Attached to the habitat we have a large shipping container. It’s part shop, part pantry, part storage closet, and it’s one of my favorite places in the hab. You enter by means of the airlock, moving through the zipper interface at the boundary of the round white habitat and through the swinging metal door of the shipping container. During the day, you’ll hear buzzing and humming as all the electrical equipment cranks on to charge our batteries from the solar panels and send power to the outlets and overhead lights in the hab. One wall of the shop is covered in breaker boxes, power inverters and our batteries. Every few minutes, the inverters will click on and a loud whirring sound fills the air – this means it’s a sunny day and our solar panels are receiving plenty of juice. It’s a little quieter at night when the power system isn’t generating. Instead, the batteries are sending what is reserved from the day’s sunshine into the hab to power our computers and appliances.
The shop also contains our main water pump and filter. It’s the literal heart of the habitat where new water enters from the tanks outside, runs through the charcoal impregnated filter, and flows through the electric pump. Lines then run back outside to the solar hot water heater or directly into the habitat for cold water. A small wooden crate houses the water equipment, and I’m grateful to be small enough to shimmy my way in there for a filter change. Being small has its advantages on sMars.
The other wall of the shop is filled with food. Almost all the food we have is kept here, except for the opened boxes and everyday items we keep in the kitchen pantry. Strong metal shelves line the wall and two dozen plastic storage containers hold our food. Extra cans and boxes often spill onto the floor and after our last particularly large resupply drop, many of the plastic containers were filled to the brim and were too heavy for me to maneuver alone. Being small has its disadvantages, too.
The shop is obviously a great place to work on technical projects, and we have a 3D printer and general hand tools to help. But it’s also a great place to practice music because it’s more isolated from the rest of the habitat than any other room. It’s easier to relax into a song when you don’t feel like everyone else in the crew is right on top of you. The hum of the electrical machinery can hide your sounds and create a little space that is just yours– a privilege in such a confined environment. I taught myself ukulele over the course of the mission and playing music in the Sea Can has been one of my stress outlets. I love that I can play and sing as loud as I like with little disturbance to the rest of the crew. I like being surrounded by the machinery and feeling like the habitat is at work without my intervention. And I like having a sort of grocery store attached to my house where delights like shelf stable hummus can be found.