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.

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