Mars Surface Report #1

The following is part one of a series of five emails I sent to a local middle school during my visit to the Mars Desert Research Station as the crew geologist.

MDRS: The Hab (intro)

Hello from Mars!

I’m writing to you to tell you all about what it’s like to live and walk on the surface of another planet. My name is Kerry, and I’m the Crew Geologist at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. We’re crew #66 and we’ll be here for two weeks. We call our group “Expedition Delta,” but I’m sorry to say there’s no cool reason behind our name. Every two days I will try to send you an update on life on “Mars,” along with pictures of what we’ve done.

So why do people want to pretend to go to Mars? Are they going to a big space camp for fun or do they do something important there?

There are many many things that scientists can’t predict about what working and living on Mars might be like. For example, it is a LOT harder to walk when you have such heavy space suits on, so much so that you have to stop every few minutes if you’re going up even a small hill. You’re cramped inside a spacesuit helmet, and all you can hear are machines pumping in air for you to breath and the radio so you can talk to your crew members.

Big spacesuit gloves makes it hard to push buttons too. So science experiments have to have big buttons, or some other way of working with them. And of course the question everyone always asks, how do you go to the bathroom in space?

Well you can’t answer the last question here on Earth, although NASA astronauts I’m sure have had their chance to find out. But here in the Utah desert we’re worried about how to keep so much equipment running so that we can stay alive. This includes heaters so we stay warm, pumps so we can get water to where we need it, water recyclers so we can get NEW water, generators so we can have electricity, and batteries so we can keep power going all the time. Without these, Mars scientists could die!

You might say that real Mars scientists may have better equipment, but since there’s no plumber, electrician or tech support you can call on Mars, you have to be able to fix everything yourself. This is why we have to do the same. Only if someone’s life is in danger can we call for help.

We have 4 engineers and 4 scientists on our team of eight Canadians, so hopefully we can solve whatever problems come our way. At the moment we have no hot water, so showers are really not that fun. And since we have to conserve water at all times though, we try to skip a few days in between showers, gross!

We “landed” last night at 9pm local time. We drove through the desert in pitch-black darkness to get here, so we only saw glimpses of red rocks and desert when the van’s headlights shined upwards after we hit a bump.

MDRS: The Hab

MDRS: Eating time

We made it to the station where we’ll be spending our two weeks, a place we call the “Hab.” (see photo 1). It’s two stories tall and it’s round, and looks just like a landing spaceship. On this inside it looks like a garage, a bedroom, and a kitchen all mixed into one (photo 2). In the photo, notice how the room is curved. This room is half of our living area!

In a few days I’ll send you pictures of what the surface of “Mars” looks like, along with information about my own science project. Am I right that you just did a space unit in class?

If you have any questions about our pretend Mars and what life is like here, please email me!


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