From: Haughton-Mars Project (HMP)
Posted: Thursday, August 9, 2001
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By: Dr. Pascal Lee
Today was a day of logistical preparations for upcoming higher fidelity EVA simulations. I spent part of the day at the HMP Base Camp with the newly arrived team from Hamilton-Sundstrand Space Systems International Inc., an aerospace firm currently under contract at NASA to develop and support life support systems for EVA on the Shuttle and ISS programs. Engineers Michael Boucher and Sean Murray form the team representing Hamilton-Sundstrand and the research group led there by Ed Hogdson and Ella Kisilis.
Hamilton-Sundstrand has been devoting some internal R&D resources to develop a new EVA system concept for advanced space exploration. Mars is a possible application target but the research emphasis for now is placed on universal aspects of the future system. On this basis, we have established on the NASA Haughton-Mars Project an experimental research collaboration with Hamilton-Sundstrand involving NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA Ames Research Center, Simon Fraser University and the SETI Institute to investigate specifically the integration of new information technologies into EVA systems and to develop field exploration strategies and tools in areas generic to human space exploration but relevant to human planetary exploration.
The research we are conducting takes advantage of the fact that we are currently engaged in the conduct of actual field science operations on Devon Island to develop new technologies that will help optimize the yield of remote science activities in general. In the short term this research will benefit efforts such as the ISS program directly. In the longer term, it will help expand human activities beyond low Earth orbit, including of course Mars. It is also a very exciting program that's producing many new ideas and technical approaches along with great opportunities for student participation.
So today Mike and Sean put me in the "Ham-Sun" concept suit and began by having me train a voice recognition system within the noisy confines of the suit's bubble helmet. We taught the software to recognize geological words and expressions such as "meteorite impact induced hydrothermal activity" and "stromatolite fossils in dolomitic carbonate". Then I was sent off on a short geological traverse with the suit and a wearable computer secured to my head and backpack, a Xybernaut MA IV donated to the HMP by Xybernaut Solutions Inc. Our Chief Field Engineer Steve Braham and his research assistant Trish Garner kept me on a wireless leash, helping change displays on my computer and tracking my GPS position, meanwhile reading my geological observations as they were transcribed live.
It was an incredible experience. Here I was doing field geology in a simulated spacesuit in a Mars-like setting, my notes being jotted down hands free, my position recorded and time-stamped without a thought. I was able to focus on the field science and also engage in consultative dialogue with another crewmember while on "EVA". Soon we'll be able to call up maps and other supporting information as required. None of this of course goes without technical difficulties and engineering glitches, but that's precisely why we are doing the work now: to learn the lessons early, to work out the bugs, to turn ideas into operational systems.
Meanwhile, Kelly and Jaret left the Mars Society FMARS habitat in support of a simulation of a crew-teleoperated robotic field reconnaissance mission using a video camera hooked up to a transmitter on an ATV. They were sent back to "Site 7" for additional surveys. Samson, Charlie, and I took turns throughout the evening in the Hab teleoperating the simulated robot rover, acquiring panoramic images and position information at a variety of locations. In doing so, we are going through the motions of having a crew plan an EVA to a site where advance exploration by a teleoperated robotic system might be of help.
We spent the rest of the evening catching up on reports and reading e-mail from Earth. Tomorrow afternoon we'll be going on an EVA, possibly the last one of Phase 5. We plan to explore the very intriguing "Site 7".
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