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We traveled from two sides of the world, westwards and eastwards to the "Launch Pad" in Grand Junction USA. There, we stayed overnight and the next morning left with a rental car to go to Hanksville, Utah. 

Hanksville is a small town, to me in the middle of nowhere :), where hoards of tourists come in the summertime to look for dinosaurs bones. In the winter time everything is empty. Just the few locals and two gas stations. Everything else is closed excepting perhaps the local store.
However at the gas station they do sell the famous bones and obsidian/ agate arrows.

There is something that struck me since I stepped foot in the USA. It's big. Like really big.
The European units of measurement are too small here.

It all makes sense to have miles, gallons. It is a place everyone should see once in their life time and no amount of American movies will compensate for the real feeling. But they will contribute heavily to the deja vu sensation you have the moment you see the coast from the airplane. Another type of deja vu, the one that gives you the understanding. I understand now very many things about these people. Just by being here. Ah, and upon my return to New Zealand I will watch "the world's fastest indian" one more time and with different eyes. 

DG

DG was waiting at the Hollow Mountain and he led the way to Mars.  

Who was he? A question we were asking ourselves before we left as he is quoted in all the documents we read. He was the local support person so if there are any issues, he was our man. :) 

Mars

"Mars" revealed itself a few miles down the road, where the reservation started. At the gates, the three men from crew 97 were waiting for us on the ATVs. Here is commander Judah Epstein saluting us.

Once we passed the gates an out of this world landscape came in the front of our eyes.

Not even the fact that we were on an Earth-made car alleviated the shock of seeing such alien world and I wish now I could go to Mars for real.
There is something about being the first explorers on a new world. It's the immensity of the horizon and the fact that you are on your own to survive and thrive. The most important law of life is the survival of the individual so that he or she ensures on a long term the survival of the species. It's this immensity of unknown that lays in the front of my eyes that gives me a feeling of exaltation, awe, and magnificence. I am so grateful that I had this chance to experiment this in my life-time! All these cliffs and mountains have embedded in them the ancient history of Earth, layers of sand and stones are altogether mixed in an amazing landscape. The colour red is everywhere and from what I saw on the pics taken from Mars, the landscapes are very similar, only the blue sky being a remnant of the fact that we are still on our Mother Earth. The wind is rolling the stones on the ground and and the sand is long gone to show us what once was a seabed. There are tiny plants that have established themselves in this dessert. Later I discover cacti, plants with very small (not even one centimetre) oval leaves that we call "lanata" - their leaves look like they are covered in wool. They do this so that the water will not evaporate. One plant that caught my eyes looks like an algae with deposits of water inside like a tuber inside out. All I can hope is that I will see them one day on Mars!

We arrive at the hab where the entire crew is very happy to see us.
They invited us to lunch and we gladly accepted. Lunch is made of dried food and you add water on the top of it. Wow, our first lunch on Mars was very tasty!

For the duration of our stay here we will be submitted to an experiment related to food, an I will talk about this and many other things in my next blogs.

For the moment we are concentrating on training, it is part of the procedure that we get instructed as well by the previous crew and they are doing a great job! Before I left home I used to watch them on the life feed cameras and now here they are talking to us in person.

A lot of things can go wrong and they are. The job with most responsibilities other than the commander's is the crew's engineer who must keep all the systems working. There are 4 ATV's which we must learn how to ride safely. You simply cannot go and get the samples on foot. The distances are too big.

 
We are told that the order is Safety, Sim, Science. 

Our engineer could not make it and myself and Dragos will be it for the rotation. Here we are going to get the training at the systems of the station from Nathan Wong who really worked for NASA. I have to say this, it's too funny (for me) we are the B'Elana Torres and Jeordy Lafforge of the Mars Station.



Here is a picture of both crews.

At night I had to go out and take pics of the sky. The sky here is magnificent and I wish you all were here!

On to Mars! 

Haritina