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Greetings from the MARS 2013 Mission Support Center in Innsbruck, here with the daily news update, bringing you the news about yesterday’s MARS2013 events.
With the high winds and sand storms that had plagued the mission in recent days finally having calmed down, Camp Weyprecht had an early start on Sunday’s experiments as members of the team ventured out before sunset to the “Skyhole” cave near the camp.
The purpose of this early morning expedition was to perform a set of thermal inertia measurements of Skyhole, which was first discovered and explored during operations with the Cliffbot rover on February 18th. The measurements were later repeated after sunset to gain a complete picture of the thermal characteristics of the cave.
Thermal inertia is a representation of how fast or slowly a body, such as the surface of a cliff, heats up or cools down to approach the same temperature of its surroundings. Materials with a high thermal inertia will absorb and radiate heat more slowly than those with low thermal inertia, and measuring this can provide important information about other physical properties of the material.
The IR camera that was used for these measurements has been kindly provided by Dräger Austria, a sponsor of MARS2013.
Later in the day, the field team added a bit of extra excitement to a test of the deployable shelter by combining it with a simulated accident. Analog astronaut Daniel Schildhammer was appointed to simulate a sprained ankle during an EVA operation in the Aouda suit away from the base, a role which he poured his heart and soul into.
The two analog astronauts sought refuge in the deployable shelter and awaited rescue from Camp Weyprecht. However, not content with a mere injury, the field crew soon expanded the simulated emergency to include a deflating shelter, a lack of oxygen, and defective suit batteries. As Flight Director Assistant Reinhard Tlustos summed up the simulation afterwards, “it was a little bit like Apollo 13, just one emergency after the other.” The situation was looking very grim for the two analog astronauts, when fortunately a rescue party arrived in the last minutes and brought the simulation to a successful conclusion.
(No analog astronauts were harmed during the performance of this simulation.)
The simulated emergency was a great learning experience for both the field team and the Mission Support Center, especially as the 10-minute time delay on all communications between the two teams severely limited for the ability of the MSC to assist the field crew in an emergency situation. It is exactly these types of experiences and lessons learned that will be valuable for future missions to Mars, and which MARS2013 is intended to provide.
About the experiments
The Cliff Reconnaissance Vehicle (“Cliffbot”) is a cable-suspended rover designed to traverse and explore cliffs that are inaccessible to human astronauts. The deployable shelter is designed to be transported in a backpack-sized case and to protect astronauts caught away from base in an emergency. Thermal inertia measuring uses an infrared camera to measure heat capacity and retention in physical materials.
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