Desert RATS Procedural Dry-Runs a Success

By Ben Peters


It’s that time of year again and everyone is gearing up for the field season of Desert Research and Technology Studies (DRATS)! This year’s 14 day mission will officially kick-off on August 30, 2010 and will run through September 13, 2010. 

DRATS is an important NASA Analog program that is entering its 13th year of field testing. The purpose of the program is to train people and test equipment in a simulated mission environment comparable to the surface of the Moon or Mars in order to prepare for future space missions. The analog mission team will be heading out to Black Point Lava Flow, north of Flagstaff, Arizona, on August 24 to begin setting up camp and preparing the crew, hardware, and communication systems for the mission.    


Ben interviewing three of the Building 9 interns who get to work on the SEVs.


Last week, the technical teams began preparation for the field test by performing procedural dry-runs at the Johnson Space Center (JSC).   These procedural dry-runs provide the mission team and crew the opportunity to interact with the hardware and develop detailed operational processes and procedures before heading out to the Arizona desert. 

For example, I witnessed the Extravehicular Activity (EVA)  Team develop a step by step “how-to” guide for the crew who will be using a backpack system to simulate spacewalks out in the desert. The particular system had a GPS unit that allows the user to make a multimedia “field note” complete with an exact GPS tag of the location. It is a very cool system but it is important to develop a checklist and a guide for its users so that valuable time isn’t wasted in the field figuring out how it works.

I have had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing several Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who support various teams involved with DRATS this year…and these are just a few!

·         Flight Surgeon Rick Sheuring shared about how astronauts will simulate medical emergencies during the mission in order to prepare for and learn how to handle a similar occurrence if it were to happen while on the surface of a different planet. 

·         Fernando Zumbado, a robotic systems engineer, provided a brief overview of the potable water dispenser hardware and his role as a “water boy” for DRATS.

·         Scott Bleisath provided details for the EVA backpacks that the crew will wear during their field excursions. 

·         Chris Looper explained the training he is receiving as a traverse crew member.

·         Terry Tri presented an overview of the new Pressurized Excursion Module (PEM) that will make its debut in the desert this year.


Barbara Romig (DRATS Mission Manager) stands on the steps of the Habitat Development Unit (HDU) now configured as the Pressurized Excursion Module (PEM). 


Photos taken during the procedural dry-runs have already been posted to NASA Analogs Flickr. All of the interviews and hardware overviews will be posted to the NASA Analog TV Channel within the next few weeks. 

Check back for the latest updates on the integrated testing dry-runs at JSC the weeks of July 26-July 30 and August 9-August 13. During the integrated dry-runs, mission teams will be practicing traverses in the Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV), EVAs, geological and scientific tasks, as well as hardware integration. 

Continue to follow along as the mission dates draw nearer at the following sites:


It’s going to be a great year for DRATS and I feel very lucky to be a part of it.




HMP-2010: A Productive Day with Unfriendly Weather


Regardless of mostly relentless rain, participants moved forward with their research.


The K10 Robot team from NASA Ames, led by Dr Matt Deans and including Dr Trey Smith, Susan Lee, Vinh To, Eric Park and Dr Hans Utz, tested instruments and components and traversed with the robot during a break in the weather. Kelsey Young and Byron Adams (both PhD students in the Geology Dept. at ASU) did traverse planning for this year’s follow-up mission. The robot team will program the traverse coordinates into the robot accordingly.


Ron Sidgreaves and Todd Glazier of Hamilton Sundstrand have almost completed the second suit and got started on the installation of two suit ports on the Mars-1 Humvee Rover; one for each back door. There will be some exciting research this season on this front.


This evening there were two lectures. The first was a dual talk by Drs Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul, both faculty at the University of Florida, in the area of space biology. It has been a very busy year for them, having flown life science experiments on various space missions. They have implemented a version of one of their experiments into the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse.


Sean Alexander (City Bike / talked about the diverse history of Kowasaki, and also learned about his own colorful history and wide range of talents.

Pavilion Lake Research Project: Wrapping Up 2010

Originally Posted on July 20th, 2010 by Allyson Brady

 This blog is courtesy of Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP)

For more information please visit


The PLRP 2010 field season has come to a close and I am both saddened by the fact that operations are finished for another year but excited by the prospect of adding the data we’ve collected this year to our growing body of knowledge about this unique lake. I am in awe of the work that has been done by this amazing team and of how much we’ve grown, while maintaining the sense of adventure and camaraderie that to me, helps to define the PLRP.

We’ve taken great strides towards answering many of our research questions and in the process, with every answer we have come up with many more questions that will keep the PLRP team occupied for quite some time. Fortunately, our family continues to grow and every year we welcome new individuals who bring a unique perspective and desire to tease out the mysteries Pavilion has to offer. We have also been blessed this year by the addition of two little members to the PLRP family, Darlene Lim’s daughter Amelia and Greg Slater’s son Joseph. We look forward to the day when they are exploring the lake alongside us.


DeepWorker Pilots and Nuytco Team: 2010

The PLRP provides a wealth of research opportunities, and not just those focused on understanding the processes leading to the formation of the structures at Pavilion Lake but also to understanding fundamental biological, chemical and physical processes. The research contributions from our participating scientists and graduate students have resulted in a number of recent publications and are essential to increasing our understanding of Earth and astrobiological systems. We’re very proud of the role that the PLRP has played in developing operational technologies and protocols that not only help us meet our science objectives but provide important input into future space science missions.

With the addition of our two newest scientist pilots, astronauts Chris Hadfield and Stan Love, we had 34 DeepWorker missions over 10 days of operations. This year we were aided greatly in our pre-season flight planning by the wonderful team from NASA Ames led by Matt Deans and David Lees who developed an amazing flight planning tool that enabled us to search images and flight paths from previous years while building flight plans in Google Earth. Flights this year were planned to collect images of the remaining unexplored regions of the lake, to record detailed images of areas of interest identified from 2008 and 2009 data and to use the submersibles in combination with other analytical tools such as a conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) instrument and our autonomous underwater vehicle(s) (AUV). Our ability to review post-flight video data in the field, an effort pioneered in 2009, added greatly to our productivity as this information was used immediately by the science backroom team to modify existing flight plans to best optimize our data collection. As part of the daily flight debriefs, we have also continued to apply metrics associated with scientific productivity to understand factors that influence scientific exploration. New this year to the DeepWorker flight repertoire were long ~ 5 hour flights and two night flights to investigate the grazing activity that we suspect may occur in the lake. To add to the innovations this year, Nick Wilkinson designed a fantastic, interactive program for use in classifying the microbialite images. This new tool will allow us to efficiently organize and process our field data over the coming months. Stay tuned for updates.


The Amazing Pavilion Lake Research Project Team: 2010!

In case our DeepWorker operations didn’t keep us busy enough, we had a number of other important activities included in the field schedule this year. The UBC and University of Delaware AUV teams produced fantastic images of the lake bottom that were often used to compliment the DeepWorker flights and give us a better picture of where interesting structures and features are in the lake. Numerous SCUBA dives were performed by our intrepid team of divers to collect water and microbialite samples that were shared between various research groups in an effort to combine and compliment analytical findings. These samples will be characterized from a virology, microbial lipid, isotopic and genetic point of view to provide more information about the role of biology in the formation of the microbialites and what biosignatures may be left behind. Water samples were collected from nearby lakes including Crown, Turquoise, Pear and Kelly Lake to continue to help us put Pavilion Lake in context. Kelly Lake, which also hosts microbialites and has been an area of interest to the PLRP team for many years, was also the focus of significant AUV activities this year. Microbial mats were once again collected from the Cariboo Plateau lakes and giant pancakes were eaten by all (well, almost all). As a new participatory activity this year, our visiting teacherswere given the task of selecting a SCUBA dive based on their understanding of the research questions of interest (on their first day no less!). I’m happy to report that they eagerly interviewed members of the team before presenting their selected dive and rationale to the group for inclusion in the next day’s diving schedule. Community Day was another great success this year with the team happy to show off our work and answer questions from the many visitors we had to the site. Busy indeed!

We plan on continuing our updates throughout the year as we analyze samples and work through the amazing amount of data that were collected. Thanks to all who have read about our activities and through this process, have joined in our adventure. See you next year!

~ Allyson

HMP-2010: Nearing Peak in HMP Camp Activity – Daily Updates Commence!


This blog is courtesy of Haughton Mars Project (HMP)

For more information please visit


Two twin otter flights came in today with 10 participants total, including the K10 robot team lead by Dr. Matt Deans, supported by Dr Trey Smith, Dr Hans Utz, Susan Lee, Vinh To and Eric Park (all from NASA Ames), and Byron Adams and Kelsey Young (both from the Geology Dept. at Arizona State University). On the second flight was Peter Ikaluk from Resolute Bay and [yours truly] Elaine Walker (E/PO, Mars Institute).

The K10 robot team will be following up on work done during the 2009 field season by Dr Pascal Lee (Director, HMP / NASA Ames, Mars Institute, SETI Institute), Dr Mark Helper (Distinguished Senior Lecturer, University of Texas at Austin) and Dr Essam Heggy (Planetary Scientist, JPL). Last season they completed simulated lunar geological and geophysical traverses as part of their studies of robotic follow-up to human exploration, and of the efficiencies of pressured rover and EVA exploration.

Peter and Elaine’s flight landed at HumVee Beach where the Moon-1 Humvee Rover and supporting vehicles are parked. Elaine took pictures and video of the site while Peter and the two Ken Borek pilots loaded all four of the Humvee tracks onto the twin otter. They are quite heavy.

John Schutt (HMP camp manager) gave the new arrivals a tour of the HMP base camp and safety briefings, then lead the evening meeting in the mess tent. Jeff Fagen is our new camp cook. Jeff is from Vanouver, and so far he is a big hit. His food is excellent as well. He and John Schutt have additional support from Nathan Kalluk, Star Amurulak and Peter Ikaluk from Resolute Bay, and Terry Pijimini and Ben Audlaluk from Grise Fiord.

There are several research projects going on simultaneously including the ongoing Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse effort lead by Matt Bamsey (CSA), a space biology study led by Dr’s Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul (Univ. of Florida), the K10 robot team led by Dr Matt Deans, research on the immune system by Dr Valerie Myers from NASA JSC, as well as geology research by Dr. Pascal Lee and Kelsey Young, as part of her PhD thesis at ASU. Pascal and Kelsey hope to gain further understanding in the glacial evolution and geologic history of the Haughton impact structure, date the crater more accurately, and to learn more about the makeup and size of the impactor itself, using the geochemical trace that it left behind.

It was 6 celsius today with light rain. The mood is very high at camp and we look forward to a great season as we near the peak in camp population.

Please stay tuned for photos.

HMP-2010: A Productive Day with Friendly Weather


This blog is courtesy of Haughton Mars Project (HMP)

For more information please visit


 We had the usual 10:30AM Sunday brunch, which allows the cook and kitchen help to rest. As usual, John Schutt (HMP camp manager) was up early taking care of the camp.

 After brunch, Drs Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul (both faculty at the University of Florida) along with Kelsey Young and Byron Adams (both in the Geology Dept. at ASU), went to Drill Hill, Gemini Hills and Planet of the Apes Valley to conduct research, and were back in time for dinner. Their traverse was supported by Ben Audlaluk from Grise Fiord.

 The Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse team will be in operational mode tonight, running a two day test of the system where they won’t touch anything and just let it run. The two day operational mode will test the changes implemented this year as they get ready for their departure in a few days.

Hamilton Sundstrand’s new suit port concepts will be interfaced into the Mars-1 HumVee Rover again this season and tested in the next few weeks. The idea of suit ports is that rather than going through an airlock, one can step into the spacesuit through the backpack and be outside within minutes.

Led by Dr Matt Deans, the NASA Ames K10 robot team had a productive day. Vinh To set up the computer, Susan Lee got the K10 robot set up with help from Dr Hans Utz, Dr Trey Smith did the software checkout and Eric Park set up networking for the robot. The team ran some tests, moved the robot around and surprised passers by with the robot’s Pac Man sound cues.

 Dr Valerie Myers (NASA JSC) collected saliva samples this morning from some lucky volunteers. She is conducting a viral reaction study with the microbiology group at JSC. The idea is that during space flight an astronaut’s immune system is suppressed and the virus can be found being shed in the saliva. Outbreaks are rare, but it can be debilitating for long duration flights. The team wants to find out why it happens and learn how to keep it from happening.

Robotic Choreography

Originally Posted on July 19th, 2010 by Alex Forrest


This blog is courtesy of Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP)

For more information please visit


DORA and UBC-Gavia in the water ready to deploy in Pavilion Lake.

Its now been just over a week since the end of our adventures at Pavilion Lake and, as I start trying to look at all the data we’ve collected, I can’t help but be impressed with our successes. In addition to the image mosaicing that I was working on, and showed pictures of in an earlier post, my specific focus of being up at the lake was running coordinated missions between the two autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), that we had on-site from the University of British Columbia and the University of Delaware, and the Deepworker vehicles. Our mission planning goals were twofold; joint objectives and joint missions.

Joint objective style missions measure parameters that are relatively static in time (i.e. photos of microbialites). This means that coordinating different platforms isn’t necessary but coordinating their datasets are. This requires that the timestamps of each data stream be precisely set and that the dataset is georeferenced to a high degree of accuracy. This work was started last year but continued this year by using the collected images from Deepworker and comparing it with AUV collected data (e.g. high-precision bathymetry).

Comparing multibeam bathymetry collected with DORA with detailed imagery from UBC-Gavia.

Joint missions involved a significantly greater degree of coordination as it involved running the vehicles at the same time as the Deepworkers. Our experiment this year was to look at the area of increased salinity at the bottom of the lake. To this end had the Deepworkers crossing the bottom of the basin at about 1 m from the bottom (> 55 m depth), while running UBC-Gavia at 40 m depth. The greatest debate was trying to decide what the minimum safe distance was to be between the two platforms! In the end we ran AUV missions down to 48 m without any problems. Although we’re just starting to process all of this data now, from both styles of missions, we’re excited about what new perspectives these combined datasets might hold.


The Cariboo Plateau: home of giant pancakes, and smelly lakes

Originally Posted on July 18th, 2010 by Eric Collins


This blog is courtesy of Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP)

For more information please visit


We’re up at 7, skipping breakfast and congregating down at the dock to find our rubber boots and tie the canoe onto the roof of our rented SUV. Over an hour of mental exertion later (remembering forgotten equipment and forgotten knots), the spotless yellow canoe is lashed onto the too-small roof rack and we’re ready to go. Our mission today is deceptively simple: collect slimy mud from three small lakes on the Cariboo Plateau (yep, that’s how you spell it), about an hour and half north of the Pavilion Lake research station. Though it sounds simple, before we’re finished we’ll face rocky off-road drives, deep sucking quicksand-like mud, and flocks of hungry mosquitoes. However, our first challenge comes less than an hour into the drive, in the cozy town of Clinton, and it comes in an unlikely form: pancakes.

These aren’t just any pancakes, these are PANCAKES. Hungry-researcher sized pancakes — the size of a large microbialite. The pancakes here are a PLRP tradition, and I’m proud to say that our little group vanquished these planetary-scale hotcakes with hardly a hiccup. I must however admit that the four of us — Allyson (PLRP Acting PI), Jen (McMaster student), Henry, and myself (McMaster postdoc) — had a little help, in the form of 2-dimensional likenesses of Darlene (PLRP PI) and Greg (McMaster PI), who provided essential moral support in our endeavor.

After fueling up on carbohydrates and coffee, it’s time to find our lakes. We have GPS coordinates from previous visits, but in the end it comes down to brain power and hazy recollections when tracking down these mysterious bodies of briny water. “We’re looking for two cement blocks…. no, the road doesn’t have a name” was a typical direction on our course.

Sampling microbial mats using advanced scientific instruments

We arrive at the unofficially-titled Probe Lake and haul the canoe down to the shoreline, which is black with flies feasting on the remains of millions upon millions of desiccated larvae. I take a step into the reeking muck, en route to the brownish-green mats beyond, and am warned, as the mud approaches the top of my rubber boot, that “it’s deeper than it looks.” Thankfully I don’t have to wade too far through the mud because of a brilliant tool built by Allyson, consisting of half a plastic bottle taped to the end of a long pipe. Holes drilled through the bottom allow water to pass through while collecting the firm mats. Using this instrument I collected several jars of mats to return to McMaster University, where I will analyze the diversity of microorganisms in the mats and link this to biosignatures like fatty acids. Meanwhile, Jen and Allyson have launched the canoe and are taking water samples from the middle of the small lake. Previous research has found that these lakes are very salty and highly alkaline, or basic: they have a pH of about 10.1. The high pH is caused by very high concentrations of carbonate in the water.

Watch a tutorial on carbonate chemistry at the PLRP website.

One reason we are interested in these strange lakes is that although they are rich in carbonate ions, the microbial communities do not precipitate the carbonates and form microbialite structures as in Pavilion Lake. Understanding these differences may help to explain why the Pavilion Lake microbialites are so unique. These lakes may also be modern-day analogs to briny pools that existed early in Earth’s history, perhaps even before the rise of oxygen. Biomarkers are chemical compounds created by microbes that can be preserved over geological time scales in rocks. By identifying the microbial community members and their biomarkers in these lakes we may aid in identifying members of ancient microbial communities that are today preserved only as biomarkers in rocks.

After sampling each of the two remaining lakes I am more and more amazed by how different each lake is from the others, despite their similar origins and general chemical makeup. For example, the water in Probe Lake and Deer Lake is crystal clear, while Goodenough lake is so full of opaque particulates and brine shrimp larvae that we can’t see the bottom, less than 50 cm below us. The mats in each lake are also starkly different, ranging from pale pinkish flocculent islands to drier dark mats with thick bread pudding consistency, to mats with sharply delineated horizons of purple and green photosynthetic bacteria.

I’m excited to find out how the diversity of the microbial community is different in each lake and what role the lake chemistry might play in structuring these complex, colorful, and infinitely intriguing analogs for life on the early Earth. I’m less excited about washing out the canoe and the car, both of which are caked with stinking black mud, but sometimes that’s just what it takes to be an astrobiologist, and it’s all worth it in the end.


What we did at summer camp, Part II

Posted on July 15th, 2010 by Bree and Jen


This blog is courtesy of Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP)

For more information please visit


We are back at the Pavilion Lake Research Project this summer. It is great to return to the lake and rejoin the team. Our first night there, we were given homework. Usually we are the ones assigning homework, but this time it was different. Our task was to select a dive that we thought would help the team with their research and justify why this dive was, in fact, important to the team. We had a list of six dives that would all help the project, but we had to narrow it down to just one. As we started to interview and ask the scientists questions, it was clear that this would not be an easy task. The people that we talked to all had different reasons why each one was important. In the end, we selected one where the divers would measure the angle of the slope using an underwater inclinometer along a transect to see if the slope influences the morphology of the microbialites. The next morning, our dive was executed and we were on the boat to see our dive happen. We recorded the data – the depth, the angle and the sediment – as the divers used a scubaphone to communicate with us while they were underwater. This was very cool science and something we are excited to share with our students as they use inclinometers at school as well.


Divers use an underwater inclinometer to measure slope angle on our selected dive.


Our role at Pavilion Lake is to learn about the science that is happening at the lake and how we can teach about that back in the classroom with our students. Another task that filled our time was gathering resources and ideas for our lesson and activity ideas. We had a chance to interview, in video format, many of the people that are here studying the lake. We had some great interviews and learned in the process. Thank you to all those scientists who took time out of their busy day to let us interview them. As teachers, our summer vacation is just beginning. However, because of our experiences here at Pavilion, we are already looking forward to going back to school in September to share our time at the lake with our students through stories and science activities.

– Jen, Bree, & Leanne


Editor’s Note: Jen Stonehouse, Bree Mireau and Leanne Shortridge are teachers in the Greater Vancouver Area.

Dr. Love’s Underwater Blog, Part 5

Originally Posted on July 12th, 2010 by Ben Cowie


This blog is courtesy of Pavilion Lake Research Project PLRP

For more information please visit


What a week it has been!  Today is the last of my six full days here at Pavilion Lake, and it feels like we’ve done a month’s worth of work.  Days begin with breakfast at 7 am and a team meeting at 7:30, and conclude with science debriefs that often end at 10 or 11 pm.  The pace is not quite as fast and relentless as a Shuttle flight…but it’s close.  It’s one more way in which Pavilion Lake is a good analog for an actual space flight.  (Differences include the excellent food and, on the rare occasions when time permits, being able to go fo a long jog with fresh air and lovely mountain scenery!)


Stan preparing for flight in DeepWorker


With two more “flights” in the Deepworker submarine under my belt since last I wrote, I’ve gotten a lot more familiar with the machine.  Although the miniature submarine looks nothing like a space suit, there are a lot of similarities.  And someday, when humans visit near-Earth asteroids or other objects with very low surface gravity, I expect they’ll do their spacewalks in something that looks a lot more like a Deepworker than a traditional person-shaped space suit. Here’s why.  A small asteroid has such weak gravity that even the slightest nudge with a hand or foot would send a spacewalking astronaut soaring high above the surface, and it might take hours to come back down.  A stronger shove might send an astronaut away at a speed higher than the escape velocity, in which case gravity would not bring them back ever!  Not so good.  On the International Space Station, which of course has no noticeable gravity of its own, astronauts keep from floating away by holding on to special handrails.  Asteroid do not come equipped with handrails.  They do have rough surfaces which might provide hand- and foot-holds, but unfortunately most asteroids are not solid blocks of material.  Instead they are “rubble piles,” flying clumps of sand, gravel, and boulders held together not by material strength, but by their own weak self-gravity.  So if you were moving hand-over-hand across the surface of the asteroid and accidentally pushed yourself off on a suborbital trajectory, you could grab onto a rock to keep yourself down–and the rock would simply come away with you! The practical result is that hands and feet are probably not the best way to move around an asteroid.  Better might be a suit with tiny thrusters that you could use to maneuver yourself around the landscape.  But if you’re not using your hands and feet to move around like a person climbing a tree, there’s no need to enclose them in a flexible suit.  Instead, you could keep them inside a hard pressure shell where they could be used to control thrusters, manipulators, and onboard systems.  Such an arrangement might look a lot like a Deepworker.  As a side benefit, the operator might be a bit more comfortable than in a traditional space suit.


Stan and DeepWorker 7.


Our underwater work here at Pavilion Lake ends this afternoon.  I’ll be the pilot for one of the last two “flights.”  The flight planner, Dr. “Mars” Marinova (who was just recently awarded her Ph.D. from the Geological and Planetary Sciences division at Caltech, where I worked as a postdoc more years ago than I care to admit), set up an especially interesting flight plan for me.  I’ll visit one of the “deep mounds,” outcroppings of microbialites growing on isolated boulders on the otherwise rather flat and monotonous central floor of the lake.  Then I’ll head off to do some vertical transects along the western shore.  These transects begin in deep water, then move upslope through the depth zone where the microbialite population is richest.  As I fly the transects I’ll record video of what I see from the submarine, and keep a running monologue (also recorded on board) of my observations.  It should be a lot of fun…and I’m sure I’ll miss piloting the submarines when the field season ends.

This wraps up Dr. Love’s Underwater Blog.  If I’m fortunate enough to be able to participate here next field season and spend more quality time underwater, I’ll be sure to reactivate the blog.



Pavilion Lake and Beyond: How to Effectively Explore Other Worlds?

Originally Posted on July 7th, 2010 by Mike Gernhardt


This blog is courtesy of Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP)

For more information please visit


Mike Gernhardt with the DeepWorker barge in the background


This is my third year as a submarine pilot/scientist on the Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP) and it is really exciting and informative to be part of this team and to watch the progression and trends in the science and operational methods that are being applied to this expedition.  I originally became involved in the PLRP because of the use of the dual DeepWorker submersible system as an operational analog to the dual Lunar Electric Rover system that my team at NASA is developing.  The really special thing about PLRP is that it’s not a simulation, its real world-class science and the methods that we use to plan the flights collect and analyze the data, and the lessons we learn are directly relevant to future space exploration. It’s also pretty cool that we are seeing things that human eyes have never seen before and in that sense it’s analogous to finding life on Mars or some other planet.



Mike Gernhardt and Bill Todd (front) work as CapCom on the surface vehicle, while Steve Wittig (back) captains the nav boat


The main contributions of our NASA Exploration Analogs and Mission Development team (EAMD) are to perform the operational research necessary to characterize the productivity and effectiveness of the operation and then systematically analyze the data and use the results to refine the operational methods over a multi-year period with the aim of achieving the highest level of scientific return from the human and machine assets deployed during the expedition.  To this end we have developed a variety of metrics that characterize the data, and observation quality along with the operational performance and timeline data.  These metrics are then correlated with the scientific merit metrics that we have developed with the PLRP team to understand the right balance between operational discipline and scientific flexibility. Is the right answer going to be totally rigid flight plans and flight rules to control every minute or the exploration dives, or complete scientific flexibility to explore whatever seems most interesting at the time? Probably neither,  the optimal mix is most likely  somewhere in between and this multi-year research program provides a unique opportunity to find that optimal mix here on earth so that we don’t have to learn those lesson out in space were the expense and consequences are much higher.



Mike Gernhardt, ready for deployment in DeepWorker.