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MARS2013 is an integrated Mars analog field simulation in the Northern Sahara near Erfoud, Morocco. MARS2013 is organized by the Austrian Space Forum in partnership with the Ibn Battuta Center in Marrakesh.
From the 1st to 10th of February, the field crew including three analog-astronauts prepared for the simulation, which officially started on Monday 11th of February 2013. Until the 28th of February the 10-person crew will conduct 16 experiments from various fields (life sciences, engineering and infrastructure, geosciences, rover & spacesuits). The Mars Simulation is backed by a Mission Support Center in Innsbruck, Austria. All communication during the “in SIM” phase (in SIM phase is declared just before the start of an EVA (extra-vehicular activity) and finishes with the end of an EVA) between Morocco and Austria is delayed by 10 minutes, to gain operational experience about communicating with a time-delay. To achieve a proper time delay, all transferred data e.g. audio, text chat, webcam viewings, gets a time stamp and is instructed to wait for 10 minutes before proceeding automatically.
During the first simulation week the following experiments were conducted:
Aouda.X spacesuit simulator, DELTA, Long-term medical monitoring system (LTMS), MAT/SEG/MEDINC physiological and psychological variables tests, Microsphere and Endospore viability assay (mircoEVA), Magma White rover, GLXP Puli rover, Small rovers exploration capabilities (SREC), ERAS C3, Deployable Shelter, Geosciences, Hunveyor-4, MEDIAN Methane detection.
Hungarian GLXP Rover Puli team on their past week:
“As Mars2013 simulation is our first remote field test with our I2 Puli rover, we have tested the basic abilities of our rover such as communication, navigation and movement. We encountered some problems during some test runs due to the lack of WiFi signal depending on our position. Currently we are trying to figure out the source of the problem and find a solution for the next runs. We have had a strange situation when moving forward continuously for 5 minutes: our rover made a 180° turn while obeying a simple forward movement. We guess it was a stone or a hole that blocked the way of the rover and turned it back towards the starting point.
The Puli rover is controlled by our Mission Control Center in Budapest, Hungary and the Mission Control Team structure works smoothly; resources are well distributed according to our first runs. Straight and long runs on rocky field can divert the rover from the straight line, so we should monitor a movement like that by taking photos continuously or by issuing shorter commands at once. During the first week we have made some changes in our Mission Control Software according to the first runs. More tests, information and experience are needed for further advancements.
Our next plans are to test the climbing abilities of the rover on hills, sand and rocky field. And in addition we are planning a WiFi measurement experiment with the help of the field crew.
Jane MacArthur, MEDIAN Principal Investigator summarizes the last two weeks:
“Project MEDIAN ran four times during the preparation week and twice this week. The preparation week was very useful for dealing with various anomalies, fixing the biggest problem of a malfunctioning detector and repeating a test that did not work properly the first time. After receiving photos from the field, I have noticed that the gas bottle was not close enough to the ground. Therefore, the field crew in Morocco buried the tank in the sand and refined the diffusion of the gas from the outlet through a bottle, which should improve the experimental results. I am happy from results so far that all four detectors are functioning correctly and have performed according to baseline expectations.
I look forward to my experiment running regularly for the next two weeks, running the detectors in a variety of positions to build up a good quantity of data and to see how helpful they can be in locating the source of the gas.”
Short preliminary report of the two studies run by the Biomedical Engineers (BME) of MARS 2013 (By Stadler A. & Luger TJ)
AMPS-MEDINC study: The preliminary data of this by the Ethics Committee approved study including 68 participants (until today 15.02.13), shows no major illness or trauma interventions within the first two weeks, but some minor incidents and near accidents occurred. That is observed more in the crew living in the field (representing Mars) than in the members of the MSC (representing Earth). Even under the conditions in the Sahara the telemetry of the Aouda.X and Aouda.S shows stable reproducible parameters, especially the analog astronauts have only a few minor deviations. This study is not yet finished.
AMPS-SEG study: This Ethics Committee approved study investigating emotions, stress, and group dynamics during MARS 2013 has started and was welcomed by the crew in the field and the members of the Mission Support Center and is continuing. We are looking forward to the upcoming data analysis after this mission.
Mateusz Jozefowicz, Project Lead of the Magma White Mars Analog Rover:
The Magma White is for the first time controlled remotely over the internet from another continent. We have some Austrian-American payload installed which will get tested, with a laser and optical system for detecting life traces on rocks. To establish the communication system, we were four days in Morocco and during the first Simulation week, we have been practicing setting the exact position of the life module and taking test samples from the rocks. By the end of the mission, we hope to have following things tested: the correlation of our GPS coordinates, with two separated GPS systems (on on-board GPS system and a spot device); the remote operation each with and without the time delay; collecting reliable samples for the life instruments with the help of the field crew or without depending on how far we go; driving capabilities of the rover on medium, harsh, and easy terrain. Especially on medium harsh terrain it will probably going to be hard to drive there remotely. There are no scientific results yet but we would like to calibrate the distance of the measurement, the distance to the rock and the speed of approaching of the rock.
Learn more about MARS2013 and all experiments and partners on mars2013.oewf.org
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