Sunday, April 15, 2012
The door opens and bright light shines in. My helmet darkens automatically cutting back the too bright light, from a much smaller and brighter sun than I am used to seeing. As I stepped out of the airlock I felt a chill, but thought it was mostly psychological, there was no way the -5 degree temperature of the bright summer air could make it though my Mars suits insulation. I feel so light, just 4/10th of what I weighed back on earth. I bounce down the ladder, the gravity feeling good under my feet after months of low gravity in the ship named “The Linear Accelerator” that had brought a 100 of us to Mars. The largest space craft that had ever been constructed went from a parking orbit around the Moon to Mars and now would take a long time getting back. We met Mars at it’s closest point in the orbits of the Earth and the Moon.
I looked at my new home, where I was going to spend the rest of my life. The sky and the ground were a lot more muted than the pictures of the red planet had shown. The sky was a hazy butterscotch color. The sun was piercingly bright, like a welders torch. I felt the urge to jump in the light gravity, but we had been warned that until we got used to it, we could hurt ourselves by jumping too high and coming down wrong. I could feel a little heat coming through my boots and checked the ground temp with a laser temperature gauge. The ground was 21 degrees Celsius, which is amazingly warm. I guess the freezing thin air was almost a vacuum, which allows the ground to retain heat in the intense sunlight.
I follow my other team mates across the landing field to the low, buried entrance to Mars City. The entire base had been built over a decades time by teams of robots before the first teams of humans had sat down to finish the work.
We had to go through the air locks in sets of 4, once inside the chamber I felt the air pressure increasing to just below earth normal, from the very thin martian air pressure. Once the air pressure stabilized a blast of high pressure air washed over each of us as we went through the cleaners one at a time. This removed the fine dust particles from our suits that would cause serious lung problems if they weren’t removed and filtered out. Inside the doors were lockers where we could put our suits and we were told to keep the metal key to the locker holding our suits, sort of like a bus locker key.
Once inside the large hallway I looked up at the blue tinted thick glass over our heads at the sky above. A lot of base personnel were gathered around to check out the new people. We were gathered into a room and given a welcome speech by the base commander, and a safety briefing by the base safety personnel. We were broken up into smaller teams and all shown to our small rooms where we could put our belongings. Once we dropped off our things we were given a tour of the facility.
I was really amazed by the large greenhouse gardens. The sun heated and lighted the plants so well. It was actually a little hot in the green houses. The day on Mars is just 37 minutes and 22 seconds longer than a day on Earth, so the plants really grew well, thinking it was summertime for months longer than on earth. The Martian year was 668 earth days, plus a little change. Mars tilt is a little more than earths tilt and the orbit a little more eccentric, so the seasons were a lot more pronounced on Mars. We were on the equator to help balance out the extreme shifts.
There was so much water in just this one green house, and there were hundreds of green houses, and I asked where it had all came from. I was told that they had drilled wells down into the ground and found a huge reservoir of water under the ground. There had been no need to build a pipeline to the large ice fields at the poles.
We were taken to our lab space and introduced to team mates working in similar areas and out mission controllers here on Mars. There was a lot more to do than there were people to do it. We were warned to not take on too much at the beginning, or we would burn out fast.
That night I fell asleep on Mars, thinking of all the research I wanted to do. My mind racing with excitement. The light gravity made the bed feel like the most comfortable bed I had ever slept in.