The Martian

Page 39

Looks like the Hab is completely deflated and collapsed. So even if I had a functional EVA suit to leave the airlock with, I wouldn’t have anywhere to go. So that sucks.

I gotta’ think for a minute. And I have to get out of this EVA suit. It’s bulky, and the airlock is cramped. Besides, it’s not like it’s doing me any good. 



Things aren’t as bad as they seem.

I’m still fucked, mind you. Just not as deeply.

Not sure what happened to the Hab, but the rover’s probably fine. It’s not ideal, but at least it’s not leaky phone booth.

I’m wearing Beck’s EVA suit. I haven’t worn my own since Sol 6 when I got shish-kabobed. Beck’s suit was about the right size and didn’t have a hole in it. Why does that matter right now? Because, unlike my original suit, this one still has an unused patch kit.

Don’t get excited. It won’t do the suit any good. The patch kit is a cone-shaped valve with super sticky resin on the wide end. It’s just too small to deal with a hole larger than 8cm. And really, if you have a 9cm hole, you’re going to be dead way before you could whip out the kit.

Still, it’s an asset, and maybe I can use it to stop the airlock leak. And that’s my top priority right now. 

It’s a small leak. With the faceplate gone, the EVA suit is effectively managing the whole airlock. It’s been adding air to make up for the missing pressure. But it’ll run out eventually.

I need to find the leak. I think it’s near my feet, judging by the sound. Now that I’m out of the suit, I can turn around and get a look…

I don’t see anything… I can hear it, but… it’s down here somewhere, but I don’t know where.

I can only think of one way to find it: Start a fire!

Yeah, I know. A lot of my ideas involve setting something on fire. And yes, deliberately starting a fire in a tiny, enclosed space is usually a terrible idea. But I need the smoke. Just a little wisp of it.

As usual, I’m working with stuff that was deliberately designed not to burn. But no amount of careful design by NASA can get around a determined arsonist with a tank of pure oxygen. 

The EVA suit is made entirely of non-flammable materials. So is the airlock. My clothes are fireproof as well, even the thread.

I was originally planning to check the solar array, doing repairs as needed after last night’s storm. So I have my toolbox with me. But looking through it, it’s all metal or non-flammable plastic.

I just realized I do have something flammable: My own hair. It’ll have to do. There’s a sharp knife in the tool-kit. I’ll shave some arm hairs off into a little pile.

Next step: oxygen. Back when I turned the hydrazine into water, I had tubing, garbage bags, and all sorts of other luxuries. I won’t have anything so refined is a pure oxygen flow. All I can do is muck with the EVA suit controls to increase oxygen percentage in the whole airlock. I figure bumping it to 40% will do.

All I need now is a spark.

The EVA suit has electronics, but it runs on very low voltage. I don’t think I could get an arc with it. Besides, I don’t want to tear up my suit’s electronics. I need it working to get from the airlock to the rover.

The airlock itself has electronics, but it ran on Hab power. I guess NASA never considered what would happen if it was launched 50 meters. Lazy bums.

Plastic might not burn, but anyone whose played with a balloon knows it’s great at building up static charge. Once I do that, I should be able to make a spark just by touching a metal tool.

Fun fact: This is exactly how the Apollo 1 crew died. Wish me luck!



I’m in a box full of burning hair smell. It’s not a good smell.

On my first try, the fire lit, but the smoke just drifted randomly around. My own breathing was screwing it up. So I held my breath and tried again.

My second try, the EVA suit threw everything off. There’s a gentle flow of air coming out of the faceplate as the suit constantly replaces the missing air. So I shut the suit down, held my breath, and tried again. I had to be quick; the pressure was dropping.

My third try, the quick arm movements I used to set the fire messed everything up. Just moving around makes enough turbulence to send the smoke everywhere.

The fourth time I kept the suit turned off, held my breath, and when the time came to light the fire, I did it very slowly. Then I watched as the little wisp of smoke drifted toward the floor of the airlock, disappearing through a hairline fracture.

I have you now, little leak!

I gasped for air and turned the EVA suit back on. The pressure had dropped to 0.9 atmospheres during my little experiment. But there was plenty of oxygen in the air for me any my hair-fire to breathe. The suit quickly got things back to normal.

Looking at the fracture, it’s pretty tiny. It would be a cinch to seal it with the suit’s patch kit, but now that I think about it, that’s a bad idea.

I’ll need to do some kind of repair to the faceplate. I don’t know how just yet, but the patch kit and its pressure-resistant resin is probably really important. And I can’t do it bit by bit, either. Once I break the seal on the patch kit, the binary components of the resin mix and I have 60 seconds before it hardens. I can’t just take a little to fix the crack.

Given time, I might be able to come up with a plan for the faceplate. Then, I could take a few seconds during that plan to scrape resin over the airlock fracture. But I don’t have time.

I’m down to 40% of my N2 tank. I need to seal that fracture now, and I need to do it without using the patch kit.

First idea: Little Dutch Boy. I’m licking my palm and placing it over the crack.

Ok… I can’t quite make a perfect seal, so there’s airflow… getting colder now… getting pretty uncomfortable… ok fuck this.

On to idea number two. Tape!

I have duct tape in my tool box. Let’s slap some on and see if it slows the flow. I wonder how long it will last before the pressure rips it. Putting it on now.

There we go… still holding…

Lemme check the suit… Readouts say the pressure is stable. Looks like the duct tape made a good seal.

Let’s see if it holds…



It’s been 15 minutes, and the tape is still holding. Looks like that problem is solved.

Sort of anticlimactic, really. I was already working out how to cover the breach with ice. I have 2 liters of water in the EVA suit’s “hamster-feeder”. I could have shut off the suit’s heating systems and let the airlock cool to freezing. Then I’d… well whatever.

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