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Construction Equipment for Mars

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Artist’s conception of a Mars colony. Credit: Mars One

Welcome to Mars! You and your fellow colonists have just landed on the red planet and are beginning to build your new home.  As you unroll your solar cells and set up your green house, what will you use to clear rocks from the site? What did you bring with you that will collect soil for processing into raw materials. How will you build roads, dig ditches for ice, and bury habitats in regolith to protect them from radiation? Hand shoveling in space-suits is a waste of time and an unnecessary amount of radiation exposure. That big complicated, sub-contract built rig NASA sent with you is going to break down eventually.  Plus, to support that monstrosity, you’re going to have to send a dedicated primary and a secondary expert on that entire machine, a cart-load of replacement parts, and you still might loose it to a critical failure if you roll over on an uneven dune. The cost of interplanetary shipping makes sending heavy equipment and parts cost prohibitive.

What you need, instead, is the simplest machine you can devise to do the job, reducing the number of parts that can go wrong. You need a power supply for that device that can be swapped out, not unlike the rapid charging stations for the Tesla roadster. Maybe a power supply that can run a tractor, a brick press, a back hoe, or any number of simple jobs that require applied force. You need an entire ecology of devices designed to work simply and together, devices you could manufacture, or 3-D print, in the equivalent of a university machine shop instead of a factory.  Easy to operate, repair and assemble, theses devices will be the workhorses for your new world.

A year ago when I was pondering these problems, I came across a TED talk by Marcin Jakubowski, PhD of Physics from University of Wisconsin. In his talk he described a collection of devices called the Global Village Construction Set, a whole ecology of devices, designed by the online community to overcome the myriad of problems inherent in commercial industrial and agricultural equipment: planed obsolescence, over design, difficulty of user-based repair, lack of standardization in parts and power supply, all of these driving up the cost, commonly over 400%.

While Marcin was building the Open Source Ecology project to liberate the user and the third world from corporate monopoly on resource extraction, I discovered that his ideas would work just as well to liberate a budding off-world colony from a crippling over-dependence on earth-based equipment and parts.

I have decided to build a team to construct one of OSE’s LifeTrac’s and test it at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. Some of the research we would like to do includes: operating the machinery in a space suit, adapting the LifeTrac to be driven using a teleoperations suite, and testing the equipment in a Mars-analog environment. We are going to have to raise the money to fund these plans, I’m currently estimating at around 15-20 thousand dollars. We are going to need a lot of man-hours during this fall  at Arizona State University and two weeks in the winter on site in Utah. In the end I’m hoping to get a lot of good data from this project, and a prototype that may one day be used to build a home on another planet.

APPLICATIONS ARE OPEN FOR THE 2013-2014 FIELD SEASON!

Call for Volunteers

Updated July 2013
Building the future on Mars:
Opportunities to participate as part of the Mars Desert Research Station Team
(A note to anyone who has contacted us about a position and has not heard from us in some time:  Please contact us again.  I apologize for this, but a number of names and emails have been lost.)
 
As the Mars Desert Research Station begins its second decade of analog studies in Utah, there are plenty of opportunities to participate other than as a crewmember.  If you would like to get involved in any capacity, or if any of the volunteer positions listed here interest you, please contact us.  We would be delighted to have you join us.  Remember, most of these volunteer opportunities rely on your virtual presence, so you can be part of the team no matter where you are in the world.   Unless otherwise specified, please contact Shannon Rupert at srupert@marssociety.org for further information or to volunteer.  
 
Mission Support volunteers are the backbone of the crew experience.  We support crewmembers from the application process through their rotation at MDRS and beyond.  
 
We are currently looking for the following Mission Support personnel:
 
CapCOM Coordinator:  Responsible for daily communication with crews at MDRS.  Schedules CapCOMS for daily COMMS windows and makes sure all crew reports and photos are disseminated.  Trains new CapCOMs.  Estimated time commitment 15 hours a week.  Can be split between two people if two are interested.  
 
CAPCOMS:  The daily link between crews and Mission Support teams.  In recent years, CapCOMs have usually worked one evening per week, but this is flexible. CapCOMs can be located anywhere in the world and work during the field season only.  Varied time commitment, depending on your schedule.
 
FLIGHT SURGEONS:  To be part of the flight surgeon team, you must be a medical doctor with relevant experience in emergency, extreme environmental, or remote/telemedicine.  Flight Surgeons are on call 24/7 to advise crews on medical issues that occur while they are at MDRS and usually work with several crews during the field season.  
 
ENGINEERING TEAM: Members work throughout the field season with Mission Support and should have served as crewmembers at either MDRS or FMARS, although this is not a requirement.  They are also central to refit/work party efforts.  
Engineering Team members should be available throughout the field season several evenings a week or can commit to work parties throughout the year.   We are also looking for a Hab Manager Trainee.  This person would work under the direction of the Hab Manager and would need to live within a day’s drive of MDRS in order join us onsite throughout the year.  They would also need to work with Mission Support on engineering/facilities issues during the field season.  This job has a large time commitment.   
Our next refit/work party will be held in late September/early October 2013.  Please contact us if you would like to join our efforts.
 
REMOTE SCIENCE TEAM (RST):  Like the Engineering Team, members of the Remote Science Team are mostly scientists who have served on crews at MDRS, FMARS and/or MARS-OZ. RST members work throughout the field season.
 
PROJECT SCIENTISTS: We welcome scientists who would like to propose a short or long term project at MDRS.  Examples of projects include short term projects that are conducted over the course of a single field season and long term projects conducted over several years. 
 
ASTRONOMY TEAM: We are looking for people who would like to contribute to our astronomy research and education/outreach at the new and updated Musk Observatory.
 
GREENHAB TEAM – The Fisher GreenHab (used for CLESS research in the past) has been converted into an operational greenhouse to be used for both crew crops and greenhouse research. 
 
The following volunteer opportunities are special projects:
 
EXTERNAL DIRECTOR FOR A FILM SCHOOL CREW:  We are looking for someone who would be interested in developing a two-week field school for film students.  There would be a one-week rotation for documentary film students and a second week for feature film students.  Both teams would collaborate with each other and outside mentors (TBD) to create a short film during their time at MDRS.  The external director could also be a member of the crew.  We would like to initiate this concept during the 2013-2014 field season if possible.
 
EDITOR, MDRS Mission Reports:  We are looking for an editor to head up a project writing short summaries of all past missions at MDRS.  This person will be responsible for organizing a team of volunteer writers and managing team assignments.  There is already a team of volunteers who would like to work on this project, but the position of editor must be filled first.  There is the potential for publication of this project.
 
WRITER, MDRS Mission Reports:  We are looking for writers to work on the above project.  Time/writing commitment is up to you.  
 
EDUCATION/OUTREACH: working with the MDRS teams and Mars Society’s Education Coordinator 
 
OPEN HOUSE DOCENTS:  We are looking for people to participate in our open house at the end of the field season (May 2014) 
 
 
INFORMATION TEAM The time commitment for these positions is flexible.  We are looking for the following team members: 
 
RESEARCH LIBRARIAN—An independent position for someone interested in keeping track of published work that was conducted at MDRS
 
WIKIPEDIAN—An independent position for someone interested in creating accurate and updated wiki articles about MDRS.
 
WEB RESEARCHER—An independent position for someone interested in periodically searching the Web to see what is being published about MDRS.  
 
And we are always looking for writers, artists and educators with unique ideas about how they can contribute to MDRS.   To get involved, please contact us.