Today is our last day in Simulation. Tomorrow we will wake up in Southern Utah, and NOT on Mars. What a weird and surreal feeling…Just as our crew has hit our stride of living and working on Mars – we are leaving in less than 48 hours.
Our last day of SIM was one of the busiest since we arrived 13 sols ago. We woke up at the normal time of 7:30am and immediately got to work after breakfast. I am not going to miss dehydrated milk and cereal with weak coffee every day, but this morning we were treated to a delicacy on Mars that we have been saving the entire length of our mission – BACON & Eggs!!! Troy happily fried the strips and prepared the eggs. The HAB was overwhelmed by the delicious aroma of a quintessential American breakfast. Eating just two pieces immediately put most of the crew (Anushree is vegetarian, so she got extra oats and honey to compensate. She was content and had her usual smile.) into a tranced state as they savored each bite. Our operations plan for the rest of the morning consisted of finishing crew projects/reports, taking photos and videos for outreach, and another round of virtual reality for all the crewmembers.
The morning flew by and before we knew it lunch was being served. Anushree treated us to a delicious Indian dish of naan bread with vegetables mixed with Thai curry paste. This was quite possibly the best and also most “traditional” meal of our analog mission. The crew went to our space nap happy and full. This would be our last space nap, as tomorrow morning the sleep study will be concluded. The whole crew, myself included, hasn’t napped this regularly since Kindergarten. We all wish this was part of our daily schedule when we return back to Earth. I doubt the corporate ladder will agree, but that is a discussion for another day.
After our nap, the crew prepared for our last EVA. We were scheduled to do a short walk around of the close by Martian hills. As Pierrick, Ilaria, Anushree, and I donned our space suits we got the call from on-site Mission Support that our EVA would need to be cut short to only include our regular engineering check due to muddy conditions and impending weather. The crew wasn’t exactly ecstatic about this news as this was our last possible EVA, but in the end we followed mission support’s commands. A quick check of all the HAB life support systems along with a short walk around the MDRS campus was concluded in under an hour. Each crew member drank in the views and experience, as the next time we step out of the airlock will be without our oxygenator packs and bubble helmets. The realization of soon being out of SIM had started to sink in.
Once back inside the airlock with re-pressurization complete, the real work of the day started up again. The crew cleaned the entire HAB from top to bottom and sideways. A place, especially a confined place such as the HAB, can become quite dirty with 7 adults living in it non-stop for almost two full weeks. We knew we only had to do it this final time, so everyone bit the bullet and we were done in under two hours. With the freshly cleaned HAB, the crew settled in for dinner. Our last bag of tortilla chips, any kind of chips for that matter, and melted Velveeta cheese was our appetizer. (It is the simple pleasures on Mars that usually give the most reward.) Our last dinner as a singular crew was beans and mashed potatoes topped with corn. We ran out of actual dinner options many sols ago (other than lunch today which was saved as more of a “going away” meal), and we have been scrounging whatever we could find (typically topped with chips, cheese, hot sauce, and salt to make up for lack of variety). Again, the word – adaptation – just never ceases to be true here on Mars.
Our crew is a resilient one that has weathered many storms inside and outside of the HAB, personal or group, stressful situations and times of joyous laughter, but we are all stronger from this unique experience. One that we will all cherish for years to come. We hope you have enjoyed following our story. We have certainly enjoyed living through it – TOGETHER! Crew 172 signing off for good.