Commander Report – April 17th

Joseph Dituri
17 Apr 18

Title: Just realized I did not file my taxes…ooops (a la Apollo 13) …;*)

Today started with a training and discussion on operational risk management. We use this at every turn before any evolution. We then proceeded to explore south by ATV. Prior to leaving we policed some wind blown scraps from around the HAB and secured them and the final skirt removal pieces on the Mars Society trailer. Upon return the team cleared and cleaned the tank in the RAM with hydrogen peroxide and final wipe with alcohol. When doc gives us go ahead we will return the tank to Mars Society’s trailer and call that cleaning task complete. Likely Wednesday.

Left over peanut butter cookies and dehydrated milk were a big hit upon return along with hot chocolate for the weary EVA goers who worked very hard.

Afternoon EVA explored the northen side of Lowell road up to 1572. There is no sign for road 1572 (route sign is blank) so we missed it. Came back to it and explored east side which is the redest area we have seen to date. We could see some more exciting exploration to the south so we moved south and climbed into east side of Lowell road by Tank wash which was fabulous exploration.

Macaroni and cheese for dinner and we have a great day in total.

IMPRESSED: I was impressed with the doctor’s knowledge and research when it came to decontaminating the water tank. Ashok (Blue 03) was on the spot when it came to rehab of the tank. BZ doc!

LEARNED: We need to schedule science/training in mid day gaps. More of a plan helps the crew pass time since we are short on science. See POA&M

POA&M: Intend to continue exploration of our northern areas tomorrow.

Training scheduled:
1. Psychology and crew selection – Doc and Commander
2. Suborbital mission profile – Rich Blakeman
3. Social Media – Victoria
~ Dituri sends

Commander Report – April 16th

Joseph Dituri

16 April 18

TITLE: There was a mouse about the house.

Last night the crew decided to play Coupe. This card game had us rolling for several hours. “Duke Money” was yelled myriad times and we fondly recalled our other team mates.

When we went to sleep one person noted a mouse going under the frig. XO set out a trap and we had a visitor by morning. We named him Paul Watney for our missing crew member and the Martian.

The morning EVA was a walking expedition to test exertion and fogging. We also hiked the ridge behind the HAB and made it to almost the next ridge…death march by Andreea.

Upon return we had a super brunch and the crew who stayed field day-ed the upper portion of the HAB …slowley we are moving every piece of furnature and cleaning behind or under it so that this place will be super clean at the end.

Afternoon EVA was curtailed….we changed it to a short EVA mission to drop off mouse Watney far enough away that he could not walk back. I did an Operational Risk Mitigation matrix and decided it was safe to proceed. We put two people in one Rover and proceeded. The wind kicked up a bit but it was safe and we got rid of the mouse. RTB coupled with some minor engineering tasks to ensure the cargo on Mars Society trailer would not fly free from increased wind.

Uneventful dinner and rest of the day …planning on resting a bit. We made peanut butter cookies. Yum.

IMPRESSED: I was impressed with Victoria ( Blue 04) who persevered on a death march up hill BOTH WAYS and got the best shit of the trip so far….what a photographer.

LEARNED: I leanred that the map at our disposal is more or less a “guide”….if it says “space suit road” that translates to unrecognizable path that goes up the hill…;*)

POA&M: Tomorrow keep cleaning the water tank and finish HAB skirt removal process. EVAs to look north and finish up south exploration.

~Dituri sends

Commander Report – April 15th

Terrific day of rest and training combined. Crew slept in and the pancakes were a big hit. We held extensive knot training on how and where to tie knots. The crew was maybe a little too enthused about tying things up… ;*)…..they all progressed to a single handed bowline rapidly. A simple life saving knot.

IMPRESSED: Great training and plan on the part of our Doc. (Blue 02- Ashok) He planned and executed a superb medical training plan without a hitch and everyone learned something.

LEARNED: Lessons from training include and are not limited to…reduce communication during work to that which is imperative because people need two hands to drive or work and it is difficult to respond when working if not essential. We need to do knot training regularly and we will every day. When towing an ATV heavy person should be on operating vehicle. We all learned….SLOW IS SMOOTH …AND SMOOTH IS FAST.

~Dituri sends

Warm Regards,

Joseph Dituri, PhD(c)
CDR, U.S. Navy Diving Officer (ret)

Commander Report

Title…SCRAMBLE DOG IS A STEELY EYED MISSLE MAN.

Great day of training / exploring.
Very productive EVAs continuing both our science (weight, muscle loss, suit fogging…) along with the work for Mars society…cleaning the water tank and removing the external skirt on the HAB.

The HAB skirt haa been removed “areas outside” our habitat. We will send a team and remove the skirt from the “inside areas” …for the purposes of our SIM ….at a later time and place on trailer along with other pieces. We cannot fit in area under fromt stairs in EVA suits so that area remains skirted.

Water tank needed some time to air out so doctor removed the cap and inspected. Intend to clean and put back on trailer early next week ready for service.

IMPRESSED: I continue to be impressed with the XO. He continues to be the voice of reason and chief moral officer. BZ Richard Blakeman.

LEARNED: Being a vegetarian by virtue of others around you being vegetarians…IS HARD. Yogi needs meat. Saw a cow on EVA….mmmmmm

POA&M….if approved by CAPCOM …would love to execute plan SCRAMBLE DOG.
Scramble dog consists of a half day “sleep in” partial day of rest for the crew ….XO and I are gonna make banana chocolate chip pancakes for the crew for beeakfast!!!!
Then… after noon …
medical training (short OJT by doctor) and a towing ATV exercise followed by movie night and an attempt at making dehydrated corn popcorn. Why NOT….;*)

Warm Regards,

Joseph Dituri, PhD(c)
CDR, U.S. Navy Diving Officer (ret)

Director – IBUM

Commander Report – April 13th

Happy Friday the 13th CAPCOM….Today we had two scheduled EVAs. We aborted one EVA due to a miscommunication on our part with mission control. Communication delays and network issues will always hamper us on Mars …we will persevere amd continue efforts to improve coms always.

The crew remains in good spirits and in my opinion a BUSY crew is a HAPPY crew. Since our EVA was aborted we took the opportunity to field day and straighten up the HAB. We organized the tool box placing tools correctly as written on outside of draws. (I know…a bit anal on our part…but everything has a place….) A few items of gear adrift were removed from the HAB and placed in pickup spot for mission control as directed by mission control.

We recieved answers to our request for maintenance and we will T/S the sink hot water as well as attempt a repair to the skirt on HAB. We removed and cleaned the moths / bugs from all upper deck light fixtures. It is so bright now…;*) We want to do all we can to improve the state of this living facility.

IMPRESSED: I am so impressed with our new call sign assignment of “Poison Ivy” for Andreea (Greenhab officer – Blue 03). She brought the garden back from a dry less productuve state (due to water issues last rotation) to a garden that continues to produce many small tomatoes despite our ability to consume them daily. BZ Poison Ivy….

LEARNED I learned that the internet is not reliable and I need to be much earlier to be proactive about weather.

POA&M We intend to perform two sets of EVAs tomorrow and if approved continue training crew and repairs to HAB. We may even be able to finish cleaning the water tank in the RAM and return to service for next crew. If approved we will also perform skirt repairs at end of EVA 2.

~Dituri sends

Warm Regards,

Joseph Dituri, PhD(c)
CDR, U.S. Navy Diving Officer (ret)
Director – IBUM

Commander Report – April 11th

Mission Commander report – Crew 192 Report SOL 3

This morning I made a modification to the scheduled EVA for health and comfort of the crew. I started an EVA ~30 minutes early intentionally to avoid the heat of the day which was (late information) projected to be hotter than expected. Please do not be upset with the crew. I assumed that I had the skill and ability to make minor modifications from leading multiple missions to myriad overseas destinations with significant consequence of failure. I did so fully understanding the EVAs and other non-critical mission parameters given my role and understanding all the reasons for the established rules such as crews possibly encountering those not in SIM. I know this now to be wrong and will adjust the EVA times to account for increased temperatures by scheduling earlier in the AM and later in the PM. I had no intention of making an already tenuous situation with the society worse by my actions… I apologize for my error and will ensure it does not happen again. Please accept my humble apologies. The crew is beginning to feel a “combative / oppressive dynamic” developing between external sources on our overall team and the society into which we may be being thrust. It is not our intention to be combative or disruptive …we intend only to maximize our learning and scientific potential while here. We have an will continue to build bridges while here and work towards peace.

Please understand that EVERY piece of correspondence that leaves this sight is reviewed and approved by me and altered with my …as well as every other crew member’s input as would be the case on Mars and in any other mission. There is no one man show on this team…please consider that when questioning why my name is not on a specific report.

On a lighter note we had Martian matinee today …using the time hot midday time to catch up on a movie because the evenings have been filled with planning.

LEARNED: The heat of the day is beginning to oppress our EVAs (cut morning EVA short due to temperature) so we will schedule EVAs earlier and later to coincide with cooler points of the day. Additionally, the weather is less predictable than initially thought.

IMPRESSED: I was impressed with the skill of Blue 04 (Victoria) who has been the go between and on all email correspondence and has been dealing with an internet speed just faster than glacial as well as minimal data capacity and still manages to upload myriad required reports. BZ Blue 04!

POA&M: Tomorrow the weather is supposed to turn to exceptionally high winds. High winds have started tonight. We have done a “batten the hatches down” EVA to look around the HAB in anticipation of the pending increased wind. Many items were removed from the HAB as requested by staff on site and should be removed before winds increase. We are planning a training and cleaning day tomorrow with EVAs very close to home.

~Dituri Sends (Blue 00)

Commander Report – April 10th

Mission Commander’s Report – SOL 2 – 10 April 2018

Author: Joe Dituri

With our morning EVA complete, we are formulating a plan for future EVAs and an effort to find our science suite and remnants of our science advisor. On our evening EVA, we were super excited to find a plaque card with our fallen science officer’s name on it. This renewed our optimism to find our science module in parts and salvage some of the science. The doctor continues to weigh the entire crew before and after EVA. So far most of the crew loses 1-3 lbs of body water per EVA depending upon duration. The doctor has continued to push fluids on the crew at all times for optimal health. He is also doing Skeletal muscle measurements for glycogen storage. We are performing isometric handgrip study prior to EVA to evaluate dexterity, numbness and comfort using EVA gloves. Yesterday we also started the well-being surveys. XO has started study to mitigate fogging of visors. Tomorrow the XO will submit an intermittent science report which will further detail science.

The crew played “Cards Against Humanity” last night. It served the purpose of lightening the mood after a hard day’s work. In the morning everyone woke refreshed and ready to start the day. The morning EVA served its purpose to indoctrination the three-person team for EVAs. The team explored the ridge to the east and found evidence of water as well as animal tracks.

The crew has worked up a plan to clean the water tank on the trailer. We took some of the EVA time to assess what was required to clean. We intend on rolling itinto the RAM tomorrow AM.

On the lighter side…some of the crew with longer hair compared dry shampoos and leave in conditioners and agreed to exchange product for a direct comparison taking into account a decreased ability to use water. Those participants who have insufficient hair to participate in the cross functional study will act as control group. Additionally hair constraint methods were discussed to reduce hair from being caught in the helmet

The crew took a great picture this morning with our red noses one and all to take a stand against childhood hunger. We were thinking about sending starving children some dehydrated food. Spirits are high and the crew is in a great mood.

LEARNED – We learned that the one-piece EVA suits have less mobility in the forward bending direction but they have different pressure points than the two-piece suit.

EVAs that involve a large amount of hiking should be limited to two or maybe two and a half hours unless there is supplemental water.

South of Kissing Camel Ridge, comms go out and you cannot get in touch with the hab.

IMPRESSED – I was impressed with the XO (Richard – Blue 01) as he led the EVA team and noticed the communication microphones were ill fitted. He devised a non – permanent alteration for the microphones which mimics a boom microphone and increased the effective communication. BRAVO ZULU to the XO.

POA&M – (Plan of Action and Milestones) – We are going to attempt to explore the Kissing Camel area where the science module plaque was found. We now have a training schedule for the crew to learn about decompression in space suits and psychological crew selection as well as radiation exposure and mitigation factors. Yuri’s night is the 12th of April and we made an attempt at planning some fun albeit limited.

~Dituri Sends (Blue 00)

Commander Report – April 9th

Mission Commander’s Report 4/9/18 SOL 1

I am exceptionally proud of this crew and the simply herculean efforts to get into simulation for this all too important mission of discovery through adversity. After effecting repairs to the habitat, we started SIM at ~1515 and after a team meeting commenced our first EVA. The crew has improvised scientific and information gathering experiments which do not require IRB approval on short notice in light of the loss of our science advisor and the scientific suite.

The crew has settled into a superior communication routine using a white board. After each evening meal we plan the next days endeavor as well as the meals including who is cooking and what the menu items are. We also plan what photo opportunities are requested such that we can have superior outreach using social media and other platforms to raise awareness of our mission.

The crew has volunteered as a long-term goal for this mission to assist in the cleaning of the water tank on the trailer. We will make EVAs to assess and attempt to clean during EVA with the final re-sanitizing completed in the RAM.

Sprits are high and the crew is in a great mood.

LEARNED – We learned that the EVAs are difficult work as the suits truly hamper mobility.

IMPRESSED – I was impressed with the Doctor (Ashok – Blue 02) as he cooked a terrific curry-based meal and still passed out surveys for the crew and took body measurements while continually looking after the crew.

POA&M – (Plan of Action and Milestones) – We intend to perform a few more EVAs tomorrow and make a training schedule for the crew to learn about decompression in space suits, psychological crew selection as well as radiation exposure and mitigation factors. Yuri’s night is forthcoming and we are planning some activities to celebrate the first man in space.

THANK YOU to Ms. Shannon for help getting us into SIM.

~Dituri Sends (Blue 00)

Commander Report – March 27th

March 28, 2018
Crew 191 Commander Report 27 March 2018
27 MAR 2018 – Sol3 – Commander Report

Our “earnest Mars play” has finally begun. Speaking of exaggerations, Mars may be a symbol of our curiosity. At the same time, the journey to Mars is also associated with great risk. “Every single aspect of space is conspiring at every moment to pretty much kill humans,” is how one Indian space architect phrased it. It is impossible for us to control Mars. While balancing curiosity and risk, we must carefully move one step at a time. A road without retreat will never allow progress. Here’s where MDRS (Mars Desert Research Station) is, where people with a serious and playful spirit gather together to dream of the future.

Everyone in this life may be imagining a life of “surviving,” as typified by the word “survival.” This is certainly a concern, but as the scale of time spent on Mars increases from “staying” to “living” in a manned Mars mission over the years, it is more a matter of “living” than “surviving.” Real feelings “become more important. It might be a matter of the willingness to be tested in terms of survival, but the ability to live with roots is actually a reliable and predicatable mood. In a tension-forced life, negative feelings easily emerge. “I am OK with myself” does not pass. One absolutely cannot say “Because this is the earth.”
I think that it is my role, as the captain, to make the crews to forget that this place is the earth.
Be curious, Ad Astra, and safe return.

Crew 191 Team Asia Commander Yusuke Murakami

Commander Report – April 1st

In fact, on the real Mars missions, some of those project must be collaborate with earthling supporters. Because we, marsnauts never living alone. So today’s commander report and photo report become an example of a collaborated work with a specialist from Earth. The following article based on commander’s recollections, written by Taro Karasaki, Japanese writer of Asahi Weekly. And Crew191 did an outreach EVA today, to shoot some photos correspond related to the article.

Enjoy “A Day on Mars” adventure !

Crew191 Commander,
Yusuke Murakami

* * *

“A Day on Mars”
By Taro Karasaki, Japanese Writer of Asahi Weekly
Based on Recollections of MDRS Crew191 Commander Yusuke Murakami

(English)
“Wow – will you look at that!”
It was my colleague Emi again, pressing her smartphone against the windshield of our Mars exploration vehicle. “Stop the rover, please? I need to shoot this!”
Before our eyes was Olympus Mons, the tallest peak on Mars — in fact, the tallest known volcano in the solar system — its ridge glowing in the sunlight.
“Not again,” I said rolling my eyes as I watched the latest addition to our Mars exploration team, flailing her arms.
Emi is a personality-turned-essayist assigned to do a column for Asahi Weekly about life on this red planet and how English is being used by the crew as the lingua franca for space missions.
Since Emi arrived a few weeks ago, I found myself frustrated every time she whipped out her smartphone. Just when I thought she started to calm down after being warned of the harsh environment around us at base camp, one step outside she was back to her old self.
I tried to calm myself by reminding myself how I reacted when I saw my first crater two years ago. Pretty much the same – After 270 days confined aboard a crammed spaceship, you want to stretch out.
I was also all too aware that our company went out of its way to enlist Emi, whose spunky and outgoing character could help boost interest towards the Mars development project, and hopefully, our publication.
But we had an agenda – aside from taking photos and doing a video report today, we had to assist our geologist in collecting samples and keep alert for any signs of danger – and only an hour’s time during our EVA (extravehicular activity) to do it all before jumping back in the pressurized rover and returning to base.
We couldn’t put our mission, or our lives, at jeopardy so that one reporter could update her Instagram account. Calmly, I asked Emi the million-dollar question.
“How many flags did you see?”
“What flags?”
Just as I thought.
Completely excited about her first long distance roving mission, Emi had forgotten what I asked her before we left base camp. She hadn’t noticed the flag markers that were meticulously set up every 500 meters to mark the safest and fastest course to Mount Olympus. The first mission spent weeks braving sandstorms to set up the markers. Pretty soon she herself would be in charge of marking a new route.
“Make sure you count the flags on the way back,” I said firmly, without letting my irritation show. “Let’s go over our checklist once more.”
I have spent the last two years as a journalist documenting the construction of our base, the first step to creating a colony for possible emigration. So what is an ordinary guy like me – who failed math in high school and is not particularly athletic type – doing up here, you may ask.
I am one of a group of “generalists” who hail from various backgrounds and include teachers, sports trainers and carpenters. We work alongside the specialists – scientists and pilots – in the Mars mission.
“There is room for everyone up here,” as my mentor, Yusuke, a veteran Mars mission member, told me before I left Earth. Eventually, more people like us will be needed to create a sustainable environment in space.
As for myself, along with assisting the specialists (whom I observed and collected notes on during our long flight) I try to use my reporter’s eye to look out for slight changes in human behavior, which could help prevent unwanted tensions in our closed environment. Sometimes a little small talk can do wonders to soothe nerves.
In addition, I also studied horticulture before embarking on this mission, and I it’s my duty to take care of the vegetable patch at base camp.
Our rover rumbled to a stop. I watched as Emi eagerly got into her spacesuit before the seat belt signs were turned off. As I saw her nimbly walk to the hatch, I knew I needed to interrupt.
“Aren’t we forgetting something? Don’t make me write your obituary.” I tried to get the message across without sounding too harsh: Anything can go wrong. A sandstorm could suddenly wallop us. A system malfunction could interrupt our fieldwork. We needed to stick to the rules as there is little leeway for error.
“Rodger that,” she grumbled, before going through the routine check to see if the oxygen supply was working and all communication systems functioned.

* * *

“Wow,” was all I could say. Rising over 20 kilometers in the sky, or more than twice the height of Mount Everest, Olympus Mons was formidable. What looked from our spaceship like a blister rising up from the otherwise smooth terrain was now a massive wall standing imposingly before us.
We cautiously approached what appeared to be a ledge. Surrounding Olympus is a deep trench, measuring about two kilometers deep in some places. Keeping one eye on my colleague as she busily snapped away at the chasm and the giant formation rising before us, as well as our geologist, I quickly retrieved vials containing soil samples that might give us a better idea about what Mars was like when water is said to have existed in abundance on its now dry surface. After labeling them, I placed them in order in the carrying case.
“Taro-san, your space pen,” I turned around to see Emi standing beside me. “It looks like you’re running out of ink.” I looked down at the vials. She was right. I could still read what I had written, but the lines were getting thinner. Emi offered her brand-new pen.
Before we know it, our time is up, and we climb aboard the rover. The drive back to base camp is long and our mission is not yet over. We still have to drop off extra fuel cells at depots along the way so that the next team won’t have to worry about running out of power when they come out here. And there is some unfinished business for Emi.
“Remember to keep an eye out for those flags,” I tell Emi, and she nods, her pen and notebook in hand.

* * *

Emi smiled as she heard my stomach growl. We had now entered the base camp and removed our gear. It had been a long day, and I’d forgotten all about eating.
I am told that a sukiyaki party will be held – a ritual to greet our new team members and send off those who will soon finish their tour of duty.
While it will be mostly freeze-dried beef, tofu and konnyaku (devil’s tongue), at least the shungiku (garland chrysanthemum) and green onions will be local produce. Already I’m worrying again if the crew that stayed behind heeded my words and harvested the right batch and left the young leaves to grow some more.
There is so much I have to pass on to Emi and so little time. And there are things she must learn by herself.
For now, at least, it’s probably time to sit down and enjoy a well-deserved meal.

(Japanese)
『ある火星の一日』
柄崎太郎著、原作・村上祐資

「すごい。あれをを見て!」
また同僚のエミが、火星探査用の四輪駆動車のフロントガラスにスマホを押しつけながら、叫んでいだ。
「ローバーを止めて。ね、お願い?写真を撮らなきゃ!」
目の前には、火星で、いや、太陽系で確認された最も標高の高い火山、オリンパス山がそびえ立っていた。太陽の光に照らされ、その稜線が輝いていた。
「またか」私は呆れたように、わが火星探査チームの最も新しいメンバーの興奮する様子を見ていた。
ところで、エミとは私が働く朝日ウイークリーが雇ったタレントからエッセイストに転身した女性で、火星での有人探査の様子と、隊員の間で公用語として使われる英語の実態について取材しに来たのだ。
数週間前に到着したばかりのエミが、ことあるごとにスマホを取り出すことに私はイライラしていた。基地でこの環境の苛酷さについてレクを受け、ようやく落ち着いたと思ったら、外に出た途端、元に戻った。
私は2年前、火星に到着しばかりで、初めてのクレーターを見た時の自分の様子を思い出しながら、気持ちを落ち着かせた。270日間も宇宙船に閉じ込められて、誰だって少しくらい羽根を伸ばしたくなる。
そして、同時に、エミはその元気で人懐っこい性格を活かして、火星の開発プログラムに対する理解を深めるために(そして私たちの媒体に関心を持ってもらうために)雇われていることも、理解していた。
しかし、私たちには任務があった。写真を撮ったり、ビデオを撮ったりする以外に、同行させてもらっている地質学者の標本採集の手伝いや、安全確認など、やることがいっぱいだった。そして、船外活動のタイムリミットは1時間。そのあと、予定通りに与圧されたローバーに乗り込んで、基地に向けて出発しなければいけない。
たった一人の人間がインスタグラムを更新するためにミッションはもちろん、隊員の命を危険にさらすことはできない。私はそこで、エミにズバリ聞くことにした。
「旗は何本立っていた?」
「なんの旗?」
思った通りだ。初めての長距離ロービング活動で興奮していたエミは基地で頼んだことを忘れていた。それは1次探査チームのときから、砂嵐などに悩まされながら、障害物を避けながらなるべく早くオリンパス山にいけるコースを見失わないために500メートルの間隔で立てた旗だ。数週間後には彼女も同じように旗を立てる作業に従事するのだ。
「わかった。帰りはちゃんと数えるように」。なるべく、いら立ちを感づかれないように、冷静に話した。
「チェックリストをもう一度確認しよう」
この2年間、火星移住計画のための第一歩ともいえる基地の建設を記録してきたわけだが、高校時代数学で赤点をとり、運動神経もさほどよくない私がなぜこんなミッションに参加できたのか、皆さまは疑問だろう。
私は、最近、火星プロジェクトに加わり始めた「ジェネラリスト」と呼ばれるタイプの隊員の一人だ。ジャーナリスト以外に教師やスポーツトレーナー、大工など幅広いバックグラウンドを持った人材が集まっている。私たちはスペシャリストである科学者やパイロット出身の隊員とともに、仕事をしている。
私の先輩であるユウスケさんの言葉を借りれば、「宇宙はさまざまなタイプの人が必要だ」というわけだ。やがて、私たちのような人が増えることは、地球と同じような持続可能な環境をつくるために不可欠なことだ。
私の場合、記者として、養った観察眼を活かし、人の微妙な態度の変化などをチェックすることで、この非常にせまい生活空間の中で些細な衝突を防ぐことを一つの大切な任務としている。例えば、ある隊員の応援している野球チームの話題で、少しでも気晴らしをしてもらえるなら、私の能力も活かされる。
また、出発前に園芸の勉強をした私は、基地内にある菜園を任されている。

ローバーはゆっくりと止まった。シートベルト着用のサインが消える前から、宇宙服をいそいそと着込むエミのすがたを私は見ながら、不安を覚えた。彼女がハッチに向かっていそいそと歩いていくのを見て、止めに入った。

「なんか忘れていないか。お前の訃報記事を書くつもりはないぞ」私は、あまりきつく響かない程度に諭すつもりで言った。宇宙では予想もしないことが起きる。突然の砂嵐が襲い掛かるかもしれないし、システムの不具合で探査が進まないこともある。ここではまずルール通りにやることが大事。失敗の余地がないから。

「了解です」。すこし、面白くなさそうにエミは答えながら、酸素の供給と通信システムのチェックに応じた。

***

「こりゃ、すごいや」。目の前にそびえ立つ標高20キロ、エベレストの2倍の高さのオリンポス山を見ながらそう思った。宇宙船からはすべすべした肌にできた腫物のようなそのオリンポス山はまるで目の前を遮る巨大な壁のようだった。

恐る恐る、先にある崖のようなところに近づいた。オリンポス山の周りは約2キロの深さの溝がある。写真を撮り続ける同僚と探査活動をする地質学者から目を離さないようにしながら、拾い集めたサンプルが入った容器を回収し、それを順番にケースに収めた。このあたりの土壌は火星が水で覆われていた時代の様子を伝えてくれると思われる。
「タロウさん、ペンのインクが切れそうだよ」。エミの言葉にはっとして、手元を見たら、筆跡が強いため、なんとか読めるものの、ラベルの文字がかすれ始めていた。エミは支給されたばかりの自分のペンを貸してくれた。

そうこうしているとすぐ時間は経ってしまった。私たちはローバーに再び乗り、基地に戻ることになった。基地までの道のりは長く、まだいろいろと任務が残っている。途中で絵燃料セルをデポに置いていく。のちにここを訪れるであろう隊員が燃料切れにならないためだ。そして、エミにもう一つ仕事があった。
「旗をちゃんと見ろよ」私はエミにそういうと、彼女はペンとメモを手にうなずいた。

***

基地に到着し、荷物を下ろしたあと、私のお腹が鳴るのを聞いたエミが笑った。
忙しかったあまり、腹をすかしていたことすら気づいていなかった。
今日は新しい隊員の歓迎会と、もうすぐ任務を終える隊員の壮行会を兼ねたすき焼きパーティーが開かれると聞いた。材料の牛肉や豆腐、こんにゃくはフリーズドライだが、春菊やネギはここで作ったものだ。また、留守番をした隊員がちゃんと、私が頼んだように若い葉を残し、正しい苗だけを収穫したかどうか心配になった。

エミにはまだまだ伝えなければいけないことがある。そして、残された時間はあまりない。同時に彼女が自分で学ばなければいけないこともある。

とりあえず今は、待ちに待った食事を楽しむことにしょう。

* * *
Afterword
By Taro Karasaki

We are proud to announce that an article titled “A Day on Mars” collaborated with MDRS Crew191 Commander Yusuke Murakami, will be published in the April 1 issue of Asahi Weekly in Japan.
This week, our travelogue writer takes us to Planet Mars. The third planet in the solar system is known for its diverse terrain, and its tallest peak Olympus Mon rises above 20,000 meters.
As you may be aware by now, April 1st is April Fools’ Day. In many countries, newspapers prominently run articles with such outlandish headlines as “Martians Visit Earth.” The Asahi Weekly took the liberty to run its own “April Fools’ Day story.” Since the 1960s many countries have sent Mars probes in hopes of observing the red planet. However, no human has actually stepped foot on Mars.
On the other hand, there are people who have experienced living for prolonged periods of time in environments similar to that on Mars. In a bid to create a realistic feel, we sought the advice of architect Yusuke Murakami, an expert in architecture in extreme environments. Murakami participated in simulated long term missions at Arctic and desert facilities organized by the U.S.-based “The Mars Society.” The article is based upon recollections of his experience in these remote and harsh environments.
A point made repeatedly by Murakami during our interview and worth mentioning: As mentioned in the travelogue, in the future, those who will be involved in the exploration of Mars will include people hailing from a wide background of careers and walks of life; not just “specialists” as pilots and scientists. When you come to think of it, travel to Mars — and a travelogue — may no longer seem like an “outlandish” story after all.