Commander Report – January 15th

Commander’s report Sol 0

My heart started racing as we were driving through the red Martian landscape. I was re-living the excitement of arriving on Mars the first time. My mind kept being flooded by flashbacks of my first journey to the Red Planet. No surprise, as my whole journey this time was a „deja vue“ of the previous time: my space shuttles kept on being delayed, I got stranded in the space city of Denver for hours after hours, only to be told just before midnight that there will be no more flights that day. As in 2014, I had to overnight in a foreign, very cold space city, before resuming my journey the next day, desperately hoping to reach Mars finally.

This time, however, I was not alone. My crew 173’s geologist and health and safety officer, Roy, was stranded in Denver as well. Upon arrival on Mars, we both laughed that the mere couple of hours of sleep we got were worth the amazing views we had from the shuttle flying over the Martian mountains in the morning. Indeed, even though I got a grand total of 8 hours of sleep over 3 days, I could not take my eyes away from the shuttle window and drool over the spectacular landscape.

Not even my illness could dampen my spirits. Ironically, I also had a cold last time I travelled to Mars and I was in a similar sleep-deprived physical state. The coincidences between my two trips to Mars seemed almost surreal. They kept making me think of my previous mission with crew 134 and what a great time we had on Mars together. I became nostalgic: “it’s not going to be the same”, I thought. We were such a great crew and we had so much fun together. It felt like I was returning home, but with a different family. As I entered the MDRS Habitat, I could not help myself but release a sigh. I kept seeing the different funny moments we had together before my eyes. Their ghosts waved at me from their rooms and I longed for another shared meal or EVA together with crew 134.

While I admit my heart sank a bit with nostalgia, my state of mind instantly changed to excitement as I came back to reality.  My crew on this new mission is made up of an amazing group of people. We have been working together for the past 1.5 years to get the most out of this mission and to make it be as fulfilling as possible for all of us. Most of us met at the International Space University’s Space Studies Program in 2015 and we have been great friends since. I have been really looking forward to spending this time together.

Though we arrived on Mars only yesterday, I have already been laughing my head off regularly with my crew. I also really enjoy that I’m not the only one getting carried away with admiration over the Martian landscape, geology and potential biology. I was the crew astrobiologist and geologist of crew 134, so I could not really share my excitement over the science of this wonderful environment with anyone. On the contrary, it was often used as something to tease me about. And now we have a geologist and another astrobiologist on the crew. We can “drool” together during our mission, just like Roy and I did when flying over the gorgeous mountains together from Denver 😉

The best bonding experience to start our mission with was a particularly funny, though quite crude, operation nick-named „poopgate“ 😀 Our Martian toilet got clogged today upon the departure of crew 172 and we have spent the whole day trying to solve this issue. I would never have thought that a toilet could be such an important element for the colonisation of Mars. Luckily enough, my crew is very creative and we came up with a myriad of original ways of troubleshooting the problem. There is not a better ice breaker than discussing the appropriate configurations to
do one’s business in these circumstances. We all cried with laughter when Roy and Niamh, our crew artist and journalist, demonstrated their special methods to the crew. The cherry on top of the cake was Roy pulling off a yoga type move and shouting: „look, no hands“! I haven’t laughed so much in ages 😀

We would also like to thank crew 172 for a great collaboration pre-mission and for a very nice welcome on Mars yesterday. We wish them very safe travels back to Earth and we hope to work with them again in the future, whether on Earth or on Mars.

Stay tuned for more news from Mars – hopefully with a less “sh*tty” update 😉

Dr Michaela Musilová