The FMARS crew is back in the relative metropolis of Resolute Bay now after having spent nearly a month in near-isolation in the Mars analog environment of Devon Island. We spent our final two days at FMARS going through the Hab shutdown procedures, mainly inventory and winterizing. That includes cleaning, organizing, flushing the water lines, wrapping the generators, burning the trash, taking exit photos, and a million other tasks. The majority of my time those days was consumed burning trash in our incinerator and ferrying loads of stuff to the air strip.

We ended our formal simulation period after EVA 16 on the evening of July 26 just in time to have dinner with our neighbors at the HMP camp. It rained on us as we drove over, and two of our ATVs died due to the water. We arrived at HMP soaked and hungry. I was amused by how we all put on our best clothes and combed our hair to "go out" on our first meeting with outsiders in a month. The food and company couldn't have been better, and we even stayed to hear two talks by visiting scientists on some geology and paleontology work going on in the crater. Being out of sim meant we could now go outside freely without suffering any ill effects.
For my last EVA, Christy joined me in retrieving the seismic station we had installed earlier at Marine Rock. We left the Hab on an overcast day between rain showers and managed to stay dry for the duration of the EVA (#15). A quick 15-minute drive later, we were at Marine Rock.


I'm very tired from just having completed five EVAs over five consecutive days (July 19-23). One of these EVAs was to Gemini Hills to find gypsum, and the other four were all related to to my second geophysical research project. Recall from a previous post that I successfully installed a seismic station for my first geophysical project. This new experiment is even more ambitious. I'm trying to find groundwater using the time domain electromagnetic (TDEM) method.

Before diving into this experiment, I'll share my next video blog entry #6 with you. It's all about water usage at FMARS:

July 20 was going to be a day off for the crew, both because we needed it and in honor of the 40th Apollo 11 and 33rd Viking 1 landing anniversaries. However, we awoke to beautiful weather conditions, and Vernon presented a compelling argument that motivated the crew to embark on a long-distance EVA to Gemini Hills in order to collect gypsum samples. Our 22.6-mile traverse was full of adventure, a wild hare encounter, and healthy dose of getting lost.

Before I describe the trip to Gemini Hills, I'd like to share my latest FMARS video blog entry #5. This one is all about our space suits and how we prepare for EVAs.

Hello from FMARS! Would any of you like to receive a postcard from "Mars?" Donate to my chipin fund, and I'll send you a postcard all the way from Mars (well, Canada - close enough). If you give at least $60, I'll send you a patch too. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. You can preview the card, courtesy of Keplinger Designs below:

Recall my post last week on the Haughton Crater Run. Now that the FMARS mission is fully underway, I can no longer go outside to exercise. Instead, I must work out inside the FMARS Hab. My latest FMARS crew video blog episode highlights the exercise facilities here:

40 years ago yesterday Apollo 11 blasted off from Earth on its way to its historic July 20 landing on the Moon. NASA has a big celebration campaign underway in honor of the anniversary. They recently released very nice partially restored Apollo 11 video footage in HD. One of the interesting things NASA is doing to commemorate the anniversary is replaying the mission audio in real time just as it was recorded from July 16-24, 1969. The NASA Apollo 40th website has all kinds of other goodies like lost audio and transcripts that are worth checking out too. For more blast from the past nostalgia with a modern twist, the website "We Choose the Moon" is also broadcasting the mission audio with other rich multimedia treats, including "live" twitter transmissions from the Apollo CapCom, spacecraft, and lander.

I have ambivalent feelings about the Apollo 40th anniversary. One one hand, I think this celebration to commemorate one of humanity's most significant and inspiring achievements is perfectly natural and warranted. On the other, it is a painful reminder that in the past 40 years we haven't pushed the envelope of human space exploration beyond low earth orbit. President Bush's 2004 Vision for Space Exploration policy has had significant effects throughout NASA as it reorganizes itself to return to the Moon and eventually reach Mars via the Constellation Program. The implementation of this new exploration strategy is not without its critics, and the Augustine Commision is currently conducting an independent review to sort out whether the approach needs adjusting.

Last night as the FMARS crew was sitting down for dinner after a long day of work, we checked the weather forecast and noticed that high winds and colder weather were expected starting the next day. Although I was already pretty tired after my first real EVA the day before and being the out-of-sim person on EVA #4 that day, I decided that getting the seismic station installed then was important given the potentially worsening weather situation. I asked for volunteers to go help me; Vernon and Christy stepped forward.

We started suiting up after dinner and were out the door by about 8:30pm. Christy and I were in sim (wearing mock space suits), and Vernon served as our polar bear watch and photographer. After the usual trouble getting our ATVs to run, we managed the 3 km traverse to Marine Rock without any difficulty. The pictures below show Christy and I carrying all of the equipment we needed to install the seismic station. This particular setup is very compact and lightweight - a plus for astronauts. More on that later.


We had already explored Marine Rock the day before, so when we reached it this time we got straight to work installing the station. First, we mounted the Ethernet radio antenna on the mast we had erected during our previous EVA #3. This wasn't very difficult except for feeding the zip ties through the small holes of the radio and affixing it to the tower. Next, we laid out the cable about 100 meters from the communications tower to where the seismic station itself would be. Then we started digging.

Today is my birthday. I've actually spent my 20, 21, 30, and 31st birthdays all in the arctic. The pictures below compare me when I turned 21 on the Juneau Icefield Research Program expedition with me at FMARS earlier today. I'm actually wearing the same pants and shirt in both pictures! In the photo on the right, I'm showing off the pancakes Kristine made for me in honor of my birthday this morning. This decade has flown by, and it's certainly had it's fair share of twists and turns that I could never have anticipated.


Today is also the first official day of our full Mars mission simulation. That means we can no longer go outside without space suits, we have to observe a 20-minute communication delay protocol with "Earth," and we're finally starting the research phase of our mission. This is why we're here. I wish it hadn't taken us until the midpoint of our expedition to reach this point, but we'll just have to adjust our plans accordingly.

While most of the crew spent the morning hauling trash to the airport to be taken out on a flight scheduled for later in the day, I took the opportunity to capture some video inside the Hab, which I assembled into Episode 3 of my FMARS video blog (Sorry some of it is out of focus.).

After lunch, we completed most lingering items on our pre-sim to-do list, including a surprise fire drill, testing bear bangers, firing the shotguns, flying the UAV, and receiving our last scheduled twin otter flight of the put-in phase of the expedition. Today was a beautiful day on Devon Island with temperatures in the 50s °F (10-15 °C) and mostly clear skies. It was warm enough not to need a coat.

We conducted our first two test EVAs today, with the three men going first and the ladies second (Where were our manners?). During EVA-1, we deployed the Omega Envoy Rover to let it roam around the Hab while we spent about an hour walking around to get used to the suits. There is some really cool video footage of us from the perspective of the little rover on Spacevidcast.

First, we walked about 250 meters from the Hab to the seismic station I had deployed about a week earlier. I was able to open the cover and check the station status in the restricted space suit, although it was difficult to see the screen. After a few stomp tests to make sure the station was operating properly, I joined Vernon and Joe who were looking at some fossils near the crater rim. We walked back to the Hab and drove the ATVs around for a few minutes to get used to operating them in the suits.


Today was the first annual Haughton Crater Run. At least, that's what I'm calling it. Christy Garvin and I were the only two participants in the exercise event, but maybe our example can inspire future analog Mars explorers to follow in our footsteps. We ran 4.9 miles in about an hour (plenty of stops for pictures or to walk over the really rocky areas). The map below shows the path we took, with an inset illustrating the elevation profile of the run (click for larger). I especially like the elevation inset because it shows a nice profile of the crater with a drop of about 300 ft from rim to floor.

Living in the isolated environment of FMARS with a small group of people, one needs some comic relief. Luckily, this group of space cadets seems to know about all the best space YouTube music videos. A few days ago, I shared with you Aldrin's Rocket Experience. Below are three more entertaining (bad) space rap videos:

The first is I.S.S. Baby. As a fan of Ice Ice Baby myself, I have to say this is my favorite. The lyrics are included in the description on the video's YouTube page. It was made by a group of NASA co-op students.
Greetings from Devon Island! My first week here has been filled with adventure and hard manual labor in preparation for the simulated Mars expedition. Ideally, there would have been an advance engineering crew sent up here prior to our arrival to get the FMARS Hab in good working order. However, that's not the case this year, so those kinds of tasks fall on our shoulders. The many maintenance issues at FMARS have so far prevented us from starting our primary mission, but hopefully we'll be able to wrap all of the house-keeping tasks tomorrow and finally officially begin the research activities in earnest this weekend.

Note that our satellite internet connection has restrictive upload bandwidth that makes it a challenge to upload pictures and videos. It's been taking me numerous tries over several days just to get my pictures online to my Phanfare site. In theory, our crew will be adding photos to our Picasa Web Albums site and Facebook Page, but so far that hasn't happened as much as I'd like.

In this post, I'll try to catch everyone up on what's been happening so far.
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo Moon landing, Buzz Aldrin teamed up with Snoop Dogg and Talib Kweli to make a rap video called "Rocket Experience", which you can watch below. There's also a really funny video on the Making of the Rocket Experience. These videos are on YouTube too in case you want to watch them there.

According to Funny or Die, who produced the video, a portion of the proceeds from the song sales will go to ShareSpace Foundation, to further benefit and support the work of the National Space Society, The Planetary Society and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

Back in April, I reported that NASA decided to call in seven additional interviewees beyond the 40 they had already selected. One of the people who received that exciting second chance was Sian Proctor, whom I've featured in a previous post. Another was Christy Garvin, who is a fellow crew member of mine right now on the FMARS expedition.

Sian has just posted a lengthy description of her April finalist interview on her blog. The post includes plenty of photos and videos from the experience, including the dreaded colonoscopy and getting to tour the T-38's at Ellington Field. In addition to her back-dated description of the interview, Sian also muses about whether there is a bias against selecting older females as astronaut candidates and whether having a public blog is a benefit or hinderance when undertaking the somewhat secretive NASA astronaut interview. I recommend everyone go over to her site and take a look.
If I can take off my Mars explorer hat for a moment and put on my seismologist hat, I'd like to clear up something with everyone. We can't predict earthquakes or tsunamis. It's not currently scientifically possible to say when an earthquake or tsunami will happen. Based on probabilistic analysis, we can guess where they are likely to happen, but constraining when is not (yet) possible.

Why do I bring this up? Because for the past two months there has been a rumor circulating on the internet that a tsunami will happen on July 22. The basic premise behind the claim is that the combined gravitational pull of the Sun and Moon pulling on the Earth's tectonic plates during the July 22 lunar eclipse will cause a major quake. The author of the tsunami hoax (as it's being called) took some NASA data of the eclipse path across the Pacific and compared where it crossed tectonic plate margins. Based on when the maximum eclipse would pass over the area (and factoring in an arbitrary 1 hour lag time), the person assumed an underwater earthquake would be triggered and therefore a tsunami too.

While researchers have and continue to investigate any (weak, if any) relationship earthquakes have with the tides, the scientific consensus is that great earthquakes cannot be triggered by the very weak tidal forces imposed on them, even when these forces are at their maximum during eclipses. (Tiny earthquakes may sometimes correlate with the tides, but those are never dangerous and certainly not tsunamigenic.) The July 22 prediction is simply speculation and is NOT based on science. This type of hoax preys upon people's fears and spreads unnecessary and perhaps even dangerous false alarm.

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