Well time has once again escaped me and the rest of the HI-SEAS crew as we find ourselves with 19 days left inside our simulated Martian home. As we begin to wrap up all of our projects, papers, and final outreach activities the crew has achieved a state jovial exhaustion coupled with some mild panic at the growing to do lists.
Even with our long days and short nights the crew has still been finding time to explore the local terrain and this morning performed a sunrise EVA to explore some lava tubes and skylights about a mile from the habitat. Our trek started early at about 4:00 AM with myself and three other crew members climbing to the top of the 100ft cinder cone next to our habitat for some sunrise photos.
After taking several minutes to appreciate the uniqueness of this situation, I am literally in an analog planetary exploration suit, watching the sunrise over the slopes of Mauna Loa Volcano, with my analog Martian habitat in the background. There are some moments you will never forget and although I am not sure that this will be one of them it is a good place holder until I actually explore space :)
After this brief stop for sunrise we began a 3 hour journey trekking through lava fields to reach 6 different skylights (collapsed sections of a lava tube) and spent the morning carrying a ladder and climbing into these magnificent tubes of varying sizes, some were so cavernous you could fit an entire semi-truck, others had small/tiny opening that would only allow us a small view into the depths of the lava tube. With no animal, plant, or human presence it is easy to think you are completely isolated on another world. I wish I could say that this was our typical EVA, but most of our EVAs are concerned with maintenance, system monitoring, and basic surveying and tend to be uneventful.
Life here is coming to a close and I am looking forward to a chocolate milkshake first of all (Let's face it a girl's got to have priorities) and then getting back into work and school for one last semester. Thank you to all of you who have followed and helped me while I've been on this amazing adventure.
Looking forward to returning to Earth!
Your Simulated Martian,
Tiffany M. Swarmer