Status Report

Haughton Mars Project Field Report Report Number: HMP-2001-0806

By SpaceRef Editor
August 6, 2001
Filed under , ,

By: Dr. Pascal Lee

Yesterday, we went on our phase’s (Phase 5) first EVA. The target site
was “Site 10”, a location selected last week by the Science Operations
team gathered at NASA Ames Research Center. They picked an interesting
location, a banana-shaped pond the length of a football field with some
intriguing little gullies on the side valley walls. The Sci Ops team
ranked “Site 10” among the highest priority ones they had. It seemed
interesting not only for geology but also for biology. We would have to
sample water from the small lake.

Pascal Lee, Charles Cockell, Kelly Snook and Samson Ootoovak on their
simulated Mars EVA to “Site 10” located 4 km away from the FMARS base.

(Photo by Pascal Lee 010805-0007).

After some morning station keeping activities and a final EVA planning
meeting, Charlie, Kelly, Samson and I set off to “Site 10” in mid-
afternoon while Jaret stayed behind in the Hab to serve as IVA officer
supporting the EVA. Meanwhile, Steve kept busy testing out our new
generation wearable computers donated to the Haughton-Mars Project by
Xybernaut Solutions Inc. They will be tested out operationally over the
next several days in the context of field studies with the concept suit
upper torso contributed by the aerospace firm Hamilton-Sundstrand.

Hamilton-Sundstrand engineers Michael Boucher (left) and Sean Murray
demonstrate the use of the aerospace firm’s new advanced planetary exploration
concept suit upper torso which will help support field exploration
information technologies research on the NASA Haughton-Mars Project in a
collaboration between Hamilton-Sundstrand, NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA
Ames Research Center, Simon Fraser University, and the SETI Institute.

(Photo NASA Haughton-Mars Project / Pascal Lee 010806-0006).

Site 10 being over 4 km away and substantial field work being anticipated
at the site, we conducted an EVA which included positioning an imaginary
cache of supplies (4 backpacks affording 2.5 hours of usable
oxygen each), in this case at Red Peak, a local hilltop located halfway
between the FMARS Hab and the field site. To avoid getting bogged down in
mud we chose a route that would maximize the distance to be covered on high

We reached Site 10 within an hour of departing from the Hab and began
field surveys and sample collection activities immediately. To tackle the
geology questions from Sci Ops separately from their biology ones (the
questions were indeed unrelated in this case), we decided to split up into
two buddy teams, each team remaining within line of sight of the other.
Samson and I would focus on geology while Charlie and Kelly would handle
the biology. In addition, Samson was our designated safety officer and kept
close track of our oxygen situation. Kelly also provided overall
photographic support for the panoramas Charlie and I might want to acquire.

Discovery Channel Valley.

(Photo by Pascal Lee 010805-0050)

The characterization of Site 10 turned out to be relatively surprise-free
and we considered that we were done with our work after spending about 50
minutes at the site. At that point we agreed to implement an optional plan
we had: push our reconnaissance one extra kilometer to the north and explore
a narrow, short (1 km-long) east-west trending valley which seemed to
shallow out on either end. Aerial photographs had suggested that this might
be a ancient glacial trough valley. Our field observations of massive blocky
bars on either end of the valley, of spire-like rocky tors along the
valley’s ridge lines, and the absence of any substantial channel on the
valley floor all lent support to this interpretation.

The exploration of this canyon turned out to be the scenic highlight of the
EVA. In all likelihood, we were the first human beings ever to visit the
valley (and along with us the Discovery Channel crew and Joe Amarualik, our
polar bear expert and field safety ranger from Resolute Bay). We informally
named the beautiful canyon Discovery Channel Valley. It was a mineral world
of mostly rock, water and ice, with evidence for life only in the form of
tenuous microbial mats in meltwater ponds and pale green lithic communities
living in or under rocks.

Fog rolls into the canyons around Haughton Crater, Devon Island, Nunavut, Arctic Canada.

(Photo NASA Haughton-Mars Project / Pascal Lee 010806-1912).

As we continued exploring, the clock was ticking. Soon we had to head back
to avoid risking running out of oxygen. At all times however we remained
within walking distance and time to our cache, and from there within
walking distance and time to the Hab. On the way back we drove up another
narrow valley. ALong its bottom we encountered several scattered fragments
of an orange-red
sandstone, a relatively rare occurrence in these parts of Devon Island.
Perhaps the fragments are the remains of an erratic block carried in by ice
from other distant reaches of the island ; perhaps we had stumbled on one
of the rare beds of sandstone in the palezoic sequence of
carbonate-dominated marine seabeds at Haughton. We plan to examine the
samples in the next few
days. We will in particular be on the look out for sandstone-hosted
endolithic (rock-inhabiting) microbial colonies.

As we rejoined in the Hab, a Twin Otter had just landed at Haughton
bringing in another wave of field participants for this summer’s research
program. Among them, Michael Boucher and Sean Murray of Hamilton-Sundstrand
Space Systems Inc., Dr Dale Stokes of the Scripps Institute for
Oceanography (together with Charlie Cockell we are designing a
balloon-robot rover with possible application to Mars surface exploration),
Dr Tam Czarnik, M.D. (our new camp doctor), Rocky Persaud (an engineering
student from the University of Toronto and one of the selected volunteeers
of the Mars Society), and Jim McAvin, a microbiologist with the USAF.

Haughton-Mars Project Mars exploration research vehicles parked outside
the Mars Society’s Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station on Haynes Ridge,
Haughton Crater: Jaret Matthew’s Purmacat (foreground) and Kawasaki 220
“Bayou” ATVs (background). Note also the external webcam (far right) sponsored by and dedicated to the memory of astronaut David Walker

(Photo Pascal Lee 010806-1971).

The skies this evening are blue but the sense is that foul weather may still
be lurking. Banks of thick fog are again filling the crater. As the crew of
Phase 5 begins to settle into a routine, the landscape out our windows
alternates between inviting and threatening. We dream of EVAs to greater
and greater distances but the Hab is our haven and indeed our link to home.

SpaceRef staff editor.