highway (which is actually a trail) north-east to a point called Hussar Pass. After that, we could not see the trail anymore and the trail was so muddy and slippery that we decided to turn back and return to the Hab. By the time we got back we were a muddy mess. It was a good thing we left our spacesuits and helmets back at the Hab or they would have been covered with mud by the time we got back. Total EVA time was one hour and thirty minutes.


Bianca and David on the GPS tracking EVA (EVA#26)


It was 47F by 3:00pm


With the warm weather, all this turned to mud


It was great to be back in the Hab

Will write again tomorrow.

Mars Mission Day Ten - Part 2

0930: We just finished our crew briefing and all EVAs postponed indefinitely. We had resigned ourselves to a morning of report writing until Paul suggested that the engineers go out for our morning Rover “Check-out”. Well, he strongly recommended we get this done and over with. When you take six people and put them inside a structure that looks like a thirty foot diameter can and tell them that the only time they can go out is in a spacesuit twice a day... this is what happens.


First part of the "Rover check-out"


Being very thorough with "Opportunity"

We had such fun! After two weeks of working eighteen hour days I think everyone was ready to expend a little energy and have some fun.


Paul and Diego on "Spirit" and "Viking 1"


Bianca on "Opportunity"


David says "Yup, good check out"

The Engineering Report will conclude that ALL Rover’s checked-out “under Mars polar conditions, functioning well, and exceeding performance parameters” :)

Mars Mission Day Ten - Part 1

0900: The day before yesterday (Monday) we woke to a layer of snow and a very cold day. Yesterday (Tuesday) was a very a very warm day with 50F outside. Well, this morning we woke up to a very thick layer of snow covering everything. It’s beautiful outside and the Hab and the surroundings look so different in a white background instead of the usual red/brown/orange. Several of us rushed out in the below freezing temperatures to get some photographs. I have posted a few here.


Looks more like the planet Hoth (Star Wars) than Mars


View from the Musk Telescope

We had an extensive day of EVAs planned for today including two EVAs for GPS geo-tracking trails and another fossil hunting trip. Now with the trails all covered in snow I am not sure we can still conduct them, at least not in the morning. The crew briefing will start in the next ten minutes so we will have to look at an alternative schedule for the day.


View from the east port hole

I will post tonight on how the rest of the day panned out.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mars Mission Day Nine


Finishing up the Radio Telescope

Yesterday it had snowed when we woke up and it was cloudy and cold all day. I went on two EVAs and even with three layers of clothes and my Analog Simulation Suit (ASS), I was still cold. Today is the complete opposite. We woke up to bright blue skies and warm weather. At noon today it was 50F and the wind had picked up considerably. We could hear the Mars Flag on the top of the Hab banging itself on the flag pole and the whole Hab was creaking, and with all sorts of things rattling outside it sounded like rain hitting the Hab.

Breakfast was the usual: a packet of flat bread with strawberry jelly (I think I am getting kind of tired of the flat bread after eating it everyday for a week) and two cups of black tea. I find that the tea masks the flavors of the filtered well water that is supplied to us and I drink tea all day to stay hydrated. With two EVAs a day and all the other activities it is important to stay well hydrated in this very dry desert climate.

David, Paul and I have an early morning ritual that all three of us enjoy immensely. Prior to any of the EVAs the three of us go outside for a “check out” of the Rovers. We check the fuel and oil level; make sure the first aid box is secure and that there is a tow rope available. Then the fun begins. We start up the Rovers and take them out for a three minute ride to warm the engines. This is so much fun.


On Rover "Spirit"

Right after breakfast, David, Diego and I went out on our first EVA (EVA#22) for the day to complete Diego’s study on the “Determination of Error in Biological Sampling due to EVA Suit Constraints”. I call it the Spacesuit Mobility Test for short. I had completed the “controls” for the study a few days ago and found it very easy to catalog the plants that we had to collect and document. But this morning, wearing the ASS it was a complete and utter nightmare. First I noticed that looking down constantly made my visor fog up, secondly there is very limited visibility through the helmet, and thirdly – the show stopper - is the bulky gloves. I noticed that I could not even get the zip lock bags opened up easily, nor could I write down the sample numbers easily. I huffed and puffed my way through the experiment and really had to pace myself and concentrate on what I had to collect and document. I had to prepare a mental checklist and follow that procedure with every sample. Twenty minutes later I had collected quite a few samples and was quite pleased with myself. Next, it was David’s turn and he had to sample at two different locations. Total EVA time for me was 40 minutes.


Collecting plant samples for Diego's study


Working in the Analog Simulation Suit was not very easy

I returned to the Hab around 1030 just in time to complete our daily engineering rounds with Paul. Of the many maintenance tasks that we have to complete, one in particular is called the “stinky water transfer”. This is the transfer of grey water (water from the sinks and kitchen) from the gray water tank to the straining tank in the GreenHab. What we have to do is to open the grey water reservoir cap (the reservoir is buried in the ground) and insert a submersible pump and then plug into an extension cord and then the gray water starts to pump into the GreenHab straining tank. Now while one person holds the pump in place (and God forbid if the pump completely falls into the gray water tank) the other person has to stand tippy toe over the straining tank and hold a strainer while the gray water fills the straining tank. This whole process stinks and so we have named it the “stinky water transfer”. Paul and David are such good sports and they lend a hand every time, that is twice a day. Why is this important? Well the gray water then goes into a series of holding tanks where they are transferred into several tanks that contain bacteria which break down the organic material. Next they go through three other tanks that contain water hyacinths and duckweed that continue to break down the organic materials and the water gets “cleaned”. This water is NOT drinkable but we use it to flush our toilet. Toilet water goes into a sewer tank and then to a sewer leach field. This water recycling system is not as sophisticated as the $250 million water purification system on the International Space Station, but is an excellent scaled down prototype system for water reclamation on a mission to Mars. So far the entire stinky water system has been working very well and has been easy to maintain.


Transferring "stinky water" to the GreenHab

Today was a packed morning as I had a second scheduled EVA (EVA#23). Paul, David and I went outside to put in the finishing touches to the radio telescope that we had assembled. We have been recording signals with an antenna height of 10 feet, but we wanted to complete the mounting of the extension poles so that future crews can raise the antenna height to twenty feet. Unfortunately we cannot test the telescope at this height as we need a special 16 foot length of RG-59/U coaxial cable that is being shipped to the Hab, but it will probably arrive after we leave. I will post a separate write-up about the assembly of the Radio Telescope. Naturally, we are all thrilled with this accomplishment and the kudos from Mission Support and the Mission Director was most welcome. The timing of this was important. Since the Musk telescope is down for repairs the next crew (MDRS Crew-89) is planning on doing some research with the radio telescope, so we really wanted to get it completed before they got here. Total EVA time was 40 minutes.


The radio telecope assembly  is complete

By the time we got back into the EVA airlock Bianca had cooked us a very tasty lunch of cheddar/broccoli soup and pasta with peas and carrots. It was fantastic after a really busy morning. She really is an excellent cook

My third EVA (EVA#25) for the day was a GPS geo-tracking EVA with Bianca and David. We made a second attempt to find Cactus Road which is a trail North-East to the Hab. After multiple dead ends we finally found a route along a washed out river bed and continued to track it until the sun set behind the mountains. Due to the lateness of the day we decided to head back to the Hab around 1730 and just got back before the sun set.

Engineering checks were completed and the engineering report was filed at 1830. All Hab systems are functioning well. Dinner consisted of cheddar/broccoli soup and pasta/with chicken/ peas and carrots (and I added jalapeƱos to it). It was an excellent dinner.

Today was an awesome day with three EVAs and the close out of the assembly of the radio telescope. Even the GPS trail tracking EVA was a success since we found a trail to Cactus Road. Tomorrow, weather permitting we will make one more EVA to GPS tag the trail. In other news, Steve, Paul and Diego made an EVA to Radio Ridge Road which is on the mesa above the Hab and discovered several dinosaur fossils.


Dinosaur fossil found on Radio Ridge Road

Tonight is sponge bath day, so I am going to sign off right now so... to all the people on the good Earth, goodnight from Mars.

Mars Mission Day Eight

NOTE: We had a problem with our satellite connection yesterday (Monday, January 18th) and the internet was down almost the whole day and because of that I could not complete my blog post for the day. Since we are in a vey remote location our primary means of communication is through a satellite uplink. This is also to simulate communications on an actual mission to Mars. Now there is also a bandwidth limitation imposed on a daily basis and that is where we ran into a problem. Usually we transmit around 50Mb of data an hour but it appears that one of the crew’s computers had an automatic download of 250Mb between 8am and 9am and exceeded our download limit. So for the rest of the day we had an extremely slow internet and only Gmail was accessible.

I woke up around the same time and looked through the east port hole and was pleasantly surprised to see that it had snowed during the night.


View through the east port hole on the upper deck


Bianca took this picture from the Musk Telescope around 0800

After breakfast, Bianca and I went on a GPS tracking EVA (EVA#20) north east to the Hab looking for a trail called Cactus Road. We had a real hard time finding the trail as it appeared to have been washed away. After almost an of hour of searching we came across an uncharted trail and followed it all the way south until we could see the telephone poles on Highway 24. We tagged this new trail and came back to the Hab around Noon. During this EVA we came across a canyon with spectacular sedementary layers (below).


Morrison Formation with sedimentary layers

With the internet down we did not have access to email so we took the afternoon to catch-up on our reports (daily reports to Mission Support, the Food Trial Survey and the Johnson Space Center Survey on Crew Habitat Architecture).

In the afternoon Paul, David and I conducted a second EVA (EVA#21) for the day on another GPS tagging survey to the west of the Hab along a trail called Sagan Street high on a mesa above the Hab. We rode our Rover’s (Viking 1 for me) along dusty trails and on our return we came across an area that contained thousands upon thousands of fossil shells. Even though this mesa is right now at an elevation of 4250 feet, at some point in time millions of years ago it had been a sea bed. We watched an amazing sunset before we headed back to the Hab.


Paul and I trying to figure out where the trail goes


Watching the sunset from Radio Ridge Road

Bianca and David outdid themselves and cooked a spectacular dinner of pasta with pesto and a meatless pasta sauce and sweet corn muffins, and to top it off we had fresh sprouts that Diego had grown in the GreenHab. Our first and only fresh food since we got here. What a great ending to the day.

With the internet down I decided to go to sleep early for a change and turned in around 2100.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mars Mission Day Seven

I have been meaning to post a short photo tour of the Habitat (the “Hab”) ever since we got here last week Saturday, but the days have been so packed with engineering and science that I have not had an opportunity to complete this post until tonight. So here it is:


The Hab with MDRS Crew-88

The Hab is 30 feet in diameter and consists of two decks and is simulated to be the crew habitat that will land on the surface of Mars. Our Hab includes the five landing pads that the actual Hab will have but no rocket engines. The upper deck consists of the crew quarters (there are six of them), the electronics (weather station, radio telescope and HabCam operations computer, wireless internet routers etc). Also, on the second floor is the kitchen, sink and engineering/computer work stations including a center table which doubles as a work bench and crew meal table.


Engineering/Computer work area (Steve, David and Laksen)


Kitchen (back left)

Each crew member has their own private cabin. Mine is the first one next to the stairs which is usually reserved for the Executive Officer (XO) or the Chief Engineer. The one on the other side of the six rooms is reserved for the Crew Commander with the rest of the cabins in between us. The doors of each of the cabins have placards with crew names and patches of those who have occupied them in previous missions.


My cabin (next to the stairs) - it's very comfortable and warm


My cabin is on the far left

The lower deck consists of the biology and geology labs, the EVA gowning room, the EVA airlock, the engineering tool bench/power inverter, the toilet, the shower room and the engineering airlock.


The geology and biology labs


EVA helmets and backpacks


EVA ready room (most change in the Lab)


EVA airlock


Name badges from EVA suits from previous crews (mine is up there as well)


Tool bench (center), power inverter and controls (left), toilet and shower (on the right)


Engineering airlock

I have some great video but due to bandwidth limitations I will have to post them when I get back to Earth. Tomorrow I will post a photo tour of the greenHab, and the Radio Telescope (unfortunately the Musk Telescope has been sent to Earth for repairs).