It’s about 4:30am as I’m writing this. The habitat has fallen silent as everyone made their way to bed after our late-night EVA.
We began our EVA at 2:00 am. With one crewmember opting out and fast asleep, I felt as if we were kids sneaking out of their house in the middle of the night. We went through the normal procedures before heading to the top of the ridge guided by the moonlight as our habcom communicator whispered updates into the microphone.
We were on our way to witness the Persied meteor shower – one of the best of the year. Given that we live on a top of a volcano with little in the way of light pollution in our middle-of-nowhere existence, very few of us could pass up the chance to try and catch a glimpse of the spectacle, even though plastic visors.
The girls made the smart choice of course, getting some rest and relaxation in beforehand. The guys stayed up playing tournament-style high stakes poker with now and later chips for betting and the ultimate victor getting the top prize – the last twinkie left on Mars. Snacks are high commodities here.
Eventually, we all found ourselves wide awake and suiting up in big clunky suits. A few minutes later, we were trekking together over our cinder cone ridge. There, under the darkness of night, it’s easy imagine being on another planet with red rocks crunching below and nothing but stars above and empty landscape ahead.
Within minutes of laying down and staring up at the night sky, the cliché stream of thoughts and feelings started rushing in. It started, of course, with wondering why this isn’t something I do more often. Then awe struck with the acknowledgement that every single dot in the sky is someone else’s potential Sun. Every dot a glimmer of hope for another form of life looking outwards, perhaps back at us.
Well, maybe not every dot. Some are planets within our own neighborhood that we could actually reach should we choose to and put the proper resources towards it.
Equally as impressive was the fact that I wasn’t sweaty. During the day, ten minutes in those suits is enough to start feeling like you’re doing geological research in a set-it-and-forget-it. In the chill of night, however, the shelter from the outside was welcomed.