MDRS Astronomy Team Refit – Sol 2




Peter Detterline

Gary Becker

Adam Jones

Jacob Wentzel

Adam Biel



At 3:14 this morning I woke up to some brilliant moonlight dancing across the Martian terrain through some passing clouds. It was around this time that Shannon emailed back about the generator, but without Internet I wouldn’t be able to get her message until morning when power would be restored by the solar system.  I was up at sunrise and did some tai chi in the desert to start the day.  After organizing my stateroom and the hab, the power came on at 7:45 AM.

I received Shannon’s email regarding the power issues.  I checked the oil again now that the engine was cool, and it was fine.  The coolant level was also fine (needed only about a half cup).  I started the generator and let it run for about 15 minutes with no problem.  By this time the solar panels were up to 89%. See the section under “Problems” for specific details.  We thought the problem was solved and we were well on our way.  However, the solar system shut down again with a low battery warning while we were in town.  Switched to generator, the crew has showered, and we’ll see how we do with the generator tonight.

So other than working with power issues we were successful in getting the rebar pointed by Dave from Rabbitbush.  The rebar stakes will secure the weather station tripod.  However, we were not successful in getting them in the ground; too much rock.  We decided the best method would be to concrete the pole in the ground.  We talked with Dave who is arriving tomorrow to pour some concrete for our weather station pole. Dave is also going to look at the generator.  Gary and I dug a hole in the ground removing lots of rock to prepare for tomorrow.  It will be a simple job.  The Davis weather station is operational and we looked at data streaming through on the computer.  Tomorrow we make it permanent.

The Bloomsky all sky camera runs off a solar panel and takes a picture of the sky every 5 minutes which it uploads to the web and can be viewed through your smartphone.  Anyone who downloads the free app can see the sky condition at MDRS, get weather data and see some of the campus as well.  At least that’s the theory.  I could not get it to connect.  I checked it at home and successfully ran it there for quite some time.  I’m suspecting a power issue in the unit, but it’s not picking up the internet from either the hab or the observatory.  I also can’t get it to charge, although that wasn’t a problem when I arrived.  It did charge the first day.  At this point it is a low priority, but I hope to have some time to work with it again before we leave.

Jacob will be putting his images of life at MDRS on Google Drive.  I hope to add some astronomical shots as the skies clear.  And that will happen. Clear skies are scheduled for the weekend.  But for now…my resident meteorologists- yes I have two of them, are arguing about the merits of the evening for testing the observatory.  There seems to be a milkshake involved in a bet, but to be honest I really don’t know how it ended up. They were talking about percentages of how much clear sky will be here at dawn.  They both agreed that tonight is not going to be a good night in the early evening, at least not until midnight or later.  A storm did drop some rain, and the winds have picked up considerably.  As we approach 2200 hours it’s currently overcast and windy.  August 4th then will be the test to put the MDRS Robotic Observatory online.

-Peter Detterline



Power Issues: Generator started fine.  Added only a half cup of coolant- doesn’t seem to be the problem. Oil level is fine.

For the solar system there is a fault light on the main panel.  Shannon was contacted about the situation. The three inverter panels all showed an F07 fault.  Jacob and I worked with Shannon throughout the midday assessing the problem and working a solution. It turns out the battery temperature was too high. After cooling down the batteries Shannon had me reset each inverter.  That seemed to do the trick.  We’re hoping this issue is resolved.  The fault light on the main panel may be indicative of the generator not being in auto mode.

The solar system power went out again around dinnertime while we were in town with no real load on the system.  The panel read LOW BATTERY. I turned on the generator, and we’ll see how well it does for the night.  It will be some good data for Dave tomorrow.

Bloomsky: the unit is not connecting to the Internet. It does not work with a 5G system, but we have both here.  We may have to abandon this all sky camera.

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