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MDRS Crew 47 End-of-Mission Summary

2006-03-31, 2030h MST

Crew 47, the second Georgia Tech mission to MDRS, consists of the following members:

MDRS Crew:
  • Jan Osburg - Commander, Communications Engineer, Human Factors Researcher
  • Emily Colvin - Executive Officer, IT Engineer
  • Anne Campeau - Station Engineer, Tools and Materials Researcher
  • Meryl Mims - Health and Safety Officer, Biologist
  • Jenny Rome - Astronomer, Navigator, Logistics Specialist
  • Jason Sherwin - Radiation Scientist, Public Affairs Officer
Mission Support Center Atlanta:
  • Elizabeth Tang - Mission Support Lead
  • Gregory Lantoine - Mission Support Specialist
  • Jonathan Sharma - Mission Support Specialist
Crewmembers underwent extensive training and evaluations before the mission. The station crew left Atlanta early on Friday 17 March 2006, and spend the day in Salt Lake City acquiring the remaining equipment and supplies.

We arrived at the hab on Saturday 18 March 2006 and took over the station from Crew 46's XO, Stacy Sklar, around 1800h that day. The rest of Saturday and all of Sunday was spent with training (HSO briefing, fire drill, station systems, EVA systems, GreenHab, etc.). On Monday, training and unpacking of gear continued, but we also began our efforts to improve and upgrade the hab, GreenHab and Musk Observatory, in close collaboration with the MDRS Engineering Task Force.

We entered full simulation mode as planned on Monday night, after dinner. Tuesday was dedicated to continuing hab upgrades, preparing research equipment, and in-sim training.

On Wednesday, two days later than planned, one of our sponsors arrived on site with a three-balloon system that was designed to support a robot platform climbing up and down a special tether. The plan was to use this robot to carry our small cross-band repeater up to the balloons and back before/after each EVA in order to increase our communications range. However, due to several design issues, neither the robot nor the winch for the special tether worked, so we ended up with just three balloons on fixed tethers, which was sufficient as far as carrying our repeater was concerned. 

The following days saw a continuation of our hab upgrades and several EVAs that made use of the amateur radio-based voice and data communications scheme. Each EVA PLSS backpack was equipped with a GPS receiver and a handheld voice/data transceiver, and transmitted the EVA member's current position to a receiver at the hab several times per minute via the "Automated Position Reporting System" (APRS). Positions were visualized on an electronic moving map display, and also transmitted to the Internet (www.findu.com). This enabled mission support and other interested parties (e.g. friends and family) to follow the progress of an EVA. Waypoint and track data gathered during these EVAs also was added to the MDRS waypoint database and mapping system. Ground- and balloon-based cross-band repeaters for voice and a ground-based digipeater for APRS data were tested and worked as expected, expanding the area of radio coverage by a substantial margin.

EVAs also served to support several additional fields of research:
  • A custom-designed and -built EVA-suit-compatible shovel made from advanced carbon fiber materials was successfully tested and found to be EVA suit compatible while lightweight and very sturdy.
  • Radiation levels along the EVA routes were surveyed and plotted.
  • The carbon fiber shovel was used to fill sandbags, which then served as shielding for the radiation detector, in order to test the utilization of in-situ resources for radiation protection.
  • Celestial navigation was evaluated as a potential backup procedure in case of failure of electronic navigation systems. A sextant was tested for compatibility with the EVA suits.
Throughout our rotation, upgrades and repairs of the hab, the GreenHab and the Musk Observatory continued. Some highlights (see the Crew 47 Final Report for a comprehensive listing):

  • A multi-channel power meter was installed and successfully activated, enabling real-time monitoring of power usage and generation.
  • Several areas with structural damage (shower enclosure, outside wall, etc.) were repaired.
  • The engineering area was reorganized and new storage shelves for tools and supplies were built.
  • A Generator Start Module was installed on the diesel generator.
  • The GreenHab was cleaned up, the broken toilet tank pump was replaced, and a network access cable was installed.
  • 12V wiring was run out to the Musk Observatory.
The Musk Observatory was brought back on-line and used to make some observations. However, frequent cloud cover and high winds prevented us from taking images of the binary star eclipse we had originally planned to observe.

Every day, the crew took several Human Factors tests that tracked cognitive performance and crew mood. A habitability survey was taken at the end of the in-sim phase.

Detailed research results will be compiled in a comprehensive Final Report, which will be made available for download within the next couple of months.

Media representatives were hosted at the hab during the first and last several days of our mission (The Washington Times and Country Music Television, respectively).

In summary, Crew 47 accomplished most of its ambitious research and engineering goals, ate well, and had a great time together. 

We are extremely grateful to our mission sponsors (Vascent Studios Internet development, the Liftport Group space elevator companies, the Georgia Tech Student Foundation, Georgia Tech's Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory, Shefsky & Froelich Attorneys at Law, the Georgia Space Grant Consortium, Brand Electronics, Cytec Engineered Materials, the Georgia Tech Undergraduate Student Government, and EMS Technologies) for their generous support, which enabled us to acquire our research equipment and cover shipping and transportation cost. 

We also very much appreciate the support we have received from the Mars Society and its dedicated team of mission support volunteers. Georgia Tech is looking forward to returning to MDRS for Spring Break 2007.

On to Mars!

Jan Osburg
Commander, MDRS Crew 47