Crew 197 – Final Mission Summary

MDRS Crew 197 Mission Summary
VR CrowdExplorers
Mission Dates: October 21-26, 2018

Commander: Dr. Susan Ip-Jewell
Executive Officer: James L. Burk
Health & Safety Officer: Sacha Greer
Crew Engineer: James M. Ehrhart
Crew VR Scientist: Shannon Norrell
Crew Journalist: Marge Lipton
Director, MDRS / GreenHab Officer: Dr. Shannon Rupert
Crew Spacesuit Engineer: Max Boyce
Crew Spacesuit Engineer: Robert McBrayer

 

Crew 197 grew out of the successful May 2018 Kickstarter campaign for the MarsVR Program Phase 1.  The Mars Society ran a successful crowdsourced fundraising campaign which included offering paid seats at the MDRS as a reward level for the first time.  Two key supporters of the MarsVR Kickstarter purchased seats, and were offered slots on this crew.  The Program Manager and Director of Engineering for MarsVR organized the mission logistics and the overall crew activities.  Other additions to the crew included our Commander, Crew Journalist and two members of the NorCal chapter who had just delivered the upgraded and refitted analog spacesuits to the MDRS for the new field season. This was not a science-focused mission — rather it was a VR and spacesuit engineering focused mission, but we approached it in the same way.

Back row (left to right): Robert McBrayer, Shannon Norrell, James Burk, Max Boyce.

Front row (left to right): Marge Lipton, Susan Ip-Jewell, James Ehrhart, Shannon Rupert, Sacha Greer.

Crew 197 successfully ran our sim focused on VR location scouting for MarsVR Phase 2, and testing / feedback of the recently refurbished analog space suits.  Our mission focused on gathering important data for both of these projects.  A secondary but important objective was to capture high quality photo, video, 360, and drone footage of the MDRS and crews on EVA.  This footage will be used for promotional purposes by the Mars Society.

Our team was comprised mostly of rookies.  Only Dr. Ip-Jewell and Dr. Rupert had prior experience in sim at the MDRS.  As a result, we struggled to learn all of the ins-and-outs of running a sim, going on EVA, and closely following all of the program rules.  Towards the end of our rotation, we felt we hit stride and were able to accomplish several advanced activities with a minimum of mistakes.  Our team gelled very well and our culture as a team was an important part of our time at the MDRS.  We all share a passion for space and for helping the Mars analog research program, and that helped us to bond quickly and assist each other well with tasks outside our immediate area of expertise.

Crew 197 arrived at the MDRS just after a major weather front had moved through the area, and the terrain was still recovering.  It had been quite muddy prior to our rotation and also during the afternoon of Sol 1, there was another rainstorm which drenched the area.  As a result, we were not able to go on EVAs until Sol 3.  Our original plan was for a 72 hour sim, stretching from the evening of Sol 1 through the evening of Sol 4.  Because of the poor terrain and other factors, we ended up running the sim from the morning of Sol 2 through the morning of Sol 5.

 

Overview of Team Goals

  • Create a research whitepaper for using VR to train analog simulation participants.
  • Pilot out MDRS Training Scenarios and script/enact new scenarios.
  • Update interior/exterior scans for MarsVR future releases.
  • Capture video & 360 footage for future promotional activities.
  • Prepare the station for beginning of field season.
  • [Added during rotation] Scout out MarsVR Phase 2 EVA terrain locations.
  • [Added during rotation] Pilot out and gather feedback on refurbished analog spacesuits.

 

Summary of Activities

Sol 0

5 of us arrived in Grand Junction and spend a couple hours searching for Susan’s luggage (her luggage was on a different bus than her), then we acquired a refrigerator for the Hab and successfully mounted it along with supplies and luggage to the roof of our rental Nissan Pathfinder using a complex and well-engineered system of bungees and nylon rope.  We felt this was our first Martian engineering challenge that we successfully overcame with teamwork and a “can-do” attitude.

 

Sol 1

We repaired the tunnels, mopped the floors, moved and organized equipment to prepare for our sim.  Two of us also drove the Hab car to a remote location for repairs.  Then we conducted an extensive training session/discussion with Dr. Rupert.  Also, Robert McBrayer installed padding on the new Hab stairs (which had pointy metal features) to help our bare feet!

 

Sol 2

We started the day with yoga and tai chi (something that became a morning tradition for our short crew rotation), then we went into Sim and talked about what we all hoped to get out of our mission.  We did a suit training session where we all tried on the suits but due to the weather did not get to go out on our planned initial EVA to Pooh’s Corner.  We also did a CPR exercise led by Susan Ip-Jewell where we all tried out a CPR technique.

 

Sol 3

Our first increment of the Pooh’s Corner EVA was achieved quickly by James B., Max, Shannon N., and Jim E.  Because we had over 45 mins left, we decided to take out a couple rovers to scout the first VR location, but quickly learned the importance of filing EVA plans in advance and to “Think like a Martian, Act like a Martian” by not taking on additional unnecessary risk.  Our afternoon 2nd increment of Pooh’s Corner with the remaining crew was successful and Max gathered feedback from everybody on the suits and their experiences.

 

Sol 4

This was by far the most productive day of the sim.  We went on two long EVAs, scouting the trail to Candor Chasma and Lith Canyon/Burpee.  We learned a lot about GPS coordinates and how to take readings from devices, but also the differences between GPS decimal, hours/mins/secs, and the UTM NAD27 CONUS coordinates that are used at MDRS.  We also learned about the rovers and their gears and how fast the batteries are draining when they are not in the correct gear!

 

Sol 5

We extended our sim a half day to accomplish an additional EVA to Candor Chasma/The Summerville.  We acquired a large amount of photos, videos, and 360 footage there.  Afterwards we ended sim and prepared the Hab for the next crew.

 

Evaluation of Results of Team Goals

  1. Create a research whitepaper for using VR to train analog simulation participants.

Not Achieved. We were not able to work on this at all during the rotation.  However, we did gather lots of knowledge and information about how MDRS crew members are typically trained, and we will be doing follow up work to finalize the Phase 1 training scenarios as part of the final release of Phase 1, after the public Beta.

 

  1. Pilot out MDRS Training Scenarios and script/enact new scenarios.

Partially Achieved. We successful articulated the entire spacesuit donning/duffing procedures and the airlock procedures, which are currently being implemented in the MarsVR Phase 1 codebase.  Additional conversations and enumeration of the steps of training procedures for the GreenHab, Kitchen, and other Phase 1 scenarios still need to be accomplished.

 

  1. Update interior/exterior scans for MarsVR future releases.

Not Achieved. Because the IKEA cabinetry was not yet installed prior to our rotation, we were not able to accomplish any of the updated interior scans we intended.  As a result, we did not arrange to have the LIDAR unit delivered during Sol 2, as was the original plan.  In addition, the tunnels were not fully repaired prior to or during our rotation, so we were unable to rescan them.  Because of the weather and other factors, we were not able to go on a scouting mission (in sim or out of sim) with Dr. Rupert to acquire scans of dinosaur fossils or any other notable landmarks.

 

  1. Capture video & 360 footage for future promotional activities.

Achieved. Our crew acquired an extensive set of photos, videos, 360 panoramas, 360 video, and drone-based overflight videos of the MDRS and the surrounding terrain.  James Burk, Shannon Norrell, Jim Ehrhart, Sacha Greer, Marge Lipton, and Robert McBrayer all contributed high quality assets to our crew’s library of these, which are in the process of being uploaded to Dropbox and put into use by the Mars Society’s Public Relations staff.

 

  1. Prepare the station for beginning of field season.

Partially Achieved.  Our crew helped with: Hab cleanup; water acquisition and transport; Hab car repairs; acquisition, transport, and installation of a new upper deck refrigerator; repairing and covering of the tunnels; installation and testing of the HAL system to mitigate the low bandwidth environment; testing and minor repairs to the analog spacesuits and their chargers; and testing out all Hab equipment.  We were not able to complete the tunnel repairs but we did drive in new stakes and cover/zip-tie most existing tunnels.  We offered to test & validate some of the damaged batteries in the Science Dome but it was decided not to save any of those.

 

  1. [Added during rotation] Scout out MarsVR Phase 2 EVA terrain locations.

Achieved. Because we were unable to perform interior scans, Burk and Norrell decided to focus their main efforts on scouting EVA locations for future terrain scans during Phase 2 of MarsVR.  Working with Dr. Rupert, we identified several interesting regions surrounding the MDRS such as Candor Chasma, the Summerville, Lith Canyon, and Barainca Butte that we scouted and acquired imagery of, both during in-sim EVAs and out of sim.

 

  1. [Added during rotation] Pilot out and gather feedback on refurbished analog spacesuits.

Achieved.  All crew members had an opportunity to go on EVA at least once, and to try at least one of the suit designs.  Several crew members did multiple EVAs and tried multiple suit configurations.  Feedback from all crew members was gathered by Max Boyce and important data on the suits was gathered by Robert McBrayer.  All of this will be provided to the NorCal chapter for future suit upgrades and redesigns.

 

CONCLUSION

We did not achieve our original objectives of the mission, but we felt we did accomplish a lot by successfully running a 72 hour sim with no significant problems (ie, nobody “died”, we never had to break sim, and we successfully maintained all the Hab equipment.).  In addition, we gathered important data for the VR location scouting and usage and feedback of the refurbished analog spacesuits.

Crew 197 had a positive experience at the MDRS which we will take with us for the rest of our lives.  We’d like to thank our families and the Mars Society for making this mission possible.

In gratitude,

Crew 197

 

 

Operations report – October 25th

Crew 197 Operations Report 25Oct18
SOL: 4
Name of person filing report: Jim Ehrhart
Non-nominal systems: solar/batteries
Notes on non-nominal systems: batteries apparently on site, to be installed Friday
Generator (hours run): 24hrs. The battery to start the generator is sitting on the ground. This can lead to depletion is not charging from the generator. Will put on wood blocks tomorrow.
Solar— SOC % (Before generator is run at night): N/A
Diesel: 65-70%, hard to read precisely from ground due to parallax Propane – psi: 45
Ethanol Free Gasoline (5 Gallon containers for ATV) – gallons: Not checked, ATV not in use
Water (trailer) – gallons: N/A trailer not in use
Water (static) – gallons: estimated 75-80% full, no precise gauge available Trailer to Static Pump used – no or yes: No
Water (loft) – Static to Loft Pump used – yes or no: Yes
Water Meter: morning fill, from 25 to 50, meter 138088.98; evening fill from 25 to 50, meter 138160.28
Toilet tank emptied: no or yes: No
ATV’s Used: (Honda, 300, 350.1, 350.2, 350.3): No
Oil Added? No
ATV Fuel Used: Gals No
# Hours the ATVs were Used today: 0
Notes on ATVs: N/A
Deimos rover used: No, out of service
Hours: 0
Beginning charge: N/A
Ending charge: N/A
Currently charging: No
Sojourner rover used: ASSIGNED TO DIRECTOR
Hours: Unk
Beginning charge: Unk
Ending charge: Unk
Currently charging: Unk
Spirit rover used: Yes
Hours: 53.9 hrs
Beginning charge: 100
Ending charge: 60%
Currently charging: Yes
Opportunity rover used: Yes
Hours: 37.0 hrs
Beginning charge: 100
Ending charge: 41%
Currently charging: No
Opportunity experienced non-nominal behavior during EVA 3. Rover was carrying larger team members, Robert (5’7”) and James (6’9”) and their knees apparently hit the gear buttons randomly that resulted in the rover being in High gear for portions of the trip and rapid battery consumption. Approximately 100m from the Hab the rover was at 25% and the “motor overheat” lamp came on and the rover stopped. The crew pushed it back to its proper parking spot and used a spare extension cord from the GreenHab to plug it in.
The Director subsequently unplugged it so that only one rover (Curiosity) was plugged in to the existing cord. (Spirit is plugged in at the GreenHab). At the time of the Engineering EVA (5:30pm) Curiosity had reached 41% (prior to being unplugged) and the “motor overheat” button no longer came on. No test drive was performed. Curiosity rover used: Yes
Hours: 52.3 hrs
Beginning charge: 100
Ending charge: 86%
Currently charging: Yes
HabCar used and why, where? No
General notes and comments:
Summary of internet: Internet connectivity and bandwidth fine Summary of suits and radios: All suits performed nominally. One charger missing and one wonky – attempted to create two new chargers from existing spare parts with suit engineers, but couldn’t produce working unit from spares. Need to send to NorCal chapter for replacement. Suits experienced wear and tear on EVAs, Suit 9 got a significant scratch on helmet
All radios reviewed and settings standardized. 13 units in good shape and fully charged. 4 units not in good condition and set aside as reserve.
Summary of Hab operations: All systems nominal.
Summary of GreenHab operations: Nominal, smoke detector batteries replaced and tested. Plants sprouted.
Summary of ScienceDome operations: N/A, not in use due to battery issue Summary of RAMM operations: Nominal, very disorderly, needs cleaning and organization
Summary of health and safety issues: Health and Safety Officer perform checks – see report.
Questions, concerns and requests to Mission Support:
– Battery meter acquired as donation from Shannon Norrrel. Will put in RAMM for use in checking status of battery spares.

EVA Report – October 25th

EVA Report For 25 October 2018 – EVA3
Author James Burk
Purpose of EVA:
1. Scout Candor Chasma for VR footage
2. Capture 360 and gimbaled camera footage of the MDRS and typical EVA activities.
3. Test out new suits and get feedback.
4. Test out GPS unit.
Destination: Candor Chasma
UTM NAT27 Coordinates: 4250500, 521500
Participants: Max Boyce (Lead), James Burk, Jim Ehrhart, Robert M. Narrative:
We travelled up the road to look for the crossroads to get to Candor but we were not able to find it the first time (or the second time). Eventually we crossed over to the eastbound road and approached the canyon. Around this time we lost connection with Habcom, and stopped our rovers. 2 of us climbed up a ridge (might have been Phobos Peak) to reestablish contact and scout the area. Once we were done, we realized that one of the two rovers was below 60%, and thus we had to immediately return to base.
From the engineering report: Opportunity experienced non-nominal behavior during EVA 3. Rover was carrying larger team members, Robert (5’7”) and James (6’9”) and their knees apparently hit the gear buttons randomly that resulted in the rover being in High gear for portions of the trip and rapid battery consumption. Approximately 100m from the Hab the rover was at 25% and the “motor overheat” lamp came on and the rover stopped. The crew pushed it back to its proper parking spot and used a spare extension cord from the GreenHab to plug it in.

EVA Report For 25 October 2018 – EVA4
Author James Burk
Purpose of EVA:
1. Scout Lith Canyon area for VR footage.
2. Capture 360 and gimbaled camera footage of the MDRS and typical EVA activities.
3. Test out new suits and get feedback.
4. Test out GPS units. Gather GPS waypoint data.
Destination: Lith Canyon
UTM NAT27 Coordinates: 4256046 519257
Participants: Max Boyce (Lead), Shannon Norrell, Marge Lipton, Robert M. Narrative:
All objectives achieved. The team drove the two rovers (Spirit and Curiosity) up to Lith Canyon. As soon as they reached the crossroads north of Pooh’s Corner, they lost Habcom communication as per EVA3. They were able to reach Lith Canyon and survey the area for VR. Also, they took several GPS coordinate readings of various landmarks which we thought future crews might find helpful. We have also converted these Lat/Long readings into NAT27 CONUS.

Mars Sign
Handheld (HH MM SS): 38.24.334 110.47.407
iPhone (Decimal – DDD): 38.4056 110.7903
UTM NAD27 CONUS: 4250840 518292

Pooh’s Corner
Handheld: 38.24.532 110.47.040
iPhone: 38.4081 110.7846
NAD27: 425118 518806

Crossroads Turnoff
Handheld: 38.25.058 110.46.886
iPhone: 38.4175 110.7812
NAD27: 4252162 519101

Route Sign
Handheld: 38.26.437 110.47.792
iPhone: 38.441 110.797
NAD27: 4254766 517716

Burpee
Handheld: 38.27.118 110.47.462
iPhone: 38.4519 110.7909
NAD27: 4256129 517785

Lith Canyon
Handheld: 38.27.146 110.46.767
iPhone: 38.4525 110.7793
NAD27: 4256046 519257

Conversion tools we used:
Convert DDD to Hours, Minutes, Seconds –
https://gisgeography.com/decimal-degrees-dd-minutes-seconds-dms/ Convert – http://www.synnatschke.de/geo-tools/coordinate-converter.php

Journalist Report – October 25th

Journalist’s Report
Marge Lipton, Crew Journalist
Oct 25, 2018

SOL 4: Lots of many small steps before even a tiny leap

Today’s EVA’s were focused on what is still needed before a Virtual Reality training application of the MDRS can show additional terrain via drones. You wouldn’t just want to bring your equipment without doing thorough reconnaissance.

The morning EVA had Jim, James, Robert and Max headed to Candor Chasma. It was estimated to be a 3 hour trip from end to end. While data was being fed back to the Hab, it was noticed that the GPS coordinates (which were being taken for the drone based photogrammetry of terrain for the VR shoot) were not the same as the lat/long on the map in the hab. There are apparently a few different ways of taking coordinates but the videographers are sticking with the GPS readings they personally took on their survey.

Readings were also taken at regular intervals for the battery levels of the rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Spirit had reasonable readings at the 1 hour 45 minute mark, but Opportunity, had a level of 40% leading the group to turn back. Luckily they did, because yards away from arriving at the Hab a bright red light turned on. Today’s mistake seems to be that putting Opportunity in high gear uses up more juice. So instead of a planned 3 hour EVA, at close to the 2 hour mark, Opportunity needed to be pushed back to the station. It’s a good thing it was almost home by then. The crew is discussing ways it may or may not be possible to bring an extra battery or generator on the rover for just such an emergency in the future.

Robert, Max, Shannon and Marge were on the afternoon EVA. They took Spirit and Curiosity out to the Burpee Dinosaur site. Once there, Shannon took out his drone and flew it over the area to get an idea of what would work. We also took GPS and iPhone coordinates to be used when the actual VR shooting occurs. The group got into the rovers and headed to Lith Canyon after that, but found too much tumbleweed and greenery for it to be Mars.

As for feedback on the space suits, a few us found that while they were fine when walking or sitting still, riding in the rover over some of the potholes caused the helmet to bump into chins and teeth.

Overall our mission has been a success in that it will greatly facilitate the time when the future VR operation occurs.

Sol Summary – October 25th

Crew 197 Sol Summary Report 25Oct2018

Sol 4

Summary Title:

Author’s name: James Burk

Mission Status: Mission is nominal.

Sol Activity Summary: We completed two more EVAs today. The second EVA was very successful trip to Lith Canyon where we flew a drone and took several GPS coordinate readings.

Look Ahead Plan: Tomorrow morning we end Sim, but we will squeeze in one more EVA to scout VR location Candor Chasma which we didn’t reach today.

Anomalies in work: Opportunity rover overheated during our first EVA today (EVA3).

Weather: Dry and clear.

Crew Physical Status: Everybody is great. A little sad we are ending tomorrow because we are really hitting our stride today.

EVAs: Two EVAs accomplished – EVA3 nearly reached Candor Chasma but had to turn back due to a low powered Rover, and one that successfully reached Lith Canyon with all mission objectives accomplished.

Reports to be file:
Sol Summary – James Burk
EVA Report – James Burk
EVA Request – James Burk
Operations Report – Jim Ehrhart
Daily Photos – James Burk
Picture of the Day – James Burk
Journalist Report – Marge Lipton

Support Requested: None

EVA Report Oct 24th

EVA Report

EVA Report For 22 October 2018 – EVA1

Author James Burk

Purpose of EVA:

1. Capture 360 and gimbaled camera footage of the MDRS and typical EVA

activities.

2. Test out new suits and get feedback.

3. EVA and Rover training of crew.

4. Daily engineering readings.

Destination: Pooh’s Corner

UDM27 Coordinates: 38.41 N, 110.78 W

Participants: Max Boyce (Lead), James Burk, Jim Ehrhart, Shannon Norrell.

Narrative:

All objectives achieved. Our 360 and gimballed footage is amazing.

Pooh’s Corner was the original destination, which was quickly achieved

in the first 15 mins of the EVA. We requested permission from Hab

Comm to requisition 2 rovers for a short drive south to Barainca

Butte. On the way, we were intercepted by the director who declined

permission for us to continue the EVA to Barainca Butte. We turned

around and returned to the Hab safely. We used rovers Opportunity and

Curiosity.

EVA Report

EVA Report For 22 October 2018 – EVA2

Author James Burk

Purpose of EVA:

1. Acclimation of additional 4 crewmembers to EVA procedures.

2. Test out new suits and get feedback.

3. Daily engineering readings.

Destination: Pooh’s Corner

UDM27 Coordinates: 38.41 N, 110.78 W

Participants: Susan Jewell (Lead), Sacha Greer, Marge Lipton, Jim

Ehrhart, Robert M.

Narrative:

All objectives achieved.

We used the Spirit rover.

Sol Summary Report Oct 24th

Crew 197 Sol Summary Report 24Oct2018

Sol 3

Summary Title: Think like a Martian, Act like a Martian

Author’s name: James Burk

Mission Status: Mission is nominal.

Sol Activity Summary: We completed our first two EVAs today. Looking

forward to tomorrow’s final day in Sim.

Look Ahead Plan: Two additional EVAs tomorrow to scout VR locations.

Anomalies in work: None

Weather: Dry and a little foggy.

Crew Physical Status: Everybody is great.

EVA: All eight crew members went on EVA to Pooh’s Corner. The first

group of four also attempted to do some additional rover driving but

did not have authorization to proceed south and returned to the Hab.

Reports to be file:

Sol Summary – James Burk

EVA Report – James Burk

EVA Requests – James Burk

Operations Report – Jim Ehrhart

Daily Photos – James Burk

Picture of the Day – James Burk

Journalist Report – Marge Lipton

Support Requested: None

Journalist Report Oct 24th

Sol 3 – Think like a Martian, Act like a Martian

Marge Lipton, Crew Journalist

10/24/2018

After morning yoga and tai chi loosened us up, the first EVA

commenced. Suits were donned, earpieces inserted, radios turned on and

turned in to the correct channel, and suits were fastened with duct

tape at the wrist to keep any Martian air from touching our skin.

EVA #1 was comprised of James, Max, Shannon, and Jim. Before heading

out to Pooh’s Corner, a walk away from the Hab, they checked

engineering, and took photos. Then they split into two groups, two

people took a detour to the Rock Garden, the other two went directly

to Poohs’ Corner. When they all reached that destination they called

in to Hab Com in to find out how much time was left and decided to

come back to base, get a rover and head west for their remaining time.

MISTAKE! When they eventually came back to base, even though the

commander had agreed to their extra excursion, they learned an

important lesson. Think like a Martian, act like a Martian. What that

means is that if you’re given a mission, and you’ve completed it,

don’t take on unnecessary risk. Astronauts on the space station don’t

walk over to the other side when they’ve finished a task just because

they want to. But how are we going to learn if we don’t make mistakes?

Paraphrasing Neil Armstrong in the movie First Man, “Better to fail on

earth than on Mars.” But because our mission is basically about

mapping what needs to be captured in Virtual Reality, that part was a

success.

The next group, Susan, Robert, Sacha, Jim and Marge went out after

lunch to Pooh’s Corner. The protocol is to suit up, gather in the

airlock until being given permission by Hab Com to egress. Our mission

was a success as we wandered around the beautiful Martian surface on

the lookout for interesting rocks and dinosaur bones.

The spacesuit makers, Max and Robert, debriefed us afterwards to hear

what suggestions we had for making them better. Since we’re a photo

mission, besides the comfort and fogginess of some helmets,

consideration was given to where VR and 360 cameras as well as other

paraphernalia could possibly be placed.

Engineering monitored our life supporting equipment. The marvelous HAL

(Habitat Activity Lexica) monitor went down. It’s comprised of various

modules keeping track of crew activity and is in the process of being

revived.

And later tonight we’re having that discussion on the moral dimensions

of space travel. Stay tuned!