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Mars 160 Crew Report (#1) | FMARS Mission
[Sunday, July 16, 2017, Devon Island] — A red bi-propeller plane is approaching a brownish hill in the High Arctic. On top of it, sits for 17 years now a tuna can-shaped habitat named the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS). After few low fly-bys, the plane is slowing down, landing 2.5 km from the Hab.
The station is very similar to the Mars Desert Research Station(MDRS), but with different construction so that there is a little more room inside. The upstairs layout is reversed, and the bathroom and toilet spaces are partitioned off together with a little tool room, so there is less open space downstairs. The deck seems a little lower so there is less headroom in the lower deck but more in the loft, which provides room for general storage.
The first half of the Mars 160 crew has landed. The other half of the crew will join them the day after. Landing the crew in two shots… Interesting thoughts for manned mission to Mars!
This was not an easy journey from several aspects. Due to weather and ground conditions, the crew has been stuck for 3 weeks at Resolute Bay.
My role as commander is to make sure that we use efficiently our resources. Time is the most precious of them. Despite our situation in Resolute, the crew stayed active and productive. But I cannot hide the fact that I had strong doubts about the fate of the mission. At some point, after travelling so far, you have to reach your final destination or the mission itself loses its meaning! [Alex]
As the Japanese proverb “isogaba maware” says, meaning “slow and steady wins the race”, I think waiting is always a part of a mission. At least we were closing in to FMARS. So do not lose our presence of mind, do not lose a time to prepare, do not lose a chance if it might happen, were the only things what we could do in Resolute. [Yusuke]
Resolute is a fascinating place, and serves as an analogue for what a Martian settlement of several hundred people could be like. I was able to collect a lot of data in this regard for future use. The environment is also very interesting, and we were able to use it to familiarise ourselves with conditions on Devon Island and to plan possible future expeditions to Cornwallis Island. [Jon]
Resolute Bay is a beautifully colonized Inuit hamlet, which is also called the window to the North Pole and a place with no dawn. I find an amazing resemblance between the way Resolute is colonised and the future human colonization of Mars. Staying at Resolute and waiting for the right conditions to land at FMARS was uncertain and unanticipated. The mission was getting shorter and it seemed that the science goals were going to be compromised. [Anushree]
Being delayed for so long opened up a lot of uncertainty as to how I would be able to carry out all of the research I had planned for the mission. The delay seemed to have benefits it allowed for extra time for Anastasiya to join us. [Paul]
I didn’t wait as the rest of the crew, instead I was struggling with bureaucracy of Canadian visa centre. I didn’t get my visa twice. The third time I applied with almost no hope, but as Russians say “Bog lubit troecu” (God loves the Trinity). This time it worked out and I got my “golden” visa, packed during night, hit the road next morning, had seven flights and finally saw my crew! I was extremely happy and full of joy to finally make it, to see my Martian family and to continue the work towards mission to FMARS! [Anastasiya]
FMARS… The first Martian like habitat built by The Mars Society in 2000 on the edge of the Haughton crater in Devon Island. The crater is a shallow circular depression 15 km across and 140 m deep. The air is so clear the further rim much closer. It’s the most impressive and Mars like setting of all the analogue stations. You can really imagine a Mars base on the edge of what would be a small crater on Mars. The ground is greyish brown in colour, rocky, composed of dolomite rock (brown) on the rim and the crater fill (grey) on the floor. Freeze-thaw action over the permafrost has worked the rocky ground into polygonal networks of sorted stones. There are networks within networks, the smaller polygons are 1.5 m across, the larger ones, with the largest rocks, are 4-5 m across. The landscape is undulating, a low plain cut by river valleys. Clear, gravel-bed streams fed by snow-melt flow down them. There are many relict snow patches.
Regarding living organisms, there is almost no vegetation, a little moss here and there, a few lichens, and tiny clumps of wild flowers. In wet areas you can find interesting biofilms and hypoliths. There is rare trace of animal activities. But there are fossils – corals, sponges, and nautiloids – everywhere.
Now the crew has arrived and settled. One could expect a lot of excitement and joy. But there their feelings are much more diverse and nuanced.
I feel relieved. Being able to have started my research this week and getting my monitoring equipment installed and running has made me much more relaxed and able to think more critically about the rest of the work I need to do, as well as meeting the goals of the simulation. [Paul]
When my crewmates showed me the aerial view of the habitat, I was emotional. I felt this urge to be in the habitat now. Our small habitat located on the top of the planet, totally oblivious to the rest of the world. I couldn’t stop smiling. So, how do I feel now? Obviously great… no more philosophy. [Anushree]
The feelings are diverse. Excitement to start new chapter in life at such a unique place and with my Martian family. Confusion to understand that I am here and not at MDRS. Sadness to miss crew members, who couldn’t make it. Curiosity to see the discoveries of our science research. Anticipation to get the results of our projects. [Anastasiya]
I love this place! Haughton crater is amazing. Some aspects of the station like the ladders between levels, are a source of frustration.[Jon]
Not very excited as I anticipated. I don’t know why for sure. I guess because our mission had already began when we arrived at Resolute for me. Now it is a time to take a step forward solemnly and silently. [Yusuke]
With the straining days we spent so far, I did not have too much the liberty to feel anything. For me it is mostly, stacking all the tasks, delegate and synchronize the crew to work properly and efficiently. But I have noticed that during few minutes during the day I manage to escape from my thoughts and worries. When that happens, I feel amazed to have reached a great Mars analogue on Earth. [Alex]
The Mars 160 program is two separate expeditions. The first occurred last fall at MDRS. FMARS expedition is the final chapter of the program. It will be over soon. The main goal of these expeditions is science operations. It includes what field science can be conducted on each site but also how remote and crew scientists cooperate with each other. As the mission is shortened by the delay induced by the earlier conditions, the expectations had to be reviewed in order to match the new time constraints.
For this mission, I was appointed as a scientist going to be based on Mars principally to execute the vision of scientists based on Earth. For me, this association has been the most fascinating part of my sojourn for Mars 160 expeditions. Considering the extreme remoteness and less resource, I expect this mission to be more productive for testing the asynchronous communication and coordination between the remote science team and me to conduct field science.
I believe FMARS is a vantage point to access various Martian polar regions features at one place: an ancient impact crater which once contained lake analogous to the Gale crater on Mars, geological features of hydrothermal origin, periglacial patterned ground, impact-induced hydrothermal evaporite deposits, the day-night cycle, and total isolation.
The delay in the mission, would of course narrow the chances of scouting the area, thereby, would restrict sampling events. However, with appropriate planning and coordination among the crew, I expect to meet the goals set by our remote science team.[Anushree]
I will not be able to get the data I originally wanted on the crater floor. This is only partly due to the delay and mostly related to prevailing mud along ATV routes, but this is a factor out of our control. As a result of the condensed time and modified research goals, I will have more to do and fewer EVA’s to do them.
My research is focused on cataloguing the different types of patterned ground around Haughton Crater and gaining a better understanding of how these permafrost features form and evolve over time. Similar features have been observed on Mars, so understanding how they form on Earth can yield insights into how they form elsewhere in the solar system. [Paul]
My expectations of the mission are that we will have a safe and enjoyable time that will colour our reflections for the rest of our lives. I expect us to all be able to collect material we can use in different areas later on, be in media stories, published research, lectures, or ideas for design work on Mars technology and architecture.
I will be focusing on three areas: 1) studying facies in the limestones of the Silurian Allen Bay Formation that the Haughton Impact structure has been excavated into, 2) classifying and mapping, regolith landforms of a polar Mars analogue, and 3) collecting operation data on daily scheduling, time management, EVA capabilities during a simulated Mars surface stay. Only the third will be significantly impacted by having a shorter period to collect data. However, when used in conjunction with the data from the first phase of the expedition in Utah I expect to have more than enough to draw useful conclusions. [Jon]
I expect to return safe and sound, live peacefully, enjoy this moment with my crew mate. I am looking forward to be a dependable crew as my ideal role on Antarctica (JARE), who can take care of a thankless job.
Arctic is not as easy as we suppose it to be. It is inevitable that the field science projects take the priority over other projects such as mine. That’s alright. So, I either cross out some of my personal projects or find a way to collaborate with other projects.
I will focus on 3D archives. Basically this idea is coming from architectural 3 dimensional aspects. People have to decipher Mars appearances by 2D information. How we could convert 3D Mars data into 2D transportable data by easy, simple, quick, convenient, inexpensive ways in terms of a human centred design to support field research specialists on Mars? I will try few things such as anaglyph 3D picture of some field site or 360 degrees high resolution photo. [Yusuke]
As I always say, set the high goals, because they will help you to grow in many ways! The experience of first Mars 160 expedition helped me to grow as a person, gain diverse skills and showed new view of our controversial world. From FMARS I expect not the less, the harsh environment and even more limited resources than at MDRS will require new levels of creativity, stamina and hard work.
I’m coordinator of psychological studies by Institute of Biomedical Problems (Russia) and the more time crew spends in extreme environment and isolation, the more valuable data IBMP can receive. Fortunately, these tests do not interact with the field science activities, so my work is in lesser extent affected than theirs by the delay. [Anastasiya]
The earlier delay is unfortunate. Mars analogue field science is something very particular: a scientist on Earth would take samples and bring them back to the Lab for further analysis while on Mars you would probably conduct preliminary analysis of the samples before deciding which one to bring back to Earth and which one to dispose of. The new time constraints will not allow our crew scientists to conduct too much analysis, if any. They will have to rely on their eye ball judgment and intuition. Something a robot could not do. The outcome of this expedition will be interesting in that regard.
To support the science activities, I will not conduct my technological project about the spacesuit user interface. Also, I cannot afford that one of the scientists (Anushree, Jon or Paul) take the role of the shotgun carrier (bear protection) during EVAs. So I will assume most of this role during our stay at FMARS.
This crew is very dedicated to the mission and I am very confident that our limited time here will be spent wisely. I also like to think that from our misfortune delay, lessons will be learnt and used for future crews. [Alex]
A full report about the Mars 160 mission at FMARS will be presented at the 20th Annual International Mars Society Convention, scheduled for September 7-10, 2017 at the University of California Irvine. For more details, please visit our web site: http://www.marssociety.org/conventions/2017.
Comment: Bob Barboza will be presenting about “Mars Tiger Teams” at the Mars Society Convention, September 7-10, 2017.