Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 11

I typically write my blog in the morning, but Billy and I will be getting up early tomorrow to get started on the repeater coverage EVA's. You guessed it- great news- we launched the repeater today! Billy and I cracked up as we attempted to tyrap a coax to a fiberglass mast in 30+ mph wind. After looking online, we saw that we had just been hit by a 42 mph gust! I have never had so much trouble trying to stabilize myself. The dust was beating at us, so we worked as quickly as possible. Once complete, we ran down the hill to get back into the hab, and at one point I literally was thrown about six inches. Earlier in the morning we had lifted off the hatch of the hab to deploy the base station antenna.

Once I got the repeater all set up, Dan, Billy and I spent some time troubleshooting to get useful data from the radios. After some tinkering, we were able to send data packets from a handheld to the base station and map a track on a topographic map. I was really pleased until I sent Jessica and Dan out with radios on an EVA to check on the turbine. Unfortunately, the set of GPS' I brought were not very reliable and I couldn't receive any track. Billy and I will use his professional GPS tomorrow to ensure we get the data we need. Although it is so late in the trip, I am thrilled to have all my equipment set up and working. I will definitely be shipping it much further in advance next year...

Had to run outside to recover ATV covers a couple times- the wind just wants to take all our supplies with it- we found an empty gas can had also flown a good 300 feet. Billy spent some more time with the rover. We will do most of that testing on Friday, when we are officially out of sim. Took my last 90 second shower at MDRS for a year. Can't say I'll miss it. I am so excited to enjoy a bubble bath after freezing water and dishwasher soap! Jessica made a pretty decent stir fry for dinner tonight with rehydrated veggies and chickenish chunks (soy protein)- it tasted more like home. We are all in our rooms now, relaxing and looking forward to a movie. The original plan was to go out of sim tomorrow afternoon, but Dan seems pretty adamant on staying in sim until Friday, so we will do so. Crews tend to pick their own simulation dates. I'll keep everyone posted, but can't wait to check my cell phone and get back on gchat! The first week was relaxing, but now I can't help but wonder what I'm missing in the real world...

"Let me answer that question with a headbutt" -Me

Plans for tomorrow:
Radio Coverage EVA
Rover Work

Off to a movie and some rest,

Crew 93-XO

P.S. A late update...Dan, Billy, Eric and I just treked up mountains in 35 mph winds with 50 mph wind gusts to check on the repeater and wind turbine. Engineering at its best. We weren't really treking, we were gliding...

Day 10

The winds were so strong yesterday that we spent most of the day hoping that the hab wouldn't blow over...or at least that we wouldn't lose the top hatch. The antennas arrived in the morning, but to my dismay it was too windy to launch the repeater. It wouldn't be worth damaging the equipment. The winds have slown a bit, so hopefully we can launch the repeater today and do a few quick EVA's to get repeater coverage.

We did test the battery with the solar charger and panel directly outside the hab on the trailer. We got battered with salt and sand as soon as we stepped out into engineering. One of the lenses of my sunglasses popped out, and I literally could not hold myself up against the wind. It made for some great pictures. Dan also did an EVA to check on the turbine. Billy spent the afternoon programming the rover and actually got it running. Very exciting to see!

It was a non-cooking day, so we had our last freeze-dried crap meal for dinner. It has not been decided yet, but the idea is that we come out of sim tomorrow afternoon or Friday morning so we have time to mail our equipment and clean the hab for the next crew. We will head back to Grand Junction on Saturday afternoon once the new crew gets it. I know we are all anxious to eat real food and use a toilet you don't have to pump, but I always get quite sad leaving this place.

Make sure to check out Billy's pictures!


"You don't make sense" -Jessica
"This sounds odd coming from a guy who's main project is a wind turbine, but I really wish it was less windy!"-Dan
"I'll put peanut butter on anything"-Billy

Hoping for less wind and more EVA action,

Crew 93- XO

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 9

The winds are so high this morning that I thought the hab was going to blow over. I stayed in bed as long as possible to keep warm, but finally got up when I heard Billy moving around the hab. We are still being shaken by 30 mph winds. The weather is to be gorgeous today, up to 76.

Yesterday was our day off- it wasn't really decided that, but it became that. We all had a very lazy morning on computers, and I studied until about 2 PM. Then I headed out to the trailer in a bathing suit top and shorts to soak up some sun. I was only out for two hours, but was showing some great color by 4 PM. I'm convinced the sun wants me to be as red as the planet. I'm only a little pink this morning. Others had joined me outside, until Eric cut his toe. He and I headed in and I spent some more time working on schoolwork while he watched a movie.

Dan, feeling much more productive than the rest of us, set off to do a turbine EVA. This long EVA was meant to really test the ability of the turbine to provide power. To do this, an inverter was attached to the battery, with a lamp attached to this inverter. With this, a noticeable change could be observed when the power dropped to low in the battery. Although the setup was simple, the majority of the time was spent waiting for the battery to fall to a low power level. Without the turbine providing power, the battery remained well charged for about three minutes, while the inverter stopped operating after approximately four minutes.Once the turbine was turned on, the lamp and inverter stayed on for 40 minutes before concluding the test, while showing a battery voltage similar to when the test began. This led us to conclude that the power would last so long as the wind blew. Dan came in and we all scavenged for dinner. I personally had two bowls of frozen yogurt. :-p The variety of food here is quickly getting old...3 more days until cheeseburgers!

Today's plans:

Hoping antennas arrive for repeater coverage EVA
Launch repeater and place antenna on hab roof
Rover work

"They don't like it when you shoot at them. I figured that much out myself" -Mal, Firefly

Attempting not to be blown away,

Crew 93-XO

Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 8

We have officially spent 1 week at the hab. The heat didn't come I on last night, so my usually quite tropical room was freezing and I couldn't get myself out of bed this morning. The others must feel the same, as Billy and I are still the only one's up, and we got a late start. It is to be 65 degrees today- I am so excited to see the sun come out! Billy and I will set off shortly to do another mapping EVA. Still no sight of my packages...makes testing the repeater, well, impossible.

Yesterday was extremely productive. After breakfast, Billy and I suited up to do Mapping EVA # 2. This time we traveled to Lithe Canyon, North of the hab. The ride was much more exciting this time, as it was a bunch of twists and swerves and up steep hills. I also switched to suit #3, which truly fit and didn't bounce during the ride. When we got back, Jessica, Dan and Eric set off to put the turbine back up. It was a quick EVA, so upon depressurizing and coming back into the hab, decided to go out for another EVA. It was made aware that Jessica and Dan had not yet been on an ATV EVA, so both members of the crew, accompanied by Chris and Eric, went out to explore Valles Marinaris. Dan must have been feeling particularly energetic, because he then set off to go check the voltage coming off the turbine. Billy and I had set up a study party while the others went out, as we have a ton of work to do before the week is out.

We made dinner, chicken primavera and mashed potatoes (ew non-cooking day) and decided to play some crew games. Jessica introduced "oink, piggy oink" where one member spins around with their eyes closed and then sits on the nearest member they can find (all blind). They ask for some animal noise, and try to figure out who said it. I was laughing too hard each time to actually get away with anything, so I got pulled up quite a bit. After we had had enough, we watched three episodes of firefly and passed out. Another successful day.


"Wait, Eric, are you not coming?"-Jessica
"Yeah, I am, I just gotta go take my pants off first"-Eric

"Chris, we're shaking our booties out here!"-Jillian
"I'm OK"-Chris

Plans for today:
Mapping EVA #3
Turbine Work

1 week left!

Crew 93-XO

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Radio Research Plan

Radio-based Voice and Data Communication Research Plan

This proposal seeks to continue the effort of Crew 79 by providing reliable communications between an EVA team and its base. Crew 93 will use prior studies from past crews to determine what worked well and what fell short of the MDRS crew needs. This crew will attempt to improve the communication system previously established by ensuring power is maintained and also experimenting with placement of equipment and its range.

Based on the experience gained from these prototypes, Crew 93 will use the same set-up as Crew 79 in order to correct previous issues and establish a reliable communication system. Interviews held with members of previous missions will outline the needs for modification of the communication system. Aspects of the system that performed well will be kept in the new system as much as possible unless, through the course of a redesign, an improved method is found. The interviews will also allow mission members to provide useful insights and input into the redesign so that their needs and desires are included.

This crew will test links established between Kenwood TH-D7A APRS enabled radios and attached GPS units on each space suit, a pair of deployable APRS and voice repeaters using a Kenwood TM-D700A for the digital repeater, and two Icom IC-W32A radios for a cross band repeater. Figure 1 diagrams the previous and current system. The system, as designed, will help establish improved surveying and mapping missions of the terrain through the automatic position reports forwarded to the habitat module via the APRS data links. Figures 2 and 3 show the mapping possible, especially with the combination of the data and Google Earth in Figure 3.

No additional radio equipment is necessary, however, a voltmeter will be secured in order to keep a log of battery power to ensure power is not lost during an extra-vehicular excursion (EVA). Interviews with past crew members indicated that equipment had failed due to a lack of necessary power. The goal is to have less dependence on only battery power, which requires an exploration team to retrieve the batteries at regular intervals for charging. A combination solar and battery power system will be constructed to provide long service time for the repeater. A solar panel from the Hab will be used to aid this generation of power on the hilltop. Battery power will be tracked and recharged as needed.

As seen in the past, placement and power supplies may limit operation and range. The digipeater will be placed strategically and range will be measured to see how far the explorers can go before communication is lost. Equipment may be moved to different locations for testing. This will provide data for future missions.

Sponsorship was secured in past years with the Kenwood Corporation, Amateur Radio division, which produces the TM-D7A handheld and TM-D700 mobile data radio. These units have been used at MDRS in the past, and are directly compatible with the Amateur Packet Reporting System (APRS) as designed by Robert Bruninga, WB4APR, of the United States Naval Academy. The Kenwood radios and APRS system has seen extensive use at MDRS during several crews for tracking of EVA teams, digital messaging and voice communication.

The APRS protocol allows for arbitrary data transfer formats in addition to position and message formats. This is suitable for adding telemetry devices in the field that can report back to the mission members and beyond. Some remote sensors suggested for use are sunlight intensity sensors, temperature sensors, and radiation sensors. These can be interfaced to the APRS system by way of an OpenTracker APRS telemetry interface from Argent Data Systems, a BASIC Stamp from Parallax (if needed by the sensor to digitize the data), and an inexpensive handheld radio such as the Kenwood TH-K2AT. Together, a full one-way telemetry system can be added to the many tools available to mission members for remotely monitoring their environment.

Radiocommunications system
1. Radiocommunications system based on Amateur Radio

Surveying and Mapping
2. Surveying and Mapping

Google Earth
3. Visualization in Google Earth

Day 7

Shower day!! Naturally, I'm in a great mood. We're having a ball out here. Non-cooking day, but not even that could bring me down. Billy and I are up earlier than the rest of the crew, discussing our EVA for today. Getting warmer out- supposed to be 70 tomorrow!

Yesterday marked the start of the radio coverage EVA's. I'll create another post with my research plan for those who are curious. I still haven't received my antennas, nor jpole, so we are just functioning on the direct radio station. Unfortunately, the coverage we get with this is merely line of sight, so it is difficult to stay in contact with the Hab. Billy is doing an EVA to map the roads around the hab, so he accompanies me to mark waypoints where we lose contact. I sure hope the rest of my equipment shows up so we can understand what kind of coverage the repeater can provide. We left the hab on ATV's and traveled North for 15 minutes, then headed west for about 25 minutes, and finally headed south. All in all, we were gone for two hours. My pack wasn't very tight, nor my helmet to the pack, so every time I hit a bump the whole system bounced and I have a few nice bruises on my nose and head. My back is still sore. Billy and I now are fighting over the best, tightest suits and packs to use today. Earlier in the morning, Jessica, Eric and Dan suited up and traveled up engineering hill by foot to take down the turbine so Dan could work on the failed component. They were quick, but commented that it was hard to walk in so much wind.

Billy and I returned about 1430 and settled in for lunch, an episode of firefly, and a nap. At 1800, the crew all met to initiate "Breakfast Day". Jessica and I took over the kitchen and made a huge stack of pancakes and hashbrowns with onions and some other rehydrated veggies. Since we had heard that it was to be clear, as soon as the sun set we all headed out to the pressurized tunnels to view Mars and other visible constellations. We decided that since we were on Mars, it must have been a reflection. :-p We came in about an hour later, and all grabbed sleeping bags to get comfy on the hab floor. Watched two episodes of firefly, did some bow recovering (grr) and went to bed shortly after about 0100.

Still no sign of "Squeak"...


"Did we find a raptor claw??" -Chris
"Kind of, but it is plastic and made by Crest"-Dan
"Oral-b, Dan!"-me

"I want a peacock fan!"-Chris

Plans for today:

Radio Coverage EVA 2
Mapping EVA 2
Turbine work
Rover work

Off to answer emails, keep em coming! :)

Crew 93-XO

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 6

Good morning from the red planet! It is beautiful and sunny out- the rain has gone and it is looking like it will even get up to 60 today! Jessica has dubbed today "breakfast day" since the only meal we all really enjoy out here is breakfast. It doesn't taste freeze-dried and isn't rubbery. I'm a total fan of this idea and will get started on it soon.

Yesterday I declared the day "homework day" and I spent the morning writing a senior design report and the afternoon studying for a history test that I am missing this coming Tuesday. The crew has gotten into the series "Firefly" as we are all Joss Whedon I had to fit in a few of those episodes too. :)

Billy headed down to engineering in the early afternoon and put together the rover. She's looking good. We had some unfortunate news come from Dan, as he had gone out to check the voltage on the battery that I was using in my repeater station...the winds had gotten up to 30 mph and our solar panel had blown over and cracked. Luckily, the voltage coming off the panel was normal, and it is just cosmetic damage...but mission support obviously doesn't like to hear these things. Dan's rotten luck continued when he went on a turbine EVA with Jessica and of the main components failed. He came in, looking pretty disheartened. So is life out here. Things are up in the air, and failures occur daily. It is the kind of challenge we engineers really enjoy. We are typically the crew that comes out and fixes everything, so mission support has no issue with us. I'm hoping we can keep that reputation this year, especially since I'm planning to be Commander next year.

Also not functioning- two of the backpacks. Chris, Dan and Eric spent some time soldering the fuse and both seemed to kick back on. We still are having issues with one of the helmets- when Chris was on an EVA, the bowl actually came loose of the base and he was exposed to air- hence, he died on the surface of Mars that day. Hopefully we can continue to get them working.

A non cooking day- I rehdyrated some mountain chili and sierra chicken. It wasn't great, but it was edible. 5 days until burgers and milkshakes. 7 days until a real shower! While I will be so happy to get back to regular meals, I really will miss the time out here. We ended the evening by playing some paperclip poker and watching firefly again. Off to go enjoy the day!

Plans for today:

Breakfast day!
Radio coverage EVA and mapping EVA
Turbine fixing

"I'm pushing all the buttons I have"-Dan
"Jilllllian!"- Chris, everytime the firefly discs skipped
"I was going to steam roll him, but then I got too lazy"- me

Check out Billy's picasa pictures:

Crew 93-XO

Friday, March 26, 2010

Day 5

I absolutely love my mornings out here. I'm usually the first up, so I head downstairs to look outside of the air lock at the beautiful terrain. A bit wet this morning, but still cannot wait to get out there today. I sit with a mug full of hot chocolate and answer emails from friends and family. The team slowly stumbles out of their rooms and we laugh about the previous days. There's no stress, no rush to school, no last minute exam preparations- just relaxing sittings with good friends.

Yesterday was a "cooking" day so we used some bread that Jessica had made on the previous cooking day to make french toast. We only had imitation egg whites and dehydrated milk, but Billy did a great job in making it appear like real french toast. I decided early that day that I wanted to launch the repeater without the antenna, so I traveled down the stairs to engineering to assemble the repeater station. With the help of Dan and some wire cutting, we got the solar panel charger hooked up to the battery and the Icom programmed. We talked to mission support about borrowing a solar panel from the side of the hab, as we would need this in order to keep the battery charged and to avoid having to travel to the station nightly to change out the 12V. They noted that the solar panel was not hooked up to anything critical and that we could use it. Excited, Chris and I suited up and went out on an EVA to retrieve the panel. I forgot how difficult it is to use any tools in the heavy gloves. Once we had disconnected the solar panel from the hab, we headed back inside. I hooked up the solar panel to the repeater, and Dan and I carried the station up to the observatory hill to make sure the battery was charging with ample sunlight. To our surprise, it actually was. What, something working? We were thrilled.

Speaking of working...DG, our supply chief, has become our hero. In one day, he brought us a full water tank, fixed the downstairs heater, put a new battery in the rover Viking II, and fixed our HabCar. We now have heat, water, and more methods of transportation.

Once Dan and I got back into the hab, I grabbed my shower stuff for another steamy 90 seconds. Oh, how thrilling. When I came out of the shower room, I saw Eric and Dan suited up, just coming back from an EVA to test voltages on the remaining solar panels. From what I gathered, we had not done anything to hurt the system by removing one of the panels. They desuited, and I went upstairs to comb my Oasis (the biodegradeable soap we use, ew) knotted hair. After that I cooked the crew an interesting dinner, which really wasn't as successful as I would have liked. I attempted cheesesteaks with imitation beef bits, onions, velveeta and bread pockets....but they were very average. We just keep thinking, in one week, we'll be able to get hamburger's and milkshakes in town. Our crew will go out of sim next Thursday, clean the hab Friday, and leave Saturday. It is odd to look at Facebook and see friend's statuses note that they are returning from spring break, while I am still here. I guess that means I should get to my homework...

We ended the evening by watching the first two episodes of the popular series "Firefly", which all of us "space nerds" love. This was followed by a good 9 hours of sleep. Brilliant.


"I was thinking we could have the "clam chowder of rage" for lunch tomorrow"-Jessica
"I'm going to come in your room with no core containment"-Chris
"Chris, Jon Kosh is on your door, but I think he's in woman form"-me

Plans for today:

Check on repeater and battery charge
Mapping EVA's
Senior design paper...

Miss y'all to earth and back,

Crew 93-XO

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 4

Went to bed early last night, as I was pretty tired from being in the sun, and fell into a series of dreams. The last one I remember, was at a party at a friend's lakehouse, and there were bunk beds. Waking up in my bunk bed, I totally thought "I need to go get my towel off the dock" and proceeded to get out of bed. When I realized I was in a tiny cubby in a tin can, I realized I, in fact, was not at the lake, and still at Mars Desert Research Station. Had to laugh. Just to further smack me in the face, I tripped on a bucket in the kitchen that was meant to catch "Snap". It didn't catch the tiny mouse, but it did catch me. Epic fail.

Yesterday was a little bit lazier day, which was welcomed. After breakfast, I settled into my bedroom with my book series, Dead until Dark, and didn't get back up until lunch. Made myself some lunch and was catching up on some work when I heard Dan yell, "WE'VE GOT MAIL!!!" I ran downstairs to find my beloved radio equipment in the Airlock (thank you DG!), which I promptly hugged and sent up the stairs. Billy, Chris and Eric suited up with the help of Dan and Jessica and went out for a "temperature sensitive EVA" to determine what kind of clothes were necessary under the suits to keep warm while on ATVs. After their test, they came back in, reported it was pretty warm out (55 degrees) and they were ready to go on their way. The boys then set off on their more purposeful EVA...mapping the roads by GPS on ATV. Billy noticed when we were out the other day that some of the trails did not match up with his GPS, and being an avid navigator, decided to develop it into an experiment. While everyone was busy, I set up the base station of the radio equipment, and realized two of my antennae and my jpole were missing. Unfortunately, we cannot launch the repeater and get any signal without these. I set up the repeater in a pelican case and set aside; then began charging the radios themselves. Everything is connected, charged and ready to go, minus a solar panel that is attached to the hab. I will go on an EVA today to retrieve this panel and will also start hauling the repeater box out through engineering to get it ready for when the other packages arrive.

When I completed, everyone was either asleep or reading, so I grabbed my book and headed out to the trailer, which is in a pressurized tunnel. Got some sun, and then came up to finish my book. The boys returned from their EVA and I helped them take off of their suits. Cooked dinner, which consisted of rehydrating pasta alfredo with shrimp, as it was a non-cooking day. Needless to say, I look forward to the cooking days where I can actually come up with something creative and tasty. After dinner, Chris taught Jessica and I how to play poker (with paperclips for chips), and I was actually doing very well (beat out four of the crew members), but eventually lost to Dan. The crew played a couple more rounds, but by the third I retreated to my room to write a couple of emails and get some rest.

"This isn't worth my paperclips"-Dan
"Oh you friggin tree, you better not come over here!!"-Eric, playing some game
"I don't like being big blind. I can't see"-Jessica
"You walk outside, and it actually feels like you're wearing clothes"-Billy

Plans for today:
-Mapping EVA
-EVA to launch repeater/grab solar panel

Off to enjoy french toast and get a start on the day!

Crew 93- XO

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day 3

The crew witnessed an intruder yesterday. Creaking noises, scuttering...and finally..."Squeak" appears. A tiny, fuzzy brown mouse came to visit us. Dan, who isn't as fond of our little friend, argues that my name for the little guy is not valid, and instead, should be "Snap" because that is the last thing his little ears will hear before he dies. You've guessed it...I woke up to traps and stories of the crew trying to trap him in the airlock. He escaped. Run far, Squeak!

It was an extremely windy morning yesterday, and we watched Dan pace back and forth during breakfast worrying about the state of the wind turbine. It is not completely set up yet, and even with the break on, the blades were spinning so fast we couldn't see them. After breakfast, I sat down with my books and hammered out some outlines. Billy posted some more photos and is working to get Day 3 up as we speak. I gave up after a few chapters and settled down to lunch with the crew. We then decided that we were ready to go into sim, and all headed out the doors of the tin can to say goodbye to our beautiful landscape. While out there, we noticed that one of ATV covers had blown away. In a race to get to it, Billy and Eric set off by foot and Chris and I grabbed an ATV. By the time Chris and I arrived, Billy was already back to the hab with the cover. Fail. After all covers were secured with rocks, we set up the camera in front of the hab and took some great jumping shots. Finally, we headed into the airlock to pressurize. After a minute of pressurization, we stepped into our home for the next 10 days.

Dan figured it was about time that we showed the new crew members how to suit up and let the old crew members refamiliarize. We dressed Jessica and an excitement for EVA's filled the air. Billy started mapping an EVA upstairs while I tackled some senior design and Jessica made some pizza dough and sauce. After some relaxing on all our parts, we each made our own individual pizzas...some bigger than others. I'm pretty sure Billy's could have taken over a small planet. Eric had so much cheese that it started running off the pizza...pretty amusing.

Eric picked the movie "Elf" and we all crowded on the hab floor to watch. Of course, I was out as soon as half the movie was over. Some day I'll make it through one...


"Everyone enjoys a good shake, Chris"-me
"Not babies" -Dan

"She's like a self contained, traveling anecdote"-Dan, about me

"She's like MUFASA!" -Jessica

"And you're blushing about this?"-Jessica
"Yeah, my life is pathetic."-me

Plans for today:
Find parts for turbine test load
EVA to get used to sim
Sacrifice Snap to win the favor of the postal gods radios are still not here...

Off to the first full day in sim,

Crew 93-XO

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day 2

Chilly out this morning...high of 49 today...a big change from our sunburned faces and highs of 70. Today we go into full simulation at lunch. That means, no stepping outside the hab and the pressurized tunnels without a space suit and without reason (a planned EVA). We have to be as spare with our resources as possible. As per usual, we tried to do as much as possible yesterday.

After breakfast, we discovered MDRS Clue that Crew 89 had created. All six of us settled down at the table to play...I mean, who wouldn't want to play when the weapons are items like horribly polluted greenhab water and rock hammers? Unfortunately, we somehow failed to reveal a card along the way and no one won. The culprit? Geologist Russet, in the Greenhab with the hydrochloric acid. Guarenteed that game will come out a few more times in our stay here.

Next, we gathered all the pieces of the wind turbine and hiked up the engineering hill to set it up. A mysterious car kept circling the hab...seeing as we are in the middle of nowhere, we all became very curious and nervous. When it started to come towards the hab, I ran down the hill to meet the visitor. Puck, a location scouter for Disney, introduced herself proudly. They will be filming "John Carter of Mars" due east of the Hab and discussed how we could coexist during filming. Unfortunately, our crew will not be here for the filming, but we are making sure not to take the ATV's on the marked area so that the terrain will remain untouched and look realistic. Dan came down to meet the stranger and noted that he was waiting for me to come back up to raise the turbine. Knew I liked you, Dan! We set up the hill and after some work tugging down the supporting ropes with turnbuckles, we raised the sucker. She spun proudly. After a few pictures we headed down the hill, fairly sunburned and hot. It was time for the first shower. I filled a bucket of water by pump from the big trailer tank, grabbed some Oasis, biodegradable soap, and dunked my head in. Washed my hair and shaved my legs out on the trailer and then ran inside to our "zero G" shower for a 90 second wash. I forgot how cold it was, but I was pretty clean and settled in with my book for a couple chapters.

The crew decided we had not had enough outdoor time, so we took the ATV's to Box Canyon. The sites were just incredible. Billy is uploading pictures as we speak. We rode out and back, doing a total of 12 miles from the Hab to Box Canyon and back. Satisfied with our venture, we came back and pumped water from the outside tank to the inside tank for drinking and cooking water. Gassed up the ATV's, checked tire pressure and oil, checked on the generator and settled in for dinner. It was a non-cooking day, so we could only rehydrate freeze-dried food. I made the crew Sante Fe black beans and rice. They seemed content. We all were pretty exhausted from the sun, so after dinner, we chatted for a bit and then all retreated back to our cubbies for some much-needed rest.

Still waiting on my radios to arrive in Hanksville...if they don't, my research plan will be shot. Still keeping very busy out here, nonetheless. Hoping to see them in the next couple of days, along with the rover. CMON, UPS!!

Off to get ready for the first day in sim (and say goodbye to the beautiful outdoors),

XO-Crew 93

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 1

Up early this beautiful morning to watch the sunrise and start on a hefty breakfast for the crew. I somehow assume the role of cook each rotation, and surprisingly, enjoy coming up with creative ways to use the freeze dried ingredients. This morning, which was supposed to be pancakes and oatmeal, will be put on hold until tomorrow due to the fact this is a non-cooking day of the food study. Sadness.

Speaking of the crew members, let me tell you a little about them. The members of Crew 79 (GT's last year rotation) and the Georgia Tech Mars Society asked for applications for this year's rotation in September. By October we selected 10 promising astronauts, 6 of which would actually come to MDRS. The remaining 4, which were not selected for the trip itself, serve as mission support back at home. These members are greatly missed by our team and my best friend, Rebecca, serves as one. She's been keeping me up to date on Earth and we're grateful to have her on the team. (Love you, R!). Now...onto who is at MDRS this year...

First we have Dan, our Commander. Grad student in AE and Crew 69 and 79 veteran. Specializes in Wind Turbine Power and keeps us all in line. He, with the help of others, has been putting together a wind turbine and we will raise it on a nearby cliff today.
Billy, a veteran of Crew 79, is a grad student majoring in Robotics, and is serving as our Information and Technology Officer, in which he will be our photographer and mission support contact. He also is our rover lead, and will do several EVA's testing the Rover that a GT team built. Chris, an undergraduate in AE, our Chief Engineer, assumes the role I did last year...maintaining power to the Hab at all times, keeping all electronic equipment running and taking care of any ATV maintenance. It is more difficult then it sounds. Eric, also an undergraduate in AE, is serving as our Science Lead, where he will take care of the GreenHab, all plants, and the water line that connects from the GreenHab to our toilet, shower and sink. Also a difficult job. Jessica, also an undergraduate in AE, our Health and Safety Officer, is coordinating the food study and making sure we're all practicing safe habits. The food study consists of all freeze dried food and cooking/non-cooking days. More on that later. And finally, I'm serving as the Executive Officer, where I will be Dan's second-in-command, training for the position next year. This just means I'll be coordinating EVA's and making sure everyone is getting ample time to do their experiments. I also serve as the Radio Lead, doing a study on radio range on Mars terrain. Unlike any other crew, we bring our own Amateur Radio equipment and are all certified by the FCC (KJ4JZZ! ftw). We'll set up a repeater on Skyline Ridge, which is at an elevation of 4950 feet, as well as a base station at the hab, and hopefully enjoy stable communication between astronauts during EVA's using handheld radios. You guessed it- I am also an undergraduate at Tech- a super senior in Aerospace, graduating this fall. All said and done, this is a great crew with various talents and I'm looking forward to spending the next two weeks with them.

Onto the more fun stuff...yesterday. We all got up about 9 AM, blasting "Never gonna give you up" into Chris' bedroom to get him out of bed (teehee). After breakfast, Jessica and I started the food inventory and planning meals for the next two weeks. Since we haven't started our simulation yet (will start Tuesday), I am attempting to spend as much time outdoors as possible, without space suits. Helped Dan and Eric a bit with wind turbine assembly and suntanned out on the water talk. I then grabbed Jessica and Billy, the ATV keys, and we headed out for a 2 hour sprint around the mountains. It was truly a gorgeous, relaxing drive. In total we went 12 miles, at an average elevation of 4516 ft, at a highest speed of 36 mi/hr. Came back, did some reading, and I cooked dinner for the crew. Finished the day with watching "Coraline" with the crew...or sleeping through the movie....and off to bed around midnight.

Quotes from the day:

"Ugh, now I have corn sauce on my plate!" -Chris
"We didn't have Wasabi, but we had tabasco, so I put it up my nose. That HURT." -Me
"There's no crying in Mars"-Rebecca

Off to enjoy the last day out of sim,

XO-Crew 93

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day 0

Decided to start this blog to document my second stay at Mars Desert Research Station. The Pennyslvania Space Grant Consortium sponsored both Eric and I for this rotation in hopes we could send reports of our stay to encourage NASA to provide more funding for similar student missions. Needless to say, we are extremely grateful. So here we go...

Arrived here in Hanksville yesterday about noon and ventured into the desert. Off-roaded to Mars Desert Research Station in our Toyota Sequoia, windows down and blasting "Let it Rock." Smiles all around. Unpacked our mass of personal equipment next to the Hab and knocked on the door to meet Crew 92, the past 6 astronauts to spend two weeks at the station. After saying hello, since Billy and I had previously been here, we went ahead and went to town to pick up shelf stable food (yuck) while the others became familiar with the hab and our processes. Crew 92, a batch of men and women from the French Air Force, bid farewell, took the car and abandoned us in the desert.

Grabbed our things and headed upstairs to our home for the next 14 days. Fought over the "warmest" rooms, and I ended up in my beloved room from last year that the crew engineer usually stays in, since it is close to the stairs. We have heard that the generators this year are fairly reliable and Chris, the crew engineer, should have much less trouble this year than I had in the past. I will miss the middle of the night adventures to restore power to the hab. He still chose a room close to the stairs...although the space is so tiny, we all are a 5 second sprint to the downstairs lab area. After unpacking, we grabbed a quick bite to eat- leftovers from Applebees, as we are not in sim yet.

Ventured outside to the beloved ATV's. ATV training went well...I always forget how much fun they are out on this terrain...and a little nerve wracking. After Dan, Billy and I got the new members of the crew acquainted with all the equipment out here, we went on a quest to find the dinosaur bones. Apparently the site is is "hush hush" as excavation has not started, and we weren't sent any GPS coordinates- just told they would be found between two well known peaks ("Big Daddy" and Phobos). After three hours of hiking, we still had not found a thing and decided to call it a day. I cooked the crew dinner and we watched the sun set. The stars are incredible out here. We went to bed around 9, as we were all exhausted after the trip from grand junction, crew handover, and hiking.

Not sure why our report page is not up at this time, but you can watch us on the webcams here:
Will introduce the crew and our research in the next few posts.

Off to another beautiful day in the desert!


XO- Crew 93