Journalist Report – February 18th

Journalist report, 02/17/18 and 02/18/18: last moments on Earth

Louis had been the last to join us at Grand Junction, picked up by Gabriel, glad of his time of arrival. The mission was finally on its way! After a final brunch at the hotel, Victoria made a stock of bananas (which would be over even before we could see the Hab), it was time to leave civilization! The target: Hanksville, in the deepest paths of the Utah desert.

A journey not so comfortable at last, especially for Laurent, who carried the large MegaARES instrument that Gabriel left him. Nonetheless the road met its end, and we were getting deeper in the desert, towards the Hab. A few turns between giant red rocks later, we finally were able to see the station, among its little brothers, the laboratory, the GreenHab and the observatory. To welcome us, no previous crew was present contrary to the usual, but new stairs were being done, which will reduce falling risks and avoid injuries. It was then time for Shannon’s first briefing, completed with some advices from Attila the Peruvian, yet hard to understand because of Jack the dog, which seems to be into his teenager crisis.

Following a small cleaning session imposed by Victoria, it was now time for all of us to choose our rooms. Well, except for Gabriel, who inherited of the small bed under the celling, in order to take care of the hydraulic pump. A small rover/ATV trip later and we were taking our first meal in the station! A meal which finally revealed to be quite tasty: lyophilised ingredients are not so terrible. However, the crew started to feel really tired and everyone went to sleep to prepare the last pre-mission day!

A sleeping night which was short for Benoît and Louis, who had to bring back the location car to Grand Junction: it is an early morning for them! A few hours later, the remaining members of the crew tasted their first Martian breakfast with powdered orange juice and pancakes … powdered pancakes. The morning is used to put in place experiments which will be completed during the whole 3 weeks, and to finish some secondary tasks, like patch sewing, realized by Victoria, myself and Benoît for diverse results …

As both drivers came back from their journey and everyone filled their stomach, it was the time to take crew pictures! Despite some difficulties (one dog which repeatedly entered the field of view, and a tragic fall of the camera on the ground), photos were nonetheless satisfying. A last rover/ATV trip was organized, which proved to be quite hard due to continuous strong blowing winds and small dust storms that came with it, leading some members of the crew (especially Gabriel) to steal the look of a grandmother with his bandana.

The fatidic hour was near: while Shannon gave us her last advices, we prepared ourselves to the closing of the Hab door. Here begins 3 weeks without seeing the Sun without the helmet. As Shannon wished us good luck and left us, Gabriel finally grabbed the door handle to close the main door. After a few videos and pictures were taken by Jeremy, it was at last time to start the simulation.

6.05pm: the Hab door is closed, here begins the mission

Alexandre Martin, Crew Journalist MDRS 189.