Journalist Report – March 13th

Sol 17

"Emergency return"

When the EVA team of the day was exploring the South area of the station
they faced strong winds and took the decision to get back to the
station. The beginning of the EVA rolled out fine : they went to the
weather station to do some maintenance, as usual. Then they headed
south. The first stop was done before the Kissing Camels Ridges. The
wind was still low enough, but it was getting colder. It’s at their
second stop that things started to get serious : after 10 minutes
walking, the wind increased dramatically and quickly, the EVA team was
starting to feel the cold of the wind through their gloves. It was
getting hard to hear other members through the radio, and the wind was
pushing them around. Cerise, EVA leader, took the right decision to
abort the EVA and head straight back to the rovers. The team drove right
back to the Hab. The wind strained to rover’s batteries quite a lot. The
team arrived in the Hab feeling frozen, but safe and sound.
This EVA was different from the rest of our mission, Cerise, Jérémy,
Aurélien and Norbert explored a wide region without a precise goal
except the will to explore and discover unknown areas. They drove the
rovers along Cow Dung Road and stopped each time they found a nice
geologic spot. That’s real exploration, like the first settlers will
have to do on Mars.

Today was a milestone for some of us, our mission will end in less than
two days and we started to realize that today. The effect on our
behaviors is strange : we have a foot on Earth but the other one still
sealed on Mars. On one hand it’s easier for us to live in this
philosophy as confinement has less weight on us. But on the other hand
the mission is one of the most intense moments of our lives that we
prepared for one year and it’s hard to see its end coming. Two of us
will return to the MDRS to be commander of the 2020 missions of
ISAE-SUPAERO but for the others these are certainly our last days on the
Red Planet. It affects the life of the Hab and the experiments. But it’s
very different from a crew member to another. For example Aurélien and
Norbert felt the end of the mission coming very fast while I’m still
feeling like an astronaut in the middle of its rotation, I was really
surprised when Aurélien told me that tomorrow we will start to pack our
luggage. The fact that in three days we will be on a plane to Paris
makes us feel different in these days than if we were in the middle of a
longer mission. We are thinking about the return more than ever and that
affects us, and I think that these days, like the first days of the
mission are less pertinent to the extent of science and human factors.
On Saturday, crew 207 will join us in the MDRS. The Hab and the crew
will be ready to welcome them and let them start science here.