Tomorrow, the open air

[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.


9 thoughts on “Tomorrow, the open air

  1. amarok77 says:

    Thanks a lot Cyprien for all these wonderful posts this year, it was a real pleasure to follow your adventure under the dome !


  2. Jean-Paul BERTUOL says:

    Welcome on Earth, Cyprien !
    Nice to meet you again ! And bravo for all you’ve done ! A great experience ! I hope that the next time it will be a real fligt to Mars !
    Let us know if you do conferences in the next days or months.
    With all my respect !
    Kind regards…
    Jean-Paul BERTUOL


  3. Maibritt Brodersen says:

    That was a deep read, thank you for exposing your inner thoughts in such an authentic way. I hope you are enjoying being back out in the world again, although you will probably also sometimes miss the peace and predictability of the dome. I am sure it must have been a Hugh self-growth experience. With kind regards from Denmark 🙂


  4. Liz Barney says:

    Hello Cyprien, and welcome back to “earth”! My name is Liz Barney and I’m a freelance writer based on Oahu. I’m currently writing a story for The Guardian on your experience. I hope you are surviving the overload of experiences. I’d love to touch bases on some of these ideas you reference from your time in the dome. We’re hoping to publish the story tomorrow, and I’d love to include some of your thoughts and insights. Please let me know if you would have time to talk on the phone or via email. Cheers,


  5. Amanda says:

    Hello Cyprien!
    My name is Amanda and I live in Colorado. I wanted to express how fascinated and greatful I am by the mission you and your compatriots have just completed. Thanks to NPR, I learned of this year long endeavor and promptly began reading your blog like a voracious bibliophile does with a beloved series: straight through. I am pleased that you all have returned to Earth outside the dome, but am equally pleased to have been granted a glimpse of what it like to live as though on a planet that it would take years away for us to reach with our current technology. One thing I wondered about as I read your blog (and perhaps your crew members address it somewhere in their blog entries as I have yet to read them) was if one of you encountered severe illness, what would the protocol have been to treat said illness? I know you must be inundated with every sort of thing currently, so I do not mind if this question is not answered promptly (or at all), but I know an unasked question will certainly will receive no response 🙂 I hope you are well and welcome home!


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