MDRS Crew 115 Summary Report
Dates of Simulation: March 10-24, 2012
The Mars Desert Research Station Crew 115 was composed of a diverse group. Our 10-person team included a variety of engineering majors and years in school ranging from first year to graduate students all of whom attend the Georgia Institute of Technology. Just as with any real NASA mission, crew 115 was split in two groups, the GT Mission Support (GTMS) team, which supported the Simulation Crew (SC) while remaining at Georgia Tech, and the SC who traveled to Utah to spend two weeks in Mars simulation. Below is the basic structure of Crew 115 with the role of each team member.
Simulation Crew (SC)
- Matthew Miller: Commander (Senior - Aerospace Engineering)
- Jenny Dowling: Executive Officer (Senior - Aerospace Engineering)
- Lisa Thornsberry: Chief Scientist (Senior - Chemical Engineering)
- Kyle Yawn: Chief Engineer/Radio Specialist (Senior - Aerospace Engineering)
- Graham Kosiba: Crew Engineer (Junior - Mechanical Engineering)
- Jackie Alexander: HSO and Crew Geologist (Sophomore - Mechanical Engineering)
GT Mission Support (GTMS)
- Jacky Silva: Senior Mission Support Advisor (Graduate Student - Aerospace Engineering)
- Christine Redmond: Mission Support Lead and Outreach Coordinator (Sophomore - Mechanical Engineering)
- Jordan Bell: Mission Planning (Sophomore - Mechanical Engineering)
- Shelby Bottoms: Nutritionist (Freshman - Aerospace Engineering)
GTMS played a crucial role in organizing the daily agenda and tasks to be accomplished by the SC. By utilizing Google Calendar and Google Chat, GTMS orchestrated the daily agenda via online instant messaging chats each morning, the SC confirmed the agenda or proposed changes to better reflect the progress that was being made for each experiment. GTMS also provided wake up songs, a detailed meal plan including who cooked and cleaned dishes, and organized all of our outreach activities.
A unique aspect of Crew 115 was the outreach effort made within the NASA INSPIRE community, a group of high school students across the globe who learn about space-related concepts on an online forum. Christine, Jordan, and Shelby had participated in the INSPIRE program during high school, and by using their contacts, were able to conduct numerous outreach activities. Some of these activities included calling for experiment proposals from the INSPIRE community, accepting doable proposals which were then incorporated into the SC experiment portfolio, and organizing a live webcast with INSPIRE students during simulation. As commander of crew 115, I owe a great debt of thanks to GTMS and all the work they did which enabled this MDRS experience accessible to grade school students throughout the country.
The SC carried out a multitude of experiments that primarily pertained to the engineering challenges that would be faced by Martian explorers. Below is a concise summary of the primary experiments conducted along with initial findings.
Dust Mitigation Study:
Dust mitigation and management is a field that requires further study and will be one of the main challenges to overcome while living on Mars. One possible way to gather the dust would be to attract it using an electric or magnetic field. A variety of tests with varying electric and magnetic fields were conducted to see if these fields had any effect on lunar simulant (BP-1) and a Mars dirt simulant. The soil samples examined proved to be unresponsive to E&M fields. The other dust mitigation study was to determine the amount of dust carried into the habitat after EVAs. The weight of the spacesuit and backpack was measured before and after every EVA to determine the amount of dust carried into the habitat. Initial results show a wide fluctuation in weight, which indicates factors other than dust may influence the weight readings, i.e. water weight.
This experiment was organized by investigator Jean Hunter, of the Cornell University. This entailed consuming only shelf stable foods for the duration of simulation in order to increase mission realism as well as to monitor psychological impact of such a diet. A major goal of this food study was to determine the acceptability of available instant foods and food prepared by the crew from shelf stable ingredients. This is an ongoing experiment from which results are not readily available.
Ham Radio Experiments:
HAM radio proved to be a great form of communication during our simulation by providing voice communications with our EVA crews and the Hab. By using a mobile power source consisting of two car batteries, we created a repeater to boost our signal so that we nearly always had voice and data communication with the EVA crew, even at the edges of our traversable terrain. By transmitting data via the HAM radio we could update our GPS location in near real time with the support team in the Hab. This would be a very useful capability of HAM radio on Mars if a system similar to GPS was placed into orbit around the Red Planet. This information is extremely useful in an emergency situation, and also allowed the public to follow the path of our EVAs. Overall, HAM radio provided a very needed and reliable method of voice and data communication with much more capability than could be provided by regular shortwave radio.
Remote Terrain Scouting:
Upon our arrival at the Hab a remote controlled helicopter and airplane were deployed over the surrounding area to scout out the surrounding terrain. This capability could have been greatly enhanced with improved camera resolution, but was sufficient for NASA INSPIRES students to use to decide where to place our wind anemometers around the Hab. During EVAs, the range of the crew is limited by the rover paths as well as the distance to the Hab. This range is expanded by using these UAVs to take video and pictures from altitude and flying a ways further than the crew can travel while still returning to be recovered. Since Mars has an atmosphere, although thinner, vehicles similar to our present day UAVs can be deployed to map the terrain and make more efficient use of the crew's time by directing them to areas of the most biological and geological interest. We then have detailed images to study before leaving the base to more effectively utilize our time and therefore minimize risks of venturing into the unknown.
Water Quality Test:
Water was sampled from four sources around the Hab: the outdoor storage tank that is delivered to the Hab, water from the tap, boiled drinking water, and simulated gray water (0.25% Oasis soap). Each of these samples was tested for ammonia and nitrate content, and all of the samples tested negative with less than 1 ppm of either ion. The pH of these samples was also tested, and all four samples were slightly acidic.
Wind Power Verification:
Wind power has been identified as a top choice for energy generation for some systems on Mars. Wind power could still generate electricity during month-long Martian global dust storms that would inhibit solar power generation. Crew 115 researched the feasibility of using wind power as a supplement to the gas generator power system of the Hab. Power output of the turbine was monitored over an extended period of time. In conjunction with NASA Inspires students, wind speed at various points around the hab were determined with six wind anemometers. This data was used to conclude the ideal placement of the wind turbine. One 5ft diameter two-blade wind turbine mounted 10ft high generated enough power to charge a 12V car battery. Further testing with batteries in series will determine the maximum power generated and stored by the single wind turbine.
An experiment was done to see how well soil can insulate an enclosed space. Small bags were filled with dirt from outside the hab and used to build two structures outside. Each structures contained different internal volumes, one small and one large. Thermometers were placed on the inside and outside of each structure and the initial temperature of the inside and outside for each structure was recorded. The temperatures were recorded every hour. The results of the experiment showed that the smaller structure stayed warmer during the cooler hours while the larger structure stayed cooler during the warmer hours. The portability of the dirt houses was also tested and were not found to be portable using an ATV. Three out of five soil filled bags had holes large enough for the soil to leak out, so the structure would not stand after being moved to another location.
The opportunities afforded to the members of Crew 115 were realized by the financial contributions of the sponsors shown below.
- Lockheed Martin
- Georgia Space Grant Consortium
- Georgia Tech Student Government Association
- Georgia Tech School of Aerospace Engineering
- ATA Engineering, Inc.
- Georgia Tech Honors Program
- Anonymous Donations
Without their generosity and the Mars Society MDRS program, Crew 115 could not have participated in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of next generation of space exploration.
On to Mars,