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Friday, October 17, 2014

Training Wheels

This past week has been a series of crash-courses in power systems, geology, EVAs, inventory, and IT networks.  Our dome habitat is powered by photovoltaics (10kW solar array) with hydrogen fuel reactors as a secondary energy source.  We are surrounded by basaltic lava and living in isolation on the slopes of Mauna Loa where there is little evidence of plant or animal life.  



Today was our first full day of the mission.  We have been diagnosing network problems and doing inventory on our shelf-stable food supplies.  The majority of our food is freeze-dried, including fruits, vegetables, eggs, and meats.  We also have a large supply of cereals, rice, flour, spices, pasta, and snacks.  From the start, a thorough inventory is critical, since we must divide our massive food supply into rations for the long-duration mission.



One of the goals for HI-SEAS is exploring how to effectively promote crew autonomy.  With a mission to Mars, the wide distance makes communication difficult.  Depending on the current positions of Mars and Earth in their orbits, information packets from Earth take between 10-25 minutes to reach Mars.  Therefore, a crew on Mars should be able to operate autonomously, rather than waiting for orders from mission control. During the HI-SEAS mission, instead of "Mission Control," we have a "Mission Support" team.

(Illustration by NASA)

The only communication we can have with the outside world, including mission support, is through email on a NASA network that is delayed 20 minutes to simulate the distance from Earth.  Our cell phone services have been turned off and our internet access is limited to static web pages.  There will be no chatting or webcam conversations.  I am still able to post to social media through my delayed email, but I cannot participate fully, since newsfeeds are dynamic and infeasible over the wide distance to Mars.

Of course, this is a simulation, so if emergencies arise, then we do have an emergency phone to call for help.  In fact, we are monitoring a potential emergency situation as Tropical Storm Ana is making her way to the Hawaiian islands.  During training, we practiced evacuations and learned about the weather conditions that our vinyl dome is able to withstand.  If the winds get too strong, then we will hunker down in the supply container until the storm passes.  The training wheels are coming off as our new reality is setting in!

7 comments:

  1. Wow! Sounds like you all are off to a great start Joce! I'm so proud of you! Enjoy & savor this fantastic adventure. Praying the hurricane passes by uneventfully. Love!!

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  2. Thanks for the post Jocelyn. Really appreciate it. Thought I replied not good at this as Martha will tell you. She also knows I won't like this news of a hurricane. I know you will handle well. Prayers and hugs..your Canadian Mom..Mary Anne Lenio

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  3. Glad to see you all survived your first Martian storm!

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  4. Fascinating. Please keep these posts coming regularly.

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  5. Do you see or get forwarded our comments here?
    Did you diagnose and solve the power problems revealed by the storm?

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