The Martian

Page 63

Also, I plan my trip.

Pathfinder was a cake run. Flat, level ground all the way. The only problem was navigating. But the trip to Schiaparelli will mean going over massive elevation changes.

I have a rough satellite map of the whole planet. It doesn't have much detail, but I'm lucky to have it at all. NASA didn't expect me to wander 3200km from the Hab.

Acidalia Planitia (Where I am) has a relatively low elevation. So does Schiaparelli. But between them it goes up and down by 10km. There's going to be a lot of dangerous driving.

Things will be smooth while I'm in Acidalia, but that's only the first 650km. After that comes the crater-riddled terrain of Arabia Terra.

I do have one thing going for me. And I swear it's a gift form God. For some  geological reason, there's a valley called Mawrth Vallis that's perfectly placed.

Millions of years ago it was a river. Now its valley that juts in to the brutal terrain of Arabia almost directly toward Sciaparelli. It's much gentler terrain than the rest of Arabia Terra, and the far end looks like a smooth ascent out of the valley.

Between Acidalia and Mawrth Vallis I'll get 1350km of relatively easy terrain.

The other 1850km... well that won't be so nice. Especially when I have to descend in to Schiaparelli itself. Ugh.

Anyway.  Mawrth Vallis. Awesome.


The worst part of the Pathfinder trip was being trapped in the rover. I had to live in a cramped environment that was full of junk and reeked of body odor. Same as my college days.

Rim shot!

Seriously though, it sucked. It was 22 sols of abject misery.

I plan to leave for Schiaparelli 100 sols before my rescue (or death), and I swear to fucking God I'll rip my own face off if I have to live in the rover for that long.

I need a place to stay where I can stand up and take a few steps without hitting things. And no, being outside in a goddamn EVA suit doesn't count. I need personal space, not 50kg of clothing.

So today, I started making a tent. Somewhere I can relax while the batteries recharge; somewhere I can lay comfortably while sleeping.

I recently sacrificed one of my two pop tents to be the trailer balloon. The other is in perfect shape. Even better, it has an attachment for the rover's airlock. Before I made it a potato farm, its original purpose was a lifeboat for the rover.

I could attach the pop tent to either vehicle's airlock. I'm going with the rover instead of the trailer. The rover has the computer and controls. If I need to know status of anything (like life support or how well the battery is charging) I'll need access. This way, I'll be able to walk right in. No EVA.

Also, while traveling, I'll keep it folded up in the rover. In an emergency, I can get to it fast.

The pop tent is the basis of my “bedroom,” but not the whole thing. It's not very big; not much more space than the rover. But it has the airlock attachment so it's a great place to start. My plan is to double the floor area and double the height. That'll give me a nice big space to relax in.

Hab canvas is flexible. When you fill it with pressure, it wants to become a sphere. That's not a useful shape. So the Hab and the pop-tents have special flooring material. It unfolds as a bunch of little segments that won't open beyond 180 degrees so it remains flat.

The pop tent base is a hexagon. I have another base left over from what is now the trailer balloon. So when it's done, my bedroom will be two adjacent hexes with walls around them and a crude ceiling.

It's gonna take a lot of glue to make this happen.


The pop tent is 1.2m tall. It's not made for comfort. It's made for astronauts to cower in while their crewmates rescue them. I want 2 meters. I want to be able to stand! I don't think that's too much to ask.

On paper, it's not hard to do. I just need to cut canvas pieces to the right shapes, seal them together, then seal them to the existing canvas and flooring.

But that's a lot of canvas. I started this mission with 6 square meters and I've used most of that up. Mostly on sealing the breach from when the Hab blew up.

Goddamn Airlock 1.

Anyway, my bedroom will take 30 square meters of the stuff. Way the hell more than I have left. Fortunately, I have an alternate supply of Hab canvas: The Hab.

Problem is (follow me closely here, the science is pretty complicated) if I cut a hole in the Hab, the air won't stay inside anymore.

I'll have to depressurize the Hab, cut chunks out, and put it back together (smaller). I spent today figuring out the exact sizes and shapes of canvas I'll need. I needed to not fuck this up, so I triple-checked everything. I even made a model out of paper.

The Hab is a dome. If I take canvas from near the floor, I can pull the remaining canvas down and re-seal it. The Hab will become a lopsided dome, but that shouldn't matter. As long as it holds pressure. I only need it to last another 62 sols.

I drew the shapes on the wall with a Sharpie. Then I spent a long time re-measuring them and making sure, over and over, that they were right.

That was all I did today. Might not seem like much, but the math and design work took all day. Now it's time for dinner.

I've been eating potatoes for weeks. Theoretically, with my 3/4 ration plan, I should still be eating food packs. But 3/4 ration is hard to maintain, so now I'm eating potatoes.

I have enough to last till launch, so I won't starve. But I'm pretty damn sick of potatoes. Also, they have a lot of fiber, so... let's just say it's good I'm the only guy on this planet.

I saved 5 meal packs for special occasions. I wrote their names on each one. I get to eat “Departure” the day I leave for Schiaparelli. I'll eat “Half-way” when I reach the 1600km mark, and “Arrival” when I get there.

The fourth one is “Survived Something That Should Have Killed Me” because some fucking thing will happen, I just know it. I don't know what it'll be, but it'll happen. The rover will break down or I'll come down with Fatal Hemorrhoids or I'll run in to hostile Martians or some shit. When I do (if I live) I get to eat that meal pack.

The fifth one is reserved for the day I launch. It's labeled “Last Meal.”

Maybe that's not such a good name.


I started the day with a potato. I washed it down with some Martian Coffee. That's my name for “hot water with a caffeine pill dissolved in it.” I ran out of real coffee months ago.

My first order of business was a careful inventory of the Hab. I needed to root out anything that would have a problem with losing atmospheric pressure. Of course, everything in the Hab had a crash course in depressurization a few months back. But this time would be controlled and I might as well do it right.

The main thing is the water. I lost 300L to sublimation when the Hab blew up. This time, that won't happen. I drained the Water Reclaimer and sealed all the tanks. 

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