The recent letter from the Mars500 facility was written on 13 September, when the mission logged 105 days. This marks the duration of the precursor experiment in 2009, and therefore a good moment for Diego and Romain to take stock and think about the months to come.
If I think about '105 days', the first thing that comes to mind is two names: Oliver Knickel and Cyrille Fournier. They made our mission possible by successfully completing theirs: Mars 105, which ran from March to July 2009.
When I first met them in April this year we spent the whole of our first night talking about their mission, our mission and a hundred other things. One sentence from Oliver particularly struck me and made me realise what kind of challenge we were jumping into. He said: “If our mission had been 520 days long, we would still be inside the modules right now”. At that time these words were kind of scary for me.
If I look back at this first period, I would divide it into three parts:
Our first days were spent getting used to our environment for all our basic needs such as food, cleaning and so on. Our adaptability was our most important skill. The end of June and the month of July were focused on our 100 experiments. We were often in contact with the scientists to make sure that the data we would gather for more than a year and a half was okay. Over the last six weeks we have settled into a smooth routine, which allows us to spend more time on our personal projects.
Today we have reached the symbolic number of 105 days and Oliver’s sentence doesn’t feel frightening anymore. We take our isolation in succession of one day, plus one day, plus …
We don’t focus too much on the days left before we 'come back to Earth'. Instead, we spend all our energy trying to make everyday a good day. If anyone has a problem with an experiment, the other five of us are always ready to help. This state of mind hasn't changed for 105 days, and I’m sure that it will be the same for the next 415 days. Thanks to this amazing team spirit, I still enjoy being with the other crewmembers.
Even though, as Romain says, we are not fans of counting the elapsed and remaining days, I have a thing for considering – the 'chunks' of days. When we were at 50, I’d say to myself –“Ok, the whole mission is 10 times this much, and then we are done. Wait, 10 times this much? That will take forever!”
For some reason I feel like 100 days is a number I like way more. Even though objectively there is more than a year left, thinking that we will need only four more chunks of about 100 days to finish sounds great! Only now it feels like time does pass sort of fast.
I think it is a great opportunity for us to thank all the crew that stood here for 105 days so that our 520-day mission could run smoother. So, I'd like to send them a big hello. We are very grateful that Oliver and Cyrille have stayed in touch!
Being here during these 105 days has taught me different things. From the day to day life and relationship with the crew and mission control, to the science in the experiments, to the school courses that I follow via mp3s and books, to absolutely random stuff. For instance, thanks to Wang Yue, I learned that for dinner guests of honor in some parts of China are typically served camel that has a lamb inside that has a chicken inside that has an egg inside.
The day has, in general, slowed down a bit, so I try to change the routine whenever I can. This can be by doing different things, or by doing the same things in a different sequence if possible. In our remaining free time, we enjoy watching movies together and playing games. We enjoy our time together very much. In spite of our discipline and rigorousness doing the scientific work, we have an amazingly easygoing crew, which is usually a balance hard to get.
Of course you have to deal the fact that you don’t see other people or can’t talk 'live' with anyone else besides the crew. In that sense I’ve been experimenting with Twitter and it has been a really nice way to 'probe' the outside world and share what we do. I can’t update it live or very often, but it has worked fine. Writing the blog updates for the ESA website has been fun as well.
All in all, I‘ve enjoyed it so far, and hope that being here will continue to give us those little satisfactions and hope that we will keep being a team as cohesive and steady through the good and less good times! I think we’ve got what it takes.