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- Ralph Harvey,  Case Western Reserve U.

this just in, circa 1:20 pm east coast US time.   Jim, Andrew and Rob are finally back in McMurdo after several days stuck at Otway…..  And a couple of people (Mini and Tom) are already in Christchurch!  The team in wending their way northwards over the next few days, so posts may be more seldom.   I’ll try to wrap things up for everyone once the final analysis is done.

 

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Stan Love
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
2013 January 23

“If you’ve done ANSMET, you’ve done long duration space flight.”
– Don Pettit, ANSMET veteran and three-time Space Shuttle and International Space Station crew member.

A future human mission to Mars will be tough for the crew. They will be separated from friends, family, and the sights and comforts of the natural world for months. They will be confined in cramped quarters with little or no privacy. During the mission they will see no human beings other than their all-too-familiar crewmates. Communication with the outside world will be strictly limited to voice and text in meager quantities.  Eating, sleeping, and even going to the bathroom will be difficult and uncomfortable. They will have constant concerns about the deadly environment outside and about the electrical and mechanical systems upon which their very lives depend.

In short, it will be a lot like ANSMET.

NASA plans to send human beings to Mars some day in the future. That day is probably far off, but there is a lot we can do to prepare for a Mars mission right now, for a small fraction of the cost of the full mission. One way to practice for Mars  is through “space flight analogs:” expeditions on Earth that are similar to space missions in some way. Desert RATS, NEEMO, the Haughton Mars Project, the Pavilion Lake Research Project, and the European Space Agency’s CAVES missions are examples of current and recent space flight analogs. All of them have produced, or are still producing, insights that will better prepare us for the future human exploration of deep space.

My own participation in ANSMET this year has a dual nature. First and foremost, I was a meteorite hunter, looking for valuable samples from space and fully participating in all of the work involved in identifying and collecting them. I also did my share of the logistics and camping chores associated with life in the field in Antarctica. But in the evenings I was taking careful notes about ANSMET as a space flight analog.

ANSMET produces two kinds of results that are of interest to NASA’s space flight analog community. The first relates to how ANSMET compares to NASA’s other analogs. Each different analog has its own strengths and weaknesses: some have more realistic space-like environments, others have more relevant involvement from the science community. When I return to Houston I plan to write a NASA Technical Memorandum describing ANSMET’s excellent qualities as a space flight analog in relation to NASA’s other analog activities.

The second  thing that makes ANSMET so interesting to the space flight analog community relates to “crew autonomy.”  Today on Space Station, and recently on the Shuttle, astronauts do almost all their work based on instructions from a control center on Earth. If anything goes wrong, or if they have questions about what they’re doing, they have the powerful resources of Mission Control at their service, just a quick radio call away. It’s a great way to operate, proven over fifty years of space flight operations. But a crew on Mars, so distant that a radio call can take 20 minutes to travel to Earth, and 20 minutes more for a quick answer to travel back to Mars, won’t have that option. They will have to make more decisions on their own, and will have to be equipped with more knowledge in order to make those decisions correctly. In general, they must be able to work independently of the control center. They must be autonomous.  ANSMET provides NASA with an excellent example, rich in potential insights, of a crew operating in a harsh, remote, isolated setting where there is no external control center to help with decision-making. ANSMET can begin to teach us things we need to know before we go to Mars, and I hope to be able to distill and record some of those lessons when I return to work at Johnson Space Center later this month.

It has been a privilege for me to participate in ANSMET this season. I hope I was able to make positive contributions to the team and its success. It is certainly true that this year’s ANSMET will make positive contributions to NASA’s space flight analog efforts, and to future human missions to Mars

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Katie Joy, Recon team, 23rd January 2013
The ANSMETrecon team left South Pole on the 21st Jan (see photo of the LC-130 plane that transported us), are now back in McMurdo. We are currently waiting for our cargo to be delivered from the South Pole and from the field site at the Klein Glacier so that we can start the clear up process. Whilst we were at the Pole at Twin Otter crew managed to fly back to our last camp at SzaboBluff and pick up the remainder of our gear we had left behind, and fly it back to the Klein Glacier site where it will be picked up by a bigger LC-130 plane to be returned to McMurdo. Thank you to the Twin Otter crew for all the heavy lifting work, and for everyone who has worked on the logistics of getting us in and out of the field. When the cargo gets here we will be washing our used kitchen items and the stoves, returning our left over food, and sorting out all the trash and that we generated in the field. We will try and recycle as much trash as is possible from our trip.
It is good to be back in McMurdo and meet up with the members of the systematic team (Mini, Marianne, Tom and Stan) who left the field last week. Hopefully Jim, Andrew and Rob will be back with us in town very soon from their field site at Ottway. Yesterday, after doing some tidying up in the morning and whilst we are waiting for our cargo to arrive, several of us took a walk up Observation Hill which sites just to the south of McMurdo Station. This peak is a  volcano, which erupted about 1-2 million years ago, and from the top is a magnificentview of the region around McMurdo: to the north McMurdo Station, and beyond is sea ice and then open ocean; to the east the active Mt. Erebusvolcano; to the south-east is the New Zealand Scott Base and sea ice pressure ridges which now included patches of open water; to the south is sea ice and beyond is White Island and Black Island; to the west are some patches of ice free sea and the airstrip, and beyond is the Royal Society Mountain Range which is part of the TransantarcticMountains. The 180 degree panorama photo shows a view north of McMurdo town at centre, where the large cylindersin the foreground are full storage facilities, the Royal Society Range is left and Mt. Erebusis right. The hill gets its name as it was used as an observation site by members of Scott’s expedition to try and spot him returning from the South Pole. The wooden cross at the top commemorates that his team never returned from their exploring. We have heard that penguins have been seen in the area so we are all on keen look out to catch sight of one over the next few days so that Priscilla (our recon team camp penguin) can return to her friends.
 

 

 

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Tomoko Arai, Recon Team, 20th January, 2013, the South Pole Station

Last night we enjoyed sleeping in an actual bed, not in a sleeping bag, in the air-conditioned room. After having Sunday brunch, we packed cargo outside the building of the South Pole station to prepare for the planned move back to the McMurdo tomorrow. Then, we visited the sights and sounds of the South Pole. In fact, the geographical South Pole continuously moves and so there are two markers. One marks that actual location of the geographic South Pole as of Jan 1st 2013 and is marked with a white stick with a gold circle plate on top (see the photo of me holding the stick). There is also a ceremonial South Pole marker that is surrounded by flags (see photo of me standing next to it and Katie’s blog from yesterday – you can see the USAP research station in the background). We look forward to being back to the McMurdo and getting together with the main team hopefully tomorrow!

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Andrew Beck, G-058, Sunday January 21st, Otway Massif, Antarctica

Four of the G-058 team members were picked up by LC-130 last Friday and are currently in McMurdo Station. The LC-130′s are big, but they aren’t big enough to get the whole team and our cargo out of the field in one flight. Jim, Rob and I remain at Otway and hope to be taken out tomorrow, weather permitting of course.

Given that four of our team members got one step closer to home, we count Friday’s pickup as a success. However, after two failed takeoff attempts, Friday’s plane taxied back to Otway camp and unload most of our cargo to try to get airborne on their third try. Jim, Rob and I then scrambled with Ski-doos to clear the dropped cargo pallets, sleds and boxes from the runway, and the plane got off the ground on the third try, and our teammates were on their way to McMurdo (via an unexpected and exciting stop at South Pole Station!).

The final few days at Otway have been busy, but well worth it. Most of our time has been spent getting the gear taken off Friday’s flight and the gear remaining in camp in order and ready for pickup. After doing some more packing this morning, Jim, Rob and I took a ski-doo trip to the southern side of Otway Massif to look for meteorites. While we didn’t have any luck finding meteorites, we did see some great vistas and had fun enjoying each other’s company (see picture). Rob treated Jim and I to a tasty pork loin dinner this evening and Jim and I are about to return the favor with some “no bake” cheesecake. Hopefully by this time tomorrow we will be enjoying the food and comforts of McMurdo!

 

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Katie Joy, Recon Team, 19th January, 2012, SOUTH POLE

Hello. Hope you are well. The ANSMET recon team have escaped 13 straight tent days and the bad weather of Szabo Bluff, and are currently all safely housed at the USAP Amundsun-Scott South Pole Station! The clouds and fog lifted this afternoon to beautiful blue skies, clear views and low winds to allow a Twin Otter aircraft to fly in and pick us all up (see photo of us leaving the field). We took down camp quickly (after two weeks in a tent you would move fast if you heard a plane was on route!) and after loading the plane and a two hour flight we were all at Pole (see photo of the geographical South Pole with flags). It is bit of a shock being back in civilisation and seeing different faces, but we have enjoyed a dinner of pizza and some ice cream this evening and have indulged in wonderful hot showers, comfy chairs and the gift shop :) We are very grateful for the people at South Pole for having us to stay, and thank you also to the Twin Otter crew who came out and picked us up. We will let you know more news when we have settled in and know what the plan is for the next days.

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Tomoko Arai, Recon Team, 18th January, 2013, Szabo Bluff

The end of the Antarctic summer season is approaching, but the weather today was still not unfortunately good enough for us to get back to the McMurdo. We need to fly from here to the Klein glacier by the Twin Otter flight, and then fly back to the McMurdo by the larger LC-130 aircraft. Since the weather now (around 10 pm) is perfect for the flight with no wind, no snow and clear blue sky (see the picture), we are hoping to get out of here definitely tomorrow!

We have a meeting in the tent of John and Joe at 19:30 every night. Especially in such prolonged tent days, the meeting is the only place where all of the four (John, Joe, Katie and myself) can get together, sit back and talk over after-dinner hot chocolate. Each night John kindly reads aloud us from the diaries of Amundsen and Scott, both of who headed for the South Pole around 100 years ago. Because the dates of the diaries are overlapped with our camp days, we compare our experiences with theirs day by day. Last night, John, who has over 30 years experience of the ANSMET mountaineer, told us how the ANSMET programme started in 1976-1977 season and of the U.S.-Japan joint missions which were undertaken during the first few years. I was glad to hear the history of the programme, and I felt how fortunate I am here not only as a meteorite researcher, but also being Japanese. In fact, the joint Japanese-Belgium Antarctic meteorite search mission is currently going on the opposite side of the Antarctica. I would like to send them positive vibes to collect many and exciting meteorites and I wish them all the best with their current field season (hopefully they are getting fine weather!).

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Katie Joy, Recon Team, 17th January 2013, Szabo Bluff

‘Tent day 11, in the Big-ANSMET house…’. If someone could please vote us out of the field that would be great – just dial ‘SEND-LC130′ and press 1 for Joe, 2 for John, 3 for Tomoko, and 4 for Katie. Your call would be appreciated – especially if you could mash the dial pad and hit 1-2-3-4 all at once.

Hello. We are still here in the field at Szabo Bluff, not far from Graves Nunatak. Our flights were cancelled today as the weather still generally rubbish, although winds abated and the clouds actually lifted for a few hours this afternoon (sorry I appreciate that these recon team blog updates are turning into local weather reports). The break in the weather (see the photo for a glimpse of blue skies!) meant we could get out to dig up some of the things that had been buried in snow around camp and it was nice to see the surrounding mountains for a few hours. We had a tasty dinner all together in John and Joe’s tent this evening, to celebrate the fact that we hope to move in the morning. Everyone is generally in good spirits in spite of being tentbound, although I have noticed that the subject of Frosty Boy (the ice cream machine) back in McMurdo seems be coming up in conversation a lot now… somehow when you are surrounded by snow all you can think about is ice cream. Hum… Not a lot else to report. 101 years ago to the day Robert Falcon Scott and his team of four other men reached the South Pole, only to have been met with the discovery of the Norwegians having arrived there first. In his diary (see photo of John reading to us), Scott described the realisation of this dreadful event, and of the Pole in general, as ‘Great God – what an awful place’ (although it could have been the fact that they were running low on tea that had spoiled his mood and his appreciation of the locality). Thank goodness we haven’t been man hauling or been on a diet of pemmican as Sazbo Bluff is still, in spite of the weather, a very beautiful place to be.

PS – from Katie – Happy Birthday Dad! Hope that you have a good day and get to enjoy a little fish and chip supper.

PSS – from Tomoko – Happy Birthday to Yu-chan (Yusuke-kun) in Hong Kong for his 5th birthday!

PSSS – Shaun – got your text. Thanks for the message :) Hope that the sunshine is treating you well.

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Marianne Mader, Systematic Team, Jan. 16, 2012 Otway Camp, Beardmore Region, Antarctica

We’re now at the Otway campsite, our final Antarctic home in the field and location of the ‘landing strip’ (i.e., flat snow surface) for the C-130 Hercules plane. It took us three attempts, but we finally managed to leave the Larkman campsite yesterday! We had originally planned to go to a third field site, near Cecily-Raymond Nunataks, however, we were turned back by weather and a medical situation. We’re happy to say that Shaun Norman, who was flown out of camp on a twin otter three days ago, is doing well and is in good health.

Overall, the moraines and blue ice near the Larkman Nunatak proved fruitful – we’re confident in the thoroughness of our meteorite collection and the site is now considered complete – no future ANSMET teams will visit this site again! Our meteorite hunting work for the 2012-13 season is officially over and we’re now waiting for flights back to McMurdo. We’ll need two C-130 flights to get us, our 329 meteorites, and all our gear back there. Yesterday, we took down our entire camp in record time (only three hours) and then, with two sleds trailing behind each snowmobile, we drove 34 miles to Otway – again in record time – only four hours! We had smooth snow all the way (see photo of some of our packed gear with Larkman Nunatak in the background). Our new camp was set-up by 6pm.

Today we packed up all our gear that is not essential for daily life onto cargo pallets. We also heard great news from McMurdo – our first flight is scheduled for tomorrow (Jan 17) evening! Four of us – Tom, Stan, Mini, and I – will leave with half our gear on that flight (provided the weather cooperates)! Jim, Andrew, and Rob will leave on the second flight, which is yet to be scheduled. Fingers crossed – hopefully our next blog post will be from McMurdo!!

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Tomoko Arai, Recon Team, 16th January, 2013, Szabo Bluff

Hi! Ten days have passed since we were tent-bound on Jan 7th. The weather has never been good except afternoon in Jan 12th. Strong wind, low surface definition, and snow mounds around the tents, have made it hard for us to go to the poo tent or ice chipping sites, which are just 15-20 m away from our tent. A few days ago, I slipped down one of the snow mounds on the way to the poo tent, because I could barely see the snow surface topography. To avoid the slippery accident, I started to use an ice axe as a walking stick whenever I need to go out. As we are stuck in the tent with not a lot to do, eating is the most fun and fundamental activity. The picture shows a chef Katie cooking Halibut (white fish) with garlic and a variety of herbs. She is an excellent cook and we have very much enjoyed a wide variety of delicious dinner everyday. The dinner menu so far has included; coconut shrimp curry, Spaghetti Bolognese, beef steak with a garlic herb gravy, salmon teriyaki, sausage casserole, garlic shrimp, chilli con carni, sweet & sour chicken, beef-beacon-cheese burger, and so on. Now you probably start to feel you mouth watering (^0^) Last night, Katie and I discussed how much food was left in the food box, and confirmed that we could make it by comfortable for another two weeks or so before we have to switch to a cup-a-soup diet. I will share all the dinner menu of the season with you, once we can get out here hopefully by the end of the Antarctic summer.

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