The Martian

Page 76

While I was out, I collected the 26 solar cells that aren't under the rover and set them up to recharge my batteries. May as well, right?

So right now, I have a few problems to tackle: First, I need to right the trailer. Or at least get the weight off the balloon. Next, I need to right the rover. Finally, I need to replace the rover's tow hook with the one on the trailer.

Also, I should spell out a message for NASA. They're probably worried.

Mindy read the Morse code aloud. “Rolled. Fixing now.”

“What? That's it?” Venkat said over the phone.

“That's all he said,” she reported, cradling the phone as she typed out an email to the list of interested parties.

“Just three words? Nothing about his physical health? His equipment? His supplies?”

“You got me,” she said. “He left a detailed status report. I just decided to lie for no reason.”

“Funny,” Venkat said. “Be a smart-ass to a guy seven levels above you at your company. See how that works out.”

“Oh no,” Mindy said. “I might lose my job as an interplanetary voyeur? I guess I'd have to use my Master's degree for something else.”

“I remember when you were shy.”

“I'm space paparazzi now. The attitude comes with the job.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Venkat said. “Just send the email.”

“Already sent.”


I had a busy day today and I got a lot done.

I started out pretty sore. I had to sleep on the wall of the rover. The bedroom won't work when the airlock is facing up. I did get to use the bedroom, somewhat. I folded it up and used it as a bed.

Anyway, suffice to say the wall of the rover wasn't made for sleeping on. But after a morning potato and Vicodin, I was feeling much better.

At first I figured my top priority was the trailer. Then I changed my mind. After taking a good look at it, I decided I'd never be able to right it by myself. I'd need the rover.

So today was focused on getting the rover righted.

I brought all my tools along on this trip, figuring I'd need them for the MAV modifications. And along with them I brought cabling. Once I get set up at the MAV, my solar cells and batteries will be in a fixed position. I don't want to move the rover around every time I use a drill on the far side of the MAV. So I brought all the electrical cabling I could fit.

Good thing, too. Because it doubles as rope.

I dug up my longest cable. It's the same one I used to power the drill that destroyed Pathfinder. I call it my “Lucky Cable.” 

I plugged one end in to the battery and the other in to the infamous sample drill. Then walked off with the drill to find solid ground. Once I found it, I kept going until I'd gone as far as the electrical line would reach. I drove a 1-meter bit half a meter into a rock, unplugged the power line, and tied it around the base of the bit.

Then I went back to the rover and tied off the cord to the roof-rack bar on the high side. Now I had a long, taut line running perpendicular to the rover.

I walked to the middle of the cord and pulled it laterally. The leverage advantage on the rover was huge. I only hoped it wouldn't break the drill bit before it tipped the rover.

I backed away, pulling the line more and more. Something had to give, and it wasn't going to be me. I had Archimedes on my side. The rover finally tipped.

It fell on to its wheels, kicking up a large cloud of soft dust. It was a silent affair. I was far enough away that the thin atmosphere had no hope of carrying the sound to me.

I untied the power line, liberated the drill bit, and returned to the rover. I gave it a full system's check. That's a boring-as-hell task but I had to do it. Every system and subsystem was working correctly.

JPL did a damn good job making these rovers. If I get back to Earth, I'm buying Bruce Ng a beer. Though I guess I should buy all the JPL guys a beer.

Beers for fucking everyone if I get back to Earth.

Anyway, with the rover back on its wheels it was time to work on the trailer. Problem is, I'm in a crater.

I had gotten most of the way down the Ramp when I rolled the rover. And the Ramp is up against the western edge of the crater. So the sun sets really early from my point of view. I'm in the shadow of the western wall. And that royally sucks.

Mars is not Earth. It doesn't have a thick atmosphere to bend light and carry particles that reflect light around corners. It's damn-near a vacuum here. Once the sun isn't visible, I'm in the dark. Phobos gives me some moonlight, but not enough to work with. Deimos is a little piece of shit that's no good to anyone.

Long story short: I ran out of daylight. I hate to leave the trailer sitting on its balloon for another night, but there's not much else I can do. I figure it's survived a whole day like that. It's probably stable for now.

And hey, with the rover righted, I get to use the bedroom again! It's the simple things in life that matter.


When I woke up this morning, the trailer hadn't popped yet. So that was a good start.

The trailer was a bigger challenge than the rover. I only had to tip the rover. I'd need to completely flip the trailer. That requires lot more force than yesterday's little leverage trick.

The first step was to drive the rover to near the trailer. Then came the digging.

Oh god the digging.

The trailer was upside down with its nose pointed downhill. I decided the best way to right it was to take advantage of the slope and roll the trailer over its nose. Basically to make it do a somersault to land on its wheels.

I can make this happen by tying off the cable to the rear of the trailer and towing with the rover. But if I tried that without digging a hole first, the trailer would just slide along the ground. I needed it to tip up. I needed a hole for the nose to fall in to.

So I dug a hole. A hole one by three meters, and one meter deep. It took me four miserable hours of hard labor, but I got it done.

I hopped in the rover and drove it downhill, dragging the trailer with me. As I'd hoped, the trailer nosed in to the hole and tipped up. From there, it fell on to its wheels with a huge plume of dust.

Then I sat for a moment, dumbstruck that my plan actually worked.

And now I'm out of daylight again. I can't wait to get out of this fucking shadow. All I need is one day of driving toward the MAV and I'll be away from the wall. But for now, it's another early night.

I'll spend tonight without the trailer to manage my life support. It may be righted, but I have no idea if the shit inside still works. The rover still has ample supplies for me.

I'll spend the rest of the evening enjoying a potato. And by “enjoying” I mean “hating so much I want to kill people.”

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