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December, 2009:

Paying the bills

Part of the preparations for our MDRS mission include financial ones. We are each responsible for a $1000 participation fee, our travel costs for reaching Grand Junction, CO (the closest airport to the Hab site), and any particular materials and supplies that our mission requires. We are assembling most of these items from our own belongings: for example, Brian is bringing a geotagging camera, Darrel will have his GPS logger, and I have packed my Garmin eTrex navigator (thanks to Jim). We will also require some new purchases, such as a network-accessible drive to store our data, pictures, videos, etc.

If you’re interested in supporting our mission financially, please feel free to click the ChipIn button at right to donate. We will be happy to recognize your support on our Sponsors page. Thank you!

Engineering challenges

Although our mission is still almost four weeks away, we have been eagerly following the reports of the current MDRS crews to learn from their experiences and better prepare for our own mission. So far one thorny problem has been condensation inside the suit helmets. Temperatures this year near the Hab have been colder than usual. Crew 85 has suggested several work-arounds, including wearing a balaclava/ski mask to reduce fogging and bringing a rope on EVAs to help guide vision-impaired crewmembers back to the Hab! Adding helmet heaters is beyond the scope of potential short-term modification, so our Chief Engineer, Darrel, has been brainstorming other solutions.

Another major practical challenge for our mission is the limited water supply (39 gallons per day to support our crew of six). Darrel would like to assess the possibility of more water recycling. Right now, the Hab has a graywater system that allows dishwater and shower water to filter out into the Green Hab and then be recycled as toilet flushing water (which then goes to the septic tank). If the Green Hab were sufficiently good at filtering/cleaning the graywater, it is possible that it could be re-used for showers or other uses as well. Darrell and Crew Biologist Luís are discussing plans to test the bacterial levels in the Green Hab outflow. If this is a possible source of additional water, it would make our lives a lot easier! (The necessary plumbing modifications might be beyond our abilities in this mission, though!)

No doubt there will be additional challenges (and opportunities) that arise during our own mission. We’ll keep an eye on the current crews to learn all we can before hitting the ground on January 23, 2010.

Meet the crew!

Emails have been flying back and forth for weeks, as we make plans for our two-week mission to the Mars Desert Research Station, from January 23 to February 6, 2010.  We will be simulating a human mission operating on the surface of Mars, living and working in and around a small Mars habitat in the remote desert of southeastern Utah. Who are we? Six hardy individuals willing to abandon our Earthly homes (at least temporarily) in support of an ongoing effort by the Mars Society to learn more about the needs, challenges, and capabilities of a human mission. You can read more about Commander/Geophysicist Brian, Executive Officer/Engineer Carla, Astronomer Mike, Chief Engineer Darrel, Biologist/Health and Safety Officer Luís, and Geologist/Information Officer/Journalist Kiri on our MDRS Crew 89 Bios page.

Brian Shiro Carla Haroz Mike Moran Darrel Robertson Luis Saraiva Kiri Wagstaff
Brian Shiro Carla Haroz Mike Moran Darrel Robertson Luís Saraiva Kiri Wagstaff

In addition to contributing to ongoing studies on nutrition and the usability of spacesuits, we will also conduct our own research projects, which include studying subsurface structure through active seismic surveying (Brian), variable stars and exoplanets (Mike), the utility of micro air vehicles for providing aerial reconnaissance (Darrel), environmental impact and biomarkers (Luís), and automated geolocation for digital photos (Kiri) — none of which would be possible without Carla’s support in coordinating and managing our daily activities and, critically, our EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) plan.

So join us on our journey! We’ll be posting about our activities and adventures as they arise. We can’t predict everything that will happen, but we’ll be sure to share photos and videos to keep you informed. You can subscribe to our RSS feed for this blog and/or follow us on twitter. We’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions, so feel free to post comments here.