- Press Release
- Nov 30, 2022
Keith Cowing’s Devon Island Journal – 2 Aug 2002: Green overdose; Home at last
I got all of three hours of sleep last night. Before I had a chance to fall fully asleep I was awake getting ready to leave for the airport. I had a lot of electronic gear with me and was certain that security would make things as tedious as life post 9-11 now requires.
I was right. After allowing every item I was carrying on to be examined, bought something to eat and collapsed into a rigid plastic seat. The only amusement was someone from the British embassy trying to get on our flight to Washington with a mammoth diplomatic pouch. According to the airline representative who was giving him a hard time, he needed to buy a ticket for the bag if he wanted to carry it on and have it occupy a seat. After some grumbling the diplomat pulled out his wallet and bought a second seat.
It was still dark outside. Having not seen ‘dark’ for a month I found the lack of any detail outside of great interest. Meanwhile, I still had absolutely no view of the landscape. The last land I had seen in daylight was several hours out from Ottawa last night – and it was utterly devoid of any vegetation.
Soon enough we boarded the plane and taxied for takeoff. By now the sun had come up. As soon as we were airborne the odd imagery began to appear. Green. Green everywhere. No sharp lines made by geology – everything was softened by the ubiquitous and gaudy presence of green. How odd. Just as the oddness made itself apparent, so did my fatigue. I was soon sound asleep.
I awoke an hour later as we began final approach to Washington Dulles. Minutes later we were on the ground. A few minutes after that I was walking, slightly dazed, towards baggage claim. I soon saw my wife who was smiling. A hug and a kiss and I was determined to get my bags and get home.
As we walked to the car I experienced the same eerie feeling I had experienced the night before in Ottawa airport: all these people. I had grown accustomed to a universe of 30 people – all of whom I knew. This was curiously unsettling but that soon passed. Oh yes, there was the humidity.
A 10 minute drive through lush and forested Reston, Virginia and I was awash in green. Our neighborhood is one of the oldest in Reston and is extra green. It was so intense that I just fixated on the experience. As we pulled into my driveway at 8:30 AM I was prompted to look at my watch (already set to the correct time zone) and then asked my wife “what time is it?” I was not connecting sun angle and clock time yet. How odd. It was almost as if the darkness had given my body’s internal clock a firm slap.
Here I was: home. The total amount of time I had been exposed to greenery was little more than two hours. Until this moment, it was at a distance. Being quite the gardener I immediately scanned the yard to see how things had fared during the heat wave.
I opened the car door and new things hit me in the face: smells. The sounds of insects and birds. Oppressive heat and humidity. It felt like being inside our greenhouse on Devon Island. I use harsh terms to describe the experience – it was not unlike being assaulted by nature.
This day was one of catnaps, unpacking, and general odd reactions to things I’d otherwise consider mundane. Our two cats seemed so small after a month of interacting with dogs.
That night I sat out on my deck so as to look up at the stars. I did not see any at first. I had not seen any for a month. It took some time before my eyes could make them out. To be fair, the area was in the midst of a muggy heat wave so viewing conditions were not optimal.
After a few minutes, my eyes and brain saw stars again. I found this very reassuring. Then, after barely a few minutes, a bright light zipped across the sky: a meteorite. What a wonderful welcome home gift. Later, I would start to regain my rather good ability to spot satellites as they zoomed overhead. Space was something that I could see once again.
How odd: I had spent a month in an extreme environment where we all were working on projects aimed at simulating life on another planet – and we could not even see the stars.
Physically, I was home. Mentally – and emotionally – I was still there, on Devon Island: Mars on Earth. I have talked with enough astronauts and other explorers to know that this is not an unusual phenomenon. Indeed, it is a malady common to seafarers and explorers in centuries past.
The one place where I found this curious feeling to be best expressed was in the old sailor’s lament “When I was at sea I wished I was at home. When I was at home I wished I was at sea.”
- NASA Haughton-Mars Project
- SpaceRef Mars on Earth coverage
- Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse
- 17 Jun 2003: Preface: Moving from Green to Grey
- 3 Jul 2003: Waiting in Resolute
- 3-5 July 2003: Arrival and Getting to Work
- 6 July 2003:Getting in the Groove
- 7 July 2003: Part 1: Being here – and being there.
- 7 July 2003: Part 2: Getting Out of Base Camp
- 8 July 2003: Infrastructure
- 9 July 2003: Re-connected; Planting Seeds
- 17 July 2003: Rover Arrival
- 18 July 2003: Wind
- 19 July 2003: Illness, Good Food, and Morale
- 20 July 2003: Arctic Memorials and Starship Yearnings
- 20 July 2003: Going Home
- 21 July 2003: Departure – and One Last Dedication
- 24 July 2003: 24 July 2003: Homeward Bound – In Slow Motion
- 26 August 2003: Home +30
- 8 Jul 2002: Arrival
- 9 Jul 2002: Getting acquainted – and down to work
- 10 Jul 2002: Mars carpentry
- 11 Jul 2002: Lexan Kites, shotguns, and Driver’s Ed
- 12 Jul 2002: Building and exploring
- 13-15 Jul 2002: Building a Mars greenhouse on Earth
- 16 Jul 2002: Sealing Greenhouses on Earth – and Mars; 6 Wheeled Rovers
- 17 Jul 2002: Greenhouse Dedication, Fishing, and Mystery Food
- 18 Jul 2002: Giving Blood, Eternal Light, and an Evening Commute
- 19 Jul 2002: The Hottest Place on Devon Island, T-shirts, a Star Trek hello
- 20 Jul 2002: Mars Airplanes and Communicating With Earth
- 21 Jul 2002: Visiting ministers, missing ‘green’, and crater tours
- 22 Jul 2002: The hottest place on Devon Island
- 23 Jul 2002: Farewells, Birthdays, and Bartering
- 24 Jul 2002: EVAs, movies – and ‘being here’
- 25 Jul 2002: Russian TV, webcam privacy, and being on Mars for a few minutes
- 26 Jul 2002: Cold Feet, Chocolate, and Home Cooking
- 27 Jul 2002: Anchors and anemometers
- 28 Jul 2002: Drilling into permafrost; leaving footprints for eternity
- 29 Jul 2002: Showering near the North Pole; one last look around
- 30 Jul 2002: Departure and arrival
- 31 Jul 2002: Culture shock and flight delays
- 1 Aug 2002: Departure into darkness
- 2 Aug 2002: Green overdose; home at last
- 2 Sep 2002: Home +30