Tuesday, May 8, 2007


(Authors note: I actually started this post two nights ago, and intended to upload pics and everything. That didn't happen, so I need to get this out so I can write more tomorrow. Sorry Papa Geo only text this time... like you have time to read now anyway!)

As you might be able to tell from the title I've moved back into my current element. This is in contrast to the last couple of weeks spent as an electrician. I was doing that in the late 80's too, so it kinda fits with the modem stuff... While I did do my time in building trades as an electrician, what I do now is much more fun - computers and data communication. We have actually gotten to the point that we need and can set up the Hab data systems. Kim (Dr. Kim Binsted, our crew's chief scientist, and very probably the reason my sabbatical was approved, BTW - Happy Birthday Kim!) has worked a bit planning the webcams and fine tuning the crew's collaboration system, while I got to set up the Hab server and data storage array. As soon as it is stable I'll discuss with the commander the "sim'ness" of making parts of it available on the open Internet for things other than database RSYNC. I had a bit of a setback there today though. I came in from discussing drills, bits, and possible core sample protocols with Simon and found the server had the infamous Windows BSOD. I'm working that out right now by running OnTrack on the boot drive which seems to have failed, with a dozen or so bad sectors in inopportune places like the administrator's profile. Considering how old the drive is and that this server is actually my old Compaq laptop coerced into running Windows 2003 Enterprise Server it is not too surprising that we are having issues like this. What can I say? I would love to have the budget or gotten donations for server hardware but it didn't happen. Also apologies to my geek friends, but much as I would prefer to run Linux, or even Novel, on this server, right now the PCMCIA SATA RAID5 card and port multipliers are Win only and just barely out of prototype. While low budget, it is high tech!

Paul spent most of the day up the Hab tower re-securing radio antennas for both our Polar Contental Shelf Project(PCSP) radio, which we use to maintain emergency comms with them, and also the Georgia Tech Mars Society hand-held VHF/UHF radio system and base station. With the GT system (thanks for that too Emily!) we should be able to get out real-time ARPS geolocation data for our EVA's. As soon as we have that, and the webcams on-line I'll post the link.

We got a bit of a freak-out moment and an early start for the crew this morning with the scheduled check in with PCSP (known as the "sked", if we miss two in a row they send out the SAR teams...). They need to send their Twin Otters north to Alert for a few days (at least 5...) to catch up on flights pulling research crews off the Arctic Ocean pack ice. Flights there have been grounded due to bad weather for the last few weeks and they need the Resolute planes to catch up. What that means for us is that they needed to bump up our flight which was scheduled for late tomorrow to early today. As much as we would like to get the whole crew including Kathy here ASAP, we needed to wait on cargo that is supposed to arrive today and/or tomorrow. If the flight had come this morning we would have had to wait until June to get the necessary gear and science equipment. Now I'm sure you see the problem. We had to work that out on the fly and the result is that our flight tomorrow will be a true charter from Kenn Borek Air, the well known Arctic and Antarctic air charter service.

(another note: flight tonight made it, Paul is gone and Kathy is here, much more on these in the next entry, along with pics of them, the storage array, and other stuff. But for now, good night from Devon.)


Anonymous said...

Great stuff, James, please keep posting - I like hearing about the details and practicalities of your mission. I'm excited for all of you there and I really enjoy hearing what's going on at FMARS.

Reading your and the FMARS crews' blog gives me the idea of writing a book about a group of young scientists who are isolated in a simulated "space colony mission" in a deserted spot on Earth. It's the perfect milieu for characters to explore and discuss different ideas of humanity, technology, sociology etc. And it's a perfect setting for all the basic plot lines of a great adventure story: man vs nature, man vs himself, man vs man... I'm thinking maybe a murder mystery - a regular whodunnit - Mars-style!

Tell me then, for creative purposes only, what are some unique ways a person on the crew of an isolated experiment station might do away with his or her companions? Fake a fatal EVA accident? Exploit someone's peanut allergy and sabotage the EpiPen? Spread fish sauce on your companion's parka and send him out into Polar Bear country?

Maybe the main character could be based on a Texan Engineer - do you want to be a good guy or bad guy in the book, James? Haha, just kidding. But maybe we can make a deal to split the book royalties if you want to consult. I'm starting the outline now.

Cheers and good luck!


Anonymous said...

(2 days later)

...I'm spinning out the first chapter of this book, and it pretty much writes itself. Would it be ironic if I sell this novel for cash while you're all toiling for free up there on Devon Island?

James Harris said...

Hi Greg, sorry for the delay, been a bit busy lately. I hope to have that smoothed out soon. At least I keep thinking that anyway. Only way to stay sane...

Sure, I'd be happy to take a look at what you have and consult for a share and a credit. I'll even donate half of my share to the Mars Society.

Contact me off the blog at: james@engineering.marssociety.org

James Harris said...

Oh, one other thing Greg - did you know we have a crewmember with peanut allergy, or was that a guess?