Spaceflight Insider

Mars 160: EVA’s traverse nearly 500 million years of geological history

Two crew members on the Mars 160 mission conduct an in-simulation extravehicular activity. Photo Credit: Mars Society

Two crew members on the Mars 160 mission conduct an in-simulation extravehicular activity. Photo Credit: Mars Society

The crew of Mars 160 continued to carry out its science research objectives despite poor weather as the second part of the Mars Society’s twin analog Mars 160 mission wrapped up its third of five weeks in the Canadian high Arctic. The shortened mission timeline, caused by lingering snow melt at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS), has meant expediting the research schedule, but this has not been at the expense of collecting valuable field data.

The past week saw two of the longest-ranging scouting extravehicular activities (EVAs) of the mission. EVA-9 and EVA-10 covered a combined distance of approximately 28 miles (45 kilometers) across the north central and south western portions of the Haughton Impact Crater on Devon Island, respectively.

The traverses of these EVAs spanned nearly 500 million years of geological history and encountered a wide range of the biological diversity of the island. The ground truth information obtained from these EVAs will help to better plan field tasks that will be carried out during breaks in the weather between now and the end of the mission.

A view of the surrounding area at FMARS. Photo Credit: Mars Society

A view of the surrounding area at FMARS. Photo Credit: Mars Society

“Scouting EVAs allow you to cover large areas quickly, and that, in turn, allows you to focus on the best areas to sample in the future,” said Jonathan Clarke, one of the geologists for the mission. “Focusing on the most efficient traverse routes while scouting enables for more efficient time management when conducting science on a follow-up EVA.”

A much needed day off was taken on Monday, July 31 – the first day off for the crew in eight days. They deviated from their normal schedule of taking Sunday’s off to take advantage of clear weather, letting the day off for the week fall on what was forecast to be a windy, rainy day. The break allowed crew members to catch up on sleep and enjoy fresh-baked bread in the afternoon.

A break in the rainy weather on August 1 enabled EVA-11 to be conducted “in-sim” (wearing spacesuits) in the vicinity of FMARS. Geological samples were collected and biological field work was performed to assess the percentage abundance of hypoliths on Devon Island. The EVA team was outside for exactly three hours before the EVA ended.

A crew member marks out an area to study hypolith. Photo Credit: Mars Society

A crew member marks out an area to study hypolith. Photo Credit: Mars Society

Some of the important human factors work was also carried out over the past week, including studies to assess team cohesion and field trials to determine research efficiency in suited versus unsuited EVAs. As poor weather is expected to continue to into the weekend, the EVA schedule will likely be amended, but all of the planned field science is expected to be completed before the crew’s estimated August 16 return to “Earth”.

The crew is expected to remain at FMARS until the middle of August. For more information and regular updates on the Mars 160 mission, visit http://mars160.marssociety.org/. Additionally, you can follow the mission on Twitter: @MDRSUpdates.

Paul Knightly is serving as a crew geologist for Mars 160 and is also writing for Spaceflight Insider.

A Mars 160 crew member stares out of a window on the FMARS habitat. Photo Credit: Mars Society

A Mars 160 crew member stares out of a window on the FMARS habitat. Photo Credit: Mars Society

 

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Paul is currently a graduate student in Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Akransas in Fayetteville. He grew up in the Kansas City area and developed an interest in space at a young age at the start of the twin Mars Exploration Rover missions in 2003. He began his studies in aerospace engineering before switching over to geology at Wichita State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in 2013. After working as an environmental geologist for a civil engineering firm, he began his graduate studies in 2016 and is actively working towards a PhD that will focus on the surficial processes of Mars. He also participated in a 2-week simluation at The Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station in 2014 and remains involved in analogue mission studies today. Paul has been interested in science outreach and communication over the years which in the past included maintaining a personal blog on space exploration from high school through his undergraduate career and in recent years he has given talks at schools and other organizations over the topics of geology and space. He is excited to bring his experience as a geologist and scientist to the Spaceflight Insider team writing primarily on space science topics.

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