Friday, 8 October 2010

Training is over.

Training is over.
The group has become a team.
We know  little of each other's behaviour, responsiveness, frendliness, communicativeness, the languages we speak, their family's opinion of our commitment, How we respond when challenged with something unfamiliar, something potentially threatening.  I know something of where I fit in the team when we need to combine to solve a problem
I'm much more confident about going out there now.  I feel I can securely rely on them for my safety, and I have no doubts about my ability to meet my commitments to them.

I've taken big steps outside my own cultural norms, and proved to the guys that I can take ownership of my responibilities.

And now we return to home life, but I think we'll see it through different eyes, as if the knowledge that soon I'll be leaving for a whole year, and into such an extreme situation will polarise somehow everything I see.

We will each make our way to concordia over then next two months.
When we each arrive there, we join a population of 70-80 people from all over Europe and activity that runs 24 hours a day on construction and science both indoors and outdoors.
We'll slip into the crowd in ones and twos, find our predecessor and work alongside them.  And, just as we come in, the summer crew will begin to ship out and the numbers will thin and thin until the last traverse leaves on the 30th of January and the last plane departs a week later taking the last of the summer crew away, leaving us 14 behind for the winter.

And we will be a team again.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Day 3: Astronaut training – huh?

There will be fourteen of us. The guys are all great, half the team are french and half italian, they and I all communicate in English of varying degrees of fluency.

We will be 1000Km from the nearest human habitation, 3,200metres above sea level in temperatures that range from -30 in the summer to -85 in the winter.

The base has a temperature inside of 20 degrees C, and that means a differential of just over 100 degrees C in the depths of winter.
Planes can't land; they would freeze. Vehicles can't reach us through such hostile conditions.

So we will be more cut off than the crew of the international space station. We will be more isolated than pretty much any other human beings on the earth, except a few right at the south pole.

All of which means we really, really have to be able to get along. Because whatever happens to us out there, we're going to have to be able to fix alone.

So we're getting a condensed form of communication, conflict and teamworking training from the staff that train the european space agengy's astronauts.  

Sunday, 3 October 2010

So it starts...

So I've just arrived in Paris, and I'm sitting in the bar of the Hotel Ibis, trying to psych myself up for going up to my room.

And I'm nervous.

My name is Eoin.
I'm a doctor, I'm Scottish, and I come from the Highlands where I work in the hospital in Inverness.
Only I've signed up to spend a year working in Antarctica with the French Polar Institute (Institute Paul Emile Victoir) for the European Space Agency, to do medical, psychological and physiological research relevant to a mission to Mars.

Which sounds great but when you get down to the nitty gritty - I know very little about the base or what a year at it is going to be like, I hardly speak French ... I could go on - it's a big bite to chew off. Right now I'm feeling like it's a bit too much.

I've just arrived to start a week of training. I'll meet my colleagues tomorrow at ESA's headquarters but tonight I just have to meet my roommate for the week. I'm hungry, smelly, fed up after a full day travelling, and I have no idea how well I'm going to be able to communicate with him.

Well here I go.
Bonne chance...