T-31 days to the mission. It’s time to tell the friends.

This blog is largely for mission-related news. If you would like to read about when I told my family and friends about leaving Earth for a year, and what happened when I did, please check out the post on my personal blog. Here, I’ll say how I broke the news via email today, approximately one month before the hatch door closes.

I’m writing today today to announce that I’ll be leaving to help crew the longest NASA Mars simulation in history on 8/22/2015. If your first question was, “Why?” that’s a good question. The best answer, I think, is “practice.” Some of the people reading this email met me in a class at Berkeley called, “To Mars By 2012”. I was in that class then for the same reason that I’m going to sMars (simulated Mars) now: so that I can earn my mettle as an astronaut, and so humanity can learn the lessons it needs to in order to become a space-fairing species. It’s pretty much that simple in principle, and that complicated in execution.

If your second question was, “What about your husband?” that is also a good question. Like everyone who marries an astronaut, soldier, sailor, marine, or scientists who spends years in the field, he is making a great sacrifice so that I can continue to be the person I am, have been and always will be. Astronauts, field scientists and soldiers are continually in pursuit of adventure, knowledge, and heroism in various proportions. If you marry one, giving us periodic permission to function within our respective idioms is a somewhat forgone conclusion. What is not so explicit is forgiveness. For the pain, isolation and inconvenience we cause, us soldiers, sailors and astronauts are badly in need of our family’s largesse. I hope that this manifest desire for emotional alms long outlives our various escapades and makes us better human beings – more balanced, loving, and generous with those who have ever caused inconvenience or harm- which, when you get down to it, is everyone.

So to you all I say thank you, I love you, and I apologize for the inconvenience**. Please take care of yourself and others over the next year. My “absence” from this planet will be characterized by no direct voice or visual contact without a 20 minute delay each way from 8/28/15-8/28/16. Email will still function (with the delay) as will Voxel (voice messaging) and snail mail, which will arrive by occasional robot delivery (address below). Since I will not have direct access to social media, I’ve set up two blogs to let you all know what’s going on with me up there:

sheynagifford.com (personal)
livefrommars.life (mission-related)

After 8/28, please keep in touch a through email, Voxel or blog comment, and before that through the medium of your choice.

When I say “please keep in touch” I really mean that. It is through this series of interactions that I gain the strength and ability to be myself. The great secret of my life is quite simply the people reading this missive. More times than you can possibly know, when I needed to be physically picked up and carried to the next marker, and you all have done that. My friends and family have saved me and continue to save me at every turn. When I return in August 2016, I’ll hopefully be emerging into to a life where I can be there for all of you the way that you have been there for me for these (almost) 37 years.

To Mars by 2012. When you factor in that for the last 3 years my life has basically been one adventure after another, by 2015 is a bargain that burgeons on the miraculous. I wouldn’t trade those years, or all of you all, for anything.

All the Best, S