Haughton-Mars Project (HMP-2001-0712)

Status Report From: Haughton-Mars Project (HMP)
Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2001

Report Number: HMP-2001-0712

By: Dr. Pascal Lee

The event of the day was the US Marine Corps paradrop operation. Three paradrops took place this afternoon over Von Braun Planitia, a rolling plain located just outside Haughton, northwest of the crater. In spite of adverse weather and reduced visibility (it was windy, foggy, drizzly, and the ceiling was marginal at no more than 700 ft), the paradrops were a complete success. The view from Base Camp was simply spectacular.

From our perspective on Devon Island, the operation began this afternoon with the arrival at Haughton on a First Air Twin Otter of a group of five Marines led by LtCol Tom Duncavage. Accompanying him were Capt. Patrick O'Rourke, Sgt. Weber, Staff Sgt. Ali, and Corporal Jones. Mr. Bob Evans, photographer for this USMC operation, also landed on Devon.

This is the third year in a row that the NASA Haughton-Mars Project is receiving support from the USMC for the delivery in the High Arctic of expeditionary equipment and supplies otherwise too difficult or too costly to deliver to Devon Island by other means. LtCol. Duncavage has been the key USMC officer through whom we have been able to secure the support of the Marines on the NASA HMP over the past three years. He was visiting Devon Island for the third time. Capt. O'Rourke was also returning to Haughton. This was his second visit.

Once on the ground, the landed team moved into position quickly. They marked the DZ (drop zone) and waited for the Herc. The mighty C-130 commanded by LtCol Ken Hopper arrived shortly thereafter, passing first a couple of times over the DZ with its rear door closed to assess local terrain and weather conditions and to coordinate the drop with the ground crew.

Then came time for the first drop. In awe and silence, we watched the massive plane approach stealthily from a distance over Haynes Ridge. The ceiling was so low that the plane was coming in and out of clouds. It then roared past overhead, this time with its rear door dropped open. The first load then exited the plane. Initially it appeared to be in free fall but it was soon slowed down by a beautiful parachute in full blossom.

The second and third drops, the latter one being the final one, were equally successful, in spite of rapidly deteriorating weather conditions. Winds were progressively picking up and the drizzle was now turning to rain. The third drop was a climactic moment as a new ATV sponsored to the SETI Institute by Kawasaki Motors USA for our work on the NASA HMP was being delivered in this way for the first time. Also mounted on the same load was a small camera belonging to HMP Videographer Sam Burbank. We felt we were somewhat brave and daring. But the truth is I was confident the Marines would pull off yet another successful drop. The third drop was indeed perfect. After a soft bounce, the load came to a complete stop. The Kawasaki ATV was safe and sound. It started up right away and was driven off its landing platform.

Yesterday evening, in preparation for today's paradrops, we were privileged to host at Haughton the reconnaissance visit of Col. Colin Lampard and his team, including LtCol Tom Duncavage and LtCol Ken Hopper. Col. Lampard is the commanding officer who has been authorizing the USMC's support to the NASA HMP over the past field seasons. He was visiting Haughton and our team for the first time. We discussed the symbiotic value of our joint operations and our mutual commitment to the advancement of exploration. It was a great moment for the HMP.

As Col. Lampard departed Haughton, he presented our project with the beautiful red flag of the United States Marine Corps. The flag flew high all day today over the HMP Base Camp in celebration of our collaboration.

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