Entering Mars’ Atmosphere
Today, we woke up on Mars. We decided as a crew to enter sim overnight, and it was with an eerie knowledge that today would be very different from yesterday that I let my eyelids close. When I woke up – to the effervescent and ever-present chorus of Kanye’s “Good Morning” – it was with the jolting realization that as of today, I am joining the ranks of analog Martian astronauts.
We did not waste any time acclimating. This analog mission is only two weeks long, including every technology delay and equipment failure, which means that to accomplish the science we set out to do, we would need to fast-forward and immediately begin setting up shop.
A successful mission means that in simulation, science has been safely done. In order to do science, Martian astronauts need to do EVA’s, or extravehicular activities. It’s vital that EVA’s only be done when needed, as the science return has to justify the risk in venturing out onto the surface of another planet, but – as you can guess – we were all thrilled to have a reason to don our spacesuits.
Five minutes. We stood in the airlock for five minutes, waiting for the go-ahead from the Hab. Once they gave us the say-so, it meant that the room we were huddled in had depressurized, and that we could open the sealed outer door and leave the Hab for the first time since the simulation began.
The first EVA comprised of our Executive Officer, Hume, HSO Officer, Coultrup, and Crew Scientist, Ettlin. We had only changed up our intended 3-person teams in order to make sure that the appropriate trainings were given during our practice EVA’s today. But – none of us minded the fact that it was our three female crewmembers who were the first to take that step. Our first words out on the surface were: “We go to Mars – together.” We care about diversity in the future of space, and it felt appropriate.
The EVA went wonderfully. There were a few small issues – bumping helmets together, having to squeeze into the rover with a bulky helmet and spacesuit on, and media taken being washed out by the harsh sunlight, but we returned with high spirits.
The second EVA – comprised of Commander Dickstein, Engineer Hariharan, and Botanist Hernandez started off enthusiastic and well. They received more challenges than the former team. Soon after leaving, Dickstein and Hariharan lost communications and Hernandez had to call back to the Hab. However, he quickly organized a plan for returning to the Hab using visual communications and hand signals. The team returned safely and calmly a few minutes later, handling the problem with ease and grace.
We all noted that because of the reality of the analog level, it truly felt as though we were on an expedition where our life support systems mattered and where we were preparing to do real science. We intend to begin our science EVA’s tomorrow, and in taking these trips today, were able to come up with not only EVA checklists, but also our best practices for traveling outside of the hab.
EVA Best Practices
· Charge your comms!
· Decide a nominal system of hand signals for events of communications outages
· Confirm all vehicles’ movement prior to leaving the Hab
· In the event of communications outages, do not lose visual on non-communicative members. The member with comms ought to follow up the rear in order to be able to call the Hab for safety reasons.
· Medium level is preferred for the air coolant system, as higher can result in comms being distorted.
· Maintaining space is important, as it’s easier to bump helmets than desired.
· Put a container of all needed supplies for EVA into the airlock prior to donning spacesuits – it’s easy to forget items after helmets are on.
· Customize a “preflight checklist” based on your crew’s needs.
· Name a “Hab controller” who will take point on all radio communications.
· Call out “Hab” when communications are asked from the Hab instead of the EVA members.
· Have an order of business and priorities for an EVA ahead of time in case of early return.
· More to come!
Shayna Hume, XO
Red Planet People – MDRS Crew 245 “Team Patamars”
To Mars and Beyond – For All!