The Martian

Page 68

“Where have you been sleeping?”

“In Airlock 2. It's the only place I can be without people tripping over me.”

“No good,” Lewis said, shaking her head. “If one seal breaks, you die.”

“I can't think of anywhere else to sleep,” he said. “The ship is pretty cramped, and if I sleep in a hallway I'll be in people's way.”

“Ok, from now on, sleep in Beck's room. Beck can sleep with Johanssen.”

Johanssen blushed and looked down awkwardly.

“So...” Beck said, “You know about that?”

“You thought I didn't?” Lewis said. “It's a small ship.”

“You're not mad?”

“If it were a normal mission, I would be,” Lewis said. “But we're way off-script now. Just keep it from interfering with your duties and I'm happy.”

“Million-mile-high club,” Martinez said. “Nice!”

Johanssen blushed deeper and buried her face in her hands.


I'm getting pretty good at this. Maybe when all this is over I could be a product-tester for Mars rovers.

Things went well. I spent five sols driving in circles; I averaged 93 km per sol. That's a little better than I'd expected. The terrain here is flat and smooth, so it's pretty much a best-case scenario. Once I'm going up hills and around boulders it won't be nearly that good.

The bedroom is awesome. Large, spacious, and comfortable. On the first night, I ran in to a little problem with the temperature. It was fucking cold. The rover and trailer regulate their own temperatures just fine, but things weren't hot enough in the bedroom.

Story of my life.

The rover has an electric heater that pushes air with a small fan. I don't use it for anything because the RTG provides all the heat I need. I liberated the fan and wired it in to a power line near the airlock. Once it had power all I had to do was point it at the bedroom.

It's a low-tech solution, but it worked. There's plenty of heat, thanks to the RTG. I just needed to get it evenly spread out. For once, entropy was on my side.

I fell in to a routine pretty quickly. In fact, it was hauntingly familiar. I did it for 22 miserable days on the Pathfinder trip. But this time, I had the bedroom and that makes all the difference. Instead of being cooped up in the rover, I have my own little Hab.

The procedure is what you'd expect. After waking up, I have a potato for breakfast. Then, I deflate the bedroom from the inside. It's kind of tricky, but I worked out how.

First, I put on an EVA suit. Then I close the inner airlock door, leaving the outer door (which the bedroom is attached to) open. This isolates the bedroom, with me in it, from the rest of the rover. Then I tell the airlock to depressurize. It thinks it's just pumping the air out of a small area, but it's actually deflating the whole bedroom.

Once the pressure is gone, I pull the canvas in and fold it. Then I detach it from the outer hatch and close the outer door. This is the most cramped part. I have to share the airlock with the entire folded up bedroom while it repressurizes. Once I have pressure again, I open the inner door and more-or-less fall in to the rover. Then I stow the bedroom, and go back to the airlock for a normal egress to Mars.

It's a complicated process, but it detaches the bedroom without having to depressurize the rover cabin. Remember, the rover has all my stuff that doesn't play well with vacuum.

The next step is to gather up the solar cells I'd laid out the day before and stow them on the rover and trailer. Then I do a quick check on the trailer. I go in through its airlock and basically take a quick look at all the equipment. I don't even take off my EVA suit. I just want to make sure nothing's obviously wrong.

Then, back to the rover. Once inside, I take off the EVA suit and start driving. I drive for almost 4 hours, and then I'm out of power.

Once I park, it's back in to the EVA suit for me, and out to Mars again. I lay the solar panels out and get the batteries charging.

Then I set up the bedroom. Pretty much the reverse of the sequence I use to stow it. Ultimately it's the airlock that inflates it. In a way, the bedroom is just an extension of the airlock.

Even though it's possible, I don't rapid-inflate the bedroom. I did that to test it because I wanted to find where it'll leak. But it's not a good idea. Rapid inflation puts a lot of shock and pressure on it. It would eventually rupture. I didn't enjoy that time the Hab launched me like a cannonball. I'm not eager to repeat it.

Once the bedroom is set up again, I can take off my EVA suit and relax the rest of the day. I mostly watch crappy 70's TV. I'm indistinguishable from an unemployed guy for most of the day.

I followed that process for four sols, and then it was time for an “Air Day”.

An Air Day turns out to be pretty much the same as any other day, but without the 4 hour drive. Once I set up the solar panels, I fired up the Oxygenator and let it work through the backlog of CO2 the Regulator had stored up.

Once it was done, my test run was complete. It converted all the CO2 to oxygen, and used up the day's power generation to do it.

The test was a success. I'll be ready on time.


Today's the big day. I'm leaving for Schiaparelli.

The rover and trailer are all packed. They've been mostly packed since the test run. But now I even have the water aboard.

I spent the last several days running full diagnostics on everything. The Regulator, Oxygenator, RTG, AREC, batteries, rover life support (in case I need a backup), solar cells, rover computer, airlocks, and everything else with a moving part or electronic component. I even checked each of the motors. Eight in all, one for each wheel, four on the rover, four on the trailer. The trailer's motors won't be powered, but it's nice to have backups.

It's all good to go. No problems that I can see.

The Hab is a shell of its former self. I've robbed it of all critical components and a big chunk of its canvas. I've looted that poor Hab for everything it could give me, and in return it's kept me alive for a year and a half. It's like The Giving Tree.

I performed the final shutdown today. The heaters, lighting, main computer, etc. All the components I didn't steal for the trip to Schiaparelli.

I could have left them on. It's not like anyone would care. But the original procedure for Sol 31 (which was supposed to be the last day of the surface mission) was to completely shut down the Hab and deflate it. NASA didn't want a big tent full of combustible oxygen next to  the MAV when it launched, so they added the shutdown process to the mission.

I guess I did it as an homage to the mission Ares 3 could have been. A small piece of the Sol 31 I never got to have.

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