Mars Society Flashline Arctic Research Station Mission Support
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Mission Support kicked off today about 3pm, as scheduled. The only staff on hand were Jim Rankin, our visitor from New York, and Tony Muscatello. Katya Muscat was delayed because it was her birthday today. Jim jumped right in and took over CapCOM, sorting messages, and Tony assumed the triple role of Mission Support Director, acting Engineering Officer, and Journalist. There were a ton of messages in the CapCOM inbox, many from the FMARS Field Team. Since the FMARS Internet connection was down much of the day yesterday, they had caught up with the various reports and dispatches after Mission Support had shut down. Dewey Anderson dropped by briefly to return the prototype analog space suit after he had made some upgrades.

We found that there would be no attempt at a comm link with the Southwest Hab on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center because Matt Colgan would be picking up new people at the airport. Matt said they would do a livelink tomorrow. Yesterday's livelink was a real adventure: With the FMARS Internet connection down, Dr. Zubrin called in his report using a satellite phone. (I call it a subspace radio connection since it has a delay time of only about half a second.) This call was obviously outside of the rules of the simulation, but the comm link to KSC is an important Mars Society public outreach so we make an exception. The workaround was to give Dr. Zubrin the audience questions from KSC, which we received just before he called back and to tape record his response over the speakerphone. The tape was then converted into a Radio Shack file, which was then transmitted via email back to KSC. Tony was sprinting through the halls to try to get this all done before the end of the half hour presentation, but we later learned that we were one minute too late. Maggie Zubrin later told us that an agreement had been worked out to have the Space Shuttle presenters participate in the Mars Society segment, allowing us to run over a minute or two if necessary.

Meanwhile, back at Mission Support today, Tony worked on forwarding the space weather report and the Devon Island weather report to the Field Team, as well as forwarding the good news that the Field Team had found the spare parts for the space suit helmets (they were losing parts rather fast) and that the Field Team had got the backpack battery chargers working again. (There was a second backpack short yesterday, followed by smoke generation.) Jim started assembling a news report for the crew and called a couple of businesses in Yellowknife, Canada looking for two 5.5 kWe diesel generators for the Hab. Fortunately, the gasoline-powered generator that had failed earlier in the mission had been repaired so the power situation in the Hab is much better. Nevertheless, they need heavier duty generators that can handle the 24/7 load. Tony and Jim located more generator suppliers in Yellowknife, but they all seemed to be closed for the weekend. A great spirt booster then arrived with Katya at about 4:30 pm in the form of dinner! Katya's mother had made Russian salad and potato cakes (both delicious!). So we all dug in. Like Katya, her mother is a Russian immigrant so Jim and Tony benefitted from some authentic Russian cooking. It even beat the Chinese take out we had in Mission Support last Tuesday and that was an excellent meal. We had heard that the Field Team had finally received the food shipment yesterday after ten days on the road, so we didn't feel too guilty, knowing that they weren't going to starve to death.

With our tummies full and smiles on our faces, we plunged back into work. Several more messages had arrived from the Field Team and Katya dealt with them expeditiously, placing them into the "To Be Read" folder and filing the original in the proper Outlook express folder. Handling the information overload that frequently occurs in Mission Support was a big topic of discussion yesterday and Tony had intended to implement Sybill Sharvelle's idea to have subfolders in the "To Be Read" folder. The Mission Support Director would at least scan incoming messages, decide who should disposition an action item, and place the message in their folder. The message would stay in that folder until the item was fully completed. That way action items would stay alive and locatable until closed out, addressing the lack of continuity encountered when different people work the Mission Support positions on subsequent days. Tony didn't have a chance to test this idea because of the small staff size today, but it's still a good idea. In fact, today's staffing seems to be about right, so Tony will schedule fewer Mission Support people for next week. Getting the Journalist's report done appears the only task that might suffer from the reduced staff, but we will give it a try.

But enough about all that. We had a good evening of email exchange with the FMARS crew. They sent us voice attachments of the comm traffic during the 6 hr EVA on ATVs to the other side of Haughton Crater, a voice summary of the day's events, and a written status report. They are doing very well and plan to analyze their samples tomorrow. They transmitted a photo of their UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) Projection map of Devon Island, used because standard latitude and longitude don't work well at such high latitudes. We promptly posted the map and marked the Hab location and the extent of the EVA. We sent them some classical music sheets in PDF form to aid their free time enjoyment. The weather has finally cleared up and Devon Island is drying out. We're getting lots of positive press coverage by CNN, MSNBC, the Discovery Channel, and the Rocky Mountain News. These are exciting times for the Mars Society and there is much more to come. Join us on the journey that leads to Mars and eventually the rest of the Universe!

Tony Muscatello,
Acting Journalist,
July 21, 2001

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Mars Society Flashline Arctic Research Station Mission Support