D-RATS 2011



Music Music Desert RATS is Desert Research and Technology Studies. It's a field campaign out of Black Point Lava Flow, in Arizona and basically they're testing technologies that could be used on a future man mission to the moon, Mars, or possibly asteroids. One of the goals of Desert RATS this year is to simulate more of an asteroid expedition as opposed to last years focus was on more of a lunar expedition. The big pieces we have on the field this year again are the space exploration vehicles one and two and then also we have what we're calling this year the deep space habitat. So this is a large habitat where both the crew members would live but also we have an analytical lab there with some new instruments; one of which is coming from Goddard this year, the VAPoR instrument. Basically VAPoR is just a miniature pyrolysis mass spectrometer instrument. And it's designed to heat up samples to really high temperatures to release gases. But also we're looking for resources the water, which can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen could be used for rocket fuel, astronauts could potentially drink the water even; and so these are the resources that we're looking for with VAPoR. As a crew member I'm just one small part of the over all science team. So I'm the part that's in the field doing the field work but there is a much larger portion of the science team that works in a science back room that this year will be housed at Houston as well as over in Europe. So the science team supports all the activities that we will be undertaking out in the field and they really help direct us on to what steps to take next. And they have much more capability at looking at the data we've collected to help us do the best science we can while we're in the field. And one of the big things that the science back room is dealing with this year is trying to understand communication time lags. If your talking to the moon, it's only a one or two second lag between when you speak and when the astronauts hear you, but at a near asteroid it might be a minute or two. So we're trying to understand the best way to go about that, trying to test out things like using text messaging instead of voice communication. We'll also be testing ExPED, which is Exploration Portable Electrostatic Device. And essentially what this is, is a portable electric field sensor that we could either attach to a suit, on a human, or we can attach it to a rover and essentially monitors the local electric field. So just like you can collect static charge when you're walking around on a carpet, you could also potentially collect electric static by walking around on the dusty moon or surface or an asteroid. It's a charge hazard alert, so to let them know their charged estate, they can decide, hey I'm not going to go touch that border, touch that piece of equipment cause it might get destroyed and their out in space; don't want to be without your equipment. Desert RATS is always exciting. It's very cool to get on the ground and actually test out these things. I'm very optimistic that we're going have a good year this year with VAPoR and excited to be apart of this expedition. This is a great team to work with, a great group of engineers, and scientists it's really a source of pride to be involved in this field test.