The Martian

Page 77


I started the day with some Nothin' Tea. Nothin' Tea is easy to make. First, get some hot water, then add nothin'. I experimented with Potato Skin Tea a few weeks ago. The less said about that the better.

I ventured in to the trailer today. Not an easy task. It's pretty cramped in there; I had to leave my EVA suit in the airlock.

The first thing I noticed was that it was really hot in there. It took me a few minutes to work out why.

The Atmospheric Regulator was still in perfect working order, but it had nothing to do. Without being connected to the rover, it no longer had my CO2 production to deal with. The atmosphere in the trailer was perfect, why change anything?

With no regulation necessary, the air was not being pumped out to the AREC for freeze-separation. And thus it wasn't coming back in as a liquid in need of heating.

But remember, the RTG gives off heat all the time. You can't stop it. So the heat just built up. Eventually, things reached a balance point where the heat bled through the hull as fast as the RTG could add it. If you're curious, that balance point was a sweltering 41C.

I did a full diagnostic on the Regulator and Oxygenator and I'm happy to report both are working perfectly.

The RTG's water tank was empty, which is no surprise. It was an open top, not intended to be turned upside down. The floor of the trailer has a lot of puddled water that took me quite a while to sop up with my jumpsuit. I topped the tank off with some more water from a sealed container that I'd stored in the trailer earlier. Remember, I need that water to have something for the returning air to bubble through. That's my heating system.

But all things considered, it was good news. The critical components are working fine, and both vehicles are back on their tires.

The hoses that connected the rover and trailer were designed well, and released without breaking. I simply snapped them back in to place and the vehicles were sharing life support again.

The one remaining thing to fix was the tow hook. It was absolutely ruined. It took the full force of the crash. As I suspected, the trailer's tow hook was unscathed. So I transferred it to the rover and reconnected the two vehicles for travel.

All told, that little fender-bender cost me 4 sols. But now I'm back in action!

Sort of.

What if I run in to another powder pit? I got lucky this time. Next time I might not get off so easy. I think this was sort of a freak accident. The problem was that one wheel was on solid ground while the other was on soft powder.

I need a way to know if the ground in front of me is safe. At least for the duration of my time on The Ramp. Once I'm in the Schiaparelli Basin proper, I can count on the normal sandy terrain I'm used to.

If I could have anything, it would be a radio to ask NASA the safe path down the Ramp. Well, if I could have anything, it would be for the green-skinned yet beautiful Queen of Mars to rescue me so she can learn more about this Earth thing called “lovemaking”.

It's been a long time since I've seen a woman. Just sayin'.

Anyway, to ensure I don't crash again, I'll-- Seriously... no women in like, years. I don't ask for much. And believe me, a Botanist / Mechanical Engineer doesn't exactly have ladies lined up at the door. But still, c'mon.

Anyway. I'll drive slower. Like... a crawl. That should give me enough time to react if one wheel starts to sink. Also, the lower speed will give me more torque, making it less likely I lose traction.

Up till now I've been driving 25kph, so I'm going to cut that to 5kph. I'm still toward the top of the Ramp, but the whole thing is only 40km. I can take my time and get safely to the bottom. It should take about 8 hours.

I'll do it tomorrow. I'm already out of daylight again today. That's another bonus: Once I clear the ramp, I can start bee-lining toward the MAV, which will take me away from the crater wall. I'll be back to enjoying the entire day's sunlight instead of just half of it.

If I get back to Earth, I'll be famous, right? A fearless astronaut who beat all the odds, right? I bet women like that.

More motivation to stay alive.

“So it looks like he's fixed everything,” Mindy explained. “And his message today was 'ALL BETTER NOW' so I guess he's got everything working.”

She surveyed the smiling faces of the meeting room.

“Awesome.” Mitch said.

“Great news,” Bruce's voice came in through the speakerphone.

Venkat leaned forward to the speakerphone “How are the MAV modification plans coming, Bruce? Is JPL going to have that procedure soon?”

“We're working around the clock on it,” Bruce said. “We're past most of the big hurdles. Working out the details now.”

“Good, good,” Venkat said. “Any surprises I should know about?”

“Um...” Bruce said. “Yeah, a few. This might not be the best venue for it. I'll be back in Houston with the procedure in a day or two. We can go through it then.”

“Ominous,” Venkat said. “But ok. We'll pick it up later.”

“Can I spread the word?” Annie asked. “It'd be nice to see something other than the rover crash site on the news tonight.”

“Definitely,” Venkat said. “It'll be nice to have some good news for a change. Mindy, how long until he gets to the MAV?”

“At his usual rate of 90km per sol,” Mindy said, “he should get there on Sol 504. Sol 505 if he takes his time. He always drives in the early morning, finishing around noon.” She checked an application on her laptop. “Noon on Sol 504 will be 11:41am this Wednesday here in Houston. Noon on Sol 505 will be 12:21pm on Thursday.”

“Mitch, who's handling Ares 4 MAV communication?”

“The Ares 3 mission control team,” Mitch replied. “It'll be in control room 2”.

“I assume you'll be there?”

“Bet your ass I'll be there.”

“So will I.” 


Every Thanksgiving, my family used to drive from Chicago to Sandusky, an 8-hour drive. It's where Mom's sister lived. Dad would always drive, and he was the slowest, most cautious driver who ever took the wheel.

Seriously. He drove like he was taking a driver's test. Never exceeded the speed limit, always had his hands at 10 and 2, adjusted mirrors before each outing, you name it.

It was infuriating. We'd be on the freeway, cars blowing by left and right. Some of them would blare their horns because, honestly, driving the speed limit makes you a road hazard. I wanted to get out and push.

I felt that way all damn day today. 5km/h is literally a walking pace. And I drove that speed for eight hours.

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