February 14, 2015
I hate that saying, “its all down hill from here” and so dearest readers, today I will tell you about how I feel completely halfway in every aspect of my life.
I am halfway between Mars and Earth
Yes, I do know that I am not actually on Mars. The ammunition explosions from the nearby military base could be Martian thunder, the gleaming reflections of the few buildings around could be mirages off the Martian desert and our space suits could really be protecting us from the deadly Martian atmosphere… but they’re not. My rational brain knows that. My irrational brain hints at it often enough as well. However, there are times when I’m outside and I’m struggling to see through the visor to the ground so I can watch where I’m placing my feet on the black and red earth that few humans have walked over that I really do feel like the intrepid explorer taking stock of my Martian surroundings. Regardless of the blue sky, the soul of this place is rust-red and permeates my reality.
I am halfway between Astronaut and Plumber
I’ve spent months monitoring solar power generators, Hydrogen fuel cells, water for showers, communication with mission support, and robotic learning algorithms. I’ve been a scientist, an engineer, a geologist, a chef, and a
sh*t shoveler sanitation worker. I understand the need for cross training better than I ever have in my life before my time on sMars and I know that there are not many people either qualified or willing to do both aspects of the work that needs doing on sMars or real Mars. On earth when my toilet broke I would call the plummer. I spent my morning today elbow deep in biowaste trying figure out why our pee trap was full of sludgey poop. Perhaps it wasn’t as technical as replacing and rewiring the cooling pump for the space suit we wear or as exacting as creating the perfect gluten free roux for gumbo but this is something I was proud to have figured out and fixed and it makes a difference to life here. Being an astronaut isn’t just about doing amazing science and playing with all the cool things NASA sends you out with, its also learning how to take a shower in zero-g and not drown, how to pee in a bag, and how to make re-hydrated food palatable. So maybe on this one I’m two-thirds of the way there.
I am halfway between families
I am especially fortunate to have a huge number of people on Earth that I consider family and get to hear a relatively small amount of news from via email. I am equally fortunate to have a relatively tiny number of people on sMars that I consider family and get to know an extraordinary amount of information from. For example, My mom visited my little brother in the Windy City last week and I got to hear about how my brother is doing, how all the boys he went to high school with are so glad that he’s back, how their parents are excited to hear about the family and how all of our wonderful family friends are getting along on the blue/green marble they call home. Here in sMars I was informed of everything from the bowel movements of several dome-mates, menstrual syncing, and the necessity of outrageous amounts of fiber in our diet to mothers’ birthdays, sisters’ weddings, adorable neices/daughters, and crew members’ Disney preferences. Its amazing to think of how much I know about my dome family’s daily life and how much I still have to learn about who they are.
I am halfway between Start and Finish
For every day that we stay in this dome we break the record for North American long term isolation and confinement missions. Allen said that there are now more days behind us in this mission than in front of us. You’re probably thinking, “DUH that’s what halfway means”, but for some reason that phase has stuck with me.
I have fewer days left to me to razz Neil about his hillbilly obsession with Indy Car. There is less time to understand and study Zak’s subtle art of Engininjutsu. I’ll have to play more board games with Martha to make up for the gaming drought I’ll be in after this mission. More after dinner time needs to be devoted to philosophical debate and Disney song naming with Allen. Emulation of Joce’s academic aptitude and workout motivation will have to move a lot faster as well. There is so much in the dome that I’m already starting to miss just thinking about leaving. I halfway wish that it would never end.
And on the other hand, soon I’ll be playing with my Charly-dog in the yard, cuddling my begrudging hedgehog, dancing with my hunny bear, and having mimosas with mom and Bri before an epic spa day. The more I think about that the more I wish I was getting out tomorrow. There is a whole world full of direct sunshine, fresh food, old friends, flushing toilets, and alcohol craftsmen and we’re going to be so much more grateful of than we’ve ever been. I’m halfway to having it.
I wish I could leave you with something profound, some knowledge of how this adventure will forever change me but I wont know until I make it through. For now all I can say is that the people here are what make this dome a home, I love them all and even though we aren’t going to have a Valentines Day I couldn’t think of a better day to share the celebration of our halfway marker with. Love is keeping me going through this, the love from and for all my families, Martian and other.