MDRS – Initial Preparation

Well, for any of you that have seen me within the last few days, I have been ecstatic about being selected for the 89th Crew at the MDRS. It’s strangely fitting that our rotation number is also my birth year… But I digress. I’ve been reading operation manuals and field reports and basically any bit of information I can get on past MDRS crews and what they studied.

I’ve also become acquainted with my fellow crewmates through e-mail and Facebook, and it’s a good feeling to put a face and background to the five people I’ll be living with for two weeks. It has also given me an opportunity to find out exactly where I fit in with these highly-qualified individuals, and what I can do to help bridge the gap between the various disciplines. I guess Briggs has taught me well if integrating four plus sciences was one of the first things I thought of!

Musk Mars Desert Observatory - marssociety.org

I came to a conclusion on my main area of expertise: Astronomy. While I could theoretically fit in as an assistant in the geology, biology, or even psychology domains of our mission, I think that showing that astronomical observations and short-term research projects are a viable area of work for future Mars astronauts, if even just to show that it can be done. As such, aside from showing some cool sights in our universe, like M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), M42 (Orion Nebula), and M51 (Whirlpool Galaxy), I will be imaging Mars, which thankfully will be up during our entire rotation, the Moon, Saturn (near the end), and my own little project, if it is OKed with my crew commander.

That is studying a subset of eight Algol-type (eclipsing binary) Variable stars. I found these stars within both Canis Major and Canis Minor, as well as Orion and Taurus, all of which will be high in the sky for our rotation. Due to the “eclipsing binary” nature of these stars, the magnitude dips may be difficult to observe with the limited observational time, but that’s also why they appealed to me. If these can be analyzed from the Martian surface, complete with its dust storms, then other less- delicate experiments can definitely be completed.

And everything will be done using the Musk Mars Observatory, complete with an in-sim control computer within the Hab, which I am very excited about. The only part of this research that would be out-of-sim would be any cleaning I would need to do to the telescope, plus opening and closing the dome and a few other things. Nothing too big, plus during the day will be constant sim, so getting a break might be nice. Or not. I’ll have to see in 85 days.

I’m also getting to work on the crew patch with our Biologist, which is great! I haven’t really had a chance to flex my creative muscles visually in a while (last time was at MST with the clay lion), and it’s really coming along well so far.

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