The Martian

Page 65

Since Sol 6 all I've wanted to do was get the hell out of here. Now the prospect of leaving the Hab behind scares the shit out of me. I need some encouragement. I need to ask myself: “What would an Apollo astronaut do?”

He'd drink 3 whiskey sours, bang his mistress, then fly to the moon. And if he ever met a botanist like me he'd dispense a wedgie on principle.

To hell with those guys. I'm a Space Pirate!

Chapter 21


I'm working out how to pack. It's harder than it sounds.

I have two pressure vessels: The rover and the trailer. They're connected by hoses, but they're also not stupid. If one loses pressure, the other will instantly seal off the shared lines.

There's a grim logic to this: If the rover breaches I'm dead. No point in planning around that. But if the trailer breaches, I'll be fine. That means I should put everything important in the rover. If I'm going to die, I may as well take all the delicate stuff with me.

Everything that goes in the trailer has to be comfortable in near-vacuum and freezing temperatures. Not that I anticipate that, but you know. Plan for the worst.

There isn't much room to spare. It'll have two bulky Hab batteries, the Atmospheric Regulator, the Oxygenator and my home-made heat reservoir. It would be more convenient to have the reservoir in the rover, but it has to be near the Regulator's return air feed.

It'll be cramped, but there will be some empty spaces. And I know just how to fill them: Taters!

Nothing “bad” can happen to the potatoes. They're already dead. I've been storing them outside for months anyway. Also, they're small and not delicate. They probably won't all fit, so some will have to ride with me.

The rover will be pretty packed, too. When I'm driving, I'll keep the bedroom folded up near the airlock, ready for emergency egress. Also, I'll have the two functional EVA suits in there with me and anything that might be needed for emergency repairs: Tool kits, spare parts, my nearly depleted supply of sealant, the other rover's main computer (just in case!) and all 620 glorious liters of water.

And a plastic box to to serve as a toilet. One with a good lid.

“How's Watney doing?” Venkat asked.

Mindy looked up from her computer with a start. “Dr. Kapoor?”

“I hear you caught a pic of him during an EVA?”

“Uh, yeah,” Mindy said, typing on her keyboard. “I noticed things would always change around 9am local time. People usually keep the same patterns so I figured he likes to start work around then. I did some minor realignment to get seventeen pics between 9:00 and 9:10. He showed up in one of them.”

“Good thinking. Can I see the pic?”

“Sure,” she said. She brought up the image on her screen.

Venkat peered at the blurry image. “Is this as good as it gets?”

“Well it is a photo taken from orbit,” Mindy said. “The NSA enhanced the image with the best software they have.”

“Wait, What?” Venkat stammered. “The NSA?”

“Yeah, they called and offered to help out. Same software they use for enhancing spy satellite imagery.”

Venkat shrugged. “It's amazing how much red tape gets cut when everyone's rooting for one man to survive.” He pointed to the screen. “What's Watney doing here?”

“I think he's loading something into the rover.”

“When was the last time he worked on the trailer?” Venkat asked.

“Not for a while. Why doesn't he write us notes more often?”

Venkat shrugged. “He's busy. He works most of the daylight hours, and arranging rocks to spell a message takes time and energy.”

“So...” Mindy said. “Why'd you come here in person? We could have done all this over email.”

“Actually, I came to talk to you,” he said. “There's going to be a change in your responsibilities. From now on, instead of managing the satellites around Mars, your sole responsibility is watching Mark Watney.”

“What?” Mindy said. “What about course corrections and alignment?”

“We'll assign that to other people,” Venkat said. “From now on, your only focus is examining imagery of Ares 3.”

“That's a demotion,” Mindy said. “I'm an orbital engineer, and you're turning me in to a glorified Peeping Tom.”

“It's short-term,” Venkat said. “And we'll make it up to you. Thing is, you've been doing it for months and you're an expert at identifying elements of Ares 3 from satellite pics. We don't have anyone else who can do that.”

“Why is this suddenly so important?”

“He's running out of time,” Venkat said. “We don't know how far along he is on the rover modifications. But we do know he's on only got 16 sols to get them done. We need to know exactly what he's doing. I've got media outlets and senators asking for his status all the time. The President even called me a couple of times.

“But seeing his status doesn't help,” Mindy said. “It's not like we can do anything about it if he falls behind. This is a pointless task.”

“How long have you worked for the government?” Venkat sighed.


The time has come to test this shit out.

This presents a problem. Unlike my Pathfinder trip, I have to take vital life support elements out of the Hab. When you take the Atmospheric Regulator and Oxygenator out of the Hab, you're left with... a tent. A big round tent that can't support life.

It's not as risky as it seems. As always, the dangerous part about life support is managing carbon dioxide. When the air gets to 1% CO2, you start getting symptoms of poisoning. So I need to keep it below that.

The Hab's internal volume is about 120,000L. Breathing normally, it would take me over two days to bring the CO2 level up to 1% (and I wouldn't even dent in the O2 level). So it's safe to move the Regulator and Oxygenator over for a while.

Both are way too big to fit through the trailer airlock. Lucky for me, they came to Mars with “some assembly required”. They were too big to send whole, so they're easy to dismantle.

Over several trips, I took all their chunks to the trailer. I brought each chunk in through the airlock, one at a time. It was a pain in the ass reassembling them inside, let me tell you. There's barely enough room for all the shit it's got to hold. There wasn't much left for our intrepid hero.

Then I got the AREC. It sat outside the Hab like an AC unit might on Earth. In a way, that's what it was. I hauled it over to the trailer and lashed it to the shelf I'd made for it. Then I hooked it up to the feed lines that led through the “balloon” to the inside of the trailer's pressure vessel.

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