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
Mars Desert Research Station
9-23 January, 2010


Amnon I. Govrin said...

Congratulations! Sadly, the expression Mission Accomplished has some bad taste to it since 2003 (

But on a more positive note - I am sure it is satisfying to know you are one of the long chain of people that eventually will lead to actual missions to Mars.


Laksen Sirimanne said...

Thank you Amnon for the kind words and congratulations. We just got in to Grand Junction, UT. We had a great mission and accomplished everything we planned to do, so we are quite thrilled. Thank you for reading the blog and hope it gave you a glimpse into life at the Mars Desert Research Station.