The Martian

Page 64

The rest was just collecting knickknacks and dumping them in Airlock 3. Anything I could think of that doesn't do well in a near-vacuum. The three remaining laptops, all the pens, the vitamin bottles (probably not necessary but I'm not taking chances), medical supplies, etc.

Then I did a controlled shutdown of the Hab. The critical components are designed to survive a vacuum. Hab depress is one of the many scenarios NASA accounted for. One system at a time, I cleanly shut them all down, ending with the main computer itself.

I suited up and depressurized the Hab. Last time, the canvas collapsed and made a mess of everything. That's not supposed to happen. The dome of the Hab is mostly supported by air pressure, but there are flexible reenforcing poles across the inside to hold the canvas up. It's how the Hab was assembled in the first place.

I watched as the canvas gently settled on to the poles. To confirm the depress, I opened both doors of Airlock 2. I left Airlock 3 alone. It maintained pressure for its cargo of random crap.

Then I cut shit up!

I'm not a materials engineer; my design for the bedroom isn't elegant. It's just a 2m perimeter and a ceiling. No, it won't have right angles and corners (pressure vessels don't like those). It'll balloon out to a more round shape.

Anyway, it means I only needed to cut two big-ass strips of canvas. One for the walls and one for the ceiling.

After mangling the Hab, I pulled the remaining canvas down to the flooring and re-sealed it. Ever set up a camping tent? From the inside? While wearing a suit of armor? It was a pain in the ass.

I repressurized to 1/20th of an atmosphere to see if it could hold pressure.

Ha ha ha! Of course it couldn't! Leaks galore. Time to find them.

On Earth, tiny particles get attached to water or wear down to nothing. On Mars, they just hang around. The top layer of sand is like talcum powder. I went outside with a bag and scraped along the surface. I got some normal sand, but plenty of powder too.

I had the Hab maintain the 1/20th atmosphere, backfilling as air leaked out. Then I “puffed” the bag to get the smallest particles to float around. They were quickly drawn to where the leaks were. As I found each leak, I spot-sealed it with resin.

It took hours, but I finally got a good seal. I'll tell ya, the Hab looks pretty “ghetto” now. One whole side of it is lower than the rest. I'll have to hunch down when I'm over there.

I pressurized to a full atmosphere and waited an hour. No leaks.

It's been a long, physically taxing day. I'm totally exhausted but I can't sleep. Every sound scares the shit out of me. Is that the Hab popping? No? Ok... What was that!? Oh, nothing? Ok...

It's a terrible thing to have my life depend on my half-assed handiwork.

Time to get a sleeping pill from the medical supplies.


What the fuck is in those sleeping pills!? It's the middle of the day.

After two cups of Martian Coffee, I woke up a little. I won't be taking another one of those pills. It's not like I have to go to work in the morning.

Anyway, as you can tell from how not dead I am, the Hab stayed sealed overnight. The seal is solid. Ugly as hell, but solid.

Today's task was the bedroom.

Assembling the bedroom was way easier than re-sealing the Hab. Because this time, I didn't have to wear an EVA suit. I made the whole thing inside the Hab. Why not? It's just canvas. I can roll it up and take it out an airlock when I'm done.

First, I did some surgery on the remaining pop tent. I needed to keep the rover-airlock connector and surrounding canvas. The rest of the canvas had to go. Why hack off most of the canvas only to replace it with more canvas? Seams.

NASA is good at making things. I am not. The dangerous part of this structure won't be the canvas. It'll be the seams. And I get less total seam length by not trying to use the existing pop-tent canvas.

After hacking away most of the remaining tent, I seal-stripped the two pop-tent floors together. Then I sealed the new canvas pieces in to place.

It was so much easier without the EVA suit on. So much easier!

Then I had to test it. Again, I did it in the Hab. I brought an EVA suit in to the tent with me and closed the mini-airlock door. Then I fired up the EVA suit, leaving the helmet off. I told it to bump the pressure up to 1.2 atm.

It took a little while to bring it up to par, and I had to disable some alarms on the suit. (“Hey, I'm pretty sure the helmet's not on!”). It depleted most of the N2 tank, but was finally able to bring the pressure up.

Then I sat around and waited. I breathed, the suit regulated the air. All was well. I watched the suit readouts carefully to see if it had to replace any “lost” air. After an hour with no noticeable change, I declared the first test a success.

I rolled up the whole thing (wadded up, really) and took it out to the rover.

You know, I suit up a lot these days. I bet that's another record I hold. A typical Martian astronaut does, what, 40 EVAs? I've done several hundred.

Once I brought the bedroom to the rover, I attached it to the airlock from the inside. Then I pulled the release to let it loose. I was still wearing my EVA suit, cause I'm not an idiot.

It fired out and filled in three seconds. The open airlock hatchway led directly to the bedroom, and it appeared to be holding pressure.

Just like before, I let it sit for an hour. And just like before, it worked great. Unlike the Hab canvas resealing, I got this one right on the first try. Mostly because I didn't have to do it with a damn EVA suit on.

Originally I planned to let it sit overnight and check in the morning. But I ran in to a  problem: I can't get out if I do that. The rover only has one airlock, and the bedroom was attached to it. There was no way for me to get out without detaching the bedroom, and no way to attach and pressurize the bedroom without being inside the rover.

It's a little scary. The first time I test the thing overnight will be with me in it. But that'll be later. I've done enough today.


I have to face facts. I'm done with the rover. I don't “feel” like I'm done. But it's ready to go:

Food: 1,692 potatoes. Vitamin pills.

Water: 620L.

Shelter: Rover, trailer, bedroom.

Air: Rover and trailer combined storage: 14L liquid O2, 14L liquid N2.

Life Support: Oxygenator and Atmospheric Regulator. 418 hours of use-and-discard CO2 filters for emergencies.

Power: 36kwh of storage. Carrying capacity for 29 solar cells.

Heat: 1400W RTG. Homemade reservoir to heat regulator's return air. Electric heater in rover as a backup.

Disco: Lifetime supply.

I'm leaving here on Sol 449. That gives me 59 sols to test everything and fix whatever isn't working right. And decide what's coming with me and what's staying behind. And plot a route to Schiaparelli using a grainy satellite map. And rack my brains trying to think of anything important I forgot.

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