After 200 Days, This Is What I Know About Life on Simulated Mars


Two hundred days have past on simulated Mars — days of sun where we were able to cook, turn on the heater, clean ourselves with warm water; days of dark rainy skies and fog when we wore five layers, hid our fingers in gloves, filled and refilled our flasks with hot tea.

Now, 165 days remain in which to grow plants, run experiments, design and build space suits; to avoid injury or succumb to it; to build friendships and amend personal affronts; to fail and succeed; and to take photos of ourselves standing on the surface of the swirling red, black and grey lava rock.

Looking back on the last 200 days feels like flicking through a photo album: a single, distinct image, followed by a blur, and then another image. That’s how it should be, I suppose. There’s no reason to scratch days away one at a time. By definition, days, minutes and hours mark themselves. That’s their province and power: to permit us count and recount certain, particular points. What remains in the end isn’t a teeming pile of seconds, but rather a starred display of flashbacks; a sensual chronology, complete with thunderbolts of touch, snowmelts of taste, carillons of sound, and tendrils of smell.

If you could peer into the kaleidoscope of my memory from the last 200 days, turning it over in your hand, you would see:

* As I crest the hill behind the dome for the first time, great broken fields of frozen lava turn their scarred faces upwards and greet me. I think: at some point, the whole world looked like this. Maybe at some point every solid planet looked like this.

* The persistent tapping grows louder and louder. A child of the desert — I saw water fall from —> Read More