Mission Summary – December 9th

The Aerospace Corporation Demo-1 Crew 269

Commander (CDR): Dr. Kristine Ferrone

Executive Officer (XO): Allison Taylor

Health & Safety Officer (HSO): Barbara Braun

Crew Engineer (ENG): Ashley Kowalski

Green Hab Officer (GHO): Matthew Eby

Technology Officer (TECH): Trevor Jahn

Crew 269 was the first self-organized MDRS crew from The Aerospace Corporation. The mission was internally named “Demo-1” to indicate the first demonstration on an all-Aerospace analog mission. The mission concept was first proposed by CDR and XO as a sprint exercise to determine the feasibility of assembling a complete MDRS crew and experiment team from within Aerospace in 2020. The results of that exercise formed the basis of the crew application and mission plan submitted for MDRS consideration. The crew learned of their acceptance in early 2021 with a mission date scheduled for late 2022.

Throughout 2021 and 2022, XO served as the project manager, interfacing with MDRS and leading weekly meetings for crew team building, mission formation, and experiment development. Several modifications were made to the original experiment manifest, indicating changes in Aerospace internal priorities and government customer needs during the span of several fiscal years. The crew adapted to these changes and worked to maximize involvement from across Aerospace to ensure maximum scientific return.

As the mission start date moved closer, the crew conducted in-person training at Aerospace headquarters with experiment teams and corporate environmental health and safety staff to ensure adequate pre-mission procedures and materials training. Crew also coordinated transportation and logistics arrangements for all experiment hardware.

Upon arrival at MDRS, the crew experienced a delayed COVID PCR test result causing simulation start to occur a day later than planned. The crew adapted to this challenge and was able to recover all scientific and operational objectives on other Sols. Simulation officially began on Tuesday, November 29 and completed on Friday, December 9. Individual reports on in-simulation activities are included below.

Crew 269 accomplished their primary objective of successfully demonstrating that The Aerospace Corporation can assemble a competent analog astronaut crew, compile a feasible experiment manifest, and execute an MDRS mission within the boundaries set by mission support, weather, and isolation obstacles.

Experiment Reports

I. Project Phantom Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality Demonstration

PI/Crew Lead: Trevor Jahn, M.S. Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering

· Objective: Create 3D models of the aera surrounding MDRS, and show its effectiveness in mission planning in tandem with Aerospace’s unique Augmented Reality Software

· Accomplishments:

Demonstrated using Remote Control (RC) rover/robot to collect imaging data to be used for photogrammetry during a spacewalk on Mars
Demonstrated using Aerial Drone to collect imaging data to be used in photogrammetry to create 3D models, and maps, to be used for mission planning during a spacewalk on Mars
Demonstrated stitching together 3D models produced from Aerial Drone images, and 3D models from satellite imaging to create a 3D model of the operational environment that can be updated with new stitched in models
Demonstrated using Aerospace’s Augmented reality software for mission planning and execution
· Relevance: Photogrammetry is now becoming more common place and has already been used in limited capacity on Mars to create 3D models of the planet’s surface. There are also public documents outlining the use of Augmented Reality hardware in NASA’s next generation space suit. This research will lay the groundwork for ways to use 3D models from photogrammetry, and the augmented reality spacesuit capability, together on future space walks and missions on the Moon and Mars.

II. Mirror Coating Experiment

PI: Chelsea Appleget, Ph.D. Aerospace Engineering

Crew Lead: Ashley Kowalski, M.S. Aerospace Engineering

· Objective: Monitor and characterize mirror surface degradation under a simulated, accelerated environmental exposure over the two-week period at MDRS

· Accomplishments: The crew deployed four different mirror samples close to Marble Ritual on Sol 1. On Sol 5 and Sol 8, the mirror samples were brought in by a morning EVA crew and inspected in the Science Dome under The Aerospace Corporation microscope by Crew Engineer. During the inspections, the locations of abnormalities on the mirrors were noted and images of those anomalous areas were saved and delivered to the PI on Earth. Upon completion of each inspection, the mirror samples were redeployed to the Martian environment on an afternoon EVA the same day. Originally, one final mirror inspection was to be performed on Sol 12; however, upon receiving feedback from the PI on Earth, it was determined that an unexpected anomaly occurred during this experiment. Thus, an EVA was performed on Sol 10 to adjust the mirrors in the field. Additional mirror inspections were completed on Sol 11 with additional exposure time on Sol 12. Therefore, while the original procedures for this experiment needed to be modified, the crew was able to make necessary adjustments to the payload and successfully utilize the unique Martian environment to obtain an abbreviated data set to characterize the mirror surface degradation.

· Relevance: Highly reflective silver mirrors are used in many space applications, but exposure to environmental contaminants can rapidly degrade optical performance. The results of exposure to a simulated Martian environment with dust, variable temperatures, and harsh conditions will be compared to traditional laboratory accelerated environmental testing, allowing researchers to correlate laboratory testing to harsh desert conditions.

III. Ham Radio Demonstration

PI/Crew Lead: Matthew Eby, M.S. Aerospace Engineering

· Objectives: Demonstrate deployment of a ham radio field antenna in a Mars analog environment while wearing analog space suits; Conduct handheld ham radio range test on EVA

· Accomplishments: While at MDRS, the three ham radio operators on the crew (Eby KJ6ZCL, Ferrone KI5AMM, Braun N1VNJ) completed activation and checkout of the new MDRS ham radio station and two of their own handheld ham radios. The crew also deployed the whip antenna with vertical extension while on EVA. Subsequently, crew received transmissions on the ham radio station from as far away as Lithuania and Luxembourg, but the crew did not yet receive confirmation their own transmissions were received. Using the handheld radios, the crew conducted EVA communications tests at several locations around MDRS and determined that the handheld ham radios would make excellent alternative or backup communications to the MDRS EVA radios.

· Relevance: Pending improved understanding of the Martian ionosphere, ham radio communications may be employed to supplement traditional radio communications on the surface of Mars.

IV. EVA Tools Demonstration and Regolith Sample Collection

PI/Crew Lead: Allison Taylor, M.S. Space Studies

· Objective: Evaluate the operational use of the selected commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) tools in accomplishing regolith sampling during planetary surface EVAs

· Accomplishments: The COTS EVA tool suite included a rake and scoop, handheld battery-powered sifter with 75-micron mesh, and special sample collection bags. The crew successfully collected 10 regolith samples from sites near the Hab and known traverse routes in the Tharsis Montes quadrant, the Special Region in the Valles Marineris quadrant, and the Barrainca Butte region in the Charitum Montes quadrant. Sifted regolith is the first step in the beneficiation of material for in situ resource utilization (ISRU), as ISRU requires smaller grain sizes for processing. The regolith samples will be sent to a laboratory at The Aerospace Corporation for analysis to determine if any of the sampled regions near MDRS have compositions suitable for ISRU processing, such as creating building materials.

· Relevance: It is likely that similarly collected samples from the Moon and Mars will be analyzed for purposes such as future site construction with the goal to maximize the use of in situ material.

V. Weather Balloon Release

PI/Crew Lead: Matthew Eby, M.S. Aerospace Engineering

· Objective: Prepare and launch a high-altitude weather balloon in an analog Martian environment and in analog space suits; Measure dust in the atmosphere from ground level to 90,000 ft

· Accomplishments: This experiment leveraged existing Aerospace assets from prior high-altitude flights, including radio, telemetry, and tracking equipment, parawings, and spare weather balloons. To the existing sensor package, a dust sensor was added, requiring modifications to the flight code to add a two-wire serial data interface. An epoxy fiberglass cone was fabricated to house the experiment package. Upon arrival at MDRS, the experiment was unpacked and prepared for flight by loading the flight batteries and assembling the quarter-wave ground plane telemetry antenna. A dress-rehearsal launch was conducted with the team, activating the payload, and checking out the ground station. On flight day, the balloon was filled with 150 cubic feet of Helium. The balloon train (balloon-parachute-experiment) was assembled and in calm air near the ground, then the balloon was sent aloft. Measuring dust in the air, the balloon caught the Jetstream, and the crew tracked the balloon as it rose to the target altitude and then as it descended over the Colorado Rockies.

· Relevance: Balloons on Mars would enable in situ atmospheric measurements that are not feasible with other platforms such as satellites and rovers. Applications for human Mars missions include dust storm monitoring, atmospheric sounding, on-demand or rapid response science missions, and tethered communication relays.

VI. Exercise and Fitness Protocols

PI: Sylvia Kohn-Rich, Ph.D. Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering

Crew Lead: Barbara Braun, USAF Lt. Col. (ret.), M.S. Aerospace Engineering

· Objective: Evaluate Hygear compact fitness equipment and other exercise protocols in space-like living environments

· Accomplishments: Five of the six analog crew members used the Hygear fitness bands and jump rope equipment in circuit-style workout plans, as supplements to other regimens, and in conjunction with videos and other exercises. Crew discussed their voluntary fitness activities and provided feedback on the equipment if used. The fitness bands have a simple and flexible attachment mechanism, ideal for an environment with limited fixed mounts. The bands are very compact and use elasticity rather than weight to provide resistance, as appropriate for a low-gravity environment, but require a moderate amount of free linear space to stretch to their full length. Crew members are finding the jump rope and rope-free weighted handles surprisingly effective; the weighted handles are particularly good for confined spaces. The crew is having difficulty fitting the recommended three 15-minute workouts into their day and recommend fewer, longer workouts as a more suitable regimen.

· Relevance: Maintaining astronaut fitness in low-gravity and limited-space environments is critical to successful space exploration. Evaluating exercise equipment and approaches in an analog environment allows a better understanding of their suitability for interplanetary habitat and space station use.

VII. Radiation Environment Monitoring and Mapping

PI/Crew Lead: Kristine Ferrone, Ph.D. Radiation Physics

· Objective: Demonstrate the use of a handheld portable radiation dosimeter to collect GPS-tagged radiation dose rate data to create a dose rate map of a designated area on Mars or another planetary surface

· Accomplishments: With assistance from other EVA crew members, Commander collected GPS-tagged environmental radiation dose rate measurements at regular intervals using the handheld Radex RD1212-BT radiation dosimeter. This dosimeter records the GPS-tagged radiation dose rate in preset intervals and submits data to a public database (https://quartarad.com/radexweb/#/ViewChart; zoom in to MDRS location on map). The data collected on this mission was also used to create a radiation dose rate map of the area around MDRS.

· Relevance: Crews could use a radiation dose rate map to aid in EVA planning to identify exposed or protected solar radiation areas or to locate radioisotopes on the surface. The GPS-tagged radiation dose rate data could also be integrated into VR/AR models in the future.

VIII. Discord Crew Communication Demonstration

PI: Elias Braun, 10th Grade Student

Crew Lead: Barbara Braun, USAF Lt. Col. (ret.), M.S. Aerospace Engineering

· Objective: Evaluate low-bandwidth, high-latency messaging (similar to texting) as a way for interplanetary astronauts to stay in touch

· Accomplishments: PI developed a special Discord text-only messaging server that simulated the light-time delay between Earth and Mars (currently five minutes each way). In addition to all-crew channels for talking to Aerospace mission support, each crew member had a set of private channels for talking to family and friends. Early bugs in the server were resolved by Sol 2. During the mission, the crew sent and received over 2000 messages across all channels. Crew members used Discord to stay in touch, conduct STEM outreach, consult with subject-matter experts, text with each other, and even to ask friends to look up information from “Earth” internet. The Discord server was highly effective with the relatively short five-minute light-time delay; future efforts might explore its effectiveness as the light-time delay grows to its maximum of about 20 minutes.

· Relevance: Crew morale will be a significant concern on long-duration interplanetary missions where communication is severely bandwidth-limited and time-delayed; this project demonstrates that the simple ability to text might provide an easy way to mitigate these concerns.

IX. EVA Planning

PI/Crew Lead: Allison Taylor, M.S. Space Studies

· Objective: Investigate how well a crew can manage experiment objectives and execution of daily tasks

· Accomplishments: Pre-mission, the crew created a high-level map of major activities showing allocation of the ~24-hour Sol. This was useful in evaluating the durations of major activities throughout the day and how much working time would be available. The second level plan was a Sol-by-Sol map of EVA and IVA activities. This was created with color-coded activity blocks in Excel, which made it easy to manipulate based on changes or adjustments to the plan while allowing all the objectives to remain on the plan. The third level plan included example timelines in 15-minute increments for each Sol. During the mission, the crew understood what they needed to accomplish each day and did not utilize the 15-minute increment schedules, which would have been too restrictive and labor-intensive to create without a mission control flight planning team in place. The 15-minute increment planning would be more appropriate for space station style missions and was not conducive to a more autonomous crew with long communications delays and planetary EVA traverses. Ultimately, the crew heavily used the second level Sol-by-Sol map of EVA and IVA activities as the master plan, which allowed for crew autonomy in management/decision-making. XO managed the schedule and EVA requests and marked major disruptions to the plan. Utilizing the color-coded EVA spreadsheet, the crew was able to ensure enough EVAs were completed to cover the objectives for each of the major experiments.

· Relevance: This mission planning methodology can be compared to existing NASA human spaceflight mission management/planning capabilities, as well as other analog planning approaches. Data on how planetary crews operate, with multiple EVA traverses in the mission plan, is relevant now as NASA is proceeding toward recurring lunar surface missions.

Engineering and Hab Operations

I. Operations Report

Maintaining the operations of the MDRS habitat was an important, realistic component of our mission. ENG, with the assistance from the rest of the crew, completed many tasks including:

· Maintain and troubleshoot issues with the habitat toilet

· Resolder wiring, replace fuses, and diagnose charging issues with EVA suits

· Report EVA radio headset anomalies

· Report daily status of the rovers used on EVAs

· Reattach front door air lock webbing

· Document kitchen appliance maintenance topics

· Monitor daily water use

· Replace furnace air filter

· Summarize and report Green Hab, Science Dome, Repair and Assembly Module (RAM) operations and issues

All operational tasks were done in coordination with the Mission Support team. ENG communicated the issues observed with Mission Support, submitted analysis and suggestions on how to repair the issues, received and incorporated Mission Support suggestions into repair plan. All operational issues discovered during the mission were successfully repaired.

II. Green Hab Operations

Throughout the mission, GHO, with help from the rest of the crew, gained experience in the day-to-day operations of growing and caring for plants in a simulated Mars station. The crew worked with plants at various stages of the growth cycle from new seedlings to plants starting to flower to plants ready to harvest. The crew also rotated plants within the Green Hab to optimize temperature variations. Edible plants supplementing the crew dinner table were tracked based on weight and date harvested.

III. Health and Safety Operations

HSO monitored the crew’s physical health and fitness activities over the course of the two-week simulation. The HSO conducted daily health checks that included pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and oxygen saturation, and discussed any health concerns with the crew. Health issues were limited to minor congestion, dry nasal passages, intermittent mild headaches related to hydration and high-altitude adjustment, and minor soreness from carrying spacesuit packs.

Sol Summary – December 8th

Sol: 11
Summary Title: Winds Aloft
Author’s name: Matt Eby
Mission Status: In-Simulation
Sol Activity Summary: Inventorying station supplies, high altitude balloon flight, final mirror inspection.
Look Ahead Plan: STEM outreach event.
Anomalies in work: None.
Weather: Calm winds throughout under brilliant sunshine.
Crew Physical Status: Crew is in good shape, nothing of concern to note.
EVA: EVA# 15 with the Commander, XO, and GreenHab Officer to launch the high altitude balloon and to retrieve the mirror experiment. 2 1/2 hour duration.
Reports to be filed: Journalist, Commander, Operations, Photos, EVA report, EVA request, GreenHab
Support Requested: N/A

Commander Report – December 8th

Sol: 11
Summary Title: EVA #15 Balloon Launch
Author’s name: Dr. Kristine Ferrone, Commander
Mission Status: Nominal
Commander’s Report:

Crew 269 enjoyed another day of beautiful weather on Mars with sunny skies, very calm winds, and mild temperatures. The crew had a quick breakfast of cereal, dried fruit, and homemade sourdough bread, and HSO collected health and safety stats. The crew held a morning meeting to assess effects to the day’s EVA plan due to the melt from yesterday’s snow continuing to create muddy conditions around the Hab. After consult with Tier 1 mission support, the crew’s plan for a single afternoon EVA to launch the weather balloon payload was confirmed and the crew prepared for the experiment. CDR, XO, and Green Hab Officer embarked on EVA #15 and immediately began to set up and fill the weather balloon with helium in the area in front of the Hab. Once the balloon fill was complete, the crew walked the balloon around to the north side of the Hab just beyond the observatory to conduct the launch. A technical hiccup with the telemetry was successfully resolved, and the balloon launched at 1:45 PM. The crew immediately began receiving telemetry from the weather balloon and was in contact with the balloon over eastern Utah and western Colorado for several hours. During the EVA, Engineer received further instruction from the PI for the mirror experiment who wished to have one more microscope analysis before packing up the mirrors tomorrow for return to Aerospace. IVA crew requested and received permission from Tier 1 mission support to add an additional objective to EVA #15 to retrieve the mirror samples from their exposure location across Cow Dung Rd. from Marble Ritual and return them to the Hab for analysis. After the EVA, Engineer analyzed the mirror samples under the Aerospace microscope in the Science Dome and Green Hab Officer tended the plants in the Green Hab. For dinner, the crew enjoyed shepherd’s pie. The crew plans to break simulation tomorrow morning at 5:30 AM to complete a live STEM event, photography/videography session, and end of mission cleanup activities.

Operations Report – December 8th

SOL: 11

Name of person filing report: Ashley Kowalski

Non-nominal systems: N/A

Notes on non-nominal systems: N/A

Spirit rover used: No
Hours: N/A
Beginning charge: N/A
Ending charge: N/A
Currently charging: N/A

Opportunity rover used: No.
Hours: N/A
Beginning charge: N/A
Ending charge: N/A
Currently charging: N/A

Curiosity rover used: No
Hours: N/A
Beginning charge: N/A
Ending charge: N/A
Currently charging: N/A

Perseverance rover used: No
Hours: N/A
Beginning charge: N/A
Ending charge: N/A
Currently charging: N/A

General notes on rovers: No additional notes/comments.

Summary of Hab operations:
WATER USE: ~420 gallons used to-date (~45 gallons today)
Water (static tank): ~250 gallons (This is my best guess without a water gauge, but I am requesting Mission Support to let us know a more accurate value, if possible. Please note that the crew received a 120 gallon water resupply today since they needed to use additional water sources to empty the toilet tank again last night, which is more often than normal.)
Static tank pipe heater (on or off): On
Static tank heater (On or off): On
Toilet tank emptied: Yes, toilet tank was emptied last night after the Operations Report was sent.

Summary of internet: No issues with the internet. Connection is good.

Summary of suits and radios: Suit #3 was experiencing a low air flow. Because our GreenHab Officer already had Suit #3 fitted exactly to him, we decided to just switch the batteries from Suit #6 (the suit the Crew Engineer put a new battery in a few days ago) into Suit #3 and he was good to go for the EVA today. In the meantime, the Crew Engineer tested the original battery in Suit #3 and it was <12 V. She then put this battery into Suit #6 to charge it, and it seemed that the issue was with the power strip again. There is a button on the power strip that needs to be in the “reset” position and not the “off” position in order for the suits to charge. When it is in the “off” position, the chargers still shine green, giving the false illusion that the suits are charging. When the power strip is in the “reset” position, you can see that the chargers change to red when charging and green when fully charged. It must be in this position to ensure proper charging. Once the EVA ended, I switched the batteries back into their original suits. All suits are charging properly now and ready to use.

Summary of GreenHab operations: Additional information can be found in the GreenHab Report.
WATER USE: ~54 gallons (~5 gallons today)
Heater: On
Supplemental light: On
Harvest: N/A

Summary of ScienceDome operations: Mirror sample inspections were performed by the Crew Engineer and Health and Safety Officer in the ScienceDome this evening after the EVA. We had to break for dinner and daily evening reports, so we will complete our inspections by 10 PM tonight since we have one more mirror sample to inspect.
Dual split: Per Mission Support’s message, the heat is on in the ScienceDome and set to 65 F.

Summary of RAM operations: No RAM operations today.

Summary of any observatory issues: No observatory issues.

Summary of health and safety issues: No health and safety issues.

Questions, concerns and requests to Mission Support: N/A

Journalist Report – December 8th

Sol: 11
Author: Trevor Jahn, Technology Officer

Matthew Eby and Trevor Jahn surveyed the conditions outside from the observatory on a chilly December 8th, 2022. Frost was still in the air, and shimmering ice crystals could be seen hiding behind the white dome of the Science Habitat and beneath the dark blue solar arrays. It had snowed the morning before, and today the crew needed to know if the ground was safe enough to walk for an EVA either in the morning or afternoon. The ground continued to give way as the two precariously tried to kept their balance through the tunnels, and their outdoor boots slipped on the loose muddy ground. The two men concluded conditions would be best in the early afternoon for the crew’s only EVA of the day. Matt, Kristine, and Allison, emerged from the airlock around noon, and went about their work. Today was a special day, as the crew was tasked with launching a weather balloon. Helium tanks hissed, computer logs beeped, and drone propellers buzzed as the crew worked quickly to fill the balloon, check the logs, position their equipment, and prepared their flying drone for documentation. The moment of culmination finally arrived and Kristine let go of the balloon and payload Matt had worked so hard to make and prepare. The balloon raced upwards towards the Jetstream, too fast for the drone to keep up with, and eventually reached speeds over 100 mph before being brought down by design somewhere in the Colorado Mountains, leaving a mystery and future adventure for next year, when some of the crew might try and find the payload.
The rest of the day saw the crew being productive taking Mirror Sample observations in the Science Dome, proactively finishing chores around the Crew Habitat, and working on reports, before taking in the sights of the orange full moon over the East horizon before bed.

GreenHab Report – December 8th

GreenHab Officer: Matthew Eby
Environmental control: Heater on, door closed, 20% humidity.
Average temperatures: 73-deg F at time of watering. Range prior 24 hours: 63-deg F – 86-deg F
Hours of supplemental light: 4 hours
Daily water usage for crops: Approximately 5 gallons
Daily water usage for research and/or other purposes: 0 gallons
Water in Blue Tank: Approximately 190 gallons (Based on a 250 gallon capacity, visually 75-80% full)
Time(s) of watering for crops: 4:30 PM
Changes to crops: None
Narrative: Today it was noticed that the area recently seeded with onion and radish was sprouting rapidly, perhaps too rapidly. We turned the soil in preparation, it is possible we might have exposed other seeds in this area of the bed. This area was radish previously, so there might be additional radish sprouts.
Harvest: None
Support/supplies needed: None needed at this time.

EVA Report – December 8th

EVA # 15
Author: M. Eby
Purpose of EVA: Deploy high altitude balloon experiment, retrieve mirror experiment for final inspection.
Start time: 12:01 PM
End time: 2:25 PM
Narrative: EVA crew departed the airlock in groups of 2 and 1, carrying the balloon experiment and the balloon inflation gear. The balloon was filled on the South side of the Hab, requiring 30 minutes to reach the target buoyancy (approximately 150 cubic feet of Helium). Once the balloon neck was tied off, the crew walked the balloon and the experiment to the North side of the Hab. From there, the experiment was powered up. The GreenHab Officer had to return to the Hab via the airlock to troubleshoot the telemetry ground terminal, with help from the Health and Safety Officer. After getting the telemetry flowing, the GreenHab Officer departed via the airlock and the XO connected the balloon train. The Commander then released the balloon, carrying the payload aloft. In calm air near the ground, the balloon lazily drifted over Hab ridge before turning East and catching the Jetstream over Hanksville. The EVA crew then transitioned to the mirror experiment location and retrieved the mirrors, bringing them back to the airlock. Once back in the Hab, the crew tracked the balloon as it rose to the target altitude of 90,000 feet and then as it descended over the Colorado Rockies (see attached image).
Destination: North side of the Hab, and to Mirrors Experiment (near Cow Dung Road & Marble Ritual).
Coordinates (use UTM WGS 84): 4251000, 518500
Participants: Commander (Ferrone), XO (Taylor), GreenHab Officer (Eby)
Road(s) and routes per MDRS Map: Moon Walk Road
Mode of travel: Walking

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