The Martian

Page 37

Upon arrival, the package was carefully transported by special convoy to Pasadena. Once there, it was moved to the JPL White Room for probe assembly. Over the next 5 weeks, engineers in white bodysuits assembled Presupply 309. It contained AL102 as well as 12 other Hab Canvas packages.


It’s almost time for the second harvest.


I wish I had a straw hat and some suspenders.

My re-seed of the potatoes went well. I'm beginning to see that crops on Mars are extremely prolific, thanks to the billions of dollars worth of life support equipment around me. I now have 400 healthy potato plants, each one making lots of calorie-filled taters for my dining enjoyment. In just ten days they’ll be ripe!

And this time, I’m not replanting them as seed. This is my food supply. All natural, organic, Martian-grown potatoes. Don’t hear that every day, do you?

You may be wondering how I’ll store them. I can’t just pile them up; most of them would go bad before I got around to eating them. So instead, I’ll do something that wouldn’t work at all on Earth: Throw them outside.

Most of the water will be sucked out by the near-vacuum; what’s left will freeze solid. Any bacteria planning to rot my taters will die screaming.

In other news, I got email from Venkat Kapoor:

Mark, some answers to your earlier questions:

No, we will not tell our Botany Team to “Go fuck themselves.” I understand you’ve been on your own for a long time, but we’re in the loop now, and it’s best if you listen to what we have to say.

The Cubs finished the season at the bottom of the NL Central.

The data transfer rate just isn’t good enough for the size of music files, even in compressed formats. So your request for “Anything, oh god ANYTHING but Disco” is denied. Enjoy your boogie fever.

Also, an uncomfortable side note... NASA is putting together a committee. They want to see if there were any avoidable mistakes that led you to being stranded. Just a heads-up. They may have questions for you later on.

Keep us posted on your activities.


My reply:

Venkat, tell the investigation committee they’ll have to do their witch-hunt without me. And when they inevitably blame Commander Lewis, be advised I’ll publicly refute it.

Also please tell them that each and every one of their mothers are prostitutes.


PS: Their sisters, too.

The presupply probes for Ares-3 launched on 14 consecutive days during the Hohmann Transfer window. Presupply 309 was launched third. The 251 day trip to Mars was uneventful, needing only two minor course adjustments.

After several aerobraking maneuvers to slow down, it made its final descent toward Acidalia Planitia. First, it endured reentry via a heat shield. Later, it released a parachute and detached the now expended shield.

Once its onboard radar detected it was 30 meters from the ground, it cut loose the parachute and inflated balloons all around its hull. It fell unceremoniously to the surface, bouncing and rolling, until it finally came to rest.

Deflating its balloons, the onboard computer reported the successful landing back to Earth.

Then it waited 23 months.


The Water Reclaimer is acting up.

Six people will go through 18 liters of water per day. So it’s made to process 20. But lately, it hasn’t been keeping up. It’s doing 10, tops.

Do I generate 10 liters of water per day? No, I’m not the urinating champion of all time. It’s the crops. The humidity inside the Hab is a lot higher than it was designed for, so the Water Reclaimer is constantly filtering it out of the air.

I’m not worried about it. Water is water. The plants use it, I use it. If need be, I can piss on the plants directly. It’ll evaporate and condense on the walls. I could make something to collect it, I’m sure. Thing is, the water can’t go anywhere. It’s a closed system. Plus, I made like 600 liters from MDV fuel (remember the “explosive Hab” incident?). I could take baths and still have plenty left over.

NASA, however, is absolutely shitting itself. They see the Water Reclaimer as a critical survival element. There’s no backup, and they think I’ll die instantly without it. To them, equipment failure is terrifying. To me, it’s “Tuesday.”

So instead of preparing for my harvest, I have to make extra trips to and from the rover to answer their questions. Each new message instructs me to try some new solution and report the results back.

So far we’ve worked out it’s not the electronics, refrigeration system, instrumentation, or temperature. I’m sure it’ll turn out to be a little hole somewhere, then NASA will have 4 hours of meetings before telling me to cover it with duct tape.

Lewis and Beck opened Presupply 309. Working as best they could in their bulky EVA suits, they removed the various portions of Hab canvas and lay them on the ground. Three entire presupply probes were dedicated to the Hab.

Following a procedure they had practiced hundreds of times, they efficiently assembled the pieces. Special seal-strips between the patches ensured air-tight mating.

After erecting the main structure of the Hab, they assembled the three airlocks. Sheet AL102 had a hole perfectly sized for Airlock 1. Beck  stretched the sheet tight to the seal-strips on the airlock’s exterior.

Once all airlocks were in place, Lewis flooded the Hab with air and AL102 felt pressure for the first time. They waited an hour. No pressure was lost; the setup had been perfect.


My conversation with NASA about the Water Reclaimer was boring and riddled with technical details. So I’ll paraphrase it for you:

Me: “This is obviously a clog. How about I take the it apart and check the internal tubing?”

NASA: (After 5 hours of deliberation) “No. You’ll fuck it up and die.”

So I took it apart.

Yeah, I know. NASA has a lot of ultra-smart people and I should really do what they say. And I’m being too adversarial, considering they spend all day working on how to save my life.

I just get sick of being told how to wipe my ass. Independence was one of the things they looked for when choosing Ares astronauts. It’s a 13-month mission, most of it spent many light-minutes away from Earth. They wanted people who would act on their own initiative, but at the same time, obey their Commander.

If Commander Lewis were here, I’d do whatever she said, no problem. But a committee of faceless bureaucrats back on Earth? Sorry, I’m just having a tough time with it.

I was really careful. I labeled every piece as I dismantled it, and laid everything out on a table. I have the schematics in the computer, so nothing was a surprise.

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.