Journalist’s Report – December 20th

Authored by Anselm Wiercioch

We put together a schedule yesterday, but it may take some time to get
on that sleep schedule. We all woke up about an hour late today.
Fortunately, we didn’t have anything super time sensitive on the
agenda so we just shifted everything back an hour. Good to go.

Everyone handled their own breakfast and we had a morning briefing
around 11am. We decided to prioritize an EVA as soon as possible after
landing and ensuring basic resources were available in order to assess
the situation. The hab lands automatically and there haven’t been any
mishaps since the early moon colonization days, but it never hurts to
check. Most of our systems showed nominal by last night, so our
briefing this morning mostly revolved around prepping for that

Around 11:45, the first EVA crew was suited up and ready to roll out.
The suits took some adjustment to get everyone fitted, but even at
their best they were heavy and awkward. The suits are thickly
insulated and restrictive (not that I’m complaining, freezing isn’t
fun), and the helmets cut your field of view to about 60 degrees
vertical and 90 horizontal. Functional, but it takes some getting used
to. Our commander has some vibrating-boot-augmented-reality system
that’s supposed to identify obstacles so that you can keep your head
up. After wandering around in these suits a bit, I think a system like
that could be pretty handy. Guess we’ll find out later this week. At
noon the three of us (Commander Gibson, Geoffrey, and myself.) entered
the main airlock. The hab crew walked through the depressurization
proceedures while the three of us walked through our own mental
depressurizations. A few seconds later the outer door opened and we
stepped onto the surface of an entirely new planet.

You’re supposed to have some deep, meaningful message to drop at this
point. Something short but poignant. “One small step for man” and all
that jazz.

We were more focused on not dying. The suits (uncomfortable as they
are) are designed to keep us warm and alive and oxygenated, but it’s
one thing to read the spec sheet and another to put your life on the
line testing them in an environment you’ve never seen before. An
environment nobody has ever seen before with their naked eyes. It’s
beautiful. The landscape isn’t much crazier than the Utah desert, but
there’s something immensely humbling about seeing it. It’s hard to
describe. We’re further away from earth than anyone has ever been. And
we’re going for a hike.

We’re not nearly poetic enough for this. What we are though, is alive.
We looked over our own and each other’s suits and we ran all typical
system checks and everything looks good. We sent a plan to CAPCOM that
we’d be circling the hab at a half mile radius, and there’s a hill to
the north that offers a good vantage point, so we head that direction.
Once we reach the top of the hill, the land plateaus for a solid mile
or two before hitting some steeper hills. Looking back, the hab
appears well settled. Nothing unexpected. The landing algortihms did
their job perfectly and everything was in place before we woke up.

The landscape is mostly soft dusty hills with clay and rock
interspersed. Rolling hills suround the hab (the site was carefully
selected to avoid dust storms and provide the best landing
opportunities) but off in the distance there are many plateaus and
further away, snow capped mountains. The thin atmosphere makes the
limited color spectrum pop vividly. Rich reds and browns dominate, but
there are streaks of purple and grey and blue interspersed and they
break things up nicely. The sky is gray and dull, but not cloudy.
Just.. flat. It sounds sad, but it’s not. It’s a warm, comforting
gray, and it makes the surface feel even richer.

We take some recon photos to compare to our maps later, and we head
off to the north, following the ridgeline. After another half mile or
so, we run into a dry stream bed that runs back down to the desert
floor. We follow the stream as far as it goes and reach the ground.
Another five or ten minutes wandering yielded a broken chunk of solar
panel and an old, worn battery. Must’ve been from one of the ancient
rovers we sent, back in the day. Comforting to see another thing made
by our species, even if it’s been torn to shreds. Nothing useful
though. We’ve been out for about an hour now, so we head back toward
the hab and open coms for the other crew to prep the airlock for our

When we get back, we go through the motions, careful not to track dust
too far from the airlock. We strip our suits and help the second crew
get their packs on. We have water now, and even though mars is chilly,
our suits are warm and our packs are heavy. A shower is definitely on
the agenda. After we get the second group out the door and ensure
their systems are functional, we take turns manning the radio,
showering, and eating lunch. Canned spinach and salmon. Nice.

A nap and some basic reports later, the second crew returns. They
followed much the same path as us, and noted a lot of similar
observations. Double EVA was a success. Ok guys, our work here is
done. Good job. Let’s go home.


Not quite. Another day down and 13 to go. Let’s rock and roll.