From: Haughton-Mars Project (HMP)
Posted: Tuesday, July 31, 2001
By: Dr. Pascal Lee
The day was devoted to executing a simulated EVA with a science agenda proposed by the Science Operations team at NASA Ames Research Center and with overall mission support from the Mission Support team in Denver. We went to "Site 6, an area presenting a beautiful network of small valleys visited the previous day by the Titan robot in teleoperated mode. The main goal of the EVA was to determine the origin of the small valleys. Were they of tectonic origin, the result of glacial meltwater discharge, the result of massive outflows, the result of glacial carving, or perhaps combinations of several of these or of other processes? We'd have to find out. Secondary goals included surveys of patterned ground (in this case large polygons several meters across) and other rock formations.
After an extensive planning meeting at breakfast to review the science tasks uplinked from NASA Ames, the crew spent the rest of the morning "station keeping", packing (for Carol, Larry and Peter, this would be their last day), and planning a specific traverse route to be followed during the EVA, including alternates. We used airphotos and a stereoscope to identify local high points along the way with the intention of making stops at these to acquire perspective or context shots.
At 4:30 pm local time, after 30 minutes of simulated "prebreathing", Carol, Larry, Peter, and I egressed from the Hab's main airlock. We strapped our gear onto our ATVs, mounted the vehicles, and drove off along Haynes Ridge in the direction of the southwest. John stayed behind and served as IVA officer on board the Hab, a critical position to hold in support of our EVA. He also continued maintenance work on his robots while Steve made good progress on the radio system.
Many bumps and sharp rocks later, we turned towards the northwest and cut across Lowell Canal, a relatvely large creek from which we derive our drinking water. Then we entered a maze of small valleys. We were now at Site 6. It was an incredible place with castle-like rock formations and mysterious bends and turns everywhere. We documented about just everything we could using digital cameras, video camcorders, rock samples, and even trenching. Meanwhile we kept track of our (imaginary) oxygen supplies, with a starting budget of 3 hours in the backpack plus 3 hours on our ATV. As long as we were on our ATVs, we assumed we would be using our vehicle's oxygen supplies. As soon as we were off the ATVs, the reserves in our backpack would be consumed.
We saw wonderful sights and tackled a range of terrain types, including very coarse rocky block fields (with angular boulders tens of inches across), steep slopes, and smooth valley floors. Time went by very fast and the EVA crew proved effective at working as a team in the collection of a variety of data. By 7:30 pm we were back at the Hab with a comfortable 2 hours of usable oxygen to spare in our backpacks and just about nothing left on our ATVs except for 30 minutes of contingency oxygen. (We also assume that there is an additional 30 minutes of emergency O2 in the backpacks).
As we sat down for dinner thick fog rolled in and now Carol, Larry and Peter are spending an extra night at Haughton as no plane is able to fly in at this time. In spite of weather uncertainties and the shifting schedule, there were no complaints. Exploration requires an adventurous spirit but also a solid dose of patience. Tomorrow this crew shift will end but for now we are still very much a happy team.
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