“In case the probe can't dock with us. If something goes wrong, it'll be my job to go out and grab it.”
“Can't you just move Hermes to dock with it?”
“No way,” Beck said. “Hermes is huge. It's not made for fine maneuvering control.”
“Why does it have to be you?”
“Cause I'm the EVA specialist.”
“But I thought you were the Doctor.”
“I am,” Beck said. “Everyone has multiple roles. I'm the doctor, the biologist, and the EVA specialist. Commander Lewis is our geologist. Johanssen is the sysop and reactor tech. And so on.”
“How about that good looking guy... Martinez?” Amy asked. “What does he do?”
“He pilots the MDV and MAV.” Beck said. “He's also married with a kid, you lecherous homewrecker.”
“Ah well. How about Watney? What did he do?”
“He's our botanist and engineer. And don't talk about him in the past tense.”
“Engineer? Like Scotty?”
“Kind of,” Beck said. “He fixes stuff.”
“I bet that's coming in handy now.”
“Yeah, no shit.”
“They're a weird bunch, these Chinese nerds,” Mitch said. “But they make a good booster.”
“Good.” Venkat said. “How's the linkage between the booster and our probe?”
“It all checks out,” Mitch said. “JPL followed the specs perfectly. It fits like a glove.”
“Any concerns or reservations?” Venkat asked.
“Yeah. I'm concerned about what I ate last night. I think it had an eyeball in it.”
“I'm sure there wasn't an eyeball.”
“The engineers here made it for me special,” Mitch said.
“There may have been an eyeball,” Venkat said. “They hate you.”
“Cause you're a dick, Mitch,” Venkat said. “A total dick. To everyone.”
“Fair enough. So long as the probe gets to Hermes, they can burn me in fucking effigy for all I care.”
“Wave to Daddy!” Marissa said, waving David's hand at the camera. “Wave to Daddy!”
“He's too young to know what's going on,” Martinez said.
“Just think of the playground cred he'll have later in life,” she said. “'My dad went to Mars. What's your dad do?'”
“Yes, I'm pretty awesome,” he agreed.
Marissa continued to wave David's hand at the camera. David was more interested in his other hand, which was actively engaged in picking his nose.
“So,” Martinez said. “You're pissed.”
“You can tell?” Marissa asked. “I tried to hide it.”
“We've been together since we were 15. I know when you're pissed.”
“You volunteered to extend the mission 533 days,” she said. “Asshole.”
“Yeah,” Martinez said. “I figured that'd be the reason.”
“Your son will be in kindergarten when you get back. He won't have any memories of you.”
“I know,” Martinez said.
“I have to wait another 533 days to get laid!”
“So do I,” he said defensively.
“I have to worry about you that whole time,” she added.
“Yeah,” he said. “Sorry.”
She took a deep breath. “We'll get past it.”
“We'll get past it,” he agreed.
“Welcome to CNN's Mark Watney Report. Today we have the Director of Mars Operations Venkat Kapoor. He's speaking to us live via satellite from China. Dr. Kapoor, thank you for joining us.”
“Happy to do it,” Venkat said.
“So Dr. Kapoor, tell us about the Taiyang Shen. Why go to China to launch a probe? Why not launch it from the US?”
“Hermes isn't going to orbit Earth,” Venkat said. “It's just passing by on its way to Mars. And its velocity is huge. We need a booster capable of not only escaping Earth's gravity, but matching Hermes's current velocity. Only the Taiyang Shen has enough power to do that.”
“Tell us about the probe itself.”
“It was a rush job,” Venkat said. “JPL only had 30 days to put it together. They had to be as safe and efficient as they could. It's basically a shell full of food and other supplies. It has a standard satellite thruster package for maneuvering, but that's it.”
“And that's enough to fly to Hermes?”
“The Taiyang Shen will send it to Hermes. The thrusters are for fine control and docking. And JPL didn't have time to make a guidance system. So it'll be remote-controlled by a human pilot.”
“Who will be controlling it?” Cathy asked.
“The Ares 3 pilot, Major Rick Martinez. As the probe approaches Hermes, he'll take over and guide it to the docking port.”
“And what if there's a problem?”
“Hermes will have their EVA specialist, Dr. Chris Beck, suited up and ready the whole time. If necessary he will literally grab the probe with his hands and drag it to the docking port.”
“Sounds kind of unscientific,” Cathy laughed.
“You want unscientific?” Venkat smiled. “If the probe can't attach to the docking port for some reason, Beck will open the probe and carry its contents to the airlock.”
“Like bringing in the groceries?” Cathy asked.
“Exactly like that,” Venkat said. “And we estimate it would take 4 trips back and forth. But that's all an edge case. We don't anticipate any problems with the docking process.”
“Sounds like you're covering all your bases,” Cathy smiled.
“We have to,” Venkat said. “If they don't get those supplies... well, they need those supplies.”
“Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions,” Cathy said.
“Always a pleasure, Cathy.”
He fidgeted in the chair, unsure what to say. After a moment, he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and mopped sweat from his balding head.
“What if the probe doesn't get to you?” He asked.
“Try not to think about that,” Johanssen said.
“Your mother is so worried she couldn't even come.”
“I'm sorry,” Johanssen mumbled, looking down.
“She can't eat, she can't sleep, she feels sick all the time. I'm not much better. How can they make you do this?”
“They're not 'making' me do it, Dad. I volunteered.”
“Why would you do that to your mother?” He demanded.