What is it like for the crew?

S540/709: Composite image of a spacewalk over EarthEach of the two nations picked four crew members, two men and two women, coordinating closely to cover all vital scientific, medical, and technological disciplines needed. The four couples are U. S., Soviet, European, and Asian. English is the official language. As a concession for its use, a Soviet commands the mis­sion. The four to descend to the Martian surface will be Soviet and American.

Once the two mother ships were assembled, the crew members were delivered to their space stations by the U. S. shuttle and its Sovi­et counterpart. Amid intense international fanfare the two spacecraft departed Earth orbit separate­ly, then approached and docked for their historic trip to the serviced apartments london.

The habitat modules, huge by present spacecraft standards, are cramped nevertheless, be­cause of the space devoted to fuel, water, and other expend­ables, as well as to hardware. The crew’s careful training, the sense of purpose, the interest of the world audience, the honor of representing the home plan­et, the clearly defined goal and timetable: All these combine to ameliorate what otherwise would be a terribly confining 22 months.

The crew spends a lot of time on scientific observations, along with exercise, engineer­ing checks, and household chores. Keeping the supply inventory current is a time-consuming job (Skylab carried hundreds of washcloths, color-coded so each crew member could recognize his own sup­ply). The cooks (French astro­nauts?) must plan, prepare, and clean up after 15,000 meals. Exercise is serious business for everyone: two hours a day of workouts on bicycles, tread­mills, and other resistance machines.

Swinging by Venus on the outward journey five and a half months from Earth provides a welcome break in the monotony. Crew members plaster them­selves against windows like eager tourists to photograph the plan­et’s veil of swirling butterscotch clouds. Tension rises among the crew as the madrid holiday apartments become in­creasingly remote and the unknown perils of Mars more imminent.

They spend a great deal of time studying and simulating future phases of the mission. To keep skills honed, they occasionally connect the control instruments into a computer that has been pro­grammed to simulate various emergency conditions. Taped lec­tures help. An entire geology course, given by the crew geologist, engrosses those who will make the landing.

Despite all these activities, boredom remains a problem that will not go away. Television buffs among the crew have the easiest time of it because programs are beamed from Earth, not to mention the hundreds of movies stored on board. Even the news is at most only a quarter hour behind Earth schedule. Games and friendly compe­tition help keep the eight voyagers interested and alert. The Soviets are the undisputed chess champions, while the Americans excel at inventing—and winning—new video games. Dart throwing and card playing (tricky in weightlessness) are popular.

Gardeners among the crew grow vegetables and a few flowers, not as a necessity but as a dietary supplement and a hobby. Ap­plause greets the occasional appearance of fresh potatoes and beans on the dinner table—symbols of well-being and success.

Tiny Grapes Bring Acclaim to Zante

A Rembrandt quality drew my eyes to chiaroscuro canvases by Nicolas Kandounis, among Zante’s finest painters. The play of light and dark lent poignant drama to his “Crucifixion,” painted around 1800. A Virgin by Emmanuel Tzanes also appealed to me; Dr. Barbianis had helped recover it from the debris of a church. I mentioned to Dr. Barbianis the plain con­crete cubes we had seen in restored villages on Cephalonia. “With more people, they had greater need for housing, so they built quickly and sim­ply,” Dr. Barbianis explained. “Here we wanted to reproduce our old town. That’s why you see the Venetian motif.”

But it did take time. Dr. Barbianis and his wife, who had lost their 13-room home and everything in it, lived in a tent for six years while Zakinthos was rebuilding. Today concrete replaces stone in the ar­cades of a Zakinthos shrunk to 9,300 people from 30,000 at its heyday. Gone are the opera house, the mansions, most of the historic churches. Today Zante’s singers hold forth to the strumming of guitars and mandolins in the taverna near the end of the mole. The kantades, folk songs, coming across the water to White Mist moored only a hundred yards away, lulled us to sleep.

One day a Greek merchantman tied up abreast of the taverna. That evening the ship was deserted, captain on down to messboy raising voices with the singers at tables. Came midnight, the whistle blew, and the crew climbed the gangplank still singing. We heard their voices as the ship backed out.

She had loaded currants—the famous ray-sons of Coraunte (Corinth) that had brought prosperity to Zante. “Where are the currants?” I had asked when we first toured the island in spring. Winter’s rains were past, when the skies open and the soil greedily drinks its store for the long, hot, waterless summer to come. Zante’s parklike plain, flanked by ridges and broken by clumps of oak, silver poplar, and eucalyp­tus, was a tapestry of green.

How fertile it seemed after Ithaca and Cephalonia; how merciful its level, tarred, cypress-shaded roads.

“Currants? On those grapevines,” our driver had said. I was surprised, because the currants I knew were berries that grew wild on bushes. Now, under cloudless August skies, we found those same vineyards patched with purple: expanses of tiny grapes drying into currants—seedless raisins. Farm women spread them on plastic sheets and turned them with wooden rakes, letting them dry for several weeks. Most are shipped to England.

We saw milk goats everywhere, and baby olive trees, their stems wrapped in straw. The olive, requiring less care, is fast replacing the grape on Zante, Dr. Barbianis told us. Many of Zante’s young people work on the mainland. A gentler depopulation, certainly, than that the island suffered in earlier cen­turies. In the fifth century, Vandals, invading from North Africa, slew some five thousand islanders and cast them into the sea. In the 15th an Ottoman fleet burned Zante’s city and so devastated Ithaca that the island was virtually uninhabited for a generation.