Journalist Report – December 8th
From micro world of bio organisms to a macro world of crew biologist
It has been a 45 days since our Principal Investigator Shannon Rupert assigned me to learn from crew microbiologist Anushree Srivastava. I was supposed to be cross trained as assistant of microbiologist on the field by collecting samples and in the science laboratory by recording the data. Anushree has a lot of patience to teach some science to a journalist. I don’t know what she thinks about our cooperation but for me the laboratory work or gypsum, hypolith sampling is the most fun and interesting part of the day. Such positive emotions and fast learning due to a good teacher – Anushree Srivastava. At first, she felt uncomfortable to be in that role, but with every day, I can see how beautiful, yet a little bit shy, future doctor of microbiology will develop.
As a kid, Anushree wanted to be a singer but with the years pass her dream has changed. She was born and brought up in a remote part of the Northern India. In order to fulfill her parents’ dream for Anushree working in the administrative services, she moved to Lucknow, which is the capital city of state Uttar Pradesh. There she earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Anthropology at the University of Lucknow. While she was studying, she found out about “space biology”. Since then her interest grew. Anushree was always fascinated towards life sciences and that was the reason she chose to specialize in the biological branch of anthropology. She is the first one to adopt the space sciences in her family. To get a PhD in microbiology in India a Master degree in Natural Science is needed and this was the next big goal for Anushree. She started to prepare for entry exams, as well as she did academic training and research projects in the Biological Research Center in Hyderabad. It took a year. The next step was to apply for Master’s program in science overseas. Anushree admitted to School of Biological Science at University of Essex, UK. After an intense one-year course, almost living in the science laboratory, not seeing the daylight, skipping the lunches and being called a plant by her lab mates – she received her most waited diploma.
Every time the one goal is fulfilled another arises and now Anushree’s new small dream to get the PhD in astrobiology and big dream is to be the first microbiologist to find the traces of life outside the planet Earth. Why astrobiology? “I have always been awed by my own ability to be awed by this wonder of life, the unfathomable vastness of the Universe and Earth’s place in it. I have always been fascinated by big questions. Astrobiology addresses the most profound question of humankind – Are we alone? Astrobiology explores the possibility of finding extinct or extant life elsewhere in the universe, as well as investigates the origin and evolution of life on Earth. Somehow, I feel that the path of my life and of this science intersect with each other, as we both started our journey having this faith in the invisible; having an unshakable optimism” – says Anushree, with an inspiring glow in her eyes.
Those inspiring goals brought her to the Mars Society team. Anushree started her journey to Mars by becoming a volunteer as CapCom for Mars Desert Research Station Mission Support. As she says: “My job as a CapCom was extremely fulfilling to me as I thought in that way somehow I was assisting to make this idea of manned Mars mission come true in terms of making sure the smooth mission operations, and in turn, facilitating the valuable understanding extracted from the Mars simulation mission.”
Anushree proposed to participate in two weeks rotation at MDRS with her research project in astrobiology, particularly studying halophiles in ancient evaporate deposits. The Principal Investigator and Director of MDRS Shannon Rupert decided that Anushree is perfect candidate for Mars 160 mission, since her research corresponds with remote science team project on astrobiology and, in particular, in geo-microbiology. She is the only one from the crew who has never been before to simulation at MDRS and lived with six strangers. It is Sol 75 today, we are almost at the finish line and from a shy laboratory girl, Anushree became advanced science field explorer, who can collect the samples in a heavy space suit, fogging helmet, under burning desert sun, trusting the six strangers and learning to live in an extreme environment.
“I think it is a journey of discovering yourself as well along with the journey to Mars. It is a very humbling experience. This is what this mission told me.”– Anushree Srivastava