Journalist Report – February 2nd

The Sun Sets on Mars
Well this is it. We’ve now passed the end of sim. Theoretically we could all sprint out of the airlock without suits and frolic across the hillsides, but Commandrew’s advised us that the bentonite clay outside is too waterlogged and swollen for that. Or maybe he just wants to preserve our remaining dignity.
It’s been a bit of a strange (but satisfying) day. With no EVAs on the scope, members of the crew spent their last morning as proper Martians finishing off experiments in the science dome (like testing the reactivity of powdered concretion), doing some preliminary cleaning, or just chilling/warming in the kitchen. We had some good convos and laughs around the table, as always, discussing everything from Hawking radiation and space elevators to sunsets, duck feet and TV shows. The Greenhab decided to bequeath us some parting gifts: five tomatoes, three peas and a cucumber. A few of us also trudged through the mud to get some picturesque photos of the landscape, and when it got dark, did some stargazing under the northern hemisphere sky.
I think this is the point where I give a formal shout out to the fine folks of Crew 291, who are genuinely all fun, easygoing, considerate people. Maybe we’re all steadily succumbing to cabin fever… but there have been so many hysterical moments between us, and we’ve become fast friends in a very short span of time. Everyone brings something interesting to the table. Everyone pulls their weight. We’ve succeeded and failed as a team. Somehow, there’s been no bad blood whatsoever between us… which I didn’t expect, being thrown into a living situation with five other strangers (and one toilet between us). These people are passionate about – and very skilled at – what they do, and it’s been inspiring to document them fulfilling their professional and personal goals at the MDRS.
What have I learned from this experience? There’s the obvious stuff, about how a habitat is run and the kind of day-to-day tasks that life on Mars might one day entail. Then there are the less obvious things. The geology lessons, realising the unseen ways (and innate beauty) with which the landscapes around us tell their ancient stories – from the mightiest chasms to the most mundane pebbles underfoot. Or how profoundly the simplest things, like food, can uplift crew culture, morale and cohesion. The way a great crew can make the challenges trivial.
So there you have it. Our last report from the MDRS. Tomorrow we leave the MDRS and journey all the way back to Australia. I’d like to thank everyone who got involved in this expedition, including the directors of Mars Society Australia. While we’re all looking forward to returning home (more than ready to see some Terran green and blue), I think I speak for all of us in saying that this has been an unforgettable experience that will stay front-of-mind for a very long time. It’s not every day you get to be Martian.
And thanks to you, readers, for following and supporting us. If you’d like to reach out to the crew about our activities and experiences at the MDRS, please contact Mars Society Australia.
Farewell from Andrew Wheeler (Commandrew), Steve Hobbs, Rob Hunt, Clare Fletcher, Scott Dorrington, and Alexander Tobal!
Highlights of the day: Steve’s landscape photography (reportedly “the best sunset he’s seen in thirty years, in either hemisphere”), pasta, send-off harvest, stargazing, Clare is a LotR/fantasy fan (finally, something to get her out of the lowlights), Commandrew "doesn’t think any of us need putting down".
Lowlights of the day: Rob used buttermilk again as a milk substitute (in fruit porridge), Steve’s clay-caked boots, Clare "didn’t have any thoughts today" (ah well, back into the lowlights), crew got rained on through the ‘tornado-proof’ hab roof, more extraterrestrials checking us out.

– Alexander Tobal, Crew 291

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