One of Spacesim's main activities, complementing its educational outreach, is the annual 120-hour simulated space mission. The mission involves the travel of a crew of astronauts to a chosen destination, where they will collect samples and perform experiments as well as simulating other aspects of daily life in space. The astronauts are watched over by an Earth-based Mission Control, and the simulation's integrity and reality is maintained by a third group known as simulators.
Though the 120-hour mission is the crowning achievement of any year of spacesim, other types of missions do or have taken place. The 120-hour mission is often known as the "Main Mission," and it is towards this mission that most of the work put in at worksessions is oriented.
Other mission types are Training Missions, which are shorter missions, usually lasting from 1 to 5 hours that are designed to instruct astronauts, mission controllers, and simulators in how to best conduct themselves on the main mission. These training missions also allow for the testing of new equipment or software before the Main Mission. There are usually two longer training missions carried out during a year that are designed to vet astronaut candidates and demonstrate to new members the scope of the Main Mission. These missions are usually designated Mission Alpha, taking place around November and Mission Beta taking place in February, or two-weeks to a month prior to the Main Mission. Training Missions are usually accomplished in the Gamma reality, though Missions Alpha and Beta are usually accomplished in the Beta Reality.
A now defunct mission type is the Mini Mission, which was an element of Spacesim's educational outreach. During the mini-mission, the roles of astronauts and mission controllers would be played by young students, usually in the intermediate grades, supervised by regular spacesim members. Unfortunately, current OCDSB and Health and Safety regulations preclude this mission-type.
A final type of mission run by Spacesim semi-regularly is the "Joke" or "Revenge" mission, in which the most serious tenet of the simulation, Mission Integrity, is often discarded. These missions are often run towards the end of the year as an amusing diversion from all the hard work usually put to Spacesim members. Realism is no obstacle to Joke missions, and such missions usually end with the entire crew, and possibly mission control, being destroyed. The Revenge Mission, in particular, is a mainstay of the Spacesim program, and has the Simulators and Astronauts from the Main Mission swap roles. Joke Missions are roughly the same length as Training Missions.
Main Mission History
- Main article: Sim History
The first mission in Ottawa took place in 1991-92. From then until the 2002-03 Mission, missions were 72-hours in duration. In fact, the 2001-02 mission was originally scheduled to be the first 96-hour mission, but was delayed 24 hours by the OCDSB.
Historically, missions ran from a Thursday to a Sunday, although recent times has seen them move to occupy more of the school week. The mission date was set for February by the International Student Space Simulation so that all missions would occur simultaneously. This practice continued until around 1995-96, at which point, mission date coordination only took place between Ottawa and our sister-mission in Lexington, South Carolina. The South Carolina exchanges ended in the late 90's, but the 2001-02 mission did involve an exchange with a school from Florida.
Main Missions were extended in duration from 96 to 120 hours in 2007-08. Both Genesis 2009 and Daedalus 2010 were intended to be 120-hour missions, but ended up being closer to 72 hours due to unforeseen launch delays.
- Main article: Category:Extraterrestrial
Towards the beginning of the scholastic year, Spacesim members will put forward their preferred candidate for the mission destination. After two or three candidates have been approved, a small amount of research and a presentation of the destination candidate will be followed by a vote by all members.
Once a destination has been chosen, research into the particulars of the destination can begin in earnest. Previous years' research and elementary astrophysical facts about the main solar system elements are available on this wiki, as well as important experiences of previous crews. For instance, future crews to Europa will know to bring a stronger radiation shield based on the experiences of the Daedalus 2010 crew.
- Main article: Mission Patch
Many space missions have employed embroidered mission patches as a means of boosting morale and providing a memento to participants in the mission. The development of mission patches has been a part of Spacesim since the days of the ISSS.
Though an attempt is made each year to produce a mission patch, difficulties are often encountered in securing art, funding, or a manufacturer for the patches themselves, and many missions have been left patchless. It was suggested by Ben Paul in 2010 that patches be created for previously patchless years with the cooperation of the alumni from that particular year. Under this "Patch Retcon" program, patch designs for 2004-05 and 2006-07 have been created to date.
- Main article: Mission Commander
It is an indication of how seriously Spacesim takes the annual Main Mission that the occupier of the position of Mission Commander is often also considered the head or co-head of the organisation. Mission Commanders are chosen annually by the previous Mission Commander in consultation with the Teacher Advisor, and are largely in charge of Task Forces at the worksessions, the training of members prior to the Main Mission, and the selection of the Mission Control Commander.