9th March 2020
Sol 8: Is there life on Mars ?
For all intents and purposes, we’re on Mars. Everything reasonably possible is done to make the MDRS feel like a real Martian base. We have protocols for everything, from safety communications for moving from place to place to knowing exactly how many grams of plants were harvested on a given day. We have boring powdered food, that tests our culinary creativity on the daily. We have beautiful, multicoloured, but barren landscapes that span as far as the eye can see. We have limited water, and virtually no outside air to breathe. We also have the iffy internet one might expect from a base several astronomical units away from Earth. All in all, it certainly doesn’t feel like home.
Yet, in some small ways, it still inevitably is. The MDRS is in the desert, and it is one dry place, but we’re still on Earth, and there’s some water out there. And where there is water, there is life. On our many times out, we saw plants or animal tracks frequently. We get the occasional insect hanging around in the Hab every so often. And, on lucky days like yesterday, we get to see live animals, such as the antelope we witnessed graciously running as we rode on our rovers. It’s funny to think that this was the first new vertebrate the four of us saw in a whole week. When you come to such an arid place and find, when looking a little harder, that some life is still thriving, it makes you think about how some form of life could have very well developed on Mars when conditions were better.
Sadly, nature is never left alone by humans. There’s the big scientific research base in the middle of nowhere, of course, but traces of human life are plenty elsewhere when you look for them. Every EVA team comes back with a plastic bag, a piece of paper or even a huge plastic box found in the field, littered and waiting an eternity to decompose. We simply can’t keep any place clean.
We’re some of the closest things to real Martian explorers, despite the few things in our ways. From here, things are exciting: the bold exploration and the fascinating science make the days go by fast. But it’s no great place to live, and it shouldn’t be. Comfort is far from the priority, and that’s expected. We can hope to have a Martian colony in the coming decades, but it’s hopeless to think life will be as easy as it ever was on Earth. Sustainable human life on another planet is an exciting step forward, but it’ll never replace living where we evolved to be. There’s no place quite like home, and we realise it all the time here at MDRS. We can hope for the first words from the surface of Mars to be “Keep home clean while we’re away, there’s no better place to stay”.
Author: Clément Plagne, Crew Journalist