Journalist report Sol 0 and Sol 1 – 170411
Mathieu « Mitch » Vander Donckt
Crew Journalist and Scientist
“Let it be” echoes in my dreams, and my eyes open. I’m in a small dark room. The light ray radiating from under the door illuminate the simply furnished room – a bed and a shelf – in which I was sleeping. My numbness is quickly replaced by excitement: I’m on Mars! The music was the wake-up signal given by Aurian aka “Boss”, the Crew Commander. The rising thrill is fed by the memories of yesterday, when we landed and saw the station with our own eyes for the first time: a circular habitation module connected by tunnels to a greenhouse, a laboratory, and a telescope. Of course, we saw photographs and sketches back on Earth during our training, but no media can pass the global picture or the feeling of this outpost in the middle of nowhere – or let’s say at the boundary of human influence.
We’re not the first crew to have the extraordinary opportunity to settle in this station, built a decade ago, but still we see ourselves as pioneers, eager to explore and analyse this hostile new world. The previous crew should have welcomed us and guided us before going to the departure station, and then home, our Earth. Unfortunately, they did go away a week ago in great urgency, which is really unusual – actually this is a first – for an interplanetary mission, where everything is planned for years and costs billions. But everyone is happy to be here and don’t want to think about that.
The absence of a previous crew brought its own difficulties. Such a station needs a maintenance every day. This is the job of Damien or “Hoover”, the Crew Engineer, who is charged with the upkeep and reparation of all systems, one of the most important being our water supply. When we penetrated the station for the first time, the communication indicators flashed red, indicating a major problem. We had no link with Mission Control on Earth, which was indeed a problem. There is no colony on Mars, just a few scientific installations half-dependent of Earth like ours. Mission Control is of great support, can give us technical advice, supply us with food from orbital reserve if need be, and guide us from day to day. Without them we could run out of water or get caught in a deadly dust storm during Extra Vehicular Activity. The first task of Hoover was to repair the antenna linking us to a satellite, allowing us to communicate with Earth. An easy assignment for an experienced engineer, and a relief for all the crew.
Today all our systems are nominal – except hot water but it is not seen as an urgency – and we are ready to accomplish our mission here. That begins with the exercises of Nathalie, “Coach”, who keeps us in shape and studies our muscular loss here where the gravitational field is a third of Earth’s. An amusing exercise for some, a torment for others. Anyway, a good physical condition is important.
Now, everybody is unpacking or preparing the experiments. We can’t anticipate what will come next, but we are all eager to make discoveries in our respective domains.