The Mars Society announced that the Mars Arctic 365 (MA365) Phase 1 mission was successfully completed on July 22. Mars Society Steering Committee members Joseph Palaia, Adam Nehr, and Justin Sumpter reached the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS), located on Canada’s Devon Island, on July 10, having departed from Idaho on July 8. The three were joined by Garrett Edquist, Dr. Alexander Kumar, journalist Jim Moore, pilots Richard Sugden and Richard Spencer, and Mars Society HQ staff. The personnel worked together to accomplish several key mission objectives for next year’s scheduled simulated Mars mission.
The trekkers to FMARS first focused on making old resources operational and testing new ones. The group worked to revive two on-site diesel generators and acquired a new “Carnot” diesel generator supplied by the French chapter of the Mars Society, Association Planète Mars. The site also has a gasoline-powered backup generator. In addition, the satellite Internet communication system was brought online; a new satellite phone provided by Iridium was tested. A four-wheel-drive ATV, as well as an ATV trailer capable of hauling large loads, was provided by Arctic Cat, while the station’s older ATV vehicle was powered up again.
FMARS was found to be in excellent condition and the facility’s electrical, water, and waste systems were reactivated. An induction cooking range was installed and the site’s food sources were assessed—most found to be sound. Outside of FMARS, a facility was built to store diesel fuel, with the fuel being topped off. Two new airstrips and a weather station were opened. Equipment from U.S. and Canadian suppliers was transported to Resolute Bay, where it will be stored through the winter and ready for immediate transport.
Palaia remarked: “The completion of MA365 Phase 1 means that we accomplished all of the most important mission objectives necessary to begin preparing FMARS for the one-year expedition. This includes assessing the current status of the station (no one had been on site since I was there back in 2009), bringing in new equipment and materials, and staging other materials in Resolute so we can bring them in and finish the preparatory work at the beginning of next season.
“There is still a lot of refit, repairs, and upgrades that need to be done before the habitat can safely support the crew for a period of one year … but I am confident now, having completed Phase 1, that we will be able to accomplish these tasks successfully at the beginning of next season. We’re planning about a one-month refit effort with a dedicated refit crew which will take place from the middle of July 2014 until the middle of August 2014 sometime. After that, we’ll bring in the one-year crew.”
Dr. Chris McKay, planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center and member of the Mars Arctic 365 science team, related about Phase 1, “Stocking supplies is an essential part of any polar expedition, both from a productivity and readiness perspective, but also from a human health and safety.”
He added about the purpose behind the project: ” … What FMARS can do … it gives us insights into how to make the best use of the crew on Mars to explore Mars and how to best support the crew when they are on Mars. An important part of the FMARS activity is to show the world that Mars missions are possible and should be considered seriously.”
With Phase 1 complete, Phase 2, which will include final refitting of the FMARS site and initiation of the mission, is scheduled to begin in July 2014. A call for crew volunteers will be issued soon by the Mars Society. A complete report on the expedition and plans for the one-year mission will be presented at the 16th annual International Mars Society Convention to be held at the University of Colorado at Boulder from Thursday, August 15 to Sunday, August 18.
“I’m excited by what the Mars Society is trying to accomplish with the MA365 mission. I believe that this is a critical step and will teach us a lot of things that we really need to know as we get ready for actual human Mars exploration,” Palaia said.
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