‘Twas the night before Hab Christmas, when all thro’ the dome
Not a creature was stirring, not even a methanogenic microbial life form
The spacesuits were hung by the airlock with care,
In worry that radiation storms soon would be there;
A special day just passed. It is affectionately called Hab Christmas, also known as Resupply. It’s just like regular Christmas: We begin the morning by receiving a variety of presents and end it by having our own feces carted away in large black bins.
Just like Christmas.
Rather than snow-covered rooftops, legend has it that here Saint Nicholas comes under the heat of the Hawaiian Sun. Saint Nicholas, of course, is a pretend robot (although has yet to be seen by anyone) that rides up the slopes of Mauna Loa while the crew is sleeping. Astronauts speculate this is done with a magical reindeer-pulled sleigh.
Others say that a pick-up truck is much more likely.
Hab Christmas comes every two months to deliver its gifts. We don’t often get LEGO or brand new bicycles. Instead, a storage container is filled with much more desirable items: toilet paper, cleaning supplies, spare equipment, and most importantly: food.
Why is resupply so infrequent? If you were on Mars, supplies would need to be sent via a rocket over a long period of time. That means that sending necessary supplies would require planning very much ahead of time. Resupply items would need to be launched while the crew was still in transit to the planet if you wanted it to arrive only two months later. In addition, inventory and spare parts would need to be managed carefully on planet.
In our case, the crew keeps track of our inventory and are required to request the things that we need. We must keep track of what foodstuffs need to be replaced, how often we go use supplies, and make requests for missing items or equipment necessary for scientific tasks. Toiletries are of special importance. Nothing would be worse than being stuck on Mars for two months without enough ‘sanitary paper’.
Our supplies aren’t sent over by rocket, of course, but instead by said magical pretend robot. Instead of cookies and milk, the crew often leaves brownies and a thank you note. Martian robots have a sweet tooth.
The robot unloads the resupply items into a large storage container at a location near the habitat. It then loads up our trash and waste from the compost toilets that we left the day before, but spent several weeks creating.
Food Drop-off and Poop Pick-up. It’s like the circle of life, but with powdered chicken. Once the resupply has been completed, our task begins.
All of us good little astronauts wait for a message letting us know that the resupply bot has indeed completed their mission and left (Remember we’re not allowed to have contact with anyone else). This part, I think, is less terrifying when compared to trying to catch a large bearded man breaking into your house in the middle of the night via the chimney. A simple email would have done just fine, Santa.
We then need to suit up, go through our decompression cycle in the airlock, and head down to the storage container with a cart. There, the crew works to load up the supplies, occasionally speaking over the mic to relay vital mission information back to the habitat such as, “Guys, we’ve got bananas!!”.
The crew pushes these supplies up the hill to the habitat as a remind of the fact that no matter how many p90x videos we finish, trying to push cargo up a hill inside an enclosed plastic suit will make you feel fat. The winning combination of oxygen deprivation and loss of vision from a forever-fogging visor will have you feeling it’s the end until you reach the top of the hill, pack the supplies in the airlock, and catch your breath.
This is repeated several times until the resupply EVA is complete.
Once the supplies are all inside and we have finished de-suiting, the fun part begins.
Step 1: Get excited as you gather personal items sent to you – packages from loved ones and such.
Step 2: Look at the resupply items and find anything you were really looking forward to.
Step 3: Get sad when you realize you need to find a place for all of this stuff.
Step 4: Find a place for all of this stuff. Also, inventory it.
Step 5: Get happy again after realizing you have enough new plastic boxes for all your crew’s poop.
Just like Christmas.