March 13th, 2019
Sol 17: Emergency return
When the EVA team of the day was exploring the South area of the station they faced strong winds and took the decision to get back to the station. The beginning of the EVA rolled out fine: they went to the weather station to do some maintenance, as usual. Then they headed south. The first stop was done before the Kissing Camels Ridges.
The wind was still low enough, but it was getting colder. It’s at their second stop that things started to get serious : after 10 minutes walking, the wind increased dramatically and quickly, the EVA team was starting to feel the cold of the wind through their gloves. It was getting hard to hear other members through the radio, and the wind was pushing them around. Cerise, EVA leader, took the right decision to abort the EVA and head straight back to the rovers. The team drove right back to the Hab. The wind strained to rover’s batteries quite a lot. The team arrived in the Hab feeling frozen, but safe and sound. This EVA was different from the rest of our mission, Cerise, Jérémy, Aurélien and Norbert explored a wide region without a precise goal except the will to explore and discover unknown areas. They drove the rovers along Cow Dung Road and stopped each time they found a nice geologic spot. That’s real exploration, like the first settlers will have to do on Mars.
Today was a milestone for some of us, our mission will end in less than two days and we started to realize that today. The effect on our behaviors is strange : we have a foot on Earth but the other one still sealed on Mars. On one hand it’s easier for us to live in this philosophy as confinement has less weight on us. But on the other hand the mission is one of the most intense moments of our lives that we prepared for one year and it’s hard to see its end coming. Two of us will return to the MDRS to be commander of the 2020 missions of ISAE-SUPAERO but for the others these are certainly our last days on the Red Planet. It affects the life of the Hab and the experiments.
But it’s very different from a crew member to another. For example Aurélien and Norbert felt the end of the mission coming very fast while I’m still feeling like an astronaut in the middle of its rotation, I was really surprised when Aurélien told me that tomorrow we will start to pack our luggage. The fact that in three days we will be on a plane to Paris makes us feel different in these days than if we were in the middle of a longer mission. We are thinking about the return more than ever and that affects us, and I think that these days, like the first days of the mission are less pertinent to the extent of science and human factors. On Saturday, crew 207 will join us in the MDRS. The Hab and the crew will be ready to welcome them and let them start science here.
Author : Benjamin Auzou, Journalist