Journalist Report – July 27th

 In Journalist Report

The “rock” history reader

Bass-voiced, fine beard, kind eyes. Sometimes we call him the master of popcorn. Paul Knightly is our crew geologist from Kansas and today he is turning 13.5 Martian years old. Another birthday on Mars! Another day to show our creativity in extreme place with limited resources.

As a kid Paul wanted to be a weatherman or a paleontologist, but at the age of 12 everything changed. It started with rocket modelling class and continues until today and we name it “the space fever”. Rocketry project required to know the space history and Paul spent many days reading about Apollo era and grand plans for space travels.

Exactly at that moment, he realized that from now on he wants to be an astronaut. Paul was focusing more on science and math with a plan to go to aerospace engineering for college.  After actually taking two years of engineering courses, he understood that it wasn’t his passion. But he didn’t give up on his dream and looked for other professions that will still help to become an astronaut.

Paul was growing up in the atmosphere of religion and science. His father is a geologist and this affected Paul’s interest in many ways. For his second try he decided to study geology and this time it worked out well. He graduated in 2013 with Bachelors degree in geology and felt that this is just the beginning of long but interesting way to his dream. Three years of work as environmental geologist for Arcadis, an environmental consulting firm, helped him to realize that he needs to lite up his passion for geology and step to the next level. In 2016 Paul started working on a PhD in planetary science for four year program and now he says “It feels just right!”. When other students spend their summer break by the beachside, Paul is shuffling arctic ground to measure the level of permafrost at FMARS. In a moment of rest from sampling, I asked him “what is next?” With a dreamy smile he said that plans to work for commercial space flight company or research institution and one day become first Martian geologist. Or if he is a second or third “rock lover” on Mars, finding a stromatolite fossil will also make him the happiest geologist on two planets.

And just when you might think that Paul spends his free time watching TV, I will surprise you with another rare hobby – storm chasing. Since every storm is unique and beautiful, Paul was documenting it on camera. That is how from storm chasing as a hobby grew and developed his talent for a landscape photography. Photography became a part of relaxation process at first but now he can compete with professional landscape photographers around the world. Just wait for his breathtaking pictures of our Mars 160 journey!

Paul seems always relaxed, calm and serious, but with the sense of humor, which bonded him well into the crew. Actually as first selection round for Mars 160 mission happened in 2014, Paul was Alexander’s and mine crew commander in two weeks simulation mission at MDRS. Even though we already knew him, still every day brings new discoveries of his personality. Paul is Christian and doesn’t like the idea of putting God in a box, which means his religious beliefs and science do not exclude each other. Science provides the answers to questions of “How” and religion answers to questions of “Why”.

In the moments of struggle, Paul goes to the church or watch “2001. Space Odyssey”. Why this movie? In teens’ years, Paul had read every science-fiction novel by Arthur Clarke, which led to an interesting mix of different worldviews but finely blended in a boy, who both dreams about earth and space.

Hot shower, Carbonara pasta dinner, Pinata full of spicy candies, waffles and Paul’s choice movie – this is the schedule for Paul Knightly birthday.

What can be the best present for a geologist? Of course rocks and fossils. We got one for him – a beautiful coral fossil 450 million years old.

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