It was planned to monitor the following body functions of the participants during the mission simulation: Breathing, ECG, pulse, oxygen saturation in the blood and body movements. For this task we had a system called "e-health", which can be purchased through the internet. The participants were supposed to take turns wearing the system, with each participant wearing it for an entire day.
Emergency training (here measurement of blood pressure) as preparation for the mission
Vito wears the e-health system, but without the breathing sensor
The breathing sensor was found to be not very practical, and generally the data cables in the whole system were found too short without a possibility to make them longer. Additionally the system was very susceptible to disturbances and very few usable data could be acquired. This was the reason to abandon this system after the 2nd day.
A very successful task was the emergency training with telemedicine support from a doctor located in South Africa.
The first task of the mission was to explore the virtual habitat with a gamepad. To see the surroundings in three dimensions, a software called Blender was used together with a 3D computer headset (Oculus Rift version 1).
After the first tests it was clear that the software programming has to be improved, to avoid jittering and to correct problems in the 3D vision. This was done right away, but took a whole lot of time (like usual, when something new is developed and tested).
Vito at the console, Marc (l) and Franco are watching
This is the view from the virtual reality headset (as a view in 3D)
Here the whole thing is explained in a video.
Not only the habitat from inside,but also the virtual Mars landscape outside was to be explored. For this a device called Motivity, together with the tracking device Kinect (Version 1, known from video games) and the virtual reality headset, was used. The Motivity is a passive device to enable walking on one spot and through this, move through the virtual landscape.
Here as well we were plagued by software problems, therefore at the beginning this was a very common position in the Motivity:
Starting position for the tracking
This is how a good tracking looks like
Then the tracking information must be integrated in the Blender software, the first stage looks like this:
Franco tests the tracking
This is the final result, when Blender is running and it is possible to perform a virtual EVA:
Me in the EVA simulation
In the headset I can see my virtual hands, as shown on the screen (each picture is for one eye to produce a 3D impression). The avatar is controlled by one's own body movements (also see here).
But most of the time it looked like this:
Endless programming work, until something is finally running
To simulate a locomotion in Mars gravity (1/3 Earth gravity), a modified version of the Motivity called MotiGravity was used. For this simulation it was necessary to wear a climbing harness, which then was attached to an unloading mechanism. This mechanism allowed to walk with 1/3rd body weight on the feet.
Here I am in the simulated EVA in the Mars gravity simulator
Simulated Mars landscape with rock
The Mars gravity simulation too needs improvement: The climbing harness is uncomfortable and because there is only an unloading in the center of mass, the whole thing does not really feel like Mars gravity. A video of me in the MotiGravity is here.
A video of a real Mars gravity simulation in parabolic flight can be viewed here.
Also a Mars rover was part of the programme. The rover could be driven through virtual reality headset and gamepad or keyboard. A video explaining the rover driving is available here.
We also practiced the remote driving of a real rover. This was the Husky rover, located in Canada, at the university of London/Ontario.
Here we control the Husky rover in Canada
The canadian rover team
Some impressions of the hotel:
Our simulation room
During a morning walk I saw this nice moonset
View from the hotel to the mountains
The hotel has a professional robotic telescope
Mateo Matturi, son of the hotel owner family, professional astronomer and owner of the above mentioned telescope, has arranged our stay.
What a surprise, he flew one year before me on the ESA Student Parabolic Flight campaign
Visit from the TV
The italian local TV station RAI TV visited us towards the end of the mission week.
For the TV the simulation EVA suit of the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah was demonstrated...
...but getting into the helmet with the virtual reality headset was not easy!
RAI TV has done interviews with Alexandre and me, their questions were very mission-oriented and also covered other space-related subjects in an understandable manner. I hope I can post the RAI documentation here soon.