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Gather Your Crew

20230609

We had our first in-person meeting with most of the crew today in the Redmond Space District. Having worked with each other remotely for months, we seamlessly got to work reviewing equipment information and mission plans. We poured over some detailed topographical maps of the Haughton Crater and discussed points of interest that we will be exploring. There is so much of the crater that is still unknown, this makes it an excellent analog for Mars exploration. When the meteor hit, it vaporized rock on the surface, sent fine dust into the atmosphere, flung boulders great distances, and formed the shape of the 20 mile (32 km) wide crater that we see today. When the dust settled and the rain and snow fell, it created a layer on top of the permafrost. This fine mud layer is quickmud (think quicksand). This is one of the hazards of the crater we will have to avoid. Fortunately for us, the layer is easy to identify and roughly a half-meter deep, so we can muscle our way out with some assistance. The meteor impact also very likely kicked rocks off the earth and littered them into the Solar System. If these Earth rocks had robust bacteria on them, it may have seeded life on Mars. It also turns out that a review of the geologic history of Mars shows that the opposite may have happened. All life on Earth might have started on Mars millions of years ago. That is a question we will find the answer to when we send geologists and biologists to Mars soon.

During the meeting, we also continued to talk about the details of how the engineering and science crew members will be working together to support each other under the lead of Commander and Crew Geologist Andrew Wheeler. The FMARS is a research laboratory that has practically been abandoned for 5 years. As such, prior to research taking place, the crew will need to make sure it is up and running. It needs to be a shelter from the elements, provide electrical power to science equipment, and be a place for the crew to live and work together in relative comfort. Once that initial work is completed, the science can begin! The science agenda has intentionally been over-booked. We do not plan to accomplish everything on the list, but we had better not run out of things to do with our limited time in the crater. To help achieve as many science goals as possible, the engineers are responsible for organizing our tasks around those goals. We will assess the structure and systems of the hab, clean any dust, debris, and mold that may have accumulated on its interior, and deem it ready for the 2023 season. The repairs and ongoing upgrades will require a full team effort. In these ways, the engineers will help gather and analyze the science data, and the scientists will help make decisions on and implement repairs and upgrades. There is a lot to talk about!

The discussion of tertiary things, like what kind of computer mouse you’ll bring, becomes interesting when you consider working in the Mars analog station. You must have batteries for your Bluetooth mouse. Are those batteries AA? Are they rechargeable? The AA chargers will occupy one charge port of your power supply, but will all the crew have to charge mouse batteries? Will they need to charge at the same time? What do you do when you lose you Bluetooth dongle or it breaks? Did anyone bring the same mouse that could interfere with another mouse’s signal? Consider bringing a wired mouse. That wire will occupy a USB port that your Bluetooth may have not. Should we bring both? Are we constricted by the added weight of a backup wired mouse? What about the added volume of the spare mouse? Do we bring a backup for every crew member? Is the convenience of wireless worth the risks?

That’s just a computer mouse, an item that you might never pay any more attention to than a light switch. But these are things you will need to think about and make informed decisions. Now go through this process with your tools and science equipment. By the way, you also have to read all the paperwork that comes with your tools, including your mouse, to make sure you fully understand how it works, how to repair it, and how to gut it and use its components if needed.

This crew is incredible. I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I learned so much this weekend, which is a good sign I’m in the right place. The 6 of us will be the only ones looking out for each other in the Arctic, so this first meeting is an important way to continue to build bonds. There is still much to do. The final purchase of equipment to be shipped to Yellowknife will happen next week. I’ll gather the rest of my gear then, and make sure I can fit it all. Two more weeks.

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