Brisbane, Australia
Jason Hoogland

It appears that the JNT-1 team is having some difficulty with their communications equipment, which means field reports have not been as plentiful as we had hoped. I apologise to anyone who has sent through Q&A's for our experts - they will get answered and posted when comms are resumed with the team.

This gives pause to reflect on the communications framework for a Mars mission, where the crew will need to have a high level of autonomy. The Apollo programme used a "mission control" which allowed managers and principal investigators to direct the action in detail. In fact, there were a couple of occassions where this real-time comms saved the mission and astronaut lives. Crews were highly trained for all sorts of contingencies, of course, but the command and control challenges will be magnified several times when we go to Mars. What will really be needed is a "mission support". Understandably, managers and PI's will want to ensure the mission is generating maximum bang for its buck, but the systems and crew will need to be prepared, for example, for some pretty aweful worst case scenarios, including a prolonged communications blackout. The crew training requirements are pretty daunting when seen in this light, and the critical value of earth-based analogue field rehearsals is brought into stark relief.

Fortunately, the JNT-1 expeditioners are well prepared and know exactly what they must do.

I have been advised of an odd little article that appeared, and just as quickly disappeared from an ABC Northern Territory news website. It suggested that MSA have not properly consulted with traditional land owners nor obtained permits to visit national parks. In fact, we have made every effort to determine land ownership of sites of interest, and have every intention of going through a proper consultation process in seeking any land use agreements that may be necessary. It is too early at this stage to say what locations may be of interest. The support party are experienced outback tour guides and have obtained all necessary national park permits. Its interesting how the media can make a story out of thin air!