Commander Report – January 19th

“Hab, this is Michaela, do you copy?”
“… from Roy….”
“Roy, I did not hear everything you said. Can you repeat. Over.”
“…mumble mumble mumble from Roy…”

This is how our first few EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activities) sounded like. We would all roar with laughter when we would listen to our crewmates walking around in their spacesuits over our walkie talkies. All you would hear is “from Roy”, “Hab, from Roy” and “do you copy???”. Until we developed our new and improved method: mumbling something for a few seconds, then trying to contact someone, saying “over” and then waiting for a few more seconds before the next person tries to respond. Our conversations now sound like this:
“Bla bla bla bla. Hab, from Roy. Do you copy? Over.”
[5 second pause]
“Bla bla bla bla. Roy, this is the Hab, we hear you loud and clear. Over.”
[5 second pause]
“Bla bla bla bla. Hab, the aliens have taken our generator. On a positive note, they refuelled the gas container. Over.”
[1 second pause]
“What???. Ohh oops, he won’t hear that…”
[5 second pause]
“Bla bla bla bla. Hab, from Roy. I did not copy that. Over.”

It is not just the communication language and methodology that we have gradually improved while on Mars. Every day we seem to face new challenges and have to brainstorm to find ways to overcome them. As I philosophised about in my Sol Summary yesterday (Sol 3), Mars is trying hard to get rid of us. We are a tough bunch of Earthlings, so we will not give in that easily (or at all ideally). However, Mars is not just a struggle for survival, as it may seem from our reports. On the contrary, we are all greatly enjoying our mission. The problems bring us closer together, rather than shaking up our bonds. I think Mars is bringing out the best in each of us. It us waking up our inner children, explorers, adventurers, but most importantly our inner passion to make a difference. Whether on the Red Planet or our Pale Blue Dot home. I feel so energised spending all this time with everyone radiating with positive energy.

Personally, just a glance out the Hab window is enough to start my day recharged like a Duracell bunny. The gorgeous red Martian landscape calls to me. I love being here. It has always been my dream to be an astronaut and ideally to go to Mars one day. Now, I am living that dream, at least to a certain extent. No problems could get me down. Even aliens stealing our power source or clogged up space toilets are just a tiny bump in the road. If Mark Watney could make it alone, then our crew most certainly can cope with anything. Except perhaps a full on alien attack. This makes me realise that we have no weapons on Mars. Oops, minor detail. We could always try to charm them with our amazing cooking skills – at least those of my crewmates. We have been having so-called culture nights every other night, when each crewmember presents their culture/country to the rest of the crew. It usually involves cooking some typical national dish, singing a national song and/or playing a popular game from that person’s country. I am dreading the Slovakian culture night (Sol 7), as I have no idea what I could possibly conjure here from the freeze-dried food that could represent my country in a positive light 😉
As I sign off, I cannot help but smile at the fresh memories of the last few sols on Mars. Every bad memory is washed out by a happy memory of laughter, succeeding in our scientific projects or our EVA adventures. It was the same last time I was here. When reminiscing about Mars, I could not remember any of the discomfort, the obstructed vision and difficulty in walking or generally doing any kind of movement when wearing a spacesuit. All I could feel was the joy that I experienced when out on an EVA, exploring the Martian landscape and looking for signs of alien life. Now that I am back on Mars again, I was hit with the hard reality of wearing spacesuit. Literally. I still have a bump on my head from the space helmet hitting me during an EVA on a Martian rover. Nevertheless, I forgot about it instantly. Such is the magic of this place. It does not matter how difficult or uncomfortable it might get to live in these confined spaces, isolated from the world, with limited amounts of water, food, etc. We feel like we were meant to live here. The desire to help make humans become a multi-planetary species is stronger than all of us.
Per aspera ad astra!