Crew 261 EVA Report 04-05-2023
EVA # 5
Author: James Burk, Commander
Purpose of EVA: Initial Meshtastic Testing + Safety Drill
Start time: 9:00 AM
End time: 10:33 AM
Overview of EVA
Today’s EVA was designed to allow four of our crew to get additional experience with driving rovers and exploring areas within 1km of the Hab, while also testing out our Meshtastic devices for the first time on this mission. Each of the four EVA team members carried a Meshtastic device on their person, and also carried a fifth device in the bed of Perseverance.
The primary objective of the EVA was completed and the devices captured data, which you can see visualized below. The crew did not make it to their planned destination of Gateway to Candor, although that was not a critical part of the EVA. The goal was to give the crewmembers more experience with Rover, Comms, and EVA procedures overall.
During the last part of the EVA, the crew experienced an anomaly. While exploring an area approximately west of Pooh’s Corner, Executive Officer Aline Decadi started to smell what she described as a “burning plastic smell”. This was confirmed by GreenHab Officer Cecile Renaud who also smelled what she described as a “sulfur smell”. Fearing that XO Decadi’s backpack components were burning, the EVA team quickly worked to take off her helmet and suit. By the time they had done that, XO Decadi started to feel ill, and felt like she was going to faint. She was assisted back to the rovers by the three other crewmembers: GreenHab Officer Renaud, HSO Audrey Derobertmasure, and Crew Journalist Kris Davidson.
The crew has been carrying a Garmin inReach mini 2 on all EVAs, which has a custom “MDRS Assistance Required” feature, that is meant to alert the Hab, Mission Support or local county EMS in the case of an emergency or when assistance is needed. In this case, GreenHab Officer Renaud triggered the feature immediately and it was seen by HabCom within a couple minutes on our custom EVA monitor.
The crew experienced issues with comms throughout the EVA, which compounded the situation. At one point, one of the two rovers drove off while the other had not yet started, which was due to Comms issues.
The EVA team then proceeded back to the Hab safely.
The team performed a debriefing session and many issues were raised and discussed. A list of them is below. We also created a set of “Outcomes”, or recommendations, for both our crew’s future operations and the program in general.
Overall, the crew felt this was a great learning experience. The team debriefing session, while sometimes quite heated, overall was a very productive and constructive discussion.
Issues Experienced During EVA 5
- [Technical] XO Decadi’s EVA gear seemed to create a smell that made her sick, briefly.
- [Medical] XO Decadi experienced light-headedness due to issue #1. At one point, she was leaning hard on the other crewmember and felt like she was going to faint.
- [Procedural] When individual crewmembers experienced Comms issues, not all crewmembers worked together to resolve them.
- [Procedural] Rovers should stay together at all times, and certainly within sight of each other. One rover should never be out of sight of the other.
- [Procedural] Crew members should be careful not to talk at the same time, because it interferes with Comms and makes it so nobody is heard. This happened often on this EVA.
- [Procedural] Crew members should switch to Channel 2 when having comms issues between each other. One crewmember stayed on Channel 1 during the entire EVA, despite the Comms issues.
- [Procedural] Removing XO Decadi’s helmet in an emergency situation was done in a suboptimal way.
- [Technical] Our Garmin device did not trigger an email to Mission Support, as was designed. We are investigating this problem.
- [Procedural] It is safer to go to the furthest point of the EVA and then work your way back closer to the Hab. Instead, the EVA team first stopped near Marble Ritual and then north of Pooh’s Corner, with the intent to eventually get to Gateway to Candor. Instead they should have driven all the way to Gateway and worked their way back in the direction of the Hab.
- Air flow of a backpack can be left on while the helmet is removed. In today’s case it was rightly switched off by one crew member while two others were removing the helmet, because of the nature of the perceived issue (burning component in backpack). In other emergency cases, keeping air flow on would be desirable
- We need more hand signals, especially to communicate comms outages or when driving a rover with a sick crewmember in passenger seat (ie, “Are you ok?”)
- Crewmembers should always carry water on their person, and there should be at least one emergency water bottle carried by the EVA crew in the rover. By utilizing a carabiner clip with a water bottle that has a loop at the top, a crewmember can easily stow it on their person so that both hands are free.
- EVA members should have a mandatory water break every 20-30 mins, to keep ahead of any thirstiness or dehydration. We have noticed this can creep up on you quickly, and we keep powering through minor thirstiness only to suffer severe thirst later in the EVAs. Often, peer pressure or psychology prevents people from being the first to pause the EVA for reasons like this.
- When two rovers are driving, the person driving the rover should communicate with the other rover driver, and the other two (passenger) crew members should remain quiet.
- There should be a mandatory comm check at the beginning of every traverse. In today’s case, one rover lead was trying to communicate with the other, but they were not heard.
- The EVA suits should support rapid removal of helmet and backpack battery in the case of an emergency.
- EVA teams should carry sugar packets to help ill crew members. In today’s case that would have helped.
- For our crew’s HSO, the threshold for breaking sim would have been an actual fainting, not an “almost” fainting. In today’s case, the incident did not meet the threshold, although we broke the sim anyway due to the backpack smell issue.
- We should perform drills to practice self-removal of the helmet and backpack in an emergency.
Destination: Gateway to Candor.
Coordinates (use UTM WGS 84): 519000 E, 4251700 N
Participants: Aline Decadi (XO) (EVA Leader), Audrey Derobertmasure (HSO), Cecile Renaud (GreenHab Officer), Kris Davidson (Crew Journalist)
Road(s) and routes per MDRS Map: Drive to Cow Dung Road, then drive north to Gateway to Candor. Walk on foot to explore area.
Mode of travel: Rovers (Perseverance and Spirit)
Crew 261 EVA Report 04–05–2023
EVA # 6
Author: James Burk, Commander
Purpose of EVA: Testing of Atmosphinder prototype with wind sails and improvements since EVA #4
Start time: 12:00 PM
End time: 2:00 PM
This EVA was conducted during extremely strong (~30-52 kph) winds outside the Hab, which were very desirable for the type of testing that we aimed to perform.
EVA-6 conducted Atmosphinder testing using the half-sized robot (~1 m diameter) in front of the Hab. The objectives of the test focused on structural aspects of the robot and de-risking operational elements. The EVA crew members worked together to increase the operational understanding of extracting the full-scale body of Atmosphinder, a prototype sail, and the science payload, that was used for previous EVAs, which collects various data. Like EVA-4, the lessons learned from this exercise will de-risk these elements on future EVAs when transporting the robot to regions of interest.
There were three separate rounds of tests conducted including testing the sail for the first time, which was done by Commander James Burk holding the sail while pulling it apart with his two arms, while Crew Roboticist Erin “RobotZwrrl” Kennedy manipulated the robot’s servos and positioned the sail in various configurations to see the effects that the strong wind gusts would have on the materials and engineering design.
Qualitative testing observed, again as with EVA-4, that the robot can roll down a small incline unassisted, and this was performed on a larger slope than EVA-4 and for multiple runs. It was expected that this test would be destructive, but the robot’s structure held together well.
The science payload was also positioned in several locations and data on the wind speed was gathered.
All tests were performed successfully and valuable new information was learned. The crew journalist and EVA team lead also took photos and recorded video footage for public outreach and internal review purposes.
Destination: Flat ground just outside the hab.
Coordinates (use UTM WGS 84): 518100 E, 4249900 N
Participants: James Burk (Commander) (EVA Leader), Erin Kennedy (Crew Roboticist).
Road(s) and routes per MDRS Map: Walking outside between the Hab and RAM.
Mode of travel: Walking. No Rover driving performed; Use of Rover Bed only for this EVA.