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MAU-Nepal 001, Mars Medical Mission Analogue, Kagbenni, NL 2019

Project NEAME (Nepal, Everest, Africa, Americas, Arctic, Antarctica Mars Medics Expeditions) inaugural reconnoitre 12,000ft

MAU-Nepal 001
Mars medical station simulation

Mars Academy USA (Flight Director/Remote ConOps/Owner)
Hi-On-Life Adventures (Local Mission Support/Expedition Manager)

Commander: Dr. Karan Ghatora, UK. Executive Officer: Dr. Susan Ip-Jewell, US. Medical Officer: Tomas Sheils, AU. Health & Saftey Officer/Artist-in-Residence: Dr. Sarah Jane Pell, AU, Journalist-in-Residence: Janet Biggs, US, A.I. Saran Subba, NP.

The purpose of the MAU-Nepal 001 reconnoitre was to test practicalities of transferring a mars medical mission (based on a themed teaching model for grad students in the US) to an austere environment. We camped near the remote village of Kagbeni in the Lower Mustang region of Nepal. Climatically, the low pressure, low temperature and high altitude, high aridity and high UV radiation, make the Mustang and Quidam basin one of the most similar places on Earth to Mars. The Himalayas are an analogue to the active polar gullies on Mars, with comparable signature glacial minerality, and fault-related landforms and geomorphic topography. There is no vehicle access to the site, and no stable communications platform in the area. It is accessible by helicopter under good conditions. Sherpas deliver water and food by foot.

Simulation Scenarios

Our mission simulation occurs on Mars at 12,000ft. Set in the future, an Artificial Intelligence operates between permanent station on Phobos and a temporary mars medical deployment on the plantary surface, able to respond to local emergencies by undertaking basic search and rescue, supporting evacuations and administering basic first aide and medical support up to intubating an injured patient until a remote flight surgeon takes over.

Summary of Research Experiments

The prinicpal research goal of the MAU multi-year NEAMAE project is to demonstrate technology readiness levels of technologies for the deployment of systems in support of space teleanesthesia, space telesurgery and mental health protocols and general medical operational procedures for planetary settlements and extended periods of confinment and isolation in space. Once cutting-edge exponential technologies, now off-the-shelf Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) assist in the training of non-medical analog astronauts living as a crew in a hostile environment, and 3D printed telesurgery devices assist in emergency procedures to support future space medicine operational deployment. This will be old-technology by the time humans reach Mars, however the future-focused vision is that eventually the local host analogue community could benefit from specialised training, and crews would benefit from local knowledge of habitability and resourcefulness by Sherpas living in analogue sites. Selected results for MAU-Nepal 001 therefore focus less on any actual formal research, and more on the lessons learned from technical and human factors challenges, and discussions regarding the creative adaptation of mixed results seeking a more meaningful EVA/SIM training, capture, and performance immersion - and basic medical care for supporting psycho-social habitability under such conditions.

The design of the mars medical evacuation simulations built up crew performance in emergency scenarios from responding to the fallen crew, to medical intubation within a station, or preparing for rescue by lander. The service-provider MAU considered this primary content commercial-in-confidence in part becuase we were anticipating using the AVATAR Medic VR system, 3D Printer, networked with the Rover/Drone scout to be guided through protocols with a remote support and telesurgery team. In actuality, there was no connectivity to a satellite, or remote communications with the team from the chosen site - we really were a remote outpost - and the equipment list was much reduced due to payload/customs/costs of import and transfer, plus the media restrictions close to a national border. MAU simulated the pre-set graduate teaching model in an austere environment with the support of the local adventure company.

By testing a proof-of-concept in a high-fidelity analogue environment, the majority of crew performed out-of-SIM filming on all EVAs for documentation or inter-crew instruction and evaluation purposes. This meant that crew were often engaged in third person rather than participating to test MAU training methods in first-person as fully simulated mission crew. Consequently, videos look like goofy out-takes, but the photos capture the basic range of activity on simulated EVAs for this mission. Many of the EVA biometrics were also simulated, and therefore not quantifiable. Inside the station however, the crew could practice the practicalities of integrating a 3D printed VAPOJET - vapourising anethesia and therefore circumventing the challenges of traditional gravity-dependent drip anethesia practices in preparation for the altered gravity space-environment. While this table-based exercise need not be remote or austere, there was some sense to the analogue, learning how to intubate with the lack of pressure at altitude, the extreme fluctuating temperatures, the yellow hue and low light inside the tent array, the smell of urine and burning dust, and the fact that I couldn't stand up without hitting the tarpulin roof except for the thin central line of the tent, thus I stooped for five days as if sheltered in a lava tube, awaiting evactuation. I brought three external research projects to the Mission, and undertook most of them out-of-simulations, and without the cooperation of the full crew. There were limiting technology readiness levels and human readiness levels to contend with in this environment, but the results are nonetheless interesting to compare:

1. Bending Horizons 360°

[1.1] Pell & Barnes, Monash Immersive Visualisation Platform, 2019

During the acclimatisation phase, I experimented with hand-held photogrammetry using the Insta360 One X to capture 365 individual 4K 360° frames at 3-sec intervals over a 100m2 area including the MAU Nepal 001 mars medical mission tent array in the vicinity of Kagbeni, Lower Mustang, NL. Barnes manually stitched the 360° mars scenography data, from the real-world Martian analogue, in preparation for future iterative performance research investigations.

2. SpaceSuitUP: Simulated Spacesuit Range of Motion Testing.

[2.1] Kobrick, ERAU S.U.I.T.Lab, 2019
[2.2] Human Spaceflight Performance, 2019. Kobrick, Pell & Barnes. , 2019

The extravehicular activity puts into practice systems thinking, innovation and human factors. I design concurrent EVA operations and technology research in mission planning for surface activities and interactions with essential infrastructures of a mars outpost. From space-suit range of motion studies, to rock art, specialist utilities and mixed reality robotics, our surface operation activities measures the crew ability to coordinate in-situ locomotion and cognitive responses with a spacesuit, a rover, motion-capture suit, headlamp, backpack, hand-tools, radio communications, and operations in a dark, uneven hazardous environments, and face the likely stressors of emergency drills on an outpost.

3. Performing Astronautics.

[3.1] CAIRN, 2019. Pell, Australia Council Fellowship.
[3.2] Human Spaceflight Performance, 2019. Kobrick, Pell & Barnes.

To bootstrap the S.U.I.T. Lab Biometric Range of Motion studies to tools of a Contemporary Arts practice, Pell and MIVP experimented with methods to apply immersive visualization and contextualize or frame a broader understanding of the Range of Movement in Analogue Spacesuits through Activity, Expression and Immersion within the simulated mission environment on EVA. The aim was to incorporate the unique factors of the analogue site, to further qualify the context for which the spacesuit serves the crew research and its narratives.

4. LifeTree: pursed lip breathing VR.

[4.1] Patibander & Mueller, RMIT Exertion Games Lab, 2019

LifeTree is a prototype virtual reality breathing experience designed to help practice pursed lip breathing in an immersive and engaging way. Daily records of the heartrate, end score, and HCI user-feedback questionnaire helped the designer to understand the challenges faced to conduct the study with such a user group in-situ, and to discover an initial set of themes to understand the design of playful systems that support human factors during isolated missions, and particularly the use of a breathing system in a high altitude environment where HACE is a risk-factor.

Academic Publications

[1] Pell, S.J., Kobrick, R.L, Barnes, D.G. (2019) Human Spaceflight Performance: Bootstrapping the intersections of Biometrics and Artistic Expression through planetary mission analogue EVAs. In Proc. 70th International Astronautical Congress, Washington D.C. US, Oct 21-25, 2019. IAC-19-B3,9-GTS.2

[2] Ghatora, K., Narayanamoorthi, A., Ip-jewell, S., Subba, S. (2019) Mars Medics Analog Astronaut Mission during austere I.C.E (Isolated and Confinement Environment) – Nepal Scenario. In Proc. 70th International Astronautical Congress, Washington D.C. US, Oct 21-25, 2019. IAC-19,A1,4,1,x50533

[3] Hanacek, J., Ip-jewell, S., Ghatora, K., Saget, J. (2019) Developing exponential technologies for space teleanesthesia, space telesurgery and mental health to maintain and support analog astronauts during simulation missions in isolated, confined environments (I.C.E) and future settlement on Mars. In Proc. 70th International Astronautical Congress, Washington D.C. US, Oct 21-25, 2019. IAC-19,A1,3,10,x51418


Thanks to the Hi-On-Life Crew and remote Mars Academy USA team: Flight Surgeon, Dr. Ashok Narayanmoorthi assisted by Drs. Jeremy Saget & Carlos Salicrup; Remote Psych Support: Drs. Maria Harney & Jesus Guerra. Flight Director: Jay Velasco assisted by Aimee Valliere, Dr. Ilaria Cinelli, Kenia Benifand, Reena Tolentino, Dr. Melissa Jordan, Jasleen Josan.

Dr. Sarah Jane Pell thanks collaborators and remote research partner teams at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University S.U.I.T.Lab Director Dr. Ryan Kobrick, RMIT University Exertion Games Lab HCI-VR "LifeTree" designer Rakesh Patibander and co-author Prof. Floyd Mueller, Monash Immersive Visulisation Platform Director Assoc. Prof. David G. Barnes, with technical support from Daniel Waghorn and John Pollard.

Declaration of Support

The Performing Astronautics project was supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council: its arts funding and advisory body.

The Bending Horizon 360° project was co-produced by the Monash Immersive Visualisation Platform.

The S.U.I.T. Lab project was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration through the University of Central Florida’s NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium and Space Florida (2017-2018 Florida Space Research Program Award).

Acclimatisation period 6-10 March,
Mission Simulation 11-15 March 2019

MAU-Nepal 001 Mission Patch
MAU-Nepal (001) Mission Patch designed by MAU

IAC 2019 promo

Human Spaceflight Performance, 2019 IAC Paper
Bootstrapping the intersections of Biometrics and Artistic Expression through planetary mission analogue EVAs.

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SPECTRA peformance Pell Lunares MIVP

Performing Astronautics, 2016-2019
Spatial Performance Environment Command Transmission Realities for Astronauts.

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Pell & Barnes Mustang Photogrammetry, MIVP 2019

Bending Horizons 360°, 2019
Monash Immersive Visualisation Platform MIVP Artist-in-Residence. Affective EVA performance tool experiments.

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LifeTree VR Game by Rakesh Patibander

LifeTree, 2018-2019
Research into use of Interactive pursed lipped breathing VR Game in Analogue Missions.

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MUA-NEPAL 001 Media/Outreach

GHOU Conference Nepal 2019 Promo

GHOU Conference 2019, Pokhara NP
Global Hands On Universe, 7-9 Mar 2019

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