Status Report

Haughton-Mars Project (HMP-2001-0713)

By SpaceRef Editor
July 13, 2001
Filed under , ,

Report Number: HMP-2001-0713

By: Dr. Pascal Lee

Today we had unrelenting rain at Haughton. Now that the Marines
have brought up supplies for the NASA HMP, the next several days
and Twin Otter flights from Resolute Bay to Devon Island will be
dedicated to bringing all the cargo over to Base Camp. The payloads
will include three more ATVs sponsored by Kawasaki Motors, a six-
wheeled teleoperatable ATV contributed by Jaret Matthews of Purdue
University (Jaret is both a Collaborator on the HMP Exploration
Research program and a volunteer of the Mars Society selected to join
the FMARS crew on Phase 5), and literally tons of food supplies and
other research equipment.

The day started off uneventfully. It just rained and rained. After
dinner, Dr. David Wettergreen of the Robotics Institute of Carnegie
Mellon University gave a brilliant talk on the “Hyperion” sun-synchronous
robot rover experiment he and his team are about to carry out at Haughton.
The robot will attempt to execute an autonomous traverse circuit several
miles wide in continuous operation over 24 hours while choosing its
route and managing its solar power on its own. The robot represents
a prototype of a space-rated rover that could one day be sent to
explore the polar regions of the Moon in search of H2O that might be
trapped in the permanently shadowed areas of the Moon’s polar craters,
or the polar regions of Mars as recently proposed by Dr. Michael Sims
and his team (Mike is with the Center for Mars Exploration at NASA Ames
Research Center. He is also a Co-Investigator on the NASA HMP).

Over the past few days, the CMU team of seven has assembled the rover
and checked out its systems. It is now ready to roll. The weather must
improve, however, and the ground must dry up more before the planned
tests can begin. Hyperion is now waiting patiently by the airstrip
where good preliminary testing grounds were found.

The event of the day was unfortunately a medical emergency that arose
later this evening. One of us noticed once inside a tent that his
left leg was severely swollen and red, with other symptoms suggestive
of the possibility of infection. John Schutt and I rushed in to
assess the situation. There was no cause for panic but it truly did
not look good. What might be happening? Neither John nor I nor anyone
around us were sure. Unfortunately, this was occurring on the one day
this field season during which we would be without a medical officer
at camp…

While planning for the field season this year, I had made sure that we
would at all times have a medical doctor at hand, either at the HMP Base
Camp or inside the Mars Society’s FMARS hab. On Phase 1, Dr Rainer
Effenhauser, chief flight surgeon of the Space Shuttle program at NASA
JSC would be present at Haughton as a a NASA HMP Co-Investigator and as
a Hab crew member. After his stint in the Hab, Rainer remained at Base
Camp to continue his research program and help us as Camp Doctor on a good
samaritan basis. But Rainer had to fly back yesterday, July 12th.

To ensure continuity in medical presence, I had lined up my younger brother
Marco who is a surgeon and researcher in neural gene therapy at Oxford
University. Marco served as HMP field medical officer in 1998 and is
an experienced expeditionary doctor. He was offering his services again
this year in any vacant time slot we might have. But he would not
be able to join until July 14th, tomorrow. I took the chance: we would
have to risk going without a doctor at camp for one day. It so happened it
would be today, Friday, the 13th…

With Rainer gone and Marco on his way up, we tried to reach Marco first.
I phoned a hotel where he might be staying in Edmonton, but to no avail.
We then tried to reach Rainer in Houston, TX. Luckily, he was home.
From then on we all lived a textbook example of telemedicine in practice,
i.e., the ability to access and apply medical expertise remotely through
technology. I would first take some digital photos of our patient. Rainer would then
examine them and provide guidance. Within minutes, that was done. Images
of our patient’s leg, taken using an Olympus C-3030 digital camera with
macro capability, were on their way from my wirelessly-LANed laptop in the
HMP mess tent to Rainer’s terminal at his home. By satphone, Rainer was
then able to ask a series of specific questions which I then relayed by
radio transceiver to John Schutt who stood by the patient in another tent.
Then Rainer gave me instructions over the phone on where to find additional
diagnosis equipment and medication which I then relayed by the same radio
transceiver to AC Hitch who was positioned in yet another tent holding the
medical supplies. Soon, I found myself by the patient’s side taking his
blood pressure, reading out the inches of mercury to John Schutt who then
relayed them by radio to Mark Webb who had taken my place at the phone in
the mess tent, who then relayed the numbers to Rainer…
The patient eventually received all the care and prescription recommended by
Rainer, located several thousand miles away.

Tonight, our patient will remain in observation in his tent. He must stay
warm: we’ll turn on a propane heater. We think he will be OK. He will be
flown out on tomorrow morning’s scheduled Twin Otter flight so that Marco
can examine him in Resolute Bay once he gets there. Based on Rainer’s
preliminary assessment, infection remains a risk, but it is anticipated
that our friend will recover soon, possibly within a few days.
The underlying cause of his problem may have been poor blood circulation
in a lower limb due to an extended period immobility in the cold.
Technology does not make the Arctic more benign. But it may make us less

SpaceRef staff editor.