Mission Control Carter Observatory

During the two weeks of the expedition, Carter Observatory Wellington acted as "New Zealand Mission Control". 

Carter’s stunning library was transformed into a high-tech mission control for the duration of the crew’s stay in Utah. A suite of laptops along with Mars themed exhibits set the scene and allowed students, teachers and the public to interact with KiwiMars Crew, find out about the mission, and learn more from expert astronomers.

Carter also provided dedicated staff members to look after Mission Control and interact with visitors. This included short presentations about the project and the mission progress at least twice a day, incorporating the latest updates from the base.

All planetarium shows during this time included Mars content and updates from the crew, inspiring visitors to go out and look for the planet for themselves in the night-time sky. Carter also provided a venue for meetings in the build-up to the mission and for a public event once the crew return from Utah.

Education Log-MDRS

The following log is written to give a record of what type of questions were being asked by the students, teachers & visitors at Carter Observatory who interacted with the crew in SIM. The method of communication was via “Chatroll” an online tool of instant messaging.

This instant messaging took place almost every day (see logs) from 1600 hrs to 2300 hrs MDRS time (10 AM to 5 PM NZST).

Questions from students
Answers offered by the crew (various crew members) and Jon Clarke, KiwiMars Mission Director

What do you miss about the outside world?

I asked some of the crew members about this and they say mostly the normal food and talking to their families. Although we do have internet connection  to e-mail/Skype etc for family chat

Can you go outside at night and look at the stars?

Yes we can do that (with the “pressurized” tunnel to the observatory) and the stars are awesome here with no light pollution to spoil the view

Generally how has your experience been so far?

It been fairly awesome so far. The sights have been amazing and we have collected quite a bit of information about the geology of the region from its rocks

Is 2 weeks a long enough period for the mission or should it be longer?

I think that 2 weeks is long enough although it would be interesting to do a study of the living conditions for a longer period. (not 500 days however like the recent Mars research expedition) *The artic base is a six month long period which is a long time indeed!

Is your diet designed to limit the amount of solid wastes or is it just normal dehydrated food?

I think the food study is just dehydrated food as we are not limited by how much we can eat. (it would be an interesting study to do the diet for solid waste intake though)

Are you limited by calorie intake/portion per meal or can you eat as much as you like?

We are not limited and we eat as much as we like. Although the portions for each meal is sometimes difficult to measure and get right as dehydrated food looks smaller before rehydrating. (too much/too little for the crew to eat?) Most of the crew have lost weight during the time we have been here

Regarding the evidence of water in early Mars - eg the errosion patterns in the Lunae Planum area.

Do we have proof that these were carved by liquid H2O- or could it have been liquid CO2 or CH4? During the early cooling of Mars there would have been periods of any appropriate temperature...and the current absence of 'ice' could perhaps be explained by the liquid subsequently boiling off (esp CH4) ?

Is it possible that we have the wrong liquid - are we in our humanocentricity assuming what we most want to find?

This is a good question.  There are many lines of evidence that point towards water being the most likely cause of these channels.

a) We know that water is widespread on Mars as ice, and that some of this, even now, is local liquid for brief periods.  Temperatures and pressures would not need to have rise by much for liquid water to have been quite widespread.

b) We have locally common minerals indicative of forming in the presence liquid water – sulphate salts of magnesium, iron, and calcium – detected from spacecraft in Mars orbit, by the Mars Exploration Rivers, and also in martian meteorites.

c) We also have structures preserved in sediments seen by the Opportunity rover such as ripple cross lamination that are typical of those formed by liquid water.  Wind can also form ripples, but win ripples have different geometries to those seen.

d) Other liquids are unlikely to have caused these features, for various reasons. Methane very rare on Mars today and, even though it may well have been more common in the deep past, mars would have to be a lot colder than it is now for methane to liquefy, at least -160 degrees, and atmospheric pressure would need to have been much greater.  CO2 is liquid at martian temperatures but requires pressures more than 800 times greater than present to be liquid. Other compounds such as ammonia or sulphur dioxide are unlikely to have ever occurred in sufficient quantifies to condense as liquid

This is not being humanocentric, planetary scientists quickly recognised that the channels on Venus or Io are the result of lava or those on Titan by liquid methane.  It’s a matter of which liquid best fits the evidence.  Water ticks all the boxes for Mars, it’s common, can be liquid at temperatures  andpressures not too different than those present on Mars, and explains all the features of the chemistry, mineralogy surface landforms and detailed textures.  Other substances are either too rare or require very special and unlikely conditions.

Can we date the liquid errosion patterns by reference to the volcanic history ? (new volcanos not erroded, old ones are etc). Would this indicate how old fluilds on mars are

To what extent have we probed dust pools for similar features?

This is another good question.  We can’t date erosion patterns by the lava flows directly, although we can tell relative ages by the Principle of Superposition (older features are cut or buried by younger ones) discovered by Bishop Steno in the 16th century.

Areas of thick dust on Mars have been avoided by people choosing landing sites as they are likely to be hazardous to spacecraft.  We have discovered areas of thick dust by measuring the thermal inertia of the surface from space.  This is done by comparing the rate at which surfaces heat up and cool down the day and night.  Thick dust deposits change temperature slowly whereas rock changes temperature quickly.

Dust flows on slopes don’t produce gullies or channels, but they do produce streaks, which have been observed in images from mars orbit.  Similar features can be seen in terrestrial deserts, such as in Utah

(Thanks to Dr Jonathan Clarke for providing the answers here)

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