On Mission Day, the students
should be prepared with solid background information about
the overall mission. They will have had specific training
in their particular team assignment, or “area of expertise.”
Prior to the official start of the mission, the Flight Director
will review communication protocols with the Communications
Team. This will help facilitate a smooth exchange of information,
both verbally and via the chat window. Once the mission begins,
the Flight Director at Mission Control will provide the students
with a brief overview and introduction to their tasks. They
will be introduced to the crew prior to liftoff, and then
the mission will get under way.
II. General Story Line
The Shuttle Discovery is in its final
stages before lift-off. It will transport the Expedition Two
crew to Space Station Alpha. The Expedition Two crew will
be the second team of astronauts to make the space station
their home. Once the shuttle rendezvous with the station,
they will link up and begin the process of changing crews.
If all goes well, the Expedition Two crew will take over the
duties of running the space station, and the Expedition One
crew will return to earth.
Unfortunately, all does not go well. Immediately following
docking, Mission Control receives an urgent bulletin from
the Space Weather Center in Boulder, CO, informing them that
another huge solar storm is imminent. As the sun makes its
next rotation, a solar proton event is likely. This should
occur within the next few hours. Therefore, the hatches between
the shuttle and the station will need to remain closed until
further notice. The Shuttle crew and Expedition Two crew are
safer in the shuttle where they are more adequately protected
from solar radiation.
The focus of the mission will be to, first and foremost, protect
the Expedition One crew currently on board the space station
and minimize their exposure to radiation. The Crisis Management
Team will have to maintain power levels, keep the space station
in its proper orbit, and safeguard the research experiments
that are currently in progress on board the space station.
Each student team will be asked to download a URL that will
begin the data stream for their team. Every five to six
minutes, each team will receive new data that will require
calculations, conversions, and subsequent recommendations
for the space station crew. They will be responsible for developing
an action plan and communicating it to the rest of the teams.
They must take into consideration the interrelationships between
the space station’s systems. For this reason, communication
among the teams is critical for a successful mission.
III. Individual Team Story
A. STORM Team’s Story
The STORM Team’s job is to
predict space weather. They will be tracking X-ray and proton
activity to determine if and when the solar storm will hit
the space station. This team serves as the early-alert team
and should be prepared to warn and inform the other teams
and Mission Control if they see any cause for concern.
Within the first few readings at UTC 15:20 and 15:40, the
STORM team will see a spike in the X-ray data. Graphing is
critical for this team. Graphs serve as a visual aid and help
them predict an increase in radioactive protons. They should
anticipate the jump in protons to come about 2-3 readings
later, or 20-50 minutes, in real-time, after the X-ray spike.
The proton data reflects this as it begins to increase at
UTC 16:40. Anticipating the arrival of protons to the space
station is their main concern. This event has implications
for all of the other student teams. They should take the initiative
to warn the other teams, especially the Radiation Team; but
if they don’t, they will be prompted by Mission Control
to do so.
Another more serious X-ray spike occurs at UTC 17:00 and 17:20.
This will cause the proton level to remain at critical levels
for almost the remainder of the mission. This crisis is the
impetus for the Radiation Team to implement shielding procedures.
The STORM Team will also be looking at the severity of the
X-ray and proton levels and comparing their data to the descriptors
on the space weather scale found in their Reference Guide.
They will use this information to inform the other teams of
the potential ramifications of a storm of this magnitude.
B. Radiation Team’s
The Radiation Team’s job is
to monitor the radiation levels from the two TEPC (Tissue
Equivalent Proportional Counter) monitors on board the station.
TEPC 1 is portable. It can be moved from place to place with
the crew. The stationary TEPC, which we call TEPC 2, is located
in the U.S. Destiny Laboratory on the end of the station closest
to the sun. The Team will track the levels of radiation from
both TEPCs and alert Mission Control if they see levels approaching
the danger zone. This team is also responsible for making
any shielding recommendations for the crew.
The Radiation Team will have a few readings before they start
to see the radiation levels rise dramatically. The increases
in both the TEPC 1 and TEPC 2 data will coincide with the
warning that they should receive from the STORM Team. They
will be making projections regarding the total dose that the
crew may receive in a 24-hour period and comparing this information
to the “Effects Chart” found in their Reference
Guide. This should serve to emphasize the urgency of their
role in the mission.
When the TEPCs register their first big jump, at UTC 15:40,
the team should begin considering recommendations. The first
course of action is to suggest re-orienting the space station
from an LVLH to an XPOP orientation. This is something that
needs to be discussed with the Crisis Management Team. It will cause an
initial drain on the power supply.
At UTC 17:00 the radiation levels become even more alarming
and the differences between the stationary and portable TEPC
become more pronounced. This should be the impetus for the
team to implement the ALARA guidelines and make shielding
recommendations. Expected recommendations could include placing
all the astronauts into the Zvezda module, farthest from the
sun, building an “igloo” of polyethylene shielding
and crawling inside, and transferring and strapping water
containers into place for additional shielding. Zvezda is
probably the safest choice because the crew’s sleeping
stations are there and the polyethylene shielding is designed
to fit in this module. It is critical to have a shielding
plan in place by UTC 17:20. If they are not making recommendations,
they will be prompted to do so by Mission Control.
The Radiation Team should experience some satisfaction as
they see the radiation levels begin to drop, around UTC 18:20.
They should compare the levels of the two TEPCs and note that
the portable TEPC that is with the crew is considerably lower
than the unshielded TEPC in Destiny. However, they will need
to assess the damage that may have occurred to the crew as
a result of the radiation exposure when they were not shielded.
C. Life Support Team’s
The Life Support Team’s job
is to monitor the living environment on Space Station Alpha.
They will receive readings from sensors on board for oxygen
and carbon dioxide, as well as for total air pressure. It
is critical that all of these readings remain in the normal
range so that the astronauts are living and working in a healthy
environment. If after several readings, the conditions are
becoming dangerous, they should inform Mission Control and
discuss possible solutions to the problem. Their Reference
Guide describes various alternatives to maintaining a balanced
The Life Support Team’s data begins fairly quietly since
it gives them an opportunity to practice with small decimals.
They are working with percentages of oxygen and carbon dioxide
that are then converted into millimeters of mercury that is
the standard used by most scientists when evaluating atmospheric
The carbon dioxide begins to steadily rise. The carbon
dioxide level remains above critical levels and continues
to rise until 17:20. During this period,
the team needs to consider the effectiveness of the available
solutions and make recommendations. Possible recommendations
include activating the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly, or
checking it to make sure that it’s working, or
already in use, and using Lithium Hydroxide Canisters to clean
While the carbon dioxide is rising, the oxygen levels begins
to fall. The oxygen levels steadily fall unitl UTC 17:20,
and the team needs to make recommendations to correct the
problem. Temporary solutions include using perchlorate candles
or oxygen masks (PBAs). When making recommendations they should
consider that the astronauts are in the midst of a radiation
crisis and will be in the process of shielding themselves
from rising radiation levels. This may affect their ability
to use some of the Life Support Team’s recommendations.
Oxygen levels normalize shortly after the crisis at UTC 17:40.
D. Crisis Management Team’s
The Crisis Management Team is responsible
for keeping the class on track during the mission. They must
keep all of the teams informed regarding the current status
of Space Station Alpha and its crew. They need to be in continual
contact with their respective teams and constantly updating
the Mission Status Board. This will provide a visual for the
teams as well as an up-to-the-minute status report on the
The action for the Crisis Management Team will coincide with
the critical periods that the individual teams are experiencing
which are as follows:
STORM Team: UTC 15:40 and 17:00
Radiation Team: UTC 16:20 – 18:00
Life Support Team: UTC 16:20 – 17:20 (CO2) and UTC 16:00
– 17:20 (O2)
The challenge for the Crisis Management Team is to negotiate
the problems that may arise when teams are experiencing a
crisis and making recommendations that impact another team’s
ability to function. For example, at UTC 17:00 the Radiation
Team is recommending that the crew relocate, probably to Zvezda. At
the same time, the Life Support Team may want to activate
the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly to solve the problem of
rising carbon dioxide levels. This equipment also requires additional
electrical power. The role of the Crisis Management Team is
to help the teams work out a solution that will assist both
teams in solving their problems.
Because of the unique nature of every mission, there is no
hard and fast story line for the Crisis Management Team. What
they do is largely dependant upon what the other teams recommend.
It is critical, however, that they continue to assert that
the space station functions like a body and that all of the
systems are inter-related. (This was the object lesson of
the application process!) This alone will go a long way towards
helping facilitate a successful mission.
IV. Mission Completion
All data begins to stabilize at UTC
17:40 as the solar storm wears itself out. There will be three
more readings after that. Each
team will, hopefully, be pleased with their action plans and
recommendations as they assist the crew to weather the worst
solar storm in the last 100 years! They will be asked to prepare
a brief post-mission report by answering questions sent to
them from Mission Control. A representative will be expected
to answer the questions orally through the communications
link. This is a great opportunity for all of the students
to be able to get a summary of the other team’s challenges.
Finally, the mission will end with a visual of the shuttle
crew opening the hatches between the shuttle and the space
station. This is a momentous occasion as the Expedition One
crew turns over the reins to the Expedition Two crew. The
mission ends with the Expedition Two crew beginning another
day of living and working in space.