Research Report – December 30th

[category science-report]

MDRS Crew 271 End of Mission Science and Operations Summary 30-12-2022
Submitted by: Marc Levesque, Crew Commander

Titles: Coping Strategies for Long-Duration Space Exploration (Study 1); Team
Challenge Resolution Mechanisms in Isolated and Confined Space Analog
Mission Through Ethnographic Methods (Study 2)
Crew member: Andres Käosaar
Overall, the data gathering for the projects well very well – the members of Crew 271
patiently filled in my surveys and there seems to be no missing data points. Due to the
high cohesion and professionalism of the crew, there haven't been too many overtly
observable coping strategies or team challenge resolution mechanisms executed (don't
get me wrong – not that expressing those aspects is unprofessional, but we just haven't
had many problems to deal with), but there have been some instances that I've been
able to note down for further analysis. On the other hand, due to the individual profiles
of the Crew 271 members and the overall resemblance to a potential real long-duration
space exploration team (i.e., culturally and professionally diverse crew very interested in
human spaceflight), the data are good and the sample has high validity. Since I'm not
able to access all the data (the survey answers and post-mission interviews) before
leaving the station, I can't make any further conclusions, but I'm quite hopeful and
optimistic regarding the potential findings and conclusions from the studies.

Title: Drying trends of a clay-rich surface
Crew member: Helen Eifert
A location was selected north of the Hab for an experiment to measure drying trends of
a clay-rich and Mars-like surface over the course of the MDRS mission. The experiment
is supplemental to a series of desert field campaigns that assessed thermophysical
properties of different Mars-like environments and their associated drying trends. The
goal for this particular experiment was to observe the drying trends of a clay-rich
surface for a longer period of time following controlled wetting of the surface to
understand chemically bound water trends better. This contributes to the overall
understanding of how water may be retained, persevered, and detected on Mars.
The initial wetting of the experiment was conducted on Sol 4, 22 Dec 2022. The
immediate drying trends were measured for an additional two hours following saturation
of the surface on this first EVA using an ASD FieldSpec3. This data shows visible near-
infrared surface reflectance in order to better understand water molecules that may
become trapped in the chemical structure of clays and how long it can be retained.
Return EVAs were conducted on Sol 5, Sol 6, and Sol 9 for an additional two
measurements each day. On the last day of measurement, a dry sample was collected
from a nearby site to get initial water content and an additional sample was collected
from the experiment site, which still appeared damper than its surroundings. Due to
incoming rain, the observation period needed to end on Sol 9. The two samples
collected were returned to the Science Dome for loss on ignition analysis. Here, they
were baked at just over 100C to burn off any water. Weights were recorded before and
after to understand the water content of the samples and how close the experiment site
got to equilibrium with the dry sample. The spectral data was post processed and will be
plotted and analyzed upon return from MDRS to be used to supplement the findings of
prior field campaigns. This work is in preparation for publication in the late spring 2023.

Title: Geology – Samples for In-Situ Resource Utilization
Crew member: Cesare Guariniello
Three long-distance EVAs covered regions not visited before by Guariniello. Samples
were collected in the area of Barrainca Butte (black vesicular igneous rocks,
conglomerates, and light-colored mudstone), Candor Chasma (Summerville formation:
red mudstone and sandstone with cross-cutting gypsum veins), and Skyline Rim
(Dakota conglomeratic sandstone and Mancos Shale samples). Samples were weighted
and processed in the oven in the Science Dome, then weighted again to ascertain water
content. The samples will be shipped to Purdue University for further spectroscopic
analysis to identify geotechnical properties for ISRU via remote sensing. In particular,
spectra will be studied for indicators of water content and bulk size.

Title: Astronomy
Crew member: Cesare Guariniello
Robotic Observatory: After adjusting the MDRS-14 telescope, multiple observations
were taken when the sky was clear. The most notable was M42 (Orion Nebula). Other
objects that were sampled are M1 (Crab Nebula), M3, M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), M97,
M101 (Pinwheel Nebula), Rosette Nebula, Barnard 33 (Horsehead Nebula). The
Astronomy Support will further work on the telescope focus.
Musk Observatory: The sky was hazy or cloudy on most sols. One observation of the
Sun was performed towards the end of the mission. This allowed the whole crew to
participate in a solar observation. One photo of a group of sunspots with visible umbrae
and penumbrae was captured and processed.

Title: Analog Mars Crew Evaluation of a Uniplanar External Fixation Training
Crew member: Alicyn Grete
The purpose of this project was to verify whether Martian analog crew members could
use an offline, self-assessed module, and locally reproducible 3D printed bone
simulation models to become confident and competent in performing external fixation
procedures to manage open tibial fractures in an austere environment without access to
specialist support from Mission Control. I hypothesized that the Tibial Fracture Fixation
Training Module would provide analog space crew members with the confidence and
competence necessary to teach themselves a new surgical skill. To test this hypothesis,
I conducted an observational study with participants from a Mars Society Desert
Research Station analog crew.
I began by obtaining consent from all participants at the beginning of the mission. The
first two days were spent having participants take a pre-learning confidence survey and
complete the training materials and video. Over the next four days, each participant
successfully completed a skills test, achieving a go ahead on each competence
objective and verifying their work with self-assessment photos. Afterwards, each
participant completed a post-learning survey and received a certificate and Medical
Makers memorabilia to commemorate their accomplishment.
From the surveys, all eight confidence variables showed a statistically significant
increase following simulation-based training (p values < 0.0290 and a change on the
Likert scale of 1 point or greater at the 95% confidence level). All procedure steps for
uniplanar external fixation were completed to standard by all six crew members, five of
them on the first try without practice on the equipment. These results suggest that my
hypothesis was correct: the Tibial Fracture Fixation Training Module can provide analog
space crew members with the confidence and competence necessary to teach
themselves a new surgical skill.
I will be submitting an abstract to present this research at the West African College of
Surgeons Conference in Togo this spring, and I am halfway done with an article draft to
submit to the Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance journal, the most used and
cited journal in the field of Aerospace Medicine. Additionally, I made a film
commemorating our experience at MDRS with tibial fracture fixation that depicted how a
Martian crew would respond to a tibial fracture occurring during an EVA.

Title: MDRS Engineering Projects
Crew member: Sergii Iakymov
During this season MDRS teams have encountered some issues with power systems of
the EVA suits. During Crew 271 all 11 EVA suits were inspected for their power
systems, and especially wiring connections, charging hardware, and rechargeable
batteries. The results of this inspection revealed the following:
1) All wiring was in working condition.
2) All charging hardware was in working condition and operating nominally.
3) There was a problem with the station generator, and there is a possibility it was
causing the previous problems with the suit batteries. After the generator was
fixed, no further problems were observed.
4) Four EVA suits were plugged into a power strip that had a loose connection with
the chargers. As a result, these suits were not charging to the top level of the
battery capacity. The power strip was replaced with a new one which provided a
solid connection with the chargers. This change allowed the suits to be charged
to the maximum battery capacity.
5) In order to measure battery level charge, crews have needed to use a multimeter
to measure voltage via charging ports or open backpacks. These actions are
wearing down suits components and increasing the risk for parts to be broken by
inexperienced crews. In order to avoid this happening it is recommended to
include into the suit systems a battery charge indicator next to the charging ports.
A second project evaluated MDRS power consumption at the request of Mission
Support by evaluating active station electrical devices. A spreadsheet of the station
components and power consumption was created and sent to Mission Support during
the last communications window.

Title: Radio communications system maintenance
Crew member: Marc Levesque
A new radio repeater for MDRS was installed in October 2022 west of the station on
Hab Ridge. Based on radio propagation analysis, this site was believed to provide radio
coverage between the Hab and EVAs teams throughout all the areas teams would
travel. During the first few missions this season, this turned out to not be the case, as
several communication gaps were discovered. Some of this was believed to result from
the numerous hills in the area that blocked receptions, while some were also likely due
to a lack of proper radio operation on the part of crew members.
To determine the major cause for the lack of communication in some areas, the project
undertook several steps. The first was to check the repeater’s battery status and overall
operation by opening the repeater shelter and conduct a visual inspection of the
equipment, all of which were in working order. The second step raised the repeater
antenna by attaching it to a six meter mast, which was then secured by new guy wires.
Communication checks were conducted during EVAs to determine the effectiveness of
the heightened antenna, but no significant improvement in reception to and from the
field was noted. A mag mount antenna was also used on a rover during one EVA to test
its effectiveness, but this was also found to be ineffective. A further task monitored the
battery drain on the handheld radios during EVAs to determine an appropriate
recharging interval.
Based on the results of this project, the following recommendations are made:
1. Move the repeater to a permanent site on North Ridge. This was the site of a test
project during Crew 265, during which a small repeater was established and
provided excellent radio communications between the Hab and most all EVA
areas. Permission to establish a permanent repeater on North Ridge will likely
require BLM approval, and if granted, would also require an arduous equipment
move during the fall 2023 work party, including the building of a new repeater
housing or enhancing the existing shelter, along with erecting a robust tower
structure for the antenna. Note: At the end of the mission, a possible route for
transporting the repeater equipment to a North Ridge site was located though a
field trip.
2. Consider re-establishing Communications Officer duties on each MDRS crew,
with those duties most likely assigned to the Crew Engineer. These tasks would
include instructing all crew members on the proper operation and care of the
handheld radios, monitoring radio battery consumption, and monitoring
recharging status to insure they are removed when they reach charged status.
This is important because batteries that are fully recharged and left on the
charger will cause rapid battery decline. Assigning a Communications Officer will
help ensure that this procedure is followed.

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