Contact light

In: Antarctica

“Contact light”

Buzz Aldrin – July 20, 1969

Most people assume the famous line “that’s one small step for a man,
one giant leap for mankind” by Neil Armstrong were the first words
spoken on the moon, but actually Buzz Aldrin beat him to the punch by
confirming contact with the lunar surface upon landing.

As the second person to ever walk on the moon, Aldrin clearly
described his view as being “magnificent desolation”. Stepping out the
front doors of the Concordia Station often gives me the same feeling.
Magnificent desolation. In the  moonlight the vast expanse of
Antarctic is humbling, and I wonder what happened to the desire to go
where no men has gone before. 47 years later (44 since the last man
said ‘goodbye’ to the moon), we fly around in space full-time but the
moon is still very far away.

“We choose to go to the Moon! … We choose to go to the Moon in this
decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because
they are hard.”

John F. Kennedy – September 12, 1962

I like to think of JFK’s words as I wonder what I’m doing here in
Antartica. The question a lot of people asked me when I agreed to
spend a year of my life in the middle of nowhere is all of a sudden
quite real for me as well.

Why?

The idea of adventure and something so extreme was quite appealing
when I applied over a year ago. Now the full magnitude of the task is
more evident. I have a stronger understand of what true desolation can
do to a person.  It’s been almost 6 months since I said goodbye to the
pilot of the last plane, since then my world only consists of 11 other
faces. In such a small group, the smallest things can become big
problems especially if you spend enough time together, and time here
is not lacking. With each passing day, the thought of something new
becomes even more exciting.

“WE NEED YOU”

As I take a urine sample out of the big brown bottle my colleague used
to collect his 24hr urine production, I see the NASA poster I put in
my lab.“WE NEED YOU”. It’s funny, as part of the CHOICE experiment (a
collaboration project  between ESA and NASA), I take monthly blood,
saliva and urine samples. I guess they really do need ‘me’. Who else
will take the samples and check what the effect of isolation is on the
immune system? When I tell my colleague his pee will actually help the
understanding of what happens to astronauts on long missions to the
moon and beyond, he just smiles and says that he is happy considering
every bottle he hands in means another month has passed.

When I put the urine samples in between the two windows of my lab for
a quick freeze before they go in storage, I notice the sky is quite
blue today. Roughly 3 months passed since the last sunrise. Only 10
more days before the first sunlight will rise above the horizon again.
After months of darkness, the slow return of blue feels a bit like
waking up. The hint of color illuminates areas around the base and I
can finally see the outlines of the summer camp buried deep in snow.
In two months the temperatures will be high enough to heat up the camp
and start preparing for the summer campaign. New faces! Time for
change.

Desolation. It’s possibly quite magnificent with some light again.

In the end, Buzz Aldrin was right. The Concordian life is almost the
same as touching down on the Moon…

It just needs a little extra contact and more light.

Temperature -68.5°C. Windchill -89.9°C.


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3 comments

  • gerard schalkx

    July 29, 2016 at 14:31

    Hoi Floris

    Het valt voor deze “Fransman” niet mee om je bericht te lezen, maar de essentie is duidelijk.
    Hoe interessant zal het voor je zijn om er met “luchtaccrobaat” André over te praten. Ik heb immers in Gemonde opgevangen dat er contact tussen jullie zou komen en in tweede instantie ook komt.
    Dat je je dag met bloed en urine kunt vullen. Knap hoor.
    En al die andere dingen natuurlijk.
    Vol verwachting klopt je hart om weer eens andere wereldburgers te zien landen.

    Salut Gérard ( d’n ouwe mister)

    Reply

  • Peter van lieshout

    September 14, 2016 at 07:49

    Dag Floris,
    Wat een mooi wetenschappelijk “avontuur” , op een plaats waar niet veel mensen zullen komen.
    Naast het bloed en urine onderzoek, vind ik de interacties die jij beschrijft tussen de andere aanwezigen ook boeiend.
    Ook voor jou zal dit van invloed zijn, want escape’s zullen er niet veel zijn.
    Ik wens je veel succes met je onderzoek en hoop, dat je, terug in Nederland er een lezing over gaat geven.
    Ps
    Vandaag is de temperatuur in Middelburg 30/32 graden, byzonder voor de tijd van het jaar.
    Maar ook hier begint de duisternis om 21.00 uur. En zien we de zon “pas” om 07.00 uur.
    De donkere perioden komen er aan.

    Groet,
    Peter van Lieshout

    Reply

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