As a warm midday sun baked the Martian regolith, the first four members of the crew 190 landed on a small patch of dirt, between a small hill and a trail in the red soil. As we exited our vehicle, we felt the soft martian soil beneath our boots and, walking around the hill, we laid our eyes on the station for the first time. Glowing in the strong martian sun, amplified by the complete silence surrounding us, the station appeared taller and wider than we had imagined it.
While we approached the door, a fleet of ATVs arrived in a cloud of dust behind us, carrying members of the previous crew. Our greetings were made simpler by our shared language – back on Earth, our two teams come from France and Belgium, two neighbouring countries that both speak French. Inside the station’s airlock, the cold dark air welcomed us to our new home, where we will spend the entire duration of our stay.
Inside, the rest of the French team welcomed us warmly. Soon enough, the other four members of our crew arrived, and we all ate together in the now cramped top floor of the station. We knew we would be alone again the next day, which made us enjoy the social mood even more, laughing and talking about our experiences on Mars.
In the morning, we were alone already – the French had taken off before the first light of day. With blueberry pancakes (made entirely from freeze-dried materials, of course) and powdered juice, our day of training began. After a tour of the station, a course in water supply management, a training in space suits, ATVs, mapping and teamwork, we were deemed ready to tackle the challenges of the next couple of weeks.
As the thick metal door closed on the outside world just before sunset, and we found ourselves locked in the station alone, we finally realised that this is it – this is what we’ve been waiting for – for over a year of preparation, training, and intense work, we had all imagined the moment when we would get here and live out our adventure.. and, now, as we sit inside the hab, I believe we only began to realise that our work had finally paid off, and that we truly are here now.