Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mars 60 Crew Issues Final Report About MDRS Sim

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Mars 160 Crew Issues Final Reports about MDRS Sim

The Mars 160 crew recently completed its 80-day simulation at the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in southern Utah. The team carried out a sustained program of field exploration in the Mars-like terrain at MDRS while operating under many of the same constraints that future astronauts on the Red Planet would encounter. 
Each member of our Mars 160 crew has written a final report, 'departing words' from MDRS, the first half of their mission. The crew is scheduled to participate in a second 80-day simulation at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) in northern Canada beginning June 2017.

Enclosed is the final report of the Mars 160 crew commander with a link to the other crew reports.

Final Report (Final Words)
Alexandre Mangeot, Crew Commander
Mars 160 (MDRS)

For me, the mission started a while ago, a year and a half ago actually. At that time the roles were unclear. But the time passing, my role shifted few times before being assigned as Commander. It is a strange feeling to have desired this position for so long and them boom this is happening. And while you are still dreaming you just see the bright side without worrying too much about the responsibilities. But soon enough you realize the duty that now is yours and just hope for that everything will be fine.

I never thought that my presence in the Crew would be worth if I just come without any project. I thought it was expected from me to assume my role of commander and still conducted personal projects. And projects, I had plenty. So I took one (actually I started with four different technological projects), an ambitious one, and I worked on it during 6 months before the actual mission even started. But over here my prime duty is not to make my own personal project working. My prime duty is to make sure that everyone works toward the same goal. That may sound easy, but it is not. It requires a lot of attention and dedication.

On a seven people crew you cannot count on the inertia of a massive crew, so you have to be careful of every detail. This was demanding. Especially because I spent 6 months designing my spacesuit interface and nothing was working how it was supposed to; but despite that I had to stay focus on the crew dynamic rather on my project. It is hard to have sacrificed a lot of personal time for a project and not being able to give proper attention when it is supposed to work. But at the end of mission while I was discussing with mission Director Shannon Rupert I could have come without a project to conduct because Commander is a full time job. So for the Arctic, I do not intend to come back without project but I must make sure that it will not require too much time so I can fully focus on my responsibilities.

For the mechanical engineer and hybrid rocket scientist that I am, starting a project that aims to develop a spacesuit user interface is challenging in more than one way. Learning everything that needs to be learned in electronics and software development in order to design something that works (somewhat) in a 6 month timeline is far from being easy and without pitfall. But I also had to manage my budget and the logistics of all the components. So quite obviously, I made decisions in the development process that turned out to give me so much hard time during the mission attempting to make the hardware or/and the software working. I was not anticipating that because I am too optimistic – the proof is that I brought enough material to make 4 interfaces. So during my little despairs I was preparing for the worse: nothing will be working by the end of the mission. Hopefully, there were enough small victories here and there to keep the motivation alive and for pursuing the goal with the little time I could spare. It ends-up that the last EVA performed in sim was dedicated to the ultimate test of the interface. I remember that I delayed this EVA by one hour because all my checklist board was not all green. I was torn by the fact that I was messing with the schedule. But I also remembered that you do not launch a rocket if someone says “no go”. And this was the best decision. Because now I can be very happy to announce that during this EVA everything behaved like it was supposed to be. I have the navigation data, the temperature and humidity inside and outside the helmet, the ambient atmospheric pressure, the light measurements from infrared to ultraviolet, the battery voltage, and even my heartbeat rate!

Yes, for those who read my SSUIt project entries, the SPI line was operational on this EVA. So in addition of rewriting/reviewing 11 000 lines of code for the second version of the software, I was able to make progress and push a little bit further the features. So for the Arctic, I will have much better hardware architecture thanks to the lessons I have learnt and an interface ready to go.

To read final reports from other Mars 160 crew members, please click here.
Our Mars 160 crew at MDRS
The Mars Society
11111 West 8th Avenue, unit A
Lakewood, CO 80215 U.S.A.

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