The six of us on the Space Station live quite isolated from the world. But we are not the only people in such a situation. Before my mission started I asked if I could be in contact with two other missions. One on the bottom of the sea and one on the South Pole. I had very special conversations with people that are in similar situations or even more isolated.
The first contact I had was with the people on the science base Concordia on the South Pole. They probably have a tougher time than we do up here. It is extremely cold at -80 degrees Celsius and when it is summer in The Netherlands they live in permanent darkness. The crew cannot leave, as the fuel in their vehicles is frozen and aircraft cannot reach them. Compared to their experience I think a space mission is quite varied.
A base on the South Pole is attractive to me. It must be similar to living on another planet. It might be like living on Mars. I have a lot of respect for the people that live there. They are doing research and are away from home for long periods. We do have one thing in common: our view of the beautiful stars.
On the bottom
The people that took part in NEEMO do not have a view of the stars. NEEMO is an acronym for NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations. It is an experiment in an underwater base off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. At around twenty metres under the sea four people lived in a metal tank -one of which was ESA astronaut Timothy Peake.
It looked enticing on video. Blue-green water and many fish swimming by. The team conducted ‘spacewalks’ under water to train for a landing on Mars or on an asteroid. They also had time to conduct less serious experiments. Timothy told me that he had taken a toy helicopter to see how it flies at three times the pressure. Good fun.
I wouldn’t mind taking part in one of these programmes, maybe I will get the chance in the future. But now I must prepare for my trip back. If everything goes as planned I will have both feet firmly on the ground by Sunday morning Dutch time…