[Version française sur le site de La Recherche]
Tomorrow, we will come out of the dome.
We will come out without a spacesuit. Our skins will be exposed to the sun, and no faceplate will separate us from the breathtaking landscapes around us. A buffet will be waiting for us, full of juicy fruits and other fresh delicacies. But the most disturbing will lie elsewhere: we will see people who are none of the six of us. People we cannot recognize, with closed eyes, from the sound of their steps. People with whom I will need more than a slight head nod, or a small handsign, to communicate.
Dozens of those strangers. As many cameras and microphones. Twice as many eyes fixed on us, six oddities pale as the dome under the Hawaïn sun. And all, eager to communicate, to ask questions. Interviews in three different languages; a strange cacophony after a year of the same familiar sounds, of the same familiar voices.
It is somewhat amusing that our exit is immediately followed by a press conference around a buffet, under the sun. Many of the feelings we have been deprived of for a year will be thrown at us a soon as the doors open.
Please do not misunderstand: I have nothing against this idea. Those moments will be intense, and it is for the best. After a year in here, I am craving new sensations. New encounters, new landscapes. So much novelty at once will be a welcome change.
One of the most difficult aspects of the mission may have, indeed, been the lack of change. Last week we replaced our water pump, after two weeks without running water. The sound of the new pump is slightly different from that of the previous pump, and it felt strange. A simple, barely noticeable difference in the sound of a water pump made me react, because all the sounds I usually hear are extremely familiar. Compare this to a stroll in a city where, in just a few minutes, you will meet dozens of strangers, hundreds of objects you had never seen, and countless sounds you had never heard.
I have been asked quite a few times, over the past few weeks, whether I was feeling any apprehension as the end of the mission was coming. But I am looking forward to it. Not so much to leaving the dome, but rather to coming back to the outside world. To meeting my relatives again, swimming, picking a book in a store. To giving my brother a Hawaiian ukulele. To spending a night with my friends in the streets of Paris and doing nothing but joking, making projects and telling each others about our lives. To being able to get up and go outdoors.
I am looking forward, as well, to the next steps of my research work. The results I got here gave me new ideas. But since I can access only what I brought, those ideas have to wait. Not being able to make them come out of the scribbled pieces of paper where they live today is a challenge to my patience. Once I am in a well-equipped lab again, the University’s nightwatchman will have trouble kicking me out after the closing time. I wonder whether he will be happy to see me again, to have again someone to yell at during his solitary shifts… but I digress.
Today, this dome is home to me. It has been so for longer than any house or flat in the past few years. But I have done what I had to do here. Tomorrow, I will be ready to leave.