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Nina Sejkora gives us an overview of the department’s main tasks and then answers a few questions so that the tasks of the team and processes are made concrete.
Before the mission
Contact experiment teams and clarify the needs of their experiments (how much time do they need, how many staff, which terrain, how much power & bandwidth etc.). Clarify with them how the experiment best fits into the mission, i.e. how we can best combine their framework and ours.
Drawing up the “Mission Plan”, a rough schedule for the whole mission, based on the data we got about the experiments.
During the mission
The detailed plan is continuously developed during the mission, the plan for a specific day is always prepared three days in advance (“3-days-in-advance planning”). Our planning products during the mission are:
▪ FAP = Field Activity Plan (time schedule of a day)
▪ TP = Traverse Plan (map of where experiments will be conducted, including the routes there)
▪ DAP = Daily Activity Package (a summary document containing all information from FP, i.e. FAP, TP and other information, such as a weather forecast).
After the mission
Analysis of the plans compared to the actual process. Were all objectives met? Were certain activities systematically planned incorrectly (e.g. too short / too long)? Adaptation of internal team procedures and documentation based on the previous analysis and other lessons learned.
A flight plan is very detailed, complex and large. What information do you start with?
Nina: For the mission plan, we first start with the marginal data of the mission: duration of the entire mission, duration of the isolation phase, when are the days off, size of the team in the field, etc. This forms the framework within which we operate. This forms the framework within which we operate. Then we fill in the experiments there. On the one hand, we take into account the information given to us by the PIs (Principal Investigator) before the mission, such as the duration and how many runs are needed. For the sequence of the experiments, the “Exploration Cascade” of the Remote Science Support (RSS) team helps us to determine the most efficient order.
How long does it take to write the first plan for a mission?
Nina: Writing the plan is done in a few hours (or a few days with breaks in between) thanks to the help of the whole team. Nevertheless, we can only present the first complete plan about half a year after the selection of the experiments. This is because we need this time to prepare the necessary documentation together with the leading scientists (PIs) and to clarify their needs.
What requirements and wishes do you have to take into account?
Nina: Our main focus, apart from the safety of our field crew, which of course always comes first, is to enable good scientific results. Therefore, the input of the experiments and the RSS team is very important. But we always have to consider technical constraints, e.g. of the space suit simulators. Other activities want to be planned as well: for example, media activities like interviews or photo shoots, maintenance work or cooking food for everyone.
How many departments and teams do you have to deal with while making the plan and how do you reconcile them all?
Nina: The simple answer is: almost everyone. We work very closely with the RSS team to plan the experiments in the most results-oriented way. The media team informs us about interview requests etc., the FCT team is our connection to the field crew and forwards us their feedback and questions. The RECORDS position is the one that constantly records what is happening. These logs are essential for us to reconstruct later if our plan worked as we thought. The doctors (BMEs) come to us to inform us if one of the analogue astronauts needs another day off for health reasons before going back into the mission (EVA). In order to be able to incorporate all these inputs and not to forget anything, requests are to be given to us exclusively in writing in a form – only then can we process everything in a structured way.
BME – Biomedical Engineer
EVA – Extravehicular Activity
FCT – Flight Control Team
PI – Principal Investigator
RSS – Remote Science Support
This article is available in: German
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