Crew 261 Journalist Report 09-05-2023
Author: Kris Davidson, Crew Journalist
Recently, Commander Burk aptly stated over dinner, "change is the only constant." This time-worn philosophical adage rings true across every facet of existence, from the ceaseless spin of the cosmos to the relentless progression of our own aging bodies. Nowhere does this resonate more than in the realm of science, where change is not just an observer, but the main event itself.
Mars, formed about 4.6 billion years ago, is a testament to the power of change. The planet transitioned from a warm, wet environment with a thick atmosphere and intense volcanic activity to a cold, dry world when it lost its magnetic field about 4 billion years ago. This led to atmospheric erosion by solar wind, and today, Mars’ surface is dotted with impact craters and adorned with polar ice caps composed of water and carbon dioxide. The evolution from an Earth-like planet to its current inhospitable state has scientists intrigued about the possibility of past life on Mars.
The region in Utah surrounding the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), also bears the imprints of change. Once submerged beneath prehistoric seas, it saw layers of sandstone, siltstone, and limestone being deposited. The formation and subsequent rifting of the supercontinent Pangea led to uplift and erosion, creating desert landscapes and dinosaur fossil-laden rock formations. Some of these fossils were discovered by MDRS Crew #1, which included Dr. Zubrin!
Transatlantic Mars Crew 261’s stay at the station is already transformative. The portraits taken on Sol 9 on EVA 13 reveal a newfound ease with the Martian environment, the spacesuits, and each other. We may leave Mars by the week’s end, but the experience leaves an indelible mark on us.
Changes and progress are evident in our experiments and projects as well. The crew roots for greenhab officer Cécile Renaud’s young tomato plant growing in Martian regolith stimulant. We’re learning and observing through crew roboticist Erin Kennedy’s ongoing Atmosphider tests, HSO Audrey Derobertmasure’s collecting of vascular aging data, and Julien Villa-Massone’s hab metrics project. James Burk and Aline Decadi continue the vital work of education through Mars VR and other outreach efforts.
The grand narrative of science affirms: change is the only constant. Nothing in our universe remains static. Science, in its quest for understanding, chronicles the dynamic rather than cataloging the static. It documents change, bears witness to the flux, and celebrates the ongoing transformation that underpins all existence.