– Buzz Aldrin, the first words spoken from the surface of the Moon, as the lander Eagle touched down on Mare Tranquillitatis
It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to post; training and mission start have kept us very busy over the past several days. As our network support specialist Marc Seibert aptly pointed out to us, real astronauts will have years of training before they launch to Mars; we had just one very packed week to get everything in.
Our initial training took place on the ranch of Henk Rogers. Henk is most well known for bringing the video game Tetris to the United States, but he’s also a modern-day Renaissance man with a wide variety of interests. In addition to being an avid Burning Man participant, Henk also has an interest in renewable energy and Mars exploration. His ranch features a renewable energy lab, featuring the same type of power system as our habitat. He also funded the construction of the HI-SEAS habitat, both to serve as a demonstration of the energy systems his lab researches, and to further the science of sending humans to Mars.
After a generous feast provided by our gracious host the night we arrived, our first day consisted of introductions to the various psychological studies we’ll be interacting with throughout the year. The next day, we were whisked away to Mauna Loa, to get our first glimpse of the habitat and get an introduction to its various systems.
After spending our first night in our new home, we were taken to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park for two days of geological training provided by Brian Shiro. This training, and the introduction to the geology of Hawaiʻi’s volcanic regions, was vital to preparing us for the EVAs we’ll perform to study the geology around our habitat.
Our time in the park concluded with Hawaiʻian cultural training, and a ceremonial offering to the fire goddess Pele to bring her blessing on our mission. Our mission takes place on Mauna Loa, a important landmark in the Hawaiʻian culture, and we’ve worked closely with the local population to ensure we treat the mountain with proper respect and understanding.
After our time in the park and another day of systems training at the hab, we got a bit of free time in Hilo. Many of used the time to catch our breath, say our final farewells to our loved ones, and collect a few last-minutes supplies. That afternoon, the crew entered the van and took one last ride up the long, rocky road up the face of Mauna Loa to the habitat. After some photos and interviews with media, we sealed the airlock hatch and began our long mission on simulated Mars.
So here we are, the aliens. Visitors from planet Earth, living on and exploring the strange, new world of simulated Mars. We’re settling in to our new home, and preparing the science experiments that will occupy us for the next year. Tomorrow morning, I’ll don a spacesuit and command our first EVA, a brief inspection and cleanup of the area around our habitat in preparation for an approaching Martian dust storm (in reality, the outskirts of Hurricane Ignacio, which will pass to the north of Hawaiʻi in a couple of days).
So, with that a bit of sleep is in order. Goodnight to all on planet Earth, from the surface of sMars!