From: Haughton-Mars Project (HMP)
Posted: Sunday, August 12, 2001
By: Dr. Pascal Lee
This afternoon our information systems field integration tests with the Hamilton-Sundstrand concept spacesuit were taken one step further. The focus was on securing a short-range wireless communications link between a suited explorer and other supporting explorers, say crewmembers in a nearby pressurized rover. The supporting crewmembers would help the explorer view maps, position information or any other data requested by the suited explorer to help him/her carry out the task at hand successfully.
Mike Boucher and Sean Murray put me once again in the upper torso of the Hamilton-Sundstrand concept suit for advanced space exploration outfitted with the powerful Xybernaut MA IV wearable PC-compatible computing system. I then wandered off into the rock fields near the HMP Base Camp and began doing some field geology. Using the wireless radio network established by Steve Braham and Trish Garner, I was able to view as I hiked just about any information I needed. Maps I called up were displayed, GPS positioning data was also made available. The field test was a brilliant success.
Then I rejoined the Hab and began preparations with Crew 5 on our planned EVA. Charlie Cockell, Jaret Matthews, Kelly Snook and I suited up (this time with the Mars Society simulated spacesuits) with help from Samson Ootoovak who served as IVA for the event. Samson positioned SpaceRef.com's webcam #2 (dedicated to the memory of Gerry Soffen) on the lower deck so that our suiting up could be viewed. We were off to "Site 7", a promising location where the Science Operations team gathered at NASA Ames Research Center last week had lined up specific observations of gullies and patterned ground for us to perform.
I headed out in the Purmacat with Jaret. Charlie and Kelly drove along on Kawasaki ATVs. Jaret's rover is allowing us to investigate the pros and cons of a two-person vehicle in planetary exploration as compared to each explorer driving his/her own ATV. On the one hand it seems that there is reduced vehicle redundancy when two explorers have to rely on a common vehicle. On the other hand the passenger in the two-person rover may be able to focus more on the terrain and the landscape, on navigation and on science. Jaret will announce the results of this research when the data is analyzed.
The drive to and from Site 7 and the site itself proved to be beautiful. Site 7 is located at approximately 75*27.9'N, 89*56.7'W, towards the northern end of Von Braun Planitia. On our way there, we established an imaginary cache of oxygen at Marine Peak, the highest point along Battleherc Ridge. At Site 7, a stepped limestone mesa butte, we saw interesting gullies and well-developed patterned ground in the form of meter-wide rock polygons with raised fine-grained central sections. Jaret positioned himself at the very top of the butte to capture our activities on video while Kelly shadowed Charlie and me in various locations to compare our findings with conclusions we had reached a few days earlier via the simulated robot teleoperation activity.
We were back at the Hab by 8:30 pm local. After dinner, Charlie went to conduct some critical initial field tests of the "Bob" (Buoyant OBserver) balloon surface drifter. Built by Dr Dale Stokes of the Scripps Institution for Oceanography, the vehicle is elegant and simple in design but very effective at handling difficult terrain. One day such as system might be deployed on Mars. It could help explore vast tracks of territory both reliably and at low cost.
Amazingly Phase 5 is already coming to an end. Tomorrow will be our last day. Before we even part ways, we already know that our memories of living and working together, the teleoperation activities and the EVAs to distant and beautiful places will forever stay with us.
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