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Journalist Report
Elizabeth Howell

While riding on an all-terrain vehicle the other day, a phrase from T.S. Eliot popped into my mind: "An easy commerce of the old and new." Here we were in spacesuits, going across land that was shaped by geological forces millions upon millions of years ago. The contrast never got old, even as we spent weeks on Mars.

On our penultimate night here, I read more of Eliot's Little Gidding and was surprised that the poem, although it was set in England, did have applicability to our mission. The opening lines speak of "midwinter spring", water and ice, and the search for meaning. It seems that search is eternal, no matter where humans may stray in their lives.

Two weeks in isolated conditions, relying on a small group of people, changes you in some way if you embrace the experience. I struggle to think of how to explain it, except to describe it as resilience. Surviving steep hikes, fixing things without a hardware store, coming up with creative ways to save water, all stretch your mind and body in new ways.

I'm not sure yet how I will apply these lessons back in civilization, but Eliot reminds me the answers don't have to come immediately. "You are not here to verify, / Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity / Or carry report." It will come. More missions to Mars will come. And we will be better people for embracing that experience, even if we can't yet imagine how.