Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mars Society Seeks Volunteers for 1-Year Mission in Canadian Arctic

FMARS (Credit: Mars Society)

The Mars Society is seeking six volunteers to participate as members of the crew of the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) during an extended simulation of human Mars exploration operations on Devon Island in northern Canada (August 2014 through July 2015).

As currently planned, the crew will consist of four individuals chosen primarily for their skills as field scientists in areas including geology, geochemistry, microbiology, biochemistry, and paleontology. Two additional crew members will be chosen primarily for their skills in engineering areas. The ability of crew members to support both roles is considered a strong plus.

For 12 months, these six crew members will conduct a sustained program of field exploration on Devon Island, 900 miles from the North Pole, while operating under many of the same constraints that will be faced by explorers on an actual human Mars mission. For example, no one will be able to go outside without wearing a spacesuit simulator. The crew will be responsible for all of its own field work, lab work, reportage, repair of equipment, and chores of daily life. They will work in telescience collaboration with a Remote Science Team, a Mission Support Group, and an Engineering Support Team located in the continental United States. In addition to the six person Mars exploration crew, one field support person will also participate in the expedition in and out of simulation role. This person should have excellent field mechanic and wilderness skills.

Both volunteer investigators who bring with them a proposed program of research of their own compatible with the objectives of the Flashline Station (see below), and those simply wishing to participate as members of the crew supporting the investigations of others, will be considered. Volunteers may submit applications as individuals, couples or both. Applications will be considered from anyone in good physical condition between 22 and 60 years of age without regard to race, creed, color, gender, or nationality. Scientific, engineering, practical mechanical, arctic, wilderness, first aid, medical, and literary skills are all considered a plus. Applicants should have either a four-year college degree or equivalent experience.

Applicants will need to pass a physical exam and must be cleared by their personal physician to participate. Applicants must be non-smokers and should state what, if any, food allergies and/or dietary restrictions they may have. Dedication to the cause of human Mars exploration is an absolute must, as conditions are likely to be very difficult and the job will be very trying.

Those selected will be required to act under crew discipline and strict mission protocols during the Arctic simulation. Prior to the mission, the selected crew members will take part in a two-week training mission at the Mars Desert Research Station in southern Utah, and will also participate in other evaluation, training and preparatory sessions. Applicants should state whether or not they require salary. Applications including resume, character references, proposed research program (if any) and a brief letter explaining why you wish to participate should be sent to: ma365@marssociety.org. The total length of application should not exceed four pages, and the deadline for submitting applications is November 30, 2013.

Mission Science Agenda

The overall purpose of Mars Society simulations is to investigate field techniques that would be relevant to the scientific exploration of Mars. The approach of our investigations is to have real science goals in Mars analog environments and to conduct field work under simulated Mars mission constraints. Relevant field activities include geological surveys, search for evidence of past life, search for extant life, and environmental and meteorological observations. In addition investigating the role and optimal combination of human exploration, telepresence, robotic exploration and the use of remote sensing tools are all part of these simulations.

The MA365 mission simulation opens up additional focused science enabled by the long stay in Arctic conditions. The mission-long scientific focus of MA365 will include coupled physical and biological studies of the Arctic active layer over the transition from hard winter freeze to summer thaw, other natural science investigations of interest, as well as extended crew psychological, food science, engineering and human factors research. Examples of science activities include (but are not limited to):

1. Temperature and flow relations in the active layer of the permafrost across -20 to 0C and applications to models of fluvial feature formation over permafrost on Earth and Mars.

2. Experiments with manipulation of the snow cover thickness and monitoring of the effect on the thaw of the underlying ground.

3. Measurement of melt generation in snowpacks and application to models for the melting of dusty snow packs on Mars as the mechanism for creating gully features.

4. Measurement of in situ biological activity and changes in diversity and abundance as temperatures increase from -20 to 0C.

5. Measurement of the release of CH4 – an important greenhouse gas – from permafrost and possible applications to the source of CH4 on Mars.

6. Carbon release studies of permafrost as temperature changes with applicability to global warming.

7. Deployment of interactive sensor networks to achieve science goals and human factors studies of the human-sensor network interface.

8. Isolation and confinement of this expedition enables research on human performance under extreme conditions analogous to space mission conditions.

9. Deployment and utilization of remote instruments, including telescopes during the long Arctic winter night.

10. Climatological studies.

11. Geologic studies.

12. Studies of human exploration field operations.

13. Tests of prototype Mars exploration equipment.

Science team members selected for this expedition are expected to have a track record in a science area listed above or a related activity. They are also expected to supervise a field research project leading to peer-reviewed publication working in collaboration with the Science Advisory Group and the Remote Science Team for the expedition.

Equipment to conduct field exploration will be provided, but team members may also propose to bring field equipment and instruments as part of their activities.

If you want to get humans to Mars and have the skills and temperament to help make this mission a success, please step forward. This is your chance to make history!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Willis to launch Antarctica expedition to study climate change impact

Willis Group has launched a scientific program in Antarctica, beginning this fall, with the goal of reaching a better understanding of climate change and to build resilience to weather-related risk.

Beginning in November and running to January 2014, the Willis Resilience Expedition will include three research projects focused on how the climate is changing in Antarctica, a region it says provides an important signal for the rate and scale of global environmental changes.

The expedition will be led by 19-year-old Parker Liautaud, a polar explorer and student at Yale University.

As part of the project, the team will test an automatic weather station called the ColdFacts-3000BX, which has never been tested in Antarctica. The station will be tested over five weeks. “This light and relatively inexpensive model could pave the way for additional cost-efficient and extensive surface observations in the Antarctic region,” Willis says.

The expedition will also include a “coast-to-pole-to-coast” survey of Antarctic stable isotope trends, with those observations providing new information on the rate of change in temperature in Antarctica over recent years, Willis says. Samples will be sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency Isotope Hydrology laboratories for analysis.
The team will also conduct a transcontinental study of the deposition rate of Tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. “The relatively short half-life of Tritium means it can be used to date snow and ice up to around 150 years old. The data can then be used to better understand the global water cycle, which is intrinsically linked to changes in climate,” Willis says.

The company says this will be the first large-scale study of Tritium in Antarctica since Tritium returned to normal levels following the spike caused by thermonuclear tests in the 1960s. The samples will be sent to GNS Science, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, for analysis.

“We need to model the insurance industry's exposure to climate related risk to fulfill the stringent requirements of financial regulation,” Rowan Douglas, chairman of the Willis Research Network, noted in a statement about the expedition.

“We hope that the Willis Resilience Expedition's science and survey programme will provide scientists with important data to inform their models which, in turn, provide inputs to our own systems to estimate the risk of extreme events. The Antarctic is the canary in the cage for the pace and thresholds for wider global processes and impacts.”