The Martian

Page 54

I can see what NASA has in mind. The rear of the trailer has an airlock that we're not going to mess with. The cut is just ahead of it, and will leave plenty of space for The Big Three to stand.

I have no idea how NASA plans to power the Big Three for 24½ hours a day and still have energy left to drive. I bet they don't know, either. But they're smart; they'll work something out.

[11:49] JPL: What we can see of your planned cut looks good. We're assuming the other side is identical. You're cleared to start drilling.

[12:07] Watney: That's what she said.

[12:25] JPL: Seriously, Mark? Seriously?

First, I depressurized the trailer. Call me crazy, but I didn't want the drill explosively launched at my face.

Then I had to pick somewhere to start. I thought it'd be easiest to start on the side. I was wrong.

The roof would have been better. The side was a hassle because I had to hold the drill parallel to the ground. This isn't your dad's Black & Decker we're talking about. It's a meter long and only safe to hold by the handles.

Getting it to bite was nasty. I pressed it against the hull and turned it on, but it wandered all over the place. So I got my trusty hammer and screwdriver. With a few taps, I made a small chip in the carbon composite.

That gave the bit a place to seat, so I could keep drilling in one place. As NASA predicted, it took about two minutes to get all the way through.

I followed the same procedure for the second hole and it went much smoother. After the third hole, the drill's overheat light came on.

It wasn't designed to operate constantly for so long. Fortunately, it sensed the overheat and warned me. So I leaned it against the workbench for a few minutes and it cooled down. One thing you can say about Mars: It's really cold. The thin atmosphere doesn't conduct heat very well, but it cools everything eventually.

I had already removed the drill's cowling (the power cord needed a way in). A pleasant side effect is the drill cools even faster. Though I'll have to clean it thoroughly every few hours as dust accumulates.

By 17:00, when the sun began to set, I had drilled 75 holes. A good start, but there's still tons to do. Eventually (probably tomorrow) I'll have to start drilling holes that I can't reach from the ground. For that I'll need something to stand on.

I can't use my “workbench.” It's got Pathfinder on it, and the last thing I'm going to do is mess with that. But I've got three more MAV landing struts. I'm sure I can make a ramp or something.

Anyway, that's all stuff for tomorrow. Tonight is about eating a full ration for dinner.

Awww yeah. That's right. I'm either getting rescued on Sol 549 or I'm dying. That means I have 35 days of extra food. I can indulge once in a while.


I average a hole every 3.5 minutes. That includes the occasional breather to let the drill cool off.

I learned this by spending all damn day drilling. After 8 hours of dull, physically intense work, I had 137 holes to show for it.

It turned out to be easy to deal with places I couldn't reach. I didn't need to modify a landing strut after all. I just had to get something to stand on. I used a geological sample container (also known as “a box”).

Before I was in contact with NASA, I would have worked more than 8 hours. I can stay out for 10 before even dipping in to “emergency” air. But NASA's got a lot of Nervous Nellies who don't want me out longer than spec.

With today's work, I'm about ¼ of the way through the whole cut. At least, ¼ of the way through the drilling. Then I'll have 759 little chunks to chisel out. And I'm not sure how well carbon composite is going to take to that. But NASA'll do it a thousand times back on Earth and tell me the best way to get it done.

Anyway, at this rate, it'll take 4 more days of (boring-ass) work to finish the drilling.

I've actually exhausted Lewis's supply of shitty '70's TV. And I've read all of Johanssen's mystery books.

I rifled through other crewmates' stuff to find entertainment. But all of Vogel's stuff is in German, Beck brought nothing but medical journals, and Martinez didn't bring anything.

I'm got really bored, so I decided to pick a theme song!

Something appropriate. And naturally, it should be something from Lewis's godawful '70's collection. It wouldn't be right any other way.

There are plenty of great candidates: Life on Mars by David Bowie, Rocket Man by Elton John, Alone Again (Naturally) by Gilbert O'Sullivan.

But I settled on Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees.


Another day, another bunch of holes. 145 this time (I'm getting better.) I'm half-way done. This is getting really old.

But at least I have encouraging messages from Venkat to cheer me on!

[17:12] Watney: 145 holes today. 357 total.

[17:31] JPL: We thought you'd have more done by now.


Anyway, I'm still bored at night. I guess that's a good thing. Nothing's wrong with the Hab, there's a plan to save me, and the physical labor is making me sleep wonderfully.

I miss tending the potatoes. The Hab isn't the same without them.

There's still soil everywhere. No point in lugging it back outside. Lacking anything better to do, I ran some tests on it. Amazingly, some of the bacteria survived. The population is strong and growing. That's pretty impressive, when you consider it was exposed to near-vacuum and sub-arctic temperatures for over 24 hours.

My guess is pockets of ice formed around some of the bacteria, leaving a bubble of survivable pressure inside, and the cold wasn't quite enough to kill them. With hundreds of millions of bacteria, it only takes one survivor to stave off extinction.

Life is amazingly tenacious. They don't want to die anymore than I do.


I fucked up.

I fucked up big time. I made a mistake that might kill me.

I started my EVA around 08:45, same as always. I got my hammer and screwdriver and started chipping the trailer's hull. It's a pain in the ass to make a chip before each drilling, so I make all the day's chips in a single go.

After chipping out 150 divots (hey, I'm an optimist), I got to work.

It was the same as yesterday and the day before. Drill through, relocate. Drill through, relocate. Drill through a third time, then set the drill aside to cool. Repeat that process over and over till lunchtime.

At 12:00, I took a break. Back in the Hab, I enjoyed a nice lunch and played some chess against the computer (it kicked my ass). Then back out for the day's second EVA.

At 13:30 my ruination occurred, though I didn't realize it at the time.

The worst moments in life are heralded by small observations. The tiny lump on your side that wasn't there before. Coming home to your wife and seeing two wine glasses in the sink. Any time you hear “We interrupt this program...”

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