But steak or no steak (actually because of no steak), I think such a project really brings home the point of how life on Mars will be. Onboard the Space Station the astronauts have access to phone calls, internet, video chat, and fresh food. They can look out the window and see home. Presumably any future return to the Moon would also incorporate these same home comforts. We’ll look up and see a blue-green marble in the black daytime sky – both awe inspiring and comforting. That’s all of human history you’re looking at. But Mars is different. Mars is far away and the crews that land there will need to be seriously self-sufficient in ways not yet required. Challenges await, but we can do it.
And do it we did. I myself filled no less than four roles as crewmembers came and went (commander, executive officer, engineer, and journalist). The rest of the crew was just as busy with their own important work. The hand signals we came up with proved to be so beneficial that we incorporated their use on all of our EVAs. We grew plants as a test of in-situ resource utilization, saw firsthand how useful and complimentary an unmanned rover is to manned EVAs, and got more data points about how and how not to attempt an EVA rescue.
But it wasn’t just all science. Jorge made fresh bread daily and we even had our share space tourists stop by wanting to know “what is this place?” Even Boeing sent someone out to make a video of our time here. If people walking around the desert in Plexiglas helmets and orange jumpsuits is interesting, then so should walking on the Moon or Mars be.
And yet as I leave this place I have to remind myself that no one’s ever really been to Mars. We haven’t even been to the Moon in nearly 50 years! But I for one believe we have a bright future among the stars. A future that begins in just a few years’ time as we prepare for a new generation of flights beyond low Earth orbit.
It’s been a pleasure.
Executive Officer / Acting Engineer and Journalist