Posted in Now on the Outside

Every ending…

…is just the beginning of a new adventure.

I have been putting this off, dearest friends and readers. My life these last 9 months has been incredible.  I’ve journeyed to Mars and returned home and as much as I felt like an astronaut I couldn’t help but feel like John Carter too.  Instantly teleported to Mars without really knowing the rules or how to survive there, thinking the world of myself only to find out how small I really am and how much I have to learn still.  October 16th, Day 1 in the Dome, wakey wakey Martian Lady…

You’ve been with me on that journey, been with me for the changes and challenges, successes and failures, and now we come to the end.  The overwhelming sentiment is that there are no ends, just different ways to begin again.  Since returning from sMars I’ve felt like two different people, Astronaut Sophie and Sophie Carter.

Astronaut Sophie returns to the world strong and confident, another conquest under her belt and some amazing experiences that she will never forget.  Sophie Carter woke up on June 14th and for the second time in her life awoke on a new planet, she is somewhat more fragile than she used to be and despite loving Earth, she misses the simplicity of Mars.  While technically at home neither women really feet at-home.

And so here I am, a true Gemini/schizophrenic unable to combine the two parts of myself into a cohesive whole but do not despair for I am in a good place.  From these two women I will forge a new person, someone to combine their best traits and to overcome their most difficult challenges and thus be the best of both of them. Being outside the dome after so long is difficult, everything is both new and old and somewhat tinted by the fact that for the next few months I can truly (aka joblessly) appreciate them.

The future holds many great things for me, after spending eight months never going more than a mile away from home I’ll now be traveling hundreds of miles to see my family and friends.  I’ll be going to the Forbes 30 under 30 summit in Philadelphia to network with my peers and explore a new city.  I’ve got my dog, hedgehog and hunny bear back and we have all kinds of plans to go camping and see concerts and generally have an amazing time in this beautiful place that we are living. Thank you for reading, supporting, and sending funny pictures of buff Kangaroos.  Thank you for sharing in my adventures.

Your “Dome Soph” no longer,

Sophie Claire Milam

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Posted in Uncategorized

Two Steps

Two step signing on to say say good bye.

In two mornings I will be back on Earth.  This is my second to last night in the dome and while I wish I could say that we’ve all been wonderful little worker-bees and already have the hab ship-shape and ready for the next crew that would be lying and I’d never lie to my beloved readers.   So I have this problem with spatial approximation.  I’ve never really been great at approximating how large or heavy something is, but thanks to my job as XO I am getting better.  Do you know approx  how large 500 grams of freeze dried broccoli looks pre and post vacuum sealing?  One of the jobs of XO is basically Hab quartermaster, or in this case, Hab quartermistress.  I am inventorying every single scrap of food that we have and are going to be passing on to the next crew.

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Cleaning up the shipping container, getting things ready for the next crew
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Vaccum sealing all the opened food is really the hard part!

I’m saying good bye now because I don’t know how much time I’ll have tomorrow between finishing up the inventory and cleaning and packing up.

So I gotta steal a bit from Zak (and apparently Jocelyn) here but go and read his blog at http://almostmars.com/2015/06/11/exit-day-schedule-and-live-stream/:

We will be leaving the dome Saturday morning (the 13th) at 8am Hawaii time (noon mountain time). We have a day of media interviews, a skydive with the Golden Knights and a BBQ/pool party planed for that day (fingers crossed the weather holds). There will be a live stream set up for the day: https://livestream.com/accounts/13885785. We haven’t figured out the details of how we are going to stream the jump landing but hopefully there won’t be any issues.

Currently, the stream is scheduled as:
The hab exit will be from 8:00am until 9:30am but this could potentially start a little earlier.
Then, the jump landings in Kona will be from 11am until 3pm.

So there you have it, I hope to see you there!

Posted in Uncategorized

Growing Pains

Hello Dear Readers,

Just a quick one today because I’ve been up since 8am and sleep has been a bit elusive this week.  I’m not going to talk about the 90’s sitcom, or about watching my little brother become bigger than me, it is my robot has had some growing pains.  It was only last week that it finally became fully made and it was glorious!  Splendid and imposing, inspiring, magnificent, awesome… and stationary.  Not the best trait for an exploration rover.

Call sign Two-Step, why wouldn't I make a robot with boots?
Call sign Two-Step, why wouldn’t I make a robot with boots?

The much desired hum of a powerful motor propelling it forward on spindly legs to walk over all obstacles in its path was instead replaced with the click-click-click of a motor stalled out and trying, a touch pathetically, to do something it had no possible chance of accomplishing.  I could almost hear Scotty telling me that we didn’t have the power.  And so we grow and we learn, and we remember back to every teacher that ever told us to do the math before putting a part into production!

And so instead of growing taller we grew shorter and stronger; Zak 3D printed some gears for the shaft to wring ever last drop of torque out of it and we got the ever important forward motion!  Wheels may not be as snazzy as legged hubs but hey, gotta start somewhere.

With some big ol' monster truck wheels and sweet rubber band treads out baby makes tracks on the HI-SEAS Mini Mars Yard
With some big ol’ monster truck wheels and sweet rubber band treads our baby makes tracks on the HI-SEAS Mini Mars Yard

The great thing about where you start though, is that you don’t have to end up there.  Hidden beneath those rubber band treads are 12 slots just waiting to try out some foot designs.  Something to give this baby, which I have just decided to name “The Giddy-up”, a little more edge.  Following after my childhood fix-it hero Tim the Tool Man Taylor, I’ll be giving it a bit more power with a better motor and maybe even a gear box to really crank up the torque.  Of course that’ll all happen back on Earth, I may have to build a little Idaho Mars yard to continue the work.

Stay Tuned!

Two Step, out.

Posted in Uncategorized

Inventory

Inventory

To take stock of

To catalogue the things in your life

This is my job right now, I am taking stock of all the shelf stable food that we’re going to leave behind for Crew IV which will start up in August.  One of the most important things on the mission has been the food and the amazing things that the crew members have been able to do with it.  Allen’s Kingal is still one of my favorite things that we’ve made and Zak’s red beans and rice have me subconsciously calling him Uncle Ben (which is weird because I actually have an Uncle Ben who lived in Louisiana and has never made me red beans and rice).  Neil’s Chicken Carbonara was amazing and second only Joce’s Chicken Paprika with dumplings.  Martha even did what my vegetarian brothers couldn’t and made spiced chickpeas and alugobi that I could NOT stop eating.

We’re putting together a cook book, and I have quite a few recipes that I still need to write up to put into it.  I’ve never made a cook book but I feel like its going to read a lot like a regular book; I’ll be seeing “empanadas” but thinking of Christmas in a dome, missing one family and enjoying another.

I’ve also been taking stock of the sensors, motors and other parts I’ve ordered.  Some of them stay behind, some are mine, and some I get to borrow to finish my projects back on Earth.  Each part a piece of a dream, a fanciful thought, a project.  Cleaning water with sand, teaching a garden to tend itself and imbuing an amalgamation of parts, motors and sensors with a sense of exploration.  As is so often the case with dreams some seemed to materialize on their own, some are dragged kicking and screaming into the physical realm, and some I just couldn’t spend enough time in the clouds to coax them down to Earth.

“Now Sophie,” the Subtly Insightful Reader intuits, “surely this talk of dreams cannot just relate to servo motors, ultrasonic rangefinders, and accelerometers.  You may build robots but you aren’t one.”

Well SIR, you obviously don’t know about my plans for SophBot 2000, however, that doesn’t make you any less right.  I have said before that we here are all parts of a whole; its almost impossible to live only for yourself here in the dome.  And like my garden sensors and Cave Crawler wheels sometimes the plans made for the parts don’t work out right away and the design needs to be changed.

The wiring diagram for this crew has had its fair share of revisions but the components have all been the same, constantly reintegrated as some systems fade and others rise.  And through it all the is the hum of gears meshing, turning, and bringing each other to new revolutions.

HI-SEAS Crew III: An electrical schematic in constant flux built on the foundation of dome-cooked love and respect.  Metaphors meet the blender of thine doom!

Basically, despite being confined to a dome none of us have stayed still very well.

Dome family!
Dome family!

May the sun be bright that thine batteries charge quickly
May the breeze be cool that your space suits stay chilly
And may your dome, or home, be as full of great people as mine is!

Posted in Uncategorized

The Final Week

Dear Readers,

The blue green marble looms more like a beach ball now as we approach the final week of our time here on sMars. Today was the first of the lasts, the last Sunday we’ll spend here on sMars.  We’ve done the last toilet cleaning, we’ve eaten the last salad from our garden, and now we are gearing up to remove any trace that we were ever here.

Many people ask what I’m looking forward to most and what I want to do first after getting out.  I give some reasonable answers, like eat a pile of fresh fruit and veggies, go sunbathing, eat my weight in Mickey D fries but honestly, I have no idea.  I have no idea what it is going to be like outside of this dome.  I cannot imagine being surrounded by people I don’t know.  I cannot imagine sitting down to a dinner table with food that hasn’t been rehydrated.  More than anything though, I cannot imagine hugging my mom or my best friend.

Things will be busy this week, but I’m going to try and keep everything updated so keep checking back.  Looking back on some of the things I’ve done since coming in here it is hard to believe that it has almost been 8 months.

The ride back home is here, now all we gotta do is jump on a light those rockets
The ride back home is here, now all we gotta do is jump on a light those rockets

The ride continues, and with it the promise of more thrills and excitement.

Two-Step out

Posted in Uncategorized

Congrats Vandal Graduates!

My friend Dirty Mike told me that I was mentioned at the U of I graduation ceremony.  Time has flown  and I completely forgot about all that so for all my friends who are graduating and moving on to do great things with their lives, I wanted to say congrats and good luck with your futures!

Congrats to all the Vnadals, can't wait to graduate with too! Photo credit: Neil Scheibelhut
Congrats to all the Vnadals, can’t wait to celebrate with you!
Photo credit: Neil Scheibelhut

If you want to read more about things, U of I had a really lovely piece at: http://www.uidaho.edu/engr/newsevents/features/sophie-milam

Your Two-Steppin’ Vandal Alumnus, SophBot Mars Edition