Crew 228 Commander Report 08Oct2021
Summary Title: Pale purple dots
Author’s name: Lindsay Rutter
Mission Status: Nominal
Time flies like arrows; fruit flies like freeze-dried bananas. And somehow we find ourselves on the final sol of our mission.
We spent much of the day cleaning. Cleaning duties at the base cannot be underestimated. Mars has dust storms, sometimes covering the planet for months. With a thin atmosphere, a hurricane on Mars feels like a breeze on Earth – but the dustiness remains an issue. Martian dust is finer than what we remember back on Earth. We know that Spirit and Opportunity significantly outlived their life expectancies, demonstrating that technical hardware can survive on Mars. Regardless, we play it safe here, because our critical technical equipment (such as our 15kW solar array) could experience reduced efficiency should they become covered in a film of dust. We wanted to leave the HAB in top-notch shape for the next Martians.
Alongside maintenance, we worked at a steady pace, finishing remaining passion projects. We filmed ourselves answering a final set of questions from fourth graders about our mission – responding to innovative questions about both science and science fiction, and replying to children who want to become space explorers. We also concluded our science experiments. Each member of this crew thoroughly prepared for this mission – and I have worked hard to support their ambitious projects.
Soon after I submit this report, my crew will participate in the first Mars-to-Mars (M2M) Virtual Link. We will hold a brief conference with the AARG-1 crew, who recently touched down at the other research base on Mars, ILMAH station. It feels surreal for us to communicate with four other humans – without the forty minute delay. With multiple bases on Mars now, human exploration of the planet will surely mushroom in the upcoming years.
Tomorrow, we will enter a pressurized exploration vehicle and return to Earth via the Hanksville Spaceport. We will transition from a life of isolation among the four of us to a life of quarantine among the global population. Some of what made us better Earthlings these past few years made us better Martians. And some of what made us better Martians this mission will make us better Earthlings. I feel less as though we are exclusively home to the Pale Blue Dot. Red lessons from Mars will stay with us. Home feels more like a Pale Purple Dot to me now.
Just after we depart the HAB tomorrow, we will drive past Henry, the complete dinosaur fossil discovered by Dr. Shannon Rupert. Henry is a Pteranodon. Or a Quetzalcoatlus. Or a Rhamphorhynchus. Or something like that, that nobody can pronounce to save their lives. But what we do know is that he had wings to fly. We humans need to spread our wings and soar even higher. Improve our contingency plans. For asteroids. For pandemics. For climate change. These themes have played in my head during this mission – and I suspect they will even more tomorrow.
Our crew has accomplished a generous amount of scientific output. We reached out to students across the world. We fixed equipment in the HAB. Our crew prepared for this mission for 2.5 years – and the effort was worth it. It will be hard to part with the crew tomorrow, but I have learned and grown from each of them. I can only hope I successfully guided each crew member to reach their biggest goals. I want to give a very special thanks to Dr. Shannon Rupert for her tireless support with our mission. This one-of-a-kind gem of a research station would cave into itself without her unwavering resolve and fierce talents. I want to thank our remote crew, our CapComs, and Mission Support for their selfless assistance throughout our mission. And I want to thank the Mars Society for pushing humanity to the next frontier of space exploration. Thank you for giving us all this incredible opportunity, and thank you for trusting me to command this mission.