Showing posts from February, 2010

The Social Tsunami

The past day and a half has passed in a blur of activity responding to the Chile earthquake and Pacific tsunami . I was awake for 40 hours working almost nonstop at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) and only took a small break for about two hours on Saturday afternoon. The total elapsed time from our first to last tsunami bulletins was 27 hours - a record long event for us. It may have been exhausting, but it was rewarding work knowing that something I was doing was making a difference. This was, after all, the first Pacific-wide tsunami warning since 1964!  Below is a photo of one of our displays in the operations center showing estimated tsunami travel time contours just before the tsunami was due to strike Japan:

Russia shortlists 11 for 520-day simulation of Mars mission

If you think my 30 - and 14 -day simulated Mars missions were interesting, you should check out the Mars500 program, which is a collaboration between Russia and Europe to study the physiological and psychological issues associated with a long duration spaceflight mission to Mars. They had a 105-day mission with a crew last year and are narrowing down their crew selection for a 520-day mission. The latest press release is below. Note that one of the finalists Diego Urbina is a fellow ISU graduate and MDRS participant. He was on MDRS Crew 88 just prior to my mission there, so I got to meet him when I arrived at MDRS. Good luck to Diego and all of the other finalists! Russia's Institute of Medical and Biological Problems announced on Thursday the names of 11 volunteers on the shortlist to take part in a 520-day simulation of an expedition to Mars, a spokesman said. The 11 candidates will complete basic spaceflight training and in spring six of them will be chosen to t

A Traveler's Guide to the Planets

What are you doing for Valentine's Day? How about a romantic getaway to breathtaking canyons on Mars? You won't even need your passport. The National Geographic Channel's 3-day, 6-part mini series A Traveler's Guide to the Planets starts tomorrow February 14. Each one hour episode will feature stunning images and the latest animations up close and personal with our planetary neighbors.  Below is the schedule for the NGC mini series event and a video clip from the Mars episode: Sunday Feb 14: Saturn 9pm ET/PT, Jupiter 10pm ET/PT Monday Feb 15: Mars 9pm ET/PT, Venus and Mercury 10pm ET/PT Tuesday Feb 16: Neptune and Uranus 9pm ET/PT, Pluto and Beyond 10pm ET/PT The series also includes interviews with NASA experts in planetary analog environments that provide valuable insights into what a trip to another planet might be like. For example, here is what Steve Squyres has to say about Mars: "Would I like to go to Mars? Oh in a heart beat. Absolute

MDRS Summary

My second mission to "Mars" is now history. I think my first command experience went well, and it was truly a privilege to serve with such a fine crew . Below is the Executive Summary from our mission summary report . It'll also be a Mars Society press release later this week. MDRS MISSION 89 REACHES SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION The 89th expedition to the Mars Desert Research Station ( MDRS ) returned to Earth today having successfully completed a two-week mission in a Mars analog environment. MDRS is located in a visually stunning, geologically rich area of the Utah desert that affords an excellent opportunity to learn how science investigations can be conducted by an isolated, self-sufficient human crew. Through the 14-day mission, the international crew transitioned from an assortment of near strangers to an efficient, compatible, coherent team. They learned not only how to conduct operations in the remote setting but also how to live and work in the very cramped

EVA Experience

NASA's future plans may be in flux, but the MDRS Crew 89 expedition's future is a certainty.  We'll return to Earth tomorrow. After our morning crew briefing, Mike and I drove the pressurized rover to Hanksville to pick up three temporary crewmembers.  Amnon Govrin and his twin sons spent the morning at MDRS learning about it and our mission.  They got to witness all of EVA 19 's pre- and post- EVA procedures and in between, Amnom inverviewed us about life on analog Mars.  It was a busy day showing our visitors around, conducting two EVAs, and preparing for the end of our mission.  We stuck to the day's planned timeline extremely well, which is a testament to our efficiency as a crew.  In fact, it feels like just as we're getting used to life at MDRS we have to leave.  Two weeks just isn't enough. You can read a summary of our last full martian day on our crew blog .

Seismic Success at MDRS

Today was a good day because we finally completed my seismic experiment. As I reported last time , we had problems on the first seismic EVA.  However, we learned from our mistakes and were able to successfully take 120 shots of data at 40 locations with 6 geophone spreads covering 109 meters (358 feet).  At just over 6 hours, it was our longest EVA of the mission.  Thanks to Luís, Kiri, and Darrel for their generous help with these two EVAs.  You can read Kiri's account of today's EVA on our crew blog ( part 1 and part 2 ). As I've described previously , I chose this site because ground penetrating radar (GPR) data suggest that the Kissing Camel Range (aka: "Dragon Head") is an inverted channel that continues beneath Radio Ridge a few kilometers southwest of MDRS.  The Google Earth screenshot shown to the right illustrates where we conducted the seismic survey.  The GPS waypoints spanning the survey are shown in red, and the blue line indicates the approximat

A Seismic Undertaking

After abdicating some tantalizing EVAs for the past three days on account of my not feeling well , I was looking forward to getting outside today and finally starting my seismic research project. I had originally planned to do the first seismic EVA yesterday, but I just wasn't ready, so Kiri led the geology section EVA yesterday instead.  Below is my crew blog post describing today's EVA : My morning was occupied with preparations for the seismic experiment. This included finalizing the survey coordinates and entering waypoints into the GPS, printing and laminating a survey plan, and fashioning several survey flags out of wire clothes hangers and flagging tape. I also strapped the big, heavy pelican cases containing the seismic equipment to the back rack of the Viking I and Spirit rovers. I affixed the sledgehammer, strikeplate, and two bright red buckets to the third rover Opportunity. At 11:30 am, I briefed Luís and Darrel on the EVA plan. It clicked with Darrel

Sick on Mars

As our mission began its second week, I started feeling under the weather. I have a sore throat and low energy level. I think I caught a bug from a fellow crewmember who had similar symptoms for a few of days last week. Living in close quarters with a group of people, this is to be expected. Since yesterday was Sunday, we opted to go light on the science and do a recreational EVA to summit Olympus Mons. That's a big hill not far from the Hab. The real Olympus Mons is on Mars and is the biggest volcano in the solar system. There's even an award for the first person to climb it. Normally I wouldn't have missed an EVA like this, but due to my not feeling well, I skipped it and stayed in the Hab as the field party's CapCom (which we call "HabCom"). Kiri and Mike did great jobs describing the EVA in their blog posts. Check out the highlight video from the EVA below: