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.
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
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.