Mars on Earth 2001 Field Season: Frank Schubert's Journal - April 2001


FMARS Devon Island Spring Reconnaissance and Flashline Station Improvement Expedition

April 6, 2001 5:30 PM
Edmonton, Canada

I arrive in Edmonton. The first part of the trip is going well. The Crew consists of Matt Smola, Greg Mungas, Leanord Smola, Pascal Lee and myself. Joe Amarualik will join us in Resolute. Except for Joe, none of us have ever been in the Arctic in winter and we are a little concerned. Lots of extra longjohns. Pascal showed up as we were having a cocktail in the airport lounge. It is good to see him and we head out to Yellowknife.

April 6, 2001 9:30 PM
Yellowknife

The jackets go on as we leave the plane. The night is brisk and clear and we see the Northern Lights on the way to the hotel. We meet for a game plan.

April 7, 2001 12:20 PM
Yellowknife.

The clerks at the cargo department informed us that our plane to Resolute is one hour late. Matt, Leonard and I take a cab to town to stock up on goodies. We are paged when we get back to the airport. The plane wasn't late after all and has left. This is not good. Pascal and Greg plead with the pilot and he comes back from the runway and gets us. This is a first for him. Lucky us. Thanks

April 7, 2001 4:40 PM
Resolute

We walk off the plane to bright sun and no wind. It is cold but doesn't seem too bad. We settle into our hotel rooms and do some more planning. We stay up till 12:00 arranging the materials at the First Air warehouse for the next day. I think that we work well together and look forward to getting into the hab tomorrow.

April 8, 2001 11:00 AM
Resolute

This is it. Off to the hab. I keep thinking about how this trip relates to a trip to Mars. We are flying in a hostile environment. We will live and work in a Mars Habitat. The climate, aside from being able to breath, is deadly. We have to wear suits go out. We are all highly trained people, yet we have no experience it the task ahead. On to Mars!

April 8, 2001 12:15 PM
Resolute

Where the hell is everybody? I am waiting at the airport and everyone is one hour late. It is amazing to me how people are late in a town of 180 with one road. What could they be doing? It has to be the cold. Everyone shows up at once and I calm down. I look forward to the plane ride. Matt, Joe and I will go first.

April 8, 2001 1:25 PM
Devon Island

The pilot fly right to it. Ah, the wonders of GPS. The landscape just fades into the sky here. Still the white hab sticks out. We circle several times, then the pilot does a couple of touch and go passes. I felt pretty safe. Temperature at Devon International Airstrip is -50 with the wind chill. We land on skis and unload the snowmobile. Then we head for the hab. The doors to the hab are frozen shut. I bang on the door and a ton of snow falls on my head. Inside the hab, temp is about -30. The condensation of my breath makes it hard to see. Pascal, Greg and Joe arrive shortly after we get the door open. The heaters are fighting a loosing battle downstairs, so we move all heat upstairs and decide to go for it and stay the night. IT IS COLD. We build the deck over the staterooms right off. The nail guns are not working well due to the cold.

April 9, 2001 7:25 AM
Devon Island

We wake up cold and put on jackets. It is cold inside, but outside, it is really, really cold. Just like Mars. Matt, Leonard and I start the demo work on the first floor while Joe, Pascal and Greg move the materials from the airstrip to the hab. Temp at Devon International Airstrip is -38 F. By afternoon, the generators are working well and we have full power. The hab is starting to warm up and we fall into a groove. By afternoon, we have the done layout for the first floor and have started framing. The airlocks are fun. I love round walls. Spirits are high and we are working fast. There is a lot of light in the hab from the windows. We more or less finish the framing by 8:00 PM. Then Pascal made a great dinner. After dinner, we fooled around until 12:30 AM. The hab is getting warmer.

April 10, 2001 8:25 AM
Devon Island

Pascal and I wake up first. It is WARM. Lots of smiles this morning. We have coffee and make plans for the day. I get a rough electric system done upstairs while Matt and Leonard move stuff downstairs. Moving stuff around proves to be a chore in itself. Joe and Greg are getting the last of the big stuff from the airstrip. Every time they open the door, a huge blast of fog comes flowing in. By 7:00 PM, we are ready for the hard part. The Newbees, (new to construction) don't know what they are in for. DRYWALL. One tough trade. Especially with all the radius cutting. We decide to concentrate on the staterooms. Lots of lifting and grunting. We actually finish at 2:30 AM. Tomorrow we will do the downstairs ceiling. Oh joy.

April 11, 2001 8:45 AM
Devon Island

Drywall all day. Pascal and Greg are catching on fast. Joe likes doing to outside work and is closing in on finishing the insulation for the first floor. It makes a big difference in our heating budget. It is now hot as we do the ceiling. Temp at Devon International is -20 F. Balmy. Bright sunshine. The crew is getting along well. We have a one for all and all for one attitude. We will start the mudding tonight. It is getting very humid in the hab. The exterior walls are wet and we are in tee shirts. It feels like Florida inside the hab. We could be at a work site anywhere. Then you step outside. We work until 3:00 AM. The place is a mess. One by one, we look for a soft place to flop down.

April 12, 2001 9:45 AM
Devon Island

We are all getting grubby and smelly. The hab is hot and humid. We will need the have de-humidifiers in here this summer. After a long breakfast, we start in on the last of the drywall. Leonard finishes the can lights in the lab area and we turn them on. The hab is taking shape. Matt is working on the second coat of mud and Greg is putting together the cabinets. Pascal and Joe head over to base camp and shovel snow away from the front of the tent. It is easy to imagine we are on Mars now. The outside world has disappeared. We talk about a Mars mission a lot. We are firing up more lights and outlets and the place is really looking good. The crew is still getting along, although we get grumpy once and a while. Things work out quickly though. These are all really cool people. This will be important on the mission to Mars. We work late and decide that we can finish by Saturday. That means a lot of work but then we can leave on the once a week jet back to civilization.

April 13, 2001 10:45 AM
Devon Island

Pascal and I head out in the morning to Devo Rock. The landscape is incredible. Phobos, our watchdog, followed us like it was a walk in the park. We didn't stay too long. Temp at Devon International is -29 F. As Pascal said about the weather, "It gets you attention" Leonard and I start on the final plumbing and electrical. Greg has finished the cabinets and is working on the shower now. We finish the airlocks and they look really cool. We cook out first lunch on the new counter top. Still a lot of work to do. We decide to stay up all night. A schedule of three to four hours of work and then a power nap seems to be working well. We are all gung-ho. The generators are working well. We pretty much use only one now. And it is now easy to heat the hab. The layout down stairs works well. The biology lab and the geology lab and the medial lab all fit. The comm racks can handle anything Steve brings up. And we built him a good size comm closet. The lights are all on switches now. I can see adding more electrical later, but that will all be surface mount. There will be some more stuff to do in the spring, but Pascal said the even if we did nothing, the hab was ready for a good field season. The weather has been clear all week but tonight the sky looks grim. Greg sees a dog sun and says we are in for some weather changes. That is not good. We plan to leave tomorrow on a very tight schedule. We work on.

April 14, 2001 10:45 AM
Devon Island

Pascal just called First Air to give them the Devon International Airstrip Weather Report. Cloudy, 300 foot ceiling, no wind, near whiteout conditions. They say call back later. Great. The crew is spaced out. We were up all night and everything is put away. The hab looks good. The work is done. We talk about Mars. Around 12:00, the weather clears. Our jet is at 4:30 and it takes 45 minutes one way From Resolute. There will be time for only one shower at Ozzie's. Pascal calls first air and they send a plane. We are happy and looking forward to going home. Matt and Greg and I arrive at the airstrip just as the plane comes into view. The clouds are low and he goes in and out of sight. Greg suggests we line up along the landing strip to help the pilot see it. He circles once more. We are waiting for him to land when we see him high up in the sky heading back to Resolute. We stand there in disbelief. Another week here. And nothing to do. We sat down in the snow while Pascal called First Air. They say call when the weather clears up. We stayed at the airstrip for a while then went back to the hab. I fall asleep as soon as we get there. At around 3:15, Greg wakes me up and says a plane is on the way. The weather had cleared. The ride back was great. The pilot flew the plane about 50 feet off the ice to take advantage of the ground affect. We arrived in Resolute just three minutes before our jet landed.

April 15, 2001 11:45 AM
Home

In spite of everything, it trip was a success. The hab looks great and is ready for the next field season. The crew worked very well together and we are all good friends now. My wife never looked more beautiful waiting at the gate.

I have a feeling that a Mars Mission will be similar in many ways to our expedition. There will be hopeless moments. There will be great success. We will push ahead when it is uncomfortable. And in the end we will hold together and continue to find new adventures.

After lots of hugs, we went home and all plan to sleep for three days............On to Mars

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