MDRS-88 End-of-Mission Summary Report

Here’s what I submitted to my commander for his End-of-Mission Summary Report to the Mars Society.

MDRS-88 Mission Summary
David Levine

Background information: David is an award-winning science fiction writer who worked for 25 years as a technical writer, software engineer, and user interface designer for Tektronix, Intel, and McAfee. He came to MDRS looking for the “telling details” that make stories believable, and got not only that but an amazing adventure as well.

Journalism: David fulfilled his primary mission as Journalist by posting almost 10,000 words of daily reports to his blogs on,, and, along with over 70 photos (N.B. photos were small, only 20-80 KB in size). He also posted several brief status updates per day to his Twitter and Facebook readers. These updates reached nearly 2000 “friends” (registered readers) and an unknown number of unregistered readers, and received over 100 comments. He also took over 700 photos and 25 video clips, some of which will be used in future outreach, public education, and publicity opportunities. After returning to Earth, David will write articles and essays about his experience at MDRS, as well as fiction incorporating the things he has learned here, and attempt to place them at national publications. He will also speak about his experience at science fiction conventions and other venues.

David also maintained MDRS’s official web presence by selecting and uploading the crew’s daily photos (despite many technical issues), managing the MDRSupdates Twitter feed, and fixing and maintaining the webcams. When we arrived at the hab we had only 3 working webcams; now all 6 are working, and all are level and pointed at interesting things. These are all important public-relations and outreach elements of MDRS’s mission.

Engineering: In addition to his journalistic duties, David used his technical background to assist Laksen and Paul in keeping the hab and rovers running. He participated in the daily engineering rounds, diagnosed and repaired electrical and plumbing problems, and made sure the radios were properly stowed and charging every night.

David took responsibility for the EVA suits, making sure that all backpacks were properly charged and straps tightened after each EVA. When we arrived we found only five working backpacks and one badly cracked helmet; David repaired the helmet and replaced a dead battery to bring us up to six functional suits, then fixed hoses, replaced fuses, repaired cables, and unstuck zippers to keep all six suits running for the whole rotation.

David also used his technical writing skills to create a series of one-page Quick Guides to help get new crews up to speed quickly on the hab’s systems and to offer fast, focused answers to their questions when things go wrong. These are intended to be the documents we wished we’d had when we first arrived. They have been emailed to the Mars Society and to the next crew; laminated printouts will also be handed over to the next crew, and the “Quick Guides.doc” file has been left on the hab laptop so that it can be updated by future crews.

Other: David also worked on the reconstruction of the radiotelescope (much of this work was done in EVA suits), rode along on GPS tracking runs, and participated as a research subject in the food study, suit constraints study, and hab architecture study.

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