> > > 8-month mission on "Mars": April 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Immeasurable Heart

A heartbeat is the vital sign of blood pumping through our vasculature; but not only that, a beating heart is the opportunity to experience life and achieve goals. The figure of speech "having heart” describes a person's will to win, strength to endure, or compassion for helping others succeed. Here at HI-SEAS, the crew is pushing toward the finish line with immeasurable heart: one team, one goal. 

The countdown clock is winding down, only six weeks until the mission ends on June 13th. I’m feeling a bit sappy for this post. But I’ll also compare some heart rate data from workouts, so it's quant-friendly too. I’m thinking about a poem that I wrote a longtime ago called “Immeasurable Heart” that was expressing how people rise up to meet challenges. The symbolic "heart" is a desire within a person or the motivation of a team, that can be a boundless, mysterious force.

Certainly, Hollywood embraces the unpredictability of human nature. In movies and TV shows, plot twists from evolving personalities are often what inspire hope in the audience, or provoke fear. Some classic stories of transformation that come to mind.. the dysfunctional team that finds purpose, defies the laws of probability, and manages to win the championship.. the seemingly loyal friend who succumbs to temptation, betrays for personal gain, and becomes the despicable villain.. or the rich, powerful bully who experiences empathy, reforms selfish behavior, and becomes a compassionate person. Though outlandish, I think there’s some underlying truth to these “change of heart” scenarios, in that we are dynamic, sentient beings with capacity for change. 

The extreme nature of this mission has changed all of us in some ways. Necessarily, we have had to become more patient and accommodating in order to live in this environment. We also have had to adapt to limited modes of entertainment and exercise, so I've definitely watched more movies than ever before. In general, I feel more centered and in touch with myself, maybe because of the lack of social media and text messaging or because of the daily surveys and journaling. I'm not sure how else my personality may have changed but reuniting with the real world will most likely reveal some differences.

I promised some data to offset the talk about how we feel inside and stuff like that ;) So here’s some actual measurements of my heart's performance. I've been recording workout data with Hexoskin biometric shirts, which monitor cardiac and respiratory function along with the cadence and acceleration of movements. The figure below is Hexoskin biometrics data with added labels for each of the six circuits during the P90X plyometrics workout video. 

With the daily motivation of the crew (especially Martha and Zak) and thanks to P90X fitness program, I’m in better shape compared to when I started the mission. The tables below are comparing my performance while working out to the same P90X plyometrics video in November 2014 and recently in mid-April.

November 2014:

April 2015:

These Hexoksin data show that I have increased the intensity of my movements (more steps per minute and higher acceleration) while maintaining similar cardiac and respiratory output (heart and breathing rates are at the same level). In summary, Tony Horton is the man! We’ll be doing P90X3 workouts until mission end, pushing play and working hard with our 7th crew member! :)

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Purdue Day of Giving – an annual university-wide effort to build a better, stronger, more affordable Purdue – is next Wednesday, April 29th. There are several contests and competitions that make this FUNdraising effort into a truly FUN event. Get involved, promote the event on social media, and watch your favorite Purdue units climb the leaderboard! Click HERE to learn more.

I’m giving from “Mars” but don't be intimidated if you’re aiming for the "Donation from Person Living Furthest from Campus" challenge from 7-8pm (EDT) on April 29th, as simulated Mars is only 4200 miles away on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. However, I will be keeping an eye on the "Most Unique Photo with Purdue Day of Giving Logo” challenge from 11am - noon (EDT), as recently I went out on EVA to create the photo below. Boiler up!

Purdue Day of Giving flag on simulated Mars (Photo Credit: Neil Scheibelhut)

In the spirit of Purdue Day of Giving, I'm donating to two outstanding schools at Purdue, as I am forever grateful to the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering for giving me the chance to begin graduate school at Purdue and to the School of Industrial Engineering for enabling me to extend my stay at Purdue for doctoral studies!

My Purdue story begins in the summer of 2009, after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I was still eager to keep studying and jumped at the opportunity to begin graduate school at Purdue, also known as the cradle of astronauts! After 21 years of Florida sunshine, I packed up all my belongings and embarked on the road trip to Indiana. 

The view out my window changed from Florida orange groves to the wide open fields of Georgia, then I stopped for a couple nights to recharge in the Smoky mountains of North Carolina. On the road again, I snapped some photos of the rolling hills of Tennessee, passed through the horse farms of Kentucky, and I couldn’t miss the corn fields of Indiana! The sight of the Purdue billboards on I-65 confirmed that at last I had arrived!

During my master's studies in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, I furthered the development of biological scaffold for the repair and replacement of vascularized tissue under the advisement of Dr. Eric Nauman in the Human Injury Repair and Replacement Technologies (HIRRT) lab. It was “good stuff” as Eric would say! For my doctoral studies in the School of Industrial Engineering, I am developing data analytics for automated detection of health and stress states via wearable devices, such as Jawbone UP wristbands. By leveraging data to promote health and human performance, I aspire to improve the health of astronaut crews in space as well as citizens on Earth!

The 8-month mission here on simulated Mars is quickly coming to a close. I must say that I am increasingly excited to get back to West LaLa! I can't wait to be on-campus in August and soak in the freshness that comes with the beginning of a new academic year. I look forward to reuniting with my colleagues and waving at some new faces on the "Hello Walk" :) I will never again take that sidewalk for granted! After 8 months of confinement with only five other people, it'll be refreshing to see hundreds of Boilermakers on campus!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Green Spacesuit

I’m happy to report that golf fans here on simulated Mars are increasing in number!  With the recent adventure of hitting golf balls in our spacesuits (see last post) and our watching the Masters Tournament this weekend, the entire crew has developed a burgeoning interest and baseline understanding of golf.

The Masters, the first major PGA tournament of the year, is played at Augusta National golf club, a prestigious, private golf course with only 300 members; the club is invitation only, with members including Bill Gates and Condoleezza Rice. Each of these members receives a green sport coat with the club logo. This iconic green jacket is also awarded to the champion of the Masters tournament each year. Perhaps, golf champions on Mars should be awarded with a green spacesuit!

Jordan Spieth, 2015 Masters Champion (Photo: Jamie Squire/ Getty Images)

One of the signature sections of Augusta National is known as “Amen corner” which is a stretch of three holes that have been the stage for much drama over the years. This corner of the course begins with Number 11 “White Dogwood,” the longest and most difficult Par 4 on the course. It's 505 yards from the starting tee to the middle of the green, whereas the other Par 4 holes are on average about 440 yards. The 2015 Masters champion, Jordan Spieth, has an average drive distance of about 295 yards, so after an average drive, he’d have a 210-yard approach shot into the 11th green.. how would this differ on Mars?

Since Augusta National is seated on land that was formerly a plant nursery, each hole has a name that reflects the plant life decorating the hole. I can only imagine a red, desert-like landscape for a Martian golf course, so the calculations below should be further refined to account for differences in the distance that a ball rolls on carefully manicured grass versus hitting the dust-covered, rocky surface of Mars.  However, if 295-yard drives on Earth would carry 635 yards on Mars, here's the Martian equivalent of Augusta National:

The physics of golf is actually simpler on Mars. Without an atmosphere, Mars has just 1% of Earth's air density. Thus, aerodynamic forces such as lift and drag are trivial on Mars with magnitudes less than 10e-6. Simple projectile motion equations that only consider gravity are appropriate for computing the trajectory of a golf ball on Mars.  Opposed by only about 1/3 of Earth's gravity, every Mars explorer could hit the ball further than PGA tour players on Earth!

The club head speed of a tour player swinging a driver ranges from 100-150 mph. On Earth and Mars alike, momentum and kinetic energy are transferred from the golf club to the less massive golf ball, resulting in an initial velocity for the golf ball that is higher than the velocity of the golf club.  Most of the energy sets the ball into motion, but some of this kinetic energy is lost as the club hits the golf ball; this is accounted for by the coefficient of restitution (which USGA rules dictate should be less than 0.83).  An expression for the initial velocity of the golf ball is found by combining and simplifying the conservation of energy and momentum equations:

If we assume that velocity of the club head is 55.8 m/sec (125 mph), mass of the golf ball is .0459 kg, and mass of the club head is 0.195 kg, then the initial velocity of the golf ball is 82.7 m/sec (185 mph).

The projectile motion of the golf ball can be calculated based on the initial velocity of the ball and the launch angle.  A standard driver has a loft angle of about 9 degrees; however, the driver connects to the ball on the upswing of the pendulum motion of a golf swing adding about 3 degrees of loft. After combining the kinematics equations for both the x and y directions, the distance traveled by a golf ball on Mars is given by:

With an initial golf ball velocity of 82.7 m/sec and launch angle of 12 degrees, the distance traveled by a golf ball on Mars would be 748 meters or 818 yards!  

Let’s compare to the golf ball that I recently hit on simulated Mars (see last post).  I was restrained by my spacesuit and only hit my 7-iron about 90 yards, instead of the usual 135 yards when freely swinging.  Using simple projectile motion to analyze the corresponding differences in club head speed, I lost about 6.8 m/s (15.2 mph) from swinging in a spacesuit. Even with the handicap of a spacesuit, a tour player on Mars would hit 635-yard drives!  Better yell FORE!

Watch my swing in a spacesuit at https://youtu.be/B2Bm1miYTi8