The Martian

Page 74

I'll still have 44 sols to do whatever MAV modifications NASA has in mind.


I have an interesting opportunity here. And by “opportunity” I mean Opportunity.

I got pushed so far off course, I'm actually not far from the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. It's about 300km away. I could actually get there and pull a Pathfinder on it. It would take about 4 sols.

Thing is, it's not worth it. I'm only 13 sols away from the MAV. Why go out of my way to dig up another broken-ass rover to use as a makeshift radio when I'll have a brand new, fully functional communication system within a couple of weeks.

So, while it's kind of neat that I'm within striking range of another rover (man we really littered this planet with them, didn't we?) it's not relevant.

Besides, I've defiled enough future historical sites for now.


I need to put some thought in to the bedroom.

Right now, I can only have it set up when I'm inside the rover. It attaches to the airlock, so I can't get out if it's there. During my road trip that didn't matter, because I had to furl it every day anyway. But once I get to the MAV, I won't have to drive around anymore. Each decompress/recompress of the bedroom stresses the seams (I learned that lesson the hard way when the Hab blew up) so it's best if I can find a way to leave it out.

Holy shit. I just realized I actually believe I'll get to the MAV. See what I did there? I casually talked about what I'll do after I get to the MAV. Like it was nothing. No big deal. I'm just going to pop over to Schiaparelli and hang with the MAV there.


Anyway, I don't have another airlock. I've got one on the rover and one on the trailer and that's it. They're firmly fixed in place, so it's not like I can detach one and attach it to the bedroom.

But I can seal the bedroom entirely. I don't even have to do any bullshit hatchet jobs on it. The airlock attachment point has a flap I can unroll seal the opening with. Remember, I stole the airlock attachment from a pop-tent. It's an emergency feature for pressure loss while in the rover. It'd be pretty useless if it couldn't seal itself off.

Unfortunately, as an emergency device, it was never intended to be reusable. The idea was people seal themselves in the pop tent, then the rest of the crew drives to wherever they are in the other rover and rescues them. The crew of the good rover detaches the pop tent from the breached rover, and re-attaches it to theirs. Then they cut through the seal from their side to recover their crewmates.

To make sure this would always be an option, mission rules dictated no more than 3 people could be in a rover at once, and both rovers had to be fully functional or we couldn't use either.

So here's my brilliant plan: I won't use the bedroom as a bedroom anymore once I get to the MAV. I'll use it to house the Oxygenator and Atmospheric Regulator. Then I'll use the trailer as my bedroom. Neat, eh?

The trailer has tons of space. I put a fuckton of work in to making that happen. The balloon gives plenty of headroom. Not a lot of floor space, but still lots of vertical area.

Also, the bedroom has several valve apertures in its canvas. I have the pop-tents to thank for that again. I just needed swaths of canvas so I stole it from wherever I could. I stole a lot from the pop tents, and they had valve apertures (triple redundant ones, actually). NASA wanted to make sure the emergency shelter allows the crew on the outside to get air in to the crew on the inside.

In the end, I'll have the bedroom sealed with the Oxygenator and Atmospheric Regulator inside. It'll be attached to the trailer via hoses to share the same atmosphere and I'll run a power line through one of the hoses. The rover will serve as storage (because I won't need to get to the driving controls any more) and the trailer will be completely empty. Then I'll have a permanent bedroom. I'll even be able to use it as a workshop for whatever MAV modifications I need to do on parts that can fit through the trailer's airlock.

Of course, if the Atmospheric Regulator or Oxygenator have problems, I'll need to cut in to the bedroom to get to them. But I've been here 492 sols and they've worked fine the whole time, so I'll take that risk.


I'll be at the entrance to Schiaparelli crater tomorrow!

Presuming nothing goes wrong, that is. But hey, everything else has gone smoothly this mission, right? (That was sarcasm.)

Today's an Air Day and for once, I don't want it. I'm so close to Schiaparelli, I can taste it. I guess it would taste like sand, mostly, but that's not the point.

Of course, that won't be the end of the trip. It'll take another 3 sols to get from the entrance to the MAV, but hot damn! I'm almost there!

I think I can even see the rim of Schiaparelli. It's way the hell off in the distance and it might just be my imagination. It's 62km away, so if I'm seeing it, I'm only just barely seeing it.

Tomorrow, once I get to Entrance Crater, I'll turn south and enter the Schiaparelli Basin via the “Entrance Ramp.” I did some back-of-the-napkin math and the slope should be pretty safe. The elevation change from the rim to the basin is 1.5km, and the Ramp is at least 45km long. That makes for a 2-degree grade. No problem.

Tomorrow night, I'll sink to an all new low!

Lemme rephrase that...

Tomorrow night, I'll be at rock bottom!

No, that doesn't sound good either...

Tomorrow night, I'll be in Giovanni Schiaparelli's favorite hole!

Ok, I admit I'm just fucking around now.

For millions of years, the rim of the crater had been under constant attack from wind. It eroded the rocky crest like a river cuts through a mountain range. After aeons, it finally breached the edge.

The high pressure zone created by the wind now had an avenue to drain. The breach widened more and more with each passing millennium. As it widened, dust and sand particles carried along with the attack settled in the basin below.

Eventually, a balance point was reached. The sand had piled up high enough to be flush with the land outside the crater. It no longer built upward, but now outward. The slope lengthened until a new balance point was reached, one defined by the complex interactions of countless tiny particles and their ability to maintain an angled shape. Entrance Ramp had been born.

The weather brought dunes and desert terrain. Nearby crater impacts brought rocks and boulders. The shape became uneven.

Gravity did its work. The ramp compressed over time. But it did not compress evenly. Differing densities shrunk at different rates. Some areas became hard as rock while others remained as soft as talc.

While providing a small average slope into the crater, the ramp itself was rugged and bitterly uneven.

Upon reaching Entrance Crater, the lone inhabitant of Mars turned his vehicle toward the Schiaparelli Basin. The difficult terrain was unexpected, but looked no worse than other terrain he routinely navigated.

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