Journalist report Sol 2 – 170412
Mathieu « Mitch » Vander Donckt
Crew Journalist and Scientist
Crew 178 – UCL to Mars
Second day on Mars. This time I wasn’t surprised at wake up – but of course still excited thinking about the day to come. I guess I got accustomed to my room. A bit cramped but we all knew that we would have to sacrifice comfort for effectiveness. Nevertheless, my personal effects on my shelf give a little warmth to the place and make it mine. The sleeping rooms of all the crew members open up on a half circular shared living room /kitchen /workroom. In a place with so much use, there is always someone. Today I found “Coach” and Elke, that we all call “Patch” now, cooking pancakes – what a delightful way to start a day on Mars! We quickly adapted to local food, composed mostly of dried meat, dried fruits, all sorts of unidentified powders, wheat flour and cereals. So, with water to rehydrate and a bit of imagination we can almost compete with the “Plat du Chef” from French restaurants, as our pineapple chicken from yesterday evening can testify.
Pancakes in the stomach, it was time to examine the package that got here yesterday by orbital convoy. It should have arrived days ago, before our arrival to prevent any delay in our tight schedule, but poor management at the Delivering Heavy Loads company deferred the shipment. The use of private companies in scientific space programs is now unavoidable, space being a place of high competition since the opening of the market a few years ago. It has its advantages, like the variety of solutions proposed for space travel and lower prices than when governmental space agencies had to take care of research and development all by themselves, but also bring its lot of difficulties. Due to the cheaper and faster trend, the reliability of those companies diminishes with time, and without news we were afraid that our package missed the connector in Mars orbit and got lost in the darkness of space – this happens more than you would know. After that it would have been a nightmare to get refunded and send another convoy – space law is complicated. But finally, we were glad to receive the last part of our equipment which was too heavy to bring in our shuttle.
With the approval of Mission Control and the arrival of the last pieces of equipment, Patch, the Crew Geologist, and myself could proceed to the first Extra Vehicular Activity. So we slipped our spacesuit on with the help of our crewmates, and felt a growing awareness of being in a very unique place at a very special time. Our first foot on Mars, prepared for years and dreamed for decades… The impatience rose even more when we got into the airlock.
Five minutes of depressurisation.
Our apparatus is ready: Patch, skillful geologist, is bringing a radar to survey the underground for a geophysical study, hoping to map the subterranean composition of Mars. As the airlock opens, we forget about everything else, like we’re in a dream. We walk to the area that we identified on our satellite map, accompanied by the encouragements of our team coming from our radio. However, the disillusion strikes hard! The spacesuits designed to protect us from the cold (-60°C outside) and solar radiations, weight hard, even in the weak gravitational field of Mars. All the systems conceived to protect us eventually seem to turn against us. We feel like in an oven, a box of lead, inescapable under sentence of death. A thought germs in my head. This is a settlement where humans are not welcome. This is a beautiful nature, full of hostility. This place is a trial of strength for our bodies and our minds.