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Haughton-Mars Project (HMP-2001-0713)

Status Report From: Haughton-Mars Project (HMP)
Posted: Friday, July 13, 2001

Report Number: HMP-2001-0713

By: Dr. Pascal Lee

Today we had unrelenting rain at Haughton. Now that the Marines have brought up supplies for the NASA HMP, the next several days and Twin Otter flights from Resolute Bay to Devon Island will be dedicated to bringing all the cargo over to Base Camp. The payloads will include three more ATVs sponsored by Kawasaki Motors, a six- wheeled teleoperatable ATV contributed by Jaret Matthews of Purdue University (Jaret is both a Collaborator on the HMP Exploration Research program and a volunteer of the Mars Society selected to join the FMARS crew on Phase 5), and literally tons of food supplies and other research equipment.

The day started off uneventfully. It just rained and rained. After dinner, Dr. David Wettergreen of the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University gave a brilliant talk on the "Hyperion" sun-synchronous robot rover experiment he and his team are about to carry out at Haughton. The robot will attempt to execute an autonomous traverse circuit several miles wide in continuous operation over 24 hours while choosing its route and managing its solar power on its own. The robot represents a prototype of a space-rated rover that could one day be sent to explore the polar regions of the Moon in search of H2O that might be trapped in the permanently shadowed areas of the Moon's polar craters, or the polar regions of Mars as recently proposed by Dr. Michael Sims and his team (Mike is with the Center for Mars Exploration at NASA Ames Research Center. He is also a Co-Investigator on the NASA HMP).

Over the past few days, the CMU team of seven has assembled the rover and checked out its systems. It is now ready to roll. The weather must improve, however, and the ground must dry up more before the planned tests can begin. Hyperion is now waiting patiently by the airstrip where good preliminary testing grounds were found.

The event of the day was unfortunately a medical emergency that arose later this evening. One of us noticed once inside a tent that his left leg was severely swollen and red, with other symptoms suggestive of the possibility of infection. John Schutt and I rushed in to assess the situation. There was no cause for panic but it truly did not look good. What might be happening? Neither John nor I nor anyone around us were sure. Unfortunately, this was occurring on the one day this field season during which we would be without a medical officer at camp...

While planning for the field season this year, I had made sure that we would at all times have a medical doctor at hand, either at the HMP Base Camp or inside the Mars Society's FMARS hab. On Phase 1, Dr Rainer Effenhauser, chief flight surgeon of the Space Shuttle program at NASA JSC would be present at Haughton as a a NASA HMP Co-Investigator and as a Hab crew member. After his stint in the Hab, Rainer remained at Base Camp to continue his research program and help us as Camp Doctor on a good samaritan basis. But Rainer had to fly back yesterday, July 12th.

To ensure continuity in medical presence, I had lined up my younger brother Marco who is a surgeon and researcher in neural gene therapy at Oxford University. Marco served as HMP field medical officer in 1998 and is an experienced expeditionary doctor. He was offering his services again this year in any vacant time slot we might have. But he would not be able to join until July 14th, tomorrow. I took the chance: we would have to risk going without a doctor at camp for one day. It so happened it would be today, Friday, the 13th...

With Rainer gone and Marco on his way up, we tried to reach Marco first. I phoned a hotel where he might be staying in Edmonton, but to no avail. We then tried to reach Rainer in Houston, TX. Luckily, he was home. From then on we all lived a textbook example of telemedicine in practice, i.e., the ability to access and apply medical expertise remotely through technology. I would first take some digital photos of our patient. Rainer would then examine them and provide guidance. Within minutes, that was done. Images of our patient's leg, taken using an Olympus C-3030 digital camera with macro capability, were on their way from my wirelessly-LANed laptop in the HMP mess tent to Rainer's terminal at his home. By satphone, Rainer was then able to ask a series of specific questions which I then relayed by radio transceiver to John Schutt who stood by the patient in another tent. Then Rainer gave me instructions over the phone on where to find additional diagnosis equipment and medication which I then relayed by the same radio transceiver to AC Hitch who was positioned in yet another tent holding the medical supplies. Soon, I found myself by the patient's side taking his blood pressure, reading out the inches of mercury to John Schutt who then relayed them by radio to Mark Webb who had taken my place at the phone in the mess tent, who then relayed the numbers to Rainer... The patient eventually received all the care and prescription recommended by Rainer, located several thousand miles away.

Tonight, our patient will remain in observation in his tent. He must stay warm: we'll turn on a propane heater. We think he will be OK. He will be flown out on tomorrow morning's scheduled Twin Otter flight so that Marco can examine him in Resolute Bay once he gets there. Based on Rainer's preliminary assessment, infection remains a risk, but it is anticipated that our friend will recover soon, possibly within a few days. The underlying cause of his problem may have been poor blood circulation in a lower limb due to an extended period immobility in the cold. Technology does not make the Arctic more benign. But it may make us less vulnerable.

// end //

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