The View from 3 Weeks after Mission’s End
By Mission Commander, Peter Kokh
Filed April 5, 2006
Artemis Moonbase Sim 1 (MDRS Crew 45)
February 26-March 11, 2006
First, deep apologies from all of us on the Artemis Moonbase Sim 1 Crew. We got this blog up and running with every intention of submitting personalized reports all throughout the mission. And that didn’t happen.
The reason is simple. We had undertaken a hefty list of projects and they occupied a lot of our time. Then we had the obligatory reports to file with our Mars Society hosts every day. That took more time. More importantly, because we had such a slow satellite uplink from the middle of Nowhere, Utah, sending our reports took hours. We had to fight frequent service interruptions.
We were left with low energy levels at the end of the day. Even when we did technically have some time left, we spent that on relaxation.
So that was a big lesson for us. Don’t plan too much. Don’t promise too much.
We hope that most of you followed along anyway. But for some of you that might not have been easy. Our own crew website at moonsociety.org/moonbasesim/ was moved to a new location on the Nursing Society Server (our webmaster, William Fung-Schwarz, takes care of that site also) in the wake of two multi-day server crashes of the Moon Society website. But the move was not completed by the time the mission began, leaving visitors in the dark. The /moonbasesim/ site has since been restored at its original location.
Some of you will have been able to follow anyway, on the official Mars Desert Research Station website:
Where our reports and pictures are permanently stored under the Crew 45 section.
I have encouraged the individual crew members to post their reflections on their experiences.
You will find my Mission Summary Report at:
We left MDRS feeling a great sense of accomplishment, despite the fact that a combination of over-planning and sickness on the part of some crew members had kept us from achieving all our goals.
Now, three weeks after arriving home, unwinding, letting it all sink in, and further digesting our experiences, I’d like to share with you some reflections.
First, our major goals were these:
#1. Stir up enthusiasm amongst the membership, encouraging more members to renew, and motivating more visitors to join.
#2. Attract major publicity and name recognition for the Moon Society. That would help attract new members as well as new funding.
#3. Gain experience from our exercise that would leave us better prepared to situate, design, outfit, manage, and maintain our own Lunar Analog Station someday.
#4. Fully fund this mission (rent and equipment expenditures) with enough money left over for a down payment on a sequel.
Of these four goals, the third was the only one where I believe we did well.
On goal #1: There has been no discernible growth in the Moon Society membership to date, but that may come later.
On goal #2: All our efforts to attract major publicity failed. While M.D.R.S. as a standing facility, continues to attract Media attention worldwide, individual crew exercises do not. Two expected media visits did not occur for whatever reasons. However, our exercise was followed on the Ad Astra Online section of Space.com and will be featured in an upcoming issue of the National Space Society’s quarterly, Ad Astra. We did get a bit part in the new BBC documentary “The Moon,” but not anything that we can expect to draw in new members.
On goal #3: This first mission is stalled at about 78% funding. In two months, we must make up the difference, reaching into our own pockets if need be. If that is the case, it seems unlikely that we would undertake a sequel with even more ambitious projects. We need to make up a $1,500 shortfall and then some towards next year, in order to change that assessment. Meanwhile, we wish to thank all of you who did contribute! For your individual contributions we are deeply grateful. You should know that all of the crew members contributed their own transportation costs to and from Utah, and some of us paid for other items out of pocket. It is not to late to make a contribution. Go to www.moonsociety.org and look for the Make a Donation button in the left hand menu column. This calls up a secure PayPal page in which you can make a credit card donation. You must accompany your donation by an email to firstname.lastname@example.org specifying that your donation is for the Moonbase Simulation exercise. Failing that, your donation will go into the general funds.
While this seems like a grim report, the fact remains that our projects were overall very successful and we have a lot to be proud about.
The Mars Desert Station area is indeed very Marslike. We had little choice but to concentrate on exercises that would be relevant for moon bases and Mars outposts alike. That had the happy result of providing our host, the Mars Society, with results that benefited their own goals as well. Such a result was intended, of course — we wanted to be welcome to come back!
William Fung-Schwarz’s MarsSkin space suit experiments contributed to the ongoing evolution of analog spacesuits at MDRS. See his final report at: http://www.marssociety.org/MDRS/fs05/0311/mcp.asp
Laurel Ladd’s modeling of an Early Space Frontier Diet, based on dry and dehydrated foodstuffs supplemented with fresh produce and veggies (on occasion) from our let’s pretend Greenhouse (in operation for three months or so) was a great success. Fiber- and protein-enriched, the meals were well received and no crew member reported any gastrointestinal unwanted side effects. An Online Cookbook, startup edition, is planned, and it will be something Moon and Mars crews to come can add to, should they decide to pick up where we left off.
Our own (commander’s) project of constructing a “simulated” pressurized tunnel between the MarsHab and the GreenHab was also successful. The idea was to create a visually separate “tunnel” through the outdoors, so that crew members could transit inside in ordinary clothing, while their comrades out on the “lunar” or “Martian” surface just outside the “tunnel” would need to wear the EVA suits. The simulation program at M.D.R.S. depends on the admitted illusion, created by wearing the appropriate apparel, of being on Mars itself (or the Moon itself) in order to get the best results from testing equipment and procedures to be used in real situations on Mars or the Moon. Previously, crew members going to the GreenHab had to make an unconvincing mental not that if they followed a certain path they would not be exposed to vacuum (the Moon) or to the unbreathable atmosphere of Mars. The “tunnel” had to provide nor real resistance to the sometimes fierce local winds. The result improved our own level of simulation, and that of all future Mars crews to come.
Our Dust Control Study may prove helpful to the Mars Society in upgrading the Hab to allow experiments and exercises not now feasible, as well as help us in better designing our own analog lunar station someday:
But back to a “Three Weeks After Review”
It was a learning experience! On the one hand, it does not seem possible that we could have done it differently or better, given the circumstances. But if we do get the chance to do something like this again, either in Utah or elsewhere, we’ve learned enough to make some major changes.
We need to have a Mission building Team where the following roles are filled by different individuals.
* Fundraising & Sponsor Solicitation
* Budget Manager with the power to veto spending requests
* Engineering Team to design experiment apparatus
* Media/Publicity Team to pin down coverage
* Crew Selection & project proposals
In plain fact, some mistakes and bad calls were made because one person was taking on all these roles. That happened largely because we had only three and a half months to put the mission together. And while we had a lot of cheerleaders, and some very helpful support on details, there were no volunteers for the above major roles. Most members have day jobs that already provide all the load that they can handle. That is, everyone is already busy. The bottom line, however, is that before we try this again, we very much need to grow the society membership base substantially.
In my next report, I will talk about what more we could do at MDRS, and what we would have to gain by going elsewhere, and how much that might cost.
And I want to talk about a membership drive.