Time Delay Adds Challenge To The Routine

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May 16, 2012 – Test Day #2
By Todd Quasny, AMO Crew B Flight Engineer 3 (and real life MCC Flight Controller)
Today has been a very challenging day.  We have performed a total of three runs in which we perform routine activities that would need to be performed if we were on a long duration spaceflight. These activities include cleaning and replacing air filters, transferring water to our plants so they can grow into food, as well as performing a camera inspection of our space vehicle to make sure there is no damage to the outside.

For each run through of our activities, there is a delay in communications between us and Earth that is representative of what it would be like if we were conducting a mission to an asteroid or even Mars. This creates quite a challenge to perform even the most routine activities and it takes a lot of work and even some creativity to get everything done.

 

During our second run of the day, one of the crew members simulated getting sick. As Crew Medical Officer (CMO), it was my job to treat the crew member in coordination with the ground. Since we had a 5 minute communications delay at the time (so 10 minutes round trip), talking to medical professionals on the ground and consulting on the best course of action was a daunting task to say the least.  I was required to setup our ultrasound machine to take images to be analyzed by the people on the ground. Not being medically trained myself, this was really exciting to me! The capabilities that we have to handle so many diverse situations during spaceflight, both planned and unplanned, is so very cool!

 

May 16 – Test Day #2
By AMO Crew B Commander Lee Morin
Several malfunctions today with time delay to MCC of 50 seconds each way. A little easier than 300 seconds so I guess we are getting closer to Earth!

Had a problem with the water transfer, flow rate was too high so shut it off since a too-fast flow rate can damage the plumbing. Worked the issue with MCC and got the required 90% of the water transferred by using the backup plumbing and backup procedures.

Also had a problem with a power converter that created a flood of error messages when it failed. Narrowed the problem down to the 28V converter.  Power-cycling did not correct the problem. We will perform a Repair and Replace tomorrow.

With all the MALs I got behind and FE2 helped me out with the soil pH tasks.

In the earlier run we had a medical emergency, FE3 performed a medical ultrasound for abdominal pain on FE1. This put us way behind but fortunately FE1 recovered for the next run.

Runs 1 and 2 were both involving 300 seconds of delay, the delay to Mars when Mars is at its closest. It is very difficult to coordinate with MCC with such a long delay, and not have wasted time. Often you have to decide whether to press on and just tell MCC what you are intending, or to wait for them to tell you what to do.

Today we also had two educational events, one with just the commander and one with the whole crew. The audience had pretty good questions.

This has been very interesting and the habitat really does create a spaceflight-like experience.

 

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