Christmas on Mars

Today I received an invitation from Space School UK to their ‘Christmas on Mars Reunion Weekend’ (it’s not really Christmas, but mid-December). I went to a Space School UK course several years ago, and it was enormous fun – building rockets, going to lectures, and meeting lots of other teenagers who were interested in space. Somewhat unusually, there were far more girls than boys, which is surprisingly considering that space has not normally been their domain; perhaps this is a sign that the tide is turning.

Anyway, it was a little ironic to receive the invitation considering that I will be spending Christmas* on Mars – or at least, the next best thing. Yesterday I bought my air tickets to fly to Utah in early December, where I’ll be taking part in a Mars Society expedition at their Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS). The place really does look like Mars, and much of the expedition will be conducted in full simulation mode, wearing space suits and the like. My role will be crew biologist and psychologist. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t daunted by these tasks, but I think I’ll learn a lot there and be able to do some interesting research.

The expedition will last for two weeks, and it’s part of an ongoing season that aims to explore the kinds of techniques and problems that will face any human mission to Mars – thus, it concentrates more on human factors rather than technology demonstration.

I’m missing quite a lot of good stuff at home by going to Utah; there’s a friend’s 21st birthday party which I was looking forward to, and of course there’s this Space School UK reunion which I certain would’ve gone along to otherwise. But, I think Utah will be worth it.

*again, not really Christmas, but 7th – 22nd December.

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