From: Haughton-Mars Project (HMP)
Posted: Saturday, August 4, 2001
By: Dr. Pascal Lee
For the fifth day in a row we are engulfed in thick fog. The fog lifted briefly this afternoon allowing 15 field participants to depart from Haughton, including Lucas Allakariallak, John Blitch, Brent Bos, Charles Frankel, AC Hitch, Greg Klerkx, Larry Lemke, Arnis Mangolds, Peter Smith, Carol Stoker, and my brother Marco. The planes that pulled them out arrived at Haughton full of supplies. But when it came time to fly in new participants, the weather closed in again and they were unable to come. We are now completely fogged in, with visibilities down to 50 meters at times.
Phase 4 transitioned smoothly to Phase 5 yesterday. Steve and I are the only crewmembers staying on. The FMARS crew tonight is composed of Prof Steve Braham from Simon Fraser University (Steve is Chief Flight Engineer for the NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP). He also leads the Technology Task Force at the Mars Society), Dr Charles Cockell from the British Antarctic Survey (Charlie is Chief Biologist on the NASA HMP and a member of the Mars Society), Jaret Matthews from Purdue University (Jaret is an undergraduate student in aerospace engineering and a Collaborator on the NASA HMP. He was selected as a FMARS crewmember for 2001 through the Mars Society's Call for Volunteers), Samson Ootoovak from Pond Inlet, Baffin Island (Samson is an undergraduate student in mechanical engineering at St Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia ; Samson is Chief Field Assistant on the NASA HMP and has been helping our Mars exploration efforts for three summers in a row now ; Samson was invited to participate as an FMARS crewmember this year in replacement of Dr Jeffrey Jones, M.D. of NASA Johnson Space Center who was unable to attend this summer), Dr Kelly Snook of NASA Ames Research Center (Kelly is a planetary scientist and an aerospace engineer. She is a Co-Investigator on the NASA HMP's Exploration Research Program and is a Mars Society member), and myself.
Yesterday the Phase 5 crew began its research activities with a simulation of a crew-teleoperated robotic reconnaissance mission. We drove a rover in teleoperation mode to so-called "Site 1", an area chosen for its scientific potential earlier in the week by the Science Operation team at NASA Ames Research Center on the basis of precursor remote sensing data and simulated lander data (panoramic imaging). Our task was to carry out a more in-depth reconnaissance of Site 1 by teleoperation, in preparation for an eventual EVA to that area.
In addition to conducting a crew-supervised robotic reconnaissance of Site 1, the new concept investigated in our experiment was that of the "robotic marsupials" as John Blitch describes it: the rover we drove to the field site was itself carrying another smaller rover (possibly one among several others) that would be deployed once the general area of the field site was reached to conduct more specialized or detailed exploration activities at the selected site. It is somewhat like the Mars Pathfinder Lander/Sojourner Rover scenario, except that the "lander" is itself a large rover and the whole system is now being teleoperated without time delay by a crew on Mars.
The simulated mother rover we used was Jaret Matthews's "Purmacat" (a cool-looking 6-wheeled ATV that can be either teleoperated or driven by a human) while the baby it carried was John's tiny robotic rover from DARPA, which we named "Stumpy". In order to implement the simulation, Kelly served as teleoperator on board the Hab, viewing a live video feed from the rovers in the upper deck of the FMARS. Jaret drove the Purmacat in response to voice control inputs radioed by Kelly. Meanwhile John rode alongside Jaret in the Purmacat, panning and tilting the Purmacat's video camera and deploying "Stumpy" on a "leash" (tether) as specified over the radio by Kelly.
The experiment was interesting and produced much food for thought. Site 1 was characterized as well as we could given the fog. The request from the Sci Ops team for more robotic reconnaissance observations at this site was satisfied. In addition, the deployment of Stumpy as a mobility system that is a satellite to a larger one provided good baseline data for our studies of crew-teleoperated exploration in that mode.
Today, the crew conducted station keeping activities and met to plan an EVA to Site 10, 4 kilometers north-northeast of the Hab. The EVA site was suggested by the Sci Ops team at NASA ARC and will be performed as soon as possible. The distance to the target site and the amount of time we would like to spend there are such that the establishment of a cache of supplies will be necessary. We plan to mark the midway cache site with a trailer we will leave in place and pick up on the way back. We will assume that the trailer has 4 supplementary oxygen tanks with 2 hours of usable oxygen in each.
I also found my computer to be infected by a virus today which required that a substantial part of the morning be spent in a virus hunt and kill. Thanks to Steve however, the fix was successful and the system is now back to flight status. Jaret spent some time today replacing the axles on his Purmacat with more sturdy ones. Also, our new generators have arrived and we are now running on diesel.
As I sign off tonight, the fog is at its thickest, and the views out our windows are both bleak and eerie. Some places on Mars, like the beautiful maze of canyons of Noctis Labyrinthus in the far western part of Valles Marineris, also experience fog. Fog generally happens when relatively moist air comes in contact with colder ground. Tonight, as fog fills Haughton Crater, I wonder if humans on Mars will one day see fog roll in out the windows on their habitat.
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