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Real Time Risk Evaluations in Hazardous Environments

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
May 23, 2008

Berrimilla Down Under Mars Status Report 20 May 2008

Editor’s note: this is the other expedition (earlier reports) I am following and supporting: a 10 meter sailboat Berrimilla (“Berri”) heading from Australia, via the Northwest passage to Devon Island in time to see a total solar eclipse in early August. They are making similar mission risk calculations as did Scott Parazynski the other day when he turned back from a summit attempt on Mt. Everest. Alex lost my contact info (again). He’s on a little sailboat – he’s forgiven. Looks like a satphone call from the middle of the Pacific (as if Scott hasn’t already woke me up more than once from Nepal). Oh well, these guys called the ISS a few years back. This thought process – real time risk evaluation in a hazardous environment – is what will be needed on the Moon and Mars …

“Catastrophising. Tue 20/05/2008 05:13: Keith C: could you please email your contact phone numbers to the website and Speedy will forward them to me?

Those of you who know me will understand that what follows is called catastrophising – thinking things through to worst possible conclusions and developing contingency plans. What it isn’t is the beginning of a rationalisation for failure.

The task, as I see it, is to get Berri safely through the NWP and out to a safe port at the other end with an acceptable safety margin. The eclipse would be a wonderful spin off. So – starting from the far end, we really need to be at the south end of Greenland by the beginning of September at the absolute latest. The Atlantic is starting to growl by then and even getting to Halifax might be difficult. That means leaving Beechey Island or wherever we get to up there by mid August. No later. Allow 30 days (ambitious in itself)for the NWP from Barrow to Beechey, and we must be past Barrow by mid July. Dutch to Barrow via Nome is at least 2 weeks, so we must leave Dutch by the end of June. The current plan is to leave by June 14, so from here we have a contingency factor of about 2 weeks. That’s the balance, and there’s no real safety factor built in if we accept the latest dates. Nor does it give us time for maintenance and fixes in Dutch.”

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.