Suit communications: Check
Airlock pressure levels: Nominal
Welcome to Mars.
Warmth. The first thing I noticed above all other senses. It was almost like going to your baseball game, a spiritual enlightenment of sorts. Being in an enclosed environment for a week now, and the first sense activated is by way of the intense heat of our celestial neighbor. Of course I know the feeling of radiation, especially that found back home in Denver. But the actual, physical presense of warmth, this almost foreign sensation through my ‘spacesuit’ and onto my skin ignited a slew memories: an “awakening.”
There’s a lot of research mission support plans to gather on us as we live in this isolated environment for 8 months, both individually and as a crew. From psychological surveys to stress level testing, there’s a slew of information out there that the teams are optimizing their plans to gather in the little time they have available with us. What’s fascinating to me as a crew member is realizing how much we had available back home. The every day opportunity to us is a luxury item, requesting as we go from one day to the next. The crew drools over a homemade shepherd’s pie made from freeze-dried products, yet there’s probably one for sale at any gas station down the road from you in your home town. That while a compostable toilet can have a mild odor to it, within a second and a simple flush at any dormitory or condo the odor is gone from your life forever.
That warmth on my skin. Yes, I miss it. Can I live without it? That’s a tough question but maybe; there can be alternatives. Shelf stable food only? As long as there’s ketchup, I’m a satisfied man. But what about being on limited quantities of some thing(s) when you know there’s no resupply, no grocery store, no online shopping to fill those needs? And those senses, at what point can something be modeled or mimiced until it’s just not good enough anymore?
We as humans are capable of adapting, evolving to change, and accepting what are our limitations in order to move forward and survive. What comes into play now that’s interesting is how this simulated mission goes beyond what’s on paper. By planning for a Mars mission we are not just relying on data collected over a multitude of studies similar to this one, but in the long run we are pushing our species and its evolution to the brink of something that has never been done before. All that data, those fossils, the countless studies, it’s all so small compared to the larger picture here: forcing humans to adapt – in just a couple of years – to environments never experienced before. Oh and there’s the whole “traveling to another planet” thing, but we’ll assume that’s pretty obvious. If you were to shrink the complete time span of a mission down into the evolution timeline of man, we’re talking nano upon nanoseconds here. It’s like handing a new born baby a scalpel and expecting it to peform brain surgery a few seconds later after just entering the world.