By Dr. Jacob Bleacher
Dr. Jacob Bleacher is a Planetary Geologist working at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The 2011 field test is Jake’s third time as a Desert RATS crewmember, for which he is a part of Crew Bravo.
Both Crews Alpha and Bravo have spent several days and nights in the Deep Space Habitat (DSH) to assess how well this habitat can support science, maintenance, and medical operations, as well as the daily life of a crewmember, such as sleep, eating, and simply socializing with your team. Crew Alpha was able to spend 3 nights in the DSH and provided the DSH support team with good feedback. Yesterday I participated in a public outreach event in which I was asked whether or not we practice a possible impact event that could puncture the shell of the DSH. Well, we had a decent chance to go through an unscheduled simulation of such an event. If you are following our test you might have noticed that yesterday we experienced some severe weather that caused us to postpone our test for a full day. Crew Bravo was in the DSH when this severe weather occurred and we experienced a minor breach of the DSH shell. As such this was a perfect chance to assess the situation that I was asked about during my outreach event.
The shell leak occurred in the crew quarters when Carolyn and I were conducting our post-sleep activities (eating breakfast, reviewing notes for the day, basically hanging out) in the loft. As soon as we recognized a failure in the DSH outer shell we responded by communicating with our DSH support team to notify them of the event. We also quickly determined where and how severe the leak was and worked to patch that leak as best as we could. The DSH support team was able to provide us with information to assist us with our response to the leak. Ultimately, after the day’s test activities had been postponed the support team came to our aid and conducted repairs. This event demonstrates how important it is to maintain awareness of your surroundings during spaceflight, even if you are scheduled for a little rest and relaxation time. You never know when an event like a meteorite impact or system failure could occur, and when working in such a harsh environment as deep space, you must always be ready to respond quickly and effectively. Kudos to our DSH support team and designers for working with us to remedy this unscheduled “simulation” of a shell breach on the DSH.