The Martian

Page 42

After refilling, and making sure the suit was still not leaking, I had a few immediate tasks to take care of. Much as I trust my handiwork, I wanted a two-armed suit.

I ventured back in to the Hab. This time, not being rushed, I was able to use a pole to leverage the table off Martinez’s suit. Pulling it loose, I dragged it back to the rover.

After a thorough diagnostic to be sure, I finally had a fully-functional EVA suit! It took me two trips to get it, but I got it.

Tomorrow, I'll fix the Hab.


The first thing I did today was line up rocks near the rover to spell “A-OK”. That should make NASA happy.

I went in to the Hab again to assess damage. My priority will be to get the structure intact and holding pressure. From there, I can work on fixing stuff that broke.

The Hab is normally a dome, with flexible support poles maintaining the arch, and rigid, folding floor material to keep it flat. The internal pressure was a vital part of its support. Without it, the whole thing collapsed. I inspected the poles, and none of them had broken. They’re just lying flat is all. I’ll have to re-couple a few of them, but that’ll be easy.

The hole where Airlock 1 used to be is huge, but surmountable. I have seal-strips and spare canvas. It’ll be a lot of work, but I can get the Hab together again. Once I do, I’ll re-establish power and get Pathfinder back online. From there, NASA can tell me how to fix anything I can’t figure out on my own.

I’m not worried about any of that. I have a much bigger problem.

The farm is dead.

With a complete loss of pressure, most of the water boiled off. Also, the temperature is well below freezing. Not even the bacteria in the soil can survive a catastrophe like that. Some of the crops were in pop-tents off the Hab. But they’re dead, too. I had them connected directly to the Hab via hoses to maintain air supply and temperature. When the Hab blew, the pop-tents depressurized as well. Even if they hadn’t, the freezing cold would have killed them.

Potatoes are now extinct on Mars.

So are earthworms and soil bacteria. I’ll never grow another plant so long I’m here.

We had it all planned out. My farm would give me food till Sol 900. A supply probe would get here on Sol 856; way before I ran out. With the farm dead, that plan is history. 

The ration packs won’t have been affected by the explosion. And the potatoes may be dead, but they’re still food. I was just about to harvest, so it was a good time for this to happen, I guess.

The rations will last me till Sol 400. I can’t say for sure how long the potatoes will last until I see how many I got. But I can estimate. I had 400 plants, probably averaging 5 potatoes each: 2000 taters. At 150 calories each, I’ll need to eat 10 per sol to survive. That means they’ll last me 200 sols. Grand total: I have enough food to last till Sol 600.

By Sol 856 I’ll be long dead.

Chapter 15

Project Iris

[08:12]WATNEY: Test.

[08:25]JPL: Received! You gave us quite a scare there. Thanks for the “A-OK” message. Our analysis of satellite imagery shows a complete detachment of Airlock 1. Is that correct? What’s your status? Include your personal health and Hab equipment.

[08:39]WATNEY: If by “detachment” you mean “shot me out like a cannon” then yeah. Minor cut on my forehead. Had some issues with my EVA suit (I’ll explain later). I patched up the Hab and repressurized it (main air tanks were intact). I just got power back online. Primary air and water tanks were unharmed. The rover, solar array, and Pathfinder were out of blast range. I’ll run diagnostics on the Hab’s systems while I wait for your next reply. By the way, who am I talking to?

[08:52]JPL: Venkat Kapoor, in Houston. Pasadena relays my messages. I'm going to handle all direct communication with you from now on. Check the Oxygenator and Water Reclaimer first. They’re the most important.

[09:05]WATNEY: Duh. Oxygenator functioning perfectly. Water Reclaimer is completely offline. Best guess is water froze up inside and burst some tubing. I’m sure I can fix it. Hab’s main computer also functioning without any problems. Any idea what caused the Hab to blow up?

[09:18]JPL: Best guess is fatigue on the canvas near Airlock 1. The pressurization cycle stressed it until it failed. From now on, alternate Airlock 2 and 3 for all EVAs. Also, we’ll be getting you a checklist and procedures for a full canvas exam.

[09:31]WATNEY: Yay, I get to stare at a wall for several hours! By the way, the farm is dead. I’ve recovered as many potatoes as I could and stored them outside. I count 1841. That will last me 184 days. Including the remaining mission rations, I’ll start starving on Sol 584.

[09:44]JPL: Yeah, we figured. Working on it.

“It’s Sol 122,” Bruce said. “We have until Sol 584 to get a probe to Mars. That’s 462 sols, which is 475 days.”

The assembled department heads of JPL furrowed their brows and rubbed their eyes.

“First they needed a presupply way ahead of schedule,” Bruce continued. “Now they need it even more ahead of schedule.”

He stood from his chair. “The positions of Earth and Mars aren’t ideal. The trip will take 414 days. Mounting the probe to the booster and dealing with inspections will take 13 days. That leaves us with just 48 days to make this probe.”

Sounds of whispered exasperation filled the room. “Jesus,” someone said.

“It's a whole new ballgame,” Bruce continued. “Our focus is food. Anything else is a luxury. We don't have time to make a powered-descent lander. It'll have to be a tumbler. So we can't put anything delicate inside. Say goodbye to the all the other crap we'd planned to send.”

“Where's the booster coming from?”asked Norm Toshi, who was in charge of the reentry process.

“The EagleEye 3 Saturn probe,” Bruce said. “It was scheduled to launch next month. NASA put it on hold so we can have the booster.”

“I bet the EagleEye team was pissed about that,” Norm said.

“I'm sure they were,” Bruce said. “But it's the only booster we have that's big enough. Which brings me to my next point: We only get one shot at this. If we fuck it up, Mark Watney dies.”

He looked around the room and let that sink in.

“We do have some things going for us,” he finally said. “We have some of the parts built for the Ares 4 presupply missions. We can steal from them, and that'll save us some time. Also, we're sending food, which is pretty robust. Even if there's a reentry problem and the probe impacts at high velocity, food is still food.

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