Status Report

30 July 2000: Marc Boucher’s Personal Journal: Base Camp, Devon Island

By SpaceRef Editor
July 30, 2000
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Marc Boucher

Note: Information on the current field season, as well as past seasons can be found here.

Simulation, Day 2


Pascal Lee, Commander
Bill Clancey, Chronicler
Samson Ootoovak, Engineer
Charlie Cockell, Biologist
Bob Nesson, Discovery Channel
Marc Boucher, Communications Officer

Evening Shadows

In yesterday’s journal I omitted one important event. Late in the evening the habitat cast a long and wondrous shadow into the
crater. It must have been 150 feet in length. The sun around 1 AM is lower in the northern sky. The shadows into the crater are
very beautiful. The breccia is turned from its usual grey color to a milky white color which really contrasts with the surrounding
dirty yellow-brown hills. I don’t have a picture of this to show you at this time. I will try to get one tonight.

Noise and Construction

This morning I woke up after my second night in the habitat. I slept well. It’s a pleasure to sleep indoors once again away
from all of the noises of base camp. Unfortunately the peacefulness of the morning was shattered by arriving workers to continue
work on the habitat. Bill Clancey and I stayed in the habitat rearranging the second floor. The rest of the crew had to
leave for other science traverses not associated with the habitat. Bill and I moved in tables, chairs, a microwave, food and water.

EVA Relief

Late in the afternoon Bill Clancey and I decided it was time to leave the noisy habitat and head out on traverse. Bob Nesson stayed
behind so that we could observe communication protocols while out. We headed for a short one hour traverse to Lake Cornell about
one kilometer from here. Lake Cornell is a small but beautiful lake. The habitat looked beautiful in the distance. It really stands

A New Crew

Bill, Bob and I were joined by three new members of the crew after dinner. They included Carol Stoker, our new commander, Larry Lemke,
our new engineer, and Darlene Lim our new biologist. With these three new additions we have a stable crew for at least the next three
days. The mood was very different then the previous two days. It’s time to get down to business. Carol, as our commander,
set the tone immediately. We talked about our what our goals would be for the duration of our visit. We would now
proceed “by the book”. This means that communications and extra vehicular activities (EVA) protocols will be observed. For EVA’s this
means that two people must stay in the habitat at all times. The EVA team members must wear helmets, gloves and backpacks at all
times and EVA teams must communicate with the habitat every 10 minutes. We discussed the next days plan and then proceeded
to get some sleep.

Our plans for tomorrow include two EVA’s. One is a proximity EVA to scout the area as we had just landed on Mars while the other is
to test out the Hamilton Sundstrand Mars prototype suit.

The FMARS Chronicle – By Bill Clancey, Mars Society

7/29 Saturday night

2030  Arrive in Hab: Marc Boucher, Charlie Cockell, Samson Ootowak, and mysel (Bob Nessen arrived at 2130; Pascal Lee after 2200)

2045  work on Mission Support (Denver team)

Troubleshoot florescent bulb flickering by changing bulbs, unplugging, etc.

Our view of Haughton crater is a treat. I could sit for hours by the SE window watching the shadows fleeing over the breccia. The orange Discovery tent tending the satellite dish in the S is disconcerting; on Mars a temporary shelter would be green.

2200  Bob has added a shelf to his room.

Samson is trying an MRE (Meal: Ready-to-Eat). food appears to be on our minds

Upstairs is much brighter and cheerful. The NE window, which forms the main exit door below, is unobstructed here.

Marc asks Samson how his life and work at St. Mary’s is going. With such a small group, I notice our conversations have shifted to more personal matters we hadn’t thought to ask in the past month. In HMP base camp we have been living as a village of 50 to 70 people. That’s too large to be the only social unit. We need smaller groups for living together, the equivalent of a family home. During the HMP we do get out as small groups on traverses, and have a fun time together, such as the picnic Charlie, Oz, Colleen, Samson and I enjoyed in the crater. But we eat dinner in cafeteria style and have no lounges where small groups can talk and relax. Last year we used the Mountain Hardware dome tent as a sitting area, both a mess tent (for 20 or fewer people) and a library for work and reading.

I appreciate being away from the large camp with a few friends. I am sketching how we will use these two floors. I imagine moving everything upstairs-all the food and cooking equipment, the laptops, and another table. That’s where we will sleep, eat, read and write, and have meetings. Downstairs is for laboratory equipment, storage, and exercise. Against the S wall we could have a retractable screen and LCD projector for presentations and movies. Perhaps a crew on mars will give presentations to each other, but broadcast to the earth.

2248  We start to watch Arthur C. Clarke’s “2010” on DVD.

Seeing Bowman (in the film) calling back home (years after his demise in 2001), I’m reminded that FMARS simulations should include regular contact with families back home by emailed audio and video.

Seeing the trip to Europa, I’m wondering whether FMARS crews should try to stay into September some year, despite the snow, to appreciate the isolation. It’s far more convenient than Antarctica, and would provide extreme isolation for a small crew.

0115  On a brief EVA before retiring, I enjoy being alone. A vast field of rocks lies before me, long distant ridges of breccia in the east, a sliver of Lake Cornell to the north, slight layered clouds on the horizon. Isolation. We’re just here ourselves in the silent cold Arctic light. Finally, it feels great to be away from the crew. Here on Haynes Ridge, inside this hab, our smaller group of six has the chance for genuine conversations.

Just before sleeping, lying in the sleeping bag of my personal room, I hear a stiff breeze knocking a rope against the scaffolding. The Mars flag is whipping in the north wind. FMARS’ steel cables sing like sirens, a chorus calling us to Mars.


7/30 Sunday

0630  I’m awake early this first morning in the hab. I lie still listening to the wind. Already it is 54F (11C) outside; inside the hab has cooled just one degree since last night. I put on my Mars Society T shirt, polartec jacket, heavy socks, and tevas, then step outside. It is a violation of protocol, but too nice an Arctic-Mars day to wear gloves and a helmet. The air is mild in the sun. The crater is less clear than last night, with wispy cirrus high over the meandering Haughton valley. In the northwest, a line of high clouds indicates another approaching (and probably dry) cold front. Our good weather continues with but one rainstorm in the past 11 days.

0823  The microwave won’t start; I check the plug. Oh, the generator is off. Where is the fuel? Looking through the huge portals, I spot some plastic jugs. So my assumptions are laid bare-electricity is usually delivered to me. I am the consumer, so I have been taught by corporations. And now who will restart the generator?

0845  We’re all awake, boiling water in the microwave one cup at a time, making coffee and oatmeal. Charlie testifies that cold vanilla drink (‘the breakfast of the space station’) is mighty fine.

0900  Pascal is working on his e-mail. Charlie says goodbye until Wednesday, and egresses.

0930  Pascal reminds us about the GF64 red line around the Haughton Crater proper, marking Inuit Owned Land. We shall not trespass our neighbor’s breccia.

1000  Marc and I begin rearranging the food and computers upstairs, leaving a “lab bench” downstairs.

1100  Larry Lemke and Carol Stoker appear with their gear. Carol begins sweeping the sawdust on the first floor.

1110  John Kunz and two Resolute assistants arrive upstairs to caulk and add bolts to the dome’s ridges.

Noon  I set up a powerbook on the new work/eating table upstairs, read my mail, and check the weather.

1230  Marc and I have lunch. We discuss the drama of building the hab. Were those who thought we should winterize the materials and wait a year wrong? Did the construction without serious injury prove that the equipment and procedures were safe? Or were we tempting fate and were lucky? Who was right? Maybe there is no definitive answer. These were value judgments-about concern for human safety, about accomplishing the objective of going to Mars, about being productive and taking chances. It wasn’t just an engineering decision, but fraught with contextual issues and subjective uncertainties. Maybe there was no right calculation to be made-just interests and opinions that prevailed, grit and determination that (perhaps against the odds) avoided serious injury, and finally success. Maybe those who doubted and preferred to wait were “right” too. In that world, I wouldn’t be here now, but next year the floor would have been honeycombed fiberglass (instead of plywood) and the interior would be more Mars-realistic. We can ask what happened and whether we like the outcome, but not really “what was the right decision?”

1330  There is so much drilling and sawing, I cannot think. The floor is vibrating; it is too loud for Marc and I to talk.

1400  I test the Apple Airport wireless link; it works and I am now surfing the internet from my easy chair by the NE portal.

1430  All our carefully placed tables and cords must be moved out from the walls, so caulking can proceed between the dome and panels. How quickly our nest becomes disrupted, how tentative it now seems.

1500  I reheat my washcloth again in the microwave. The smell is somewhat less offensive, but cleans well and I feel refreshed.

John Kunz arrives to review Greg’s work along the dome. It could be a lot neater. I start washing the windows inside.

1530  Summer employees from the Noranda mining camp arrive by helicopter. The seven visitors come upstairs and tell us they’ve been out fishing. Their buddy died in an accident a few days ago, so they were flown to Resolute for some rest and recuperation. One guy seems interested to trade an 18 inch char for a Mars Society hat. We are tempted but the deal never completed.

1615  Marc and I take the ATVs to Lake Cornell to take some pictures back to the hab. We’re in T shirts in the bright sun; it’s 59F (15C) with strong breezes from the northwest. The views are very fine.

1800  I set up the camera for a time lapse video of the upper floor. Bob films me as background for Discovery.

1830  I would like to relax alone to watch the news on TV with a beer.

1900  Pete Kinsman shows up looking for his partner from Hamilton, Dave Etter, who had driven the suit here twenty minutes earlier (and returned to base camp).

It is feeling cooler; I close the heavy vault-like doors downstairs.

1930  Marc and I eat and talk.

2100  Marc begins the Mission Support exercise with Denver.

2130  I try to take a self portrait by the portal, but the contrast between the landscape and hab inside is too extreme.

2140  I move my easy chair to the NW portal and sit like a cat with the sun in my face. I fill out the weekly “habitability” survey from Johnson Space Center. My responses are unambiguous this week-all good spirits, no bad vibrations.

2145  Darlene Lim, Carol Stoker, and Larry Lemke arrive and move into their rooms.
We being a conversation around the work table upstairs, which lasts until 1245am. Our discussion covers what we hope to accomplish, the protocols we will follow, and broader issues of analog studies, planning, and design.

0100  I wander around outside a half hour taking photos in the cheerful orange morning light. From below Haynes Ridge I spot an angle that hides remaining construction materials, with FMARS supported by huge broken slabs of ancient sea bottom.

For daily updates on the NASA Haughton-Mars Project click here.

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SpaceRef staff editor.