The Martian

Page 6

I was sick of thinking, so instead of trying to figure out where I’ll get 250L of water, I did some manual labor. I need to get a whole assload more soil in to the Hab, even if it is dry and useless right now.

I got a cubic meter in before getting exhausted.

Then, a minor dust-storm dropped by for an hour and covered the solar collectors with crap. So I had to suit up *again* and do *another* EVA. I was in a pissy mood the whole time. Sweeping off a huge field of solar cells is boring and physically demanding. But once the job was done, I came back to my Little Hab on the Prairie.

It was about time for another dirt-doubling, so I figured I may as well get it over with. It took an hour. One more doubling and the usable soil will all be good to go.

Also, I figured it was time to start up a seed crop. I’d doubled the soil enough that I could afford to leave a little corner of it alone. I had 12 potatoes to work with.

I am one lucky son-of-a-bitch they aren’t freeze-dried or mulched. Why did NASA send 12 whole potatoes, refrigerated but not frozen? And why send them along with us as in-pressure cargo rather than in a crate with the rest of the Hab supplies? Because Thanksgiving was going to happen while we were doing surface operations, and NASA’s shrinks thought it would be good to make a meal together. Not just to eat it, but to actually prepare it. There’s probably some logic to that, but who cares?

I cut each potato in to 4 pieces, making sure each piece had at least 2 eyes. The eyes are where they sprout from. I let them sit for a few hours to harden a bit, then planted them, well spaced apart, in the corner. God speed, little taters. My life depends on you.

Normally, it takes 90 days to yield full sized potatoes. But I can’t wait that long. I’ll need to cut up all the potatoes from this crop to seed the rest of the field.

By setting the Hab temperature to a balmy 25.5C, the plants will grow quicker. Also, the internal lights will provide plenty of “sunlight” and I’ll make sure they get lots of water (once I figure out where to get water). There will be no foul weather, or any parasites to hassle them, or any weeds to compete with for soil or nutrients. With all this going for them, they should yield healthy, sproutable tubers within 40 days.

I figured that was enough being Farmer Mark for one day.

A full meal for dinner. I’d earned it. Plus, I’d burned a ton of calories and I wanted them back.

I rifled through Commander Lewis’s stuff until I found her personal data-stick. Everyone got to bring whatever digital entertainment they wanted, and I was tired of listening to Johanssen’s Beatles Albums for now. Time to see what Lewis had.

Crappy TV shows. That’s what she had. Countless entire runs of TV shows from forever ago.

Well. Beggars can’t be choosers. “Three’s Company” it is.


Over the last few days, I got all the dirt in that I’d need. I prepped the tables and bunks for holding the weight of soil, and even put the dirt in place. There’s still no water to make it viable, but I have some ideas. Really bad ideas, but they’re ideas.

Today’s big accomplishment was setting up the pop-tents.

The problem with the rovers’ pop-tents is they weren’t designed for frequent use.

The idea was you’d throw out a pop-tent, get in, and wait for rescue. The airlock is nothing more than valves and two doors. Equalize the airlock with your side of it, get in. equalize with the other side, get out. This means you lose a lot of air each use. And I’ll need to get in there at least once a day. The total volume of each pop tent is pretty low, so I can’t afford to lose air from it.

I spent *hours* trying to figure out how to attach a pop-tent airlock to a Hab airlock. I have three airlocks in the Hab. I’d be willing to dedicate two to pop-tents. That would have been awesome.

The frustrating part is pop-tent airlocks *can* attach to other airlocks! You might have injured people in there, or not enough space suits. You need to be able to get people out without exposing them to the Martian atmosphere.

But the pop-tents were designed for your crewmates to come rescue you in a *rover*. The airlocks on the Hab are much larger and completely different than the airlocks on the rovers. When you think about it, there’s really no reason to attach a pop-tent to the Hab.

Unless you’re stranded on Mars and everyone thinks you’re dead and you’re in a desperate fight against time and the elements to stay alive. But, you know, other than that edge case there’s no reason.

So I finally decided I’d just take the hit. I’ll be losing some air every time I enter or exit a pop-tent. The good news is each pop-tent has an air feed valve on the outside. Remember, these are emergency shelters. The occupants might need air, and you can provide it from a rover by hooking up an air line. It’s nothing more than a tube that equalizes the rover’s air with the pop-tent’s.

The Hab and the rovers use the same valve and tubing standards, so I was able to attach the pop tents directly to the Hab. That'll automatically replenish the air I lose with my entries and exits (what we NASA folk call ingress and egress). 

NASA was not fucking around with these emergency tents. The moment I pushed the panic button in the rover, there was an ear-popping whoosh as the pop-tent fired out, attached to the rover airlock. It took about two seconds.

I closed the airlock from the rover side and ended up with a nice, isolated pop-tent. Setting up the equalizer hose was trivial (for once I’m using equipment the way it was designed to be used). Then, after a few trips through the airlock (with the air-loss automatically equalized by the Hab) I got the dirt in.

I repeated the process for the other tent. Everything went really easily.

Sigh… water.

In high school, I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. (You may not have guessed this Botanist / Mechanical Engineer was a bit of a nerd in high school, but indeed I was). In the game I played a Cleric. One of the magic spells I could cast was “Create Water”. I always thought it was a really stupid spell, and it never came up. Boy what I wouldn’t give to be able to do that in real life right now.

Anyway. That’s a problem for tomorrow.

For tonight, I have to get back to “Three’s Company.” I stopped last night in the middle of the episode where Mr. Roper saw something and took it out of context.


I have an idiotically dangerous plan for getting the water I need. And boy do I mean *dangerous*. But I don’t have much choice. I’m out of ideas and I’m due for another dirt-doubling in a few days. When I do the final doubling, I’ll be doubling on to all that new soil I’ve brought in. If I don’t wet it first, it’ll just die.

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