“Docking complete,” Martinez said.
“Seal is tight,” Johanssen said.
“Beck,” Lewis said. “Your services won't be needed.”
“Roger that, commander,” Beck said. “Closing airlock.”
“Vogel, return to interior,” she ordered.
“Copy, Commander,” he said.
“Airlock pressure to 100%” Beck reported. “Re-entering ship... I'm back in.”
“Also inside,” Vogel said.
Lewis pressed a button on her headset. “Houst- er... Jiuquan, probe docking complete. No complications.”
“Glad to hear it, Hermes,” came Mitch's voice over the comm. “Report status of all supplies once you get them aboard and inspected.”
“Roger Jiuquan,” Lewis said.
Taking off her headset, she turned to Martinez and Johanssen. “Unload the probe and stow the supplies. I'm going to help Beck and Vogel de-suit.”
Martinez and Johanssen floated down the hall toward docking port A.
“So,” he said, “who would you have eaten first?”
She glared at him.
“Cause I think I'd be tastiest,” he continued, flexing his arm. “Look at that. Good solid muscle there.”
“You're not funny.”
“I'm free range, you know. Corn-fed.”
She shook her head and accelerated down the hall.
“Come on! I thought you liked Mexican!”
“Not listening,” she called back.
LOG ENTRY: SOL 376
I'm finally done with the rover modifications!
The hard part was figuring out how to maintain life support. Everything else was just hard work. A lot of hard work.
I haven't been good at keeping the log up to date, so here's a recap:
First I had to finish drilling holes with the Pathfinder-murderin' drill. Then I chiseled out a billion little chunks between the holes. Ok, it was 749 but it felt like a billion.
Then I had one big hole in the trailer. I filed down the edges to keep them from being too sharp.
Remember the pop-tents? I cut the bottom out of one and the remaining canvas was the right size and shape. I used seal-strips to attach it to the inside of the trailer. After pressurizing and sealing up leaks as I found them, I had a nice big balloon bulging out of the trailer. The pressurized area is easily big enough to fit the Oxygenator and Atmospheric Regulator.
The regulator has an external component imaginatively named the “Atmospheric Regulator External Component.” The regulator pumps air to the AREC to let Mars freeze it. It does this along a tube that runs through a valve in the Hab's wall. The return air comes back through another tube just like it.
Getting the tubing through the balloon canvas wasn't too hard. I have several spare valve patches. Basically they're 10x10cm patches of Hab canvas with a valve in the middle. Why do I have these? Consider what would happen on a normal mission if the regulator valve broke. They'd have to scrub the whole mission. Easier to send spares.
The AREC is fairly small. I made a shelf for it just under the solar panel shelves. The tubing and shelf are ready for when I eventually move the AREC over.
There's still a lot to do.
I'm not in any hurry; I've been taking it slow. One 4-hour EVA per day spent on work, the rest of the time to relax In the Hab. Plus, I'll take a day off every now and then, especially if my back hurts. I can't afford to injure myself now.
I'll try to be better about this log. Now that I might actually get rescued, people will probably read it. I'll be more diligent and log every day.
LOG ENTRY: SOL 380
I finished the heat reservoir.
Remember my experiments with the RTG and having a hot bath? Same principle, but I came up with an improvement: Submerge the RTG. No heat will be wasted that way.
I started with a Large Rigid Sample Container (or “plastic box” to people who don't work at NASA). I ran a tube through the open top and down the inside wall. Then I coiled it in the bottom to make a spiral. I glued it in place like that, and sealed the end. Using my smallest drill bit, I put dozens of little holes in the coil. The idea is for the return air to pass through the water as a bunch of little bubbles. The increased surface area will get the heat in to the air better.
Then I got a Medium Flexible Sample Container (“Ziploc bag”) and tried to seal the RTG in it. But the RTG has an irregular shape, and I couldn't get all the air out of the bag. I can't allow any air in there. Instead of heat going to the water, some would get stored in the air, which could superheat and melt the bag.
I tried a bunch of times, but there was always an air pocket I couldn't get out. I was getting pretty frustrated until I remembered I have an airlock.
Suiting up, I went to Airlock 2 and depressurized to a full vacuum. I plopped the RTG in the bag and closed it. Perfect vacuum seal.
Next came some testing. I put the bagged RTG at the bottom of the container and filled it with water. It holds 20L, and the RTG quickly heated it. It was gaining a degree per minute. I let it go until it was a good 40C. Then I hooked up the regulator's return air line to my contraption and watched the results.
It worked great! The air bubbled through, just like I'd hoped. Even better, the bubbles agitated the water, which distributed the heat evenly.
I let it run for an hour, and the Hab started to get cold. The RTG's heat can't keep up with the total loss from the Hab's impressive surface area. Not a problem. I've already established it's plenty to keep the rover warm.
I reattached the return air line to the regulator and things got back to normal.
LOG ENTRY: SOL 381
I've been thinking about laws on Mars.
Yeah, I know, it's a stupid thing to think about, but I have a lot of free time.
There's an international treaty saying no country can lay claim to anything that's not on Earth. And by another treaty, if you're not in any country's territory, maritime law applies.
So Mars is “international waters.”
NASA is an American non-military organization, and it owns the Hab. So while I'm in the Hab, American law applies. As soon as I step outside, I'm in international waters. Then when I get in the Rover, I'm back to American law.
Here's the cool part: I will eventually go to Schiaparelli crater and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this, and they can't until I'm aboard Ares 4 and operating the comm system. After I board Ares 4, before talking to NASA, I will take control of a craft in international waters without permission.
That makes me a pirate!
A Space Pirate!
LOG ENTRY: SOL 383
You may be wondering what I do with my free time. I spent a lot of it sitting around on my lazy ass watching TV. But so do you, so don't judge.