EVA Report – November 14th

EVA #7 Report

Note: Before reading, know that no one was harmed, no rovers or property was damaged, and that as of now, the only thing that is out of place, is the red ATV that is sitting alone on Copernicus Hwy about ~0.8 km south of Sagan St. Now on with the report…

I’ll start from the beginning as usual. We were informed by Shannon before our EVA that the tank in the Red ATV was in fact, half full, and would be able to make the trip to yellow moon and back. We were also informed that it had a reserve gas tank, in the event the first one ran out. There’s a knob on the left side that the rider is supposed to be able to turn to access the reserve fuel. Knowing this, I thought that in the event of running out of the first tank we’d be fine. We were not!

Camila, Atila, and I began our EVA began at 11:45, shortly after the four new rovers were delivered. Our goal was to collect a few of plant & regolith samples in the yellow/green moon area. I led with the ATV, with the rover behind, careful to stay within sight and contact range. We took our first two samples without incident, photographing each site for future coordinate reference. After leaving the green mars area, I stayed within contact range to see if they wanted to stop along the way. Much of the landscape near the road was rather devoid of vegetation, so we continued down to Sagan St. I was aware at this point that this was much further than we had planned to go, but I wanted to make sure Camila got all the samples she needed.

We continued about 4 and a half kilometers south, until we could see cars passing by on Hwy 24. I knew we were far, but as far as I knew, the rover was stated to have a 25 mile range, and the ATV probably has at least a 2 gallon tank, and that last gallon would be able to get the ATV back. After all, even if it did run out, I still had that extra reserve tank right?

So about 0.8 km south of the Sagan St and Copernicus Hwy junction, the ATV ran out of gas. I tried to use the switch that would siphon the reserve fuel tank, but I couldn’t get it to turn. It had an “off” and an “on” position that I could turn it to, but whenever I tried to get it to turn from “reserve” to “fuel”, it wouldn’t budge. We tried starting it at the “off and “on” positions to see if that did anything, but no luck.

I realized now that I was on a three person EVA with a two-seater rover and a non-functioning ATV, which meant we had to leave someone behind. I painfully regret having to do that, but I knew that trying to transport a crew member in the cargo bin was not an option. I couldn’t stay behind because we’d need my navigational knowledge to get the rover back, and there was no way I would have Camila stay. So we unfortunately had to leave Atila behind with the ATV. The plan was to return to the hab, charge Deimos to full power, rescue Atila, and bring him back home. I was informed that Deimos could charge relatively quickly, within a couple of hours. It was risky, but we had to try it. We made this decision at about 1:30 PM.

I drove the rover, making sure it was driving in Medium. We passed Sagan St, Green, Yellow, & White Moon, making it to the main road. I was concerned because the rover’s charge was dropping fast, faster than it should have been. This was very surprising, because, after driving nearly all the way down to Hwy 24 on Copernicus Hwy, turning around and stopping where the ATV ran out of fuel, the rover’s charge was at 63%, at 18 km. Keep in mind, that Deimos was at full charge when we left the Hab.

By the time we got to Tank Wash, it was reading in the low 20% range. By the time we got to the Reservoir, it wouldn’t even give us a battery reading, only displaying “Low Battery”, and flashing a red light. I soon realized that the vehicle was starting to have a really tough time going up hills, especially when trying to climb up the road near the reservoir. For a moment, it seemed like we wouldn’t make it up, but luckily we barely managed to make it to the top. As we passed Galileo Rd, the power output continued to decrease, making me doubt if we could even make it to the hab at all. By the time we rounded Pooh’s corner, I felt like we were going as slow as one of the actual rovers on Mars. The rover was just barely crawling along now. Even the slightest bump or divot in the road would almost bring it to a halt.

Now that the hab was in sight, we attempted to establish contact with anyone listening. No response.

So we manage to make it to the hab, within an inch of the battery giving out. It barely had enough juice to go over some uneven ground, just so I could park it. We plugged it into the extension cord to charge it. We attempted to contact the hab once again.

Nothing.

At this point, more concerned about our stranded crewmember than with Sim, we attempt to contact Shannon, but to no avail.

So we decide that our only option is to break Sim and contact Shannon. We entered through the Northern Airlock, to Carmen, who was very surprised to see us. It seems that neither Carmen nor Julio had heard our transmission. As neither of them had a walkie talkies on them, this is another issue that’d have to be resolved later. The time now is about 2:40 PM.

Now that Sim was broken, we went to Shannon and told her everything. The plan now was to get gas from town, come back, deliver the gasoline to Atila with Deimos, so he could drive back under his own power.

So Carmen and I took the Hab Vehicle into town, retrieved the gas, and returned to the Hab. But now, there was a new problem, Deimos wasn’t charging. It was still reading “low-battery” on its display screen instead of a proper battery reading. What this meant was that none of the rovers would be able to deliver the gasoline to Atila, and safely return to the Hab. Not to mention, the road through the White Moon area was far too treacherous for the Hab Vehicle to get through. So I showed Shannon approximately where he was on the MDRS map, and we decided the only way we could get the gasoline out to him, was to carry it out there on foot.

Luckily for us, we wouldn’t have to take the same route the rovers did, as we could just climb up to hab ridge, and beeline it towards the stranded ATV. A direct route on this path would be over 2 km away, which could take up to an hour. So Shannon, Julio, and I set out with the gasoline, and made our way up the steep, unstable slope. We reached the top of Hab Ridge at approximately 3:20 PM, carefully searching the landscape for any sign of our stranded crewmate and ATV. Soon, we spotted what looked like a black dot, just southeast of Skyline Ridge. We moved as quickly as we could, with a gasoline tank in hand.

After nearly 40 minutes of walking across the open landscape, we made it to Atila, who was still in his full gear and spacesuit after all this time. We filled up the tank to the ATV, and attempted to start it.

Unfortunately, it seemed now that the ATV wouldn’t start. Instead we heard what sounded like clicking noises near where the battery was. We thought that maybe if could check the battery connections that we could get it started. That didn’t work. Then we tried to put it in 1st gear, and see if we could push it and get it going. That didn’t work either. So we resolved to leave the ATV behind and return to the Hab with Atila.

The return trip went without incident. We got everyone back and no one was hurt. Shannon told us that she would have to rescue it from the vast emptiness tomorrow.

We learned quite a bit of useful information during all this that I think is important to share. As I stated before, I had assumed that the Rover had a range of 25 miles as stated before, and that the ATV would have enough juice, as well as a reserve tank, to return home. My assumptions obviously led to all the events described above, and could have potentially endangered my crewmates. This means that I have to plan future EVAs much more carefully. Now that we do have ethanol-free gas available, we will be able to top it off before starting each EVA. I calculated that the ATV must have covered about 18 km before running out of fuel. If the ATV was indeed at half level as estimated, then that means a full tank only has a 36 km range. My recommendation would be to turn at 15-16 km out, assuming anyone could even get that far from the Hab by road.

What happened with Deimos’ was very surprising to me. It seems that after a certain point, the rover looses its charge at a faster rate. The total distance the rover traveled I calculated to be about 29 km, or 18 miles. It’s my recommendation that EVAs involving Deimos should not go out further than 12-13 km, even of the battery guage is reading over 60% charge.

Also, regarding our inability to communicate with the hab, it is critical that the In-Hab and EVA communication equipment is thoroughly tested. Although went through our routine Comms test before the start of our EVA, we didn’t check to make sure that the walkie-talkies in the Hab had their volumes loud enough. I think from now on that any crewmembers that are staying in the Hab during EVAs should have a walkie-talkie on their person, at all times, until the EVA party is safely recompressed through the airlock.

This is all I have to report on the events of today. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.

Prepared by Brandon Ferguson

EVA Officer

EVA Report – November 12th

EVA #5 Report Sol 9

We began our EVA at 10:40 AM today. We started a bit late because we needed more time to prepare Carmen’s flight suit and test our communication equipment before this EVA. Since we didn’t need to use the rovers today, Julio and Carmen tried the Exploration suits. They didn’t seem particularly more comfortable as compared to the normal Suits. We walked towards the North Ridge area, until I could find a slope on the western slope that was shallow enough for us to climb. Once we found a shallow enough slope, we took samples from different levels of the hill. We took four samples, three from light-dark purple layers of regolith and one from a rusty-colored layer. We took several photographs of the surrounding landscape as well as the sample sites for later reference.

No falls or accidents on this outing. Sample Acquisition was successful! We began recompression at 11:55 PM. Distance covered was about 1.2-1.5 km total. Sample collection and ground covered went much quicker than expected. It’s important to note how quickly the shoulders and upper back can fatigue, even though we were only out for over an hour.

Prepared by Brandon Ferguson

EVA Report November 10th

EVA Report Sol 7

The EVA started at 10:20 AM instead of 10:00 AM, since I wanted to make sure the crewmembers were properly briefed on radio Comms voice procedure. The red ATV had some trouble starting like yesterday, but once I got the engine running, it didn’t have any problem starting. We drove the rovers to our first location along Cow Dung Road where we took a couple of plant and regolith samples. Afterwards, we proceeded to Tank wash, where we found a large desert shrub that was holding onto a large mound of sand with its root system. EVA operations went smoothly and we obtained all the samples we set out for. Once we returned, we attempted refueling the ATV, but the nozzles on the empty gas containers weren’t compatible with the filled containers, so we couldn’t safely fill up the ATV. Will we have compatible gas nozzles when the ethanol-free gas comes in? Aside from that, we returned early and begun decompression by 12:15 PM.

For missions in hilly terrain, I have to brief the crew members on squatting while walking up or downhill.

EVA Report November 9th

EVA Report Sol 6

The EVA started at 10:50 AM today. Knowing that Brazilian TV was coming, I didn’t know for sure when they’d be here and ready to film us outside. They also needed to interview a few of the crewmembers on their projects before we could start. They wanted some footage of us on the Rover and ATVs, which we drove about 100 meters past the MDRS sign and back to the Hab area. I understand that I did not request the use of the rovers for today’s EVA, but I didn’t know they’d want footage of us on the rovers until this morning. Something to note was that the red ATV had some trouble starting compared to yesterday. I had to pump the throttle in order to get it going.

After parking the rovers, we collected our samples from Sample Location #1, the first location we sampled from on EVA #1. Once we got the sample, we walked into the small gully just north of the Hab. We took samples from 3 different locations along the hillside west of the hab. The “popcorn” like surface of the regolith can be rather unstable, as I found out the hard way (by falling). Nothing broke, I wasn’t injured, the helmet was intact, and the fan was still working, so luckily I survived! After photographing the area, we returned to the hab and recompressed by 12:45 PM.

In Hindsight, I’ll have to be more careful on even very shallow slopes, as it doesn’t take much too loose traction, even when wearing boots. To make sure no one else falls by making the same mistake, I’ll have to brief the crewmembers on how to lower their center of gravity (by squatting) when ascending or descending hills. I did not have time to brief the crew members on radio Comms voice procedures since we had the Brazilian TV crew here today. This will have to be done before tomorrow’s EVA.

EVA Report November 8th

We started EVA at 1:35 PM, instead of the planned 1:00 PM. The delay was due to an extended period for our ATV training to take place. The EVA crew included myself, Carmen, and Atila. Drove north and spotted vegetation growth along road and marked the location. We tried marking the location with a GPS, but we found it was impossible to read off the screen with the helmets on, since the screen was too scratched up. Instead, I determined the coordinates by closely examining the planning map after the EVA. We Took several pictures of the area along with the surrounding terrain

We continued north and passed Tank Wash due to navigational Error. We ended up taking the road all the way to the Quarry Site. We retraced our steps southward until we found the reservoir dam, which was the most distinguishable feature I could use to place our location.

-Stopped at coordinates:

4252820

518590

We then slowly drove northward, until we found the correct wash

-Stopped at coordinates:

4253440

518430

We made our way to a talus slope that contained broken down rock from the cliff above us. Upon digging through the cemented layers, we found three distinct layers within only 20 cm below the surface.

– Coordinates of Sample Location #3:

4253680

518600

There was a white-colored layer in the first 7 cm, then a green layer below it that was 3-4 cm thick. Below that was a dark brown / black soil lightly peppered with white grains. We collected samples from each of these layers and photographed the area and our activities. We loaded up our samples and returned to the hab. Before we entered the airlock, Carmen checked the Diesel and Propane tank levels. We began recompression in the airlock by 3:45 PM.

For the next EVA, we need to improve our radio Comms. I’ll instruct the crew members on words and phrases to use on the radio, such as “affirmative”, “negative”, “over”, “loud and clear”, etc. Also going over the phonetic alphabet may come in handy. In order to reduce the chance of another navigational error, I’ll have to take very special notice of the surface features surrounding my intended destination before we depart. I’d also like to request obtaining another GPS device that we can read on the field so we can record our sample locations in the future.