Status Report

Katy Quinn’s Devon Island Journal: July 18, 2001

By SpaceRef Editor
July 18, 2001
Filed under , ,

Note: Text and photos republished from Katy Quinn’s FMARS page by permission of the author.

Wednesday afternoon, July 18. Back at HMP base camp.

So, I made it out in one piece with my sanity intact. Well, at
least with my sanity at its usual level. Last night was the hand
over to the Phase 3 crew, they came in around 9 pm. I’d met some
of the new crew members before at the Denver crew briefing in May, so it
was a great reunion, hugs and greetings all around. It was strange
having new people come in, a felt a little proprietary even after only
a week. The hand over seemed too short, there was so much I wanted
to say and tell. But it’s their station now, they’ll learn their
own lessons and do things their own way. My bags were packed and
it was time to go. The new crew has some great projects they want
to work on, I’ll be looking forward to following their progress in the
daily dispatches from Devon Island.

Yesterday we completed one final EVA. Vladimir Pletser, myself,
and Robert Zubrin went out on Haynes Ridge, not far from the FMARS habitat
to deploy Vladimir’s seismic survey. He wasn’t able to get it deployed
two days ago because of the mud troubles, so Vlad was keen to do one last
set up. A line of 24 seismic sensors (geophones) were deployed at
the site we surveyed on July 12. Yesterday’s line was roughly perpendicular
to the original line, the second one was necessary to fully characterize
the survey area. We used my handheld GPS receiver to re-locate the
original line, kind of fun, I haven’t tried to re-locate something with
my GPS before. The purpose of the survey was to detect sub-surface
ice. Based on the previous survey it doesn’t look like there are
any ice layers under Haynes Ridge, although there appears to be an interface
about 180 m deep, hard to tell what it might be without further analysis.
It really is a pity we weren’t able to deploy within the crater, I was
quite interested to see the seismic properties of of the shocked rock and
if there were any distinct layers.

The weather has finally started to clear up and get sunny. Yesterday
it was about 10°C when we started our EVA, for the first time I didn’t
wear a jacket under the space suit, I only wore long underwear and a vest.
Still, I was broiling once we started the heavy work of hauling reels about
and laying out cables. We have water supplies on the suits we can
access via a bite valve in the helmet, I was completely out of water by
the time we were finished. I know exactly where all that water went,
my clothes were soaked with sweat when we returned to the habitat.
It’s amazing what a difference the warmer, sunnier weather can make inside
the habitat. For the whole time I was there the outside temperature
was between about 0 to 5°C and mostly cloudy with occasional drizzle.
The inside temperature upstairs was around 15°C, right on the edge
of being too cold. Yesterday afternoon it got up over 22°C,
a heat wave. Some of the carpet got wet from leaks during the rain,
as it starts to dry out the hab might get a little steamy. I have
to say, the interior of the habitat is still a work in progress.
I think perhaps we should have spent more time building things out and
fixing some things. In terms of simulating a Mars habitat it would
have been realistic to do some of that work ourselves and certainly would
have improved habitability. However we were out on EVA every day
but one, I think the pressure was on to have something to report to the
folks back home every day. Not that I didn’t enjoy the Vas, I did.
But the reality of the late start to the season due to bad weather meant
that there was still work to be done that wasn’t getting done. I
felt rather bad to be leaving things for the new crew in almost the same
semi-finished state that we found the habitat in. There is great
potential for things to look really spiffy inside and be very comfortable
and efficient, it just needs a little down time to concentrate on that.

When I stepped out of the habitat the Discovery film crew asked me how
I felt to be out and what I thought of my stay. I couldn’t compress
the answer into a 30 second sound bite, I’m still going through the process
of thinking about it. It felt good to stand outside in the sunshine
and the wind without feeling guilty that I was breaking the simulation.
The idea was that we wouldn’t go outside the habitat without our space
suits on, as part of the simulation. A good theory. Yet in
practice the habitat systems as they are necessitated occasional trips
outside. The generators are giving us problems, so when the fuses
blew or they needed to be restarted someone had to go outside and do it.
We also had to go out when draining the sump. Then there were the
toilet issues. In theory we have a good system, an incinolet for
number 2 and a funnel and pipe to a pee barrel outside for number 1.
However we didn’t have some of the parts and supplies we needed to connect
everything up, which required us to go outside to pee for a couple of days.
Of course, our power and sanitation issues were good examples of safety
first and simulation second, the FMARS standing orders. We had to
have power to run the safety radio and other systems, so suiting up to
go outside to fix the generator would have taken too long. If anything
had gone dangerously wrong on EVA the suits would have come off straight
away. Getting stuck in the mud doesn’t quite reach that level, much
to Vladimir’s chagrin.

Overall, my experience at FMARS was a good one. I had some great
times, did amazing things, and met some wonderful people. Even when
things weren’t so great there were always lessons to be learned.
I felt like my brain was on overdrive the whole time, constantly applying
what I was doing and comparing the situation I was in to Mars. Thinking
about what would work, what wouldn’t, how to make things better.
The crew interactions were a bit of a revelation, I didn’t think seven
days were long enough for issues to arise, yet there were some conflicts
that I believe were exacerbated by the close quarters and pressure to perform
under focused attention. I have a new respect for concerns about
crew compatibility. Before I sent any crew off on a long duration
space mission I’d have them live in just such a place as FMARS, let them
work together for a while and see how they get along. I also have
a new respect for crew support back at mission control. There was
a person available to us back at mission support in Denver who was there
to talk to if we had any crew issues we wanted to hash out, in a confidential
manner. I found it very useful to talk to someone outside of the
crew about the little annoyances, it was a good outlet for venting steam
that didn’t endanger the group dynamics in the way that venting within
the group would.

Charles Cockell, Bill Clancey, and I were chatting in the brief quiet
time before the next crew came, just contemplating where we were and what
we were doing. And why. In the midst of the action the big
picture fades into the background somewhat, immediate concerns take the
stage. The big picture is humans to Mars and here’s where the details
are being worked out. Before I came to Devon Island the FMARS habitat
was a distant dream, something to admired at Mars Society convention via
presentations by other people. Now I’ve been lucky enough to come
here and live the life of a Mars astronaut, at least in simulation.
Participating in a project like this gives me faith that I’ll see humans
walk on Mars in my lifetime. The caliber of the people involved and
their dedication to the goal could fuel the rockets if only you could bottle
it. We don’t have everything figured out yet, even about how to do
a valid simulation that teaches you something, let alone how to live and
work on Mars. But we are learning in leaps and bounds. The
journey has begun.

Copyright © 2001 Katy Quinn – All rights reserved. The text and images within
this web document may not be used or reproduced in any form or by any means,
or stored in a public database retrieval system, without prior written or
electronic permission of the author. Reproduced on SpaceRef with the permission of the author.

SpaceRef staff editor.