Mission to … Utah? Would-be Mars voyagers demeanour for lessons about how people …
February 19, 2015 - garden totes
Editor’s note: In a tumble of 2002, David Real, afterwards an editor for DMN sister association Belo Interactive, spent a two-week vacation during a unnatural Mars cluster in a Utah desert. This comment of his outing was published in a Jul 6, 2002, editions of The News.
MARS DESERT RESEARCH STATION, Utah – At first, my friends looked at
me humorous when we told them that we was spending my two-week vacation
in a tin can in a Utah desert.
Then they schooled that we would be vital with 5 scientists
wearing spacesuits finished out of trash-can tools and sanctimonious to be
That’s when they incited fake-solemn.
“Will there be gravity?” they wanted to know.
“If your spacesuit runs out of oxygen, we can take off your
helmet,” they pronounced sternly. “You’re not unequivocally on Mars.”
Very funny, guys.
Well, we have news for you.
I unequivocally was on Mars – or as tighten as we can get on Earth.
The Mars Society, a private classification that wants to go to the
fourth world as shortly as possible, has built a reproduction of a space
habitat in a center of nowhere to copy a Mars mission. The
million-dollar bid includes identical comforts in a Canadian
Arctic and Iceland.
One thought is to figure out how to control critical scientific
research underneath a formidable conditions of a Marslike expedition.
Another thought is simply to put scientists underneath highlight and see what
“We’re perplexing out all kinds of things – opposite organisation mixes,
different ability mixes, nationality mixes, character-type mixes, you
name it,” pronounced Dr. Robert Zubrin, boss of a Mars Society and
author of a 1996 book called The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle
the Red Planet and Why We Must. “You competence contend people are
volunteering to be initial subjects.”
Great. I’m a lab rat. And a propitious lab rat, during that, comparison from a
pool of 400 field who volunteered to offer though compensate this
Not usually is a compensate low, a conditions are rough. The space
habitat – we call it a “Hab” – has no telephones or televisions.
There is no cellphone service. The usually strike with a outside
world is by mechanism e-mail regulating a satellite dish.
Everyone aboard contingency wear a spacesuit outward a Hab, solely for
emergencies and upkeep of a electric generator and water
pump. A dorm-size fridge binds usually a singular supply of fresh
vegetables (although we were means to steal a biological-specimen
fridge to store beef and a 12-pack of beer.)
Despite a approaching hardships, my associate Martianauts and we were
excited as we bloody off in Apr from a Salt Lake City airport
in dual minivans and gathering 6 hours south to Hanksville, Utah, a
town so tiny it was missed by a 2000 Census.
After interlude during 2 a.m. for 4 hours of sleep, we strike a retro
brakes and landed during a Hab, an odd, white structure that looks
like a cranky between a stubby corn silo and an Apollo space
capsule. Sitting amid some blood-colored dirt and boulders, it had
this obsessive look, as if we unequivocally were on a indignant Red Planet.
Since many of us had never met, we figured we’d be ripping out each
other’s throats in a few days. Just as in a Survivor TV show, a
previous organisation had voted someone off their space island after a
personality dispute developed.
But a clan shortly spoke – we had a chow-down celebration crew!
If an army travels on a stomach, afterwards food for a gibe Mars crew
is nothing other than a primary directive.
We immediately orderly a extensive lunch and concluded to rotate
cooking chores equally – a daily persecution we dubbed the
Director of Galley Operations. It fast suffered a predestine of all
science and became an acronym – DGO, for brief – that finished it seem
official and also cemented a clarity of group identity.
We had upheld a initial test.
“DGO – we usually finished it adult for fun, to gibe a acronym-itis,”
says German scientist Jan Osburg, 30. “But it stuck, and it’s
Are we galaxy-class geeks or what?
Our subsequent space predicament finished us feel right during home – a computers
wouldn’t work. The categorical mechanism was fine, though a laptops wouldn’t
let us connect.
“Just call us and we’ll travel we by it,” pronounced a e-mail from
our tech experts, totally forgetful what we told them before
our trip: There are no phones on Mars.
Fortunately, we can’t hear computers roar in space, either.
The subsequent day, we stepped into a homemade spacesuits for a first
time, clipped on a trash-can-lid helmets, incited on a cooling
fans, and climbed aboard a rovers – actually, four-wheel
all-terrain vehicles – to destinations unknown.
The winding lens of a helmet and a restricting fit of the
spacesuit acted usually like a transporter lucent us down to the
Martian surface. At times, it was tough to trust that we were not
Like a time one of us had an accident. Andrea Fori, 32, a
planetary geologist and systems engineer, who helped select a Mars
landing site for an unmanned NASA mission, fell over and couldn’t
get adult – usually like that awful TV commercial. She was as infirm as
a turtle since her spacesuit trek pinned her laterally against
a Marslike rock.
“When we put on a 30-pound spacesuit and we hook over and try to
pick adult a rock, it’s difficult,” she said. “Without going through
the motions of doing it, we wouldn’t indispensably know that.”
Or a time a sandstorm slammed into a Hab during 56 mph. The station
began moving and groaning, like an aged wooden boat during sea.
Suddenly, electrical sparks started sharpened out like a Fourth of
July from a ceiling, that was sizzling and popping. We all ran
to get a cameras, usually like loyal explorers.
Then we satisfied that this was substantially not a good situation.
That’s when a feelings of siege and hazard – as remote as they
were – strike home.
Of course, a excursion was not all risk and fad and
space-alien monsters watchful to slice out a kidneys.
Mostly, it was tedious scholarship stuff.
Our commander, Dr. William J. Clancey, who was my roommate during Rice
University 30 years ago, was videotaping a any pierce on a main
floor during waking hours.
He was conducting a behavioral research of life inside a habitat:
what do people do, when do they do it and where. There are still
many simple space lessons to be learned.
“I’m claiming that a really inlet of tellurian scrutiny has not
even been complicated by psychologists or sociologists,” says Bill, 49,
who works for a National Aeronautics and Space Administration at
the Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. “You’re looking
to be surprised, to get a new idea, to find a connection.”
I, however, was looking for some service from a heartless work
schedule of 16-hour days and no weekends. we was also sleepy of
finding scorpions in a bedrooms and examination out for mountain
lions in a desert.
Not to discuss being unimpressed with a accommodations. My
private stateroom had a coffin-sized plywood berth atop a
5-foot-tall pedestal, and a vital area 23 inches far-reaching – and no
Every week or so, we could squeeze an ice-cold shower, if we helped
the “bucket brigade” receptacle H2O from an outward holding tank.
The foul-smelling biological toilet compulsory us to dump compost
into a waterless play after any use. One day we saw a white
slithery thing crawling by a toilet, though mercifully decided
to tell no one.
Power outages occurred any 8 hours so we could refuel the
electric generator – unless someone plugged in a third appliance,
such as a toaster, and immediately blew a circuit breaker.
After a while, we learned, a disturb was left from scooping adult soil
for systematic experiments from alien-looking landscapes. How
interesting can it be to write nonetheless another news about geologic
formations and things flourishing on microscope slides?
After a few days, we motionless to have a celebration to mangle a tension.
It was a tellurian space party, of course, to applaud Yuri’s Night,
in memory of Yuri Gagarin, a Russian cosmonaut who became a first
human in space on Apr 12, 1961.
I was a usually one in a organisation who had never listened of this virtual
party, though we am a lightweight as distant as heavenly parties go. After
a few beers and Internet chitchat, however, we satisfied that we were
all usually strangers in a bizarre land – some foreigner than others.
For fun, we once told Mission Control that half a organisation was lost
in a sandstorm and a others were going space-happy after being
trapped in a greenhouse. Or did that indeed happen?
The amusement of American biologist Dr. Nancy B. Wood, who spent most
of her time in a biology lab, also helped.
“I’m creation mutant, wacko, genetically engineered bio-monsters,”
she pronounced one day, when we asked her what she was doing. I’m
reasonably certain she was kidding.
To ease down, a organisation motionless to accumulate any night before bedtime
to watch a film about space. Starship Troopers and Red Planet could
convince anyone that there were no intelligent film producers on
Earth, though Frank Herbert’s Dune, a six-hour radio miniseries,
was a organisation fave.
Our final night together occurred too soon.
To celebrate, we motionless to eat some of a lab experiments.
We savored a delicate, toothpick-sized fire of arugula from our
greenhouse, and afterwards rinsed with some booze that had indeed flown
in a zero-G training thought (unlike many of us). Then we tried
some initial tatsoi cabbage from a Hab garden and sipped
some some-more space wine. This went on for hours, punctuated with many
misty-eyed toasts, finished Russian-style.
“Yummy, yummy, yummy, we have radishes in my tummy,” Andrea pronounced at
Life is tough in outdoor space for veggies.
Before we left for a conceivable home, a petition asked if we
would cruise entrance behind again – maybe for 3 months or so?
For my associate space mates, they would substantially answer a same as
if asked to go to Mars.
“I’ll be signing immediately, signing with both hands, both feet,”
says Dr. Vladimir Pletser, 46, who works for a European Space
Agency and is an wanderer claimant for Belgium.
I, however, have seen adequate of a wild, furious quest.
Beam me up, Scotty.
David Real is an editor for Belo Interactive.
For information about a Mars Society, revisit marssociety.org.