فصل 11کتاب: مریخی / فصل 11
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Chapter 11 “Something’s coming in… yes… yes! It’s Pathfinder!”
The room burst in to applause and cheers. Venkat slapped an unknown technician heartily on the back while Bruce pumped his fist in
The ad-hoc control center was an accomplishment in itself. JPL had just 20 days to piece together antiquated computers, repair broken
components, network everything, and instal hastily made software to interact with the modern Deep Space Network. A team of engineers
had worked around the clock, finishing only two days earlier.
The room itself was formerly a conference room; JPL had no space ready for the sudden need. Crammed with computers and
equipment, little space was left over for the many spectators squeezing in.
One Associated Press camera team was permitted. The rest of the media would have to satisfy themselves with the live AP feed, and
await a press conference.
Venkat turned to Bruce. “God damn, Bruce. You realy puled a rabbit out of your hat this time! Good work!”
“I’m just the director,” Bruce said modestly. “Thank the guys who got al this sh@t working.”
“Oh I wil!” Venkat beamed. “But first I have to talk to my new best friend!”
Turning to the headsetted man at the communications console, Venkat asked “What’s you’re name, new best friend?”
“Tim,” he said, not taking his eyes off the screen.
“What now?” Venkat asked.
“We sent the return telemetry automaticaly. It’l get there in just over 11 minutes. Once it does, Pathfinder wil start high-gain
transmissions. So it’l be 22 minutes til we hear from it again.”
“Venkat’s got a doctorate in physics, Tim,” Bruce said, “You don’t need to explain transmission time to him.”
Tim shrugged. “You can never tel with managers.”
“What was in the transmission we got?” Venkat asked.
“Just the bare bones. A hardware self check. It’s got a lot of “nonfunctional” systems, cause they were on the panels Watney
“What about the camera?”
“It says the imager’s working. We’l have it take a panorama as soon as we can.”
LOG ENTRY: SOL 97
Holy fu@king sh@t it worked!
I just checked the Lander. The high gain antenna is angled directly at Earth! Pathfinder has no way of knowing where it is, so it has no way of knowing where Earth is. The only way for it to find out is getting a signal.
They know I’m alive!
Happy dance, happy dance, I’m doin’ the happy dance!
Al right. Enough happy dance. Time to make with the communicatin’!
“We received the high-gain response just over half an hour ago,” Venkat said to the assembled press. “We immediately directed
Pathfinder to take a panoramic image. Hopefuly, Watney has some kind of message for us. Questions?”
The sea of reporters raised their hands.
“Cathy, let’s start with you,” Venkat said, pointing her out.
“Thanks,” she said. “Have you had any contact with the Sojourner rover?”
“Unfortunately, no,” he replied. “The Lander hasn’t been able to connect to Sojourner, and we have no way to contact it directly.”
“What might be wrong with Sojourner?”
“I can’t even speculate,” Venkat said. “After spending that long on Mars, anything could be wrong with it.”
“Our best guess is he took it in to the Hab. The Lander’s signal wouldn’t be able to reach Sojourner through Hab canvas.” Pointing to
another reporter, he said “You, there.”
“Marty West, NBC News,” Marty said. “How wil you communicate with Watney once everything’s up and running?”
“That’l be up to Watney,” said Venkat. “Al we have to work with is the camera. He can write notes and hold them up. But how we
talk back is trickier.”
“How so?” Marty asked.
“Because al we have is the camera platform. That’s the only moving part. There are plenty of ways to get information across with just
the platform’s rotation, but no way to tel Watney about them. He’l have to come up with something and tel us. We’l folow his lead.”
Pointing to the next reporter, he said, “Go ahead.”
“Jil Holbrook, BBC. With a 32 minute round trip, and nothing but a single rotating platform to talk with, it’l be a dreadfuly slow
conversation, won’t it?”
“Yes it wil,” Venkat confirmed. “It’s early morning in Acidalia Planitia right now, and just past 3am here in Pasadena. We’l be here al
night, and that’s just for a start. No more questions for now, the panorama is due back in a few minutes. We’l keep you posted.”
Quickly leaving the press room, Venkat hurried down the hal to the makeshift Pathfinder control center. He pressed through the throng
to the communications console.
“Totaly,” he replied. “But we’re staring at this black screen because it’s way more interesting than pictures from Mars.”
“You’re a smart-ass, Tim,” Venkat said.
Bruce pushed his way forward. “Stil another few seconds on the clock,” he said.
The time passed in silence.
“Getting something,” Tim said. “Yup. It’s the panoramic.”
A general loosening of tension coruscated through the room as the image slowly came through, one vertical stripe at a time.
“Martian surface…” Venkat said as the lines displayed. “More surface…”
“Edge of the Hab!” Bruce said, pointing to the screen.
“Hab,” Venkat smiled. “More Hab now… more Hab… is that a message? That’s a message!”
The vertical stripes revealed a handwritten note, suspended at the camera’s height by a thin metal rod.
“We got a note from Mark!” Venkat announced to the room.
Applause filed the room, then quickly died down. “What’s it say?” someone asked.
Venkat leaned closer to the screen. “It says …‘I’l write questions here – Are you receiving?’”
“Ok…?” said Bruce.
“That’s what it says,” Venkat shrugged.
“Another note,” said Tim, pointing to the screen as the slow march of data revealed itself.
Venkat leaned in again. “This one says ‘Point here for yes’.”
“Al right, I see what he’s going for,” said Bruce.
“There’s the third note,” said Tim.
“‘Point here for no,’” Venkat read. “‘Wil check often for answer’”
Venkat folded his arms. “Al right. We have communication with Mark. Tim, point the camera at ‘Yes’. Then, start taking pictures at
10 minute intervals until he puts another question up.”
LOG ENTRY: SOL 97 (2)
“Yes!” They said “Yes!”
I haven’t been this excited about a “yes” since prom night!
Ok, calm down.
I have limited paper to work with. These cards were intended to label batches of samples. I have about 50 cards. I can use both sides,
and if it comes down to it, I can re-use them by scratching out the old question.
The Sharpie I’m using wil last much longer than the cards, so ink isn’t a problem. But I have to do al my writing in the Hab. I don’t
know what kind of halucinogenic crap that ink is made of, but I’m pretty sure it would boil off in 1/90th of an atmosphere.
I’m using old parts of the antenna array to hold the cards up. There’s a certain irony in that.
We’l need to talk faster than yes/no questions every half-hour. The camera can rotate 360 degrees, and I have plenty of antenna parts.
Time to make an alphabet. But I can’t just use the letters A through Z. With my Question Card, that would be 27 cards around the lander.
Each one would only get 13 degrees of arc. Even if JPL points the camera perfectly, there’s a good chance I won’t know which letter they meant.
So I’l have to use ASCII. That’s how computers manage characters. Each character has a numerical code between 0 and 255. Values
between 0 and 255 can be expressed as 2 hexadecimal digits. By giving me pairs of hex digits, they can send any character they like,
including numbers, punctuation, etc.
How do I know which values go with which characters? Because Johanssen’s laptop is a wealth of information. I knew she’d have an
ASCII table in there somewhere. Al computer geeks do.
So I’l make cards for 0 through 9, and A through F. That makes 16 cards to place around the camera, plus the Question Card. 17
cards means over 21 degrees each. Much easier to deal with.
Time to get to work!
Spell with ASCII. Numbers 0-F at 21 degree increments. Will watch camera starting 11:00 my time. When message done,
return to this position. Wait 20 minutes after completion to take picture (So I can write and post reply). Repeat process at top of
No physical problems. All Hab components functional. Eating 3/4 rations. Successfully growing crops in Hab with cultivated
soil. Note: Situation not Ares 3 crew’s fault. Bad luck.
Impaled by antenna fragment. Knocked out by decompression. Landed face down, blood sealed hole. Woke up after crew left.
Bio-monitor computer destroyed by puncture. Crew had reason to think me dead. Not their fault.
Long story. Extreme Botany. Have 126 m2 farmland growing potatoes. Will extend food supply, but not enough to last until
Ares 4 landing. Modified rover for long distance travel, plan to drive to Ares 4.
Government watching me with satellites? Need tinfoil hat! Also need faster way to communicate. Speak&Spell taking all
damn day. Any ideas?
Sojourner rover brought out, placed 1 meter due north of Lander. If you can contact it, I can draw hex numbers on the wheels
and you can send me six bytes at a time.
Damn. Any other ideas? Need faster communication.
Earth is about to set. Resume 08:00 my time tomorrow morning. Tell family I’m fine. Give crew my best. Tell Commander
Lewis disco sucks.
“I was up al night,” said Venkat. “Forgive me if I’m a little punchy. Who are you again?”
“Jack Trevor,” said the thin, pale man before Venkat. “I work in software engineering.”
“What can I do for you?”
“We have an idea for communication.”
“I’m al ears.”
“We’ve been looking through the old Pathfinder software. We got duplicate computers up and running for testing. Same computers
they used to find a problem that almost kiled the original mission. Real interesting story, actualy, turns out there was a priority inversion in Sojourner’s thread management and-”
“Focus, Jack,” interrupted Venkat.
“Right. Wel, the thing is, Pathfinder has an OS update process. So we can change the software to anything we want.”
“Ok, how does this help us?”
“Pathfinder has two communication systems. One to talk to us, the other to talk to Sojourner. We can change the second system to
broadcast on the Ares-3 rover frequency. And we can have it pretend to be the beacon signal from the Hab.”
“You can get Pathfinder talking to Mark’s rover?”
“It’s the only option. The Hab’s radio is dead. Thing is, al the rover does is triangulate the signal to fix its location. It doesn’t send data back to the Hab. It just has a voice channel for the astronauts to talk to each other.”
“So,” Venkat said, “You can get Pathfinder talking to the rover, but you can’t get the rover talking back.”
“Right. What we want is for our text to show up on the rover screen, and whatever Watney types to be sent back to us. That requires a
change to the rover’s software.”
“And we can’t do that,” Venkat concluded. “Because we can’t talk to the rover.”
“Not directly,” Jack said. “But we can send data to Watney, and have him enter it in to the rover.”
“How much data are we talking about?”
“I have guys working on the rover software right now. The patch file wil be 20 Meg, minimum. We can send one byte to Watney every
4 seconds or so with the ‘Speak&Spel.’ It’d take three years of constant broadcasting to get that patch across. So that’s no good.”
“But you’re talking to me, so you have a solution, right?” Venkat probed.
“Of course!” Jack beamed. “Software engineers are sneaky bastards when it comes to data management.”
“Enlighten me,” said Venkat, patiently.
“Here’s the clever part,” Jack said, conspiratorialy. “The rover currently parses the signal into bytes, then identifies the specific
sequence the Hab sends. That way, natural radio waves won’t throw off the homing. If the bytes aren’t right, the rover ignores them.”
“Ok, so what?”
“It means there’s a spot in the codebase where it’s got the parsed bytes. We can insert a tiny bit of code, just 20 instructions, to write the parsed bytes to a log file before checking their validity.”
“This sounds promising…” Venkat said.
“It is!” Jack said excitedly. “First, we update Pathfinder with our replacement OS. Then, we tel Watney exactly how to hack the rover
software to add those 20 instructions. Then we broadcast the rover’s patch to Pathfinder, which re-broadcasts it to the rover. The rover logs the bytes to a file. Finaly, Watney launches the file as an executable and it patches the rover software!”
Venkat furrowed his brow, taking in far more information than his sleep-deprived mind wanted to accept.
“Um,” Jack said. “You’re not cheering or dancing.”
“So we just need to send Watney those 20 instructions?” Venkat asked.
“That, and how to edit the files. And where to insert the instructions in the files.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that!”
Venkat was silent for a moment. “Jack. I’m going to buy your whole team autographed Star Trek memorabilia.”
“I prefer Star Wars.”
“I need a picture of Watney.”
“Hi, Annie. Nice to hear from you, too. How are things back in Houston?”
“Cut the sh@t, Venkat. I need a picture.”
“It’s not that simple,” Venkat explained.
“You’re talking to him with a fu@king camera. How hard can it be?”
“We spel out our message, wait 20 minutes and then take a picture. Watney’s back in the Hab by then.”
“So tel him to be around when you take the next picture,” Annie demanded.
“We can only send one message per hour, and only when Acidalia Planitia is facing Earth,” Venkat said. “We’re not going to waste a
message just to tel him to pose for a photo. Besides, he’l be in his EVA suit. You won’t even be able to see his face.”
“I need something, Venkat,” Annie said. “You’ve been in contact for 24 hours and the media is going ape sh@t. They want an image for
the story. It’l be on every news site in the world.”
“You have the pictures of his notes. Make do with that.”
“Not enough,” Annie said. “The press is crawling down my throat for this. And up my ass. Both directions, Venkat! They’re gonna
meet in the middle!”
“It’l have to wait a few days. We’re going to try and link Pathfinder to the rover computer-“
“A few days!?” Annie gasped. “This is al anyone cares about right now. In the world. You see what I’m getting at? This is the biggest
story since Apolo 13. Give me a fu@king picture!”
Venkat sighed. “I’l try to get it tomorrow.”
“Great!” She said. “Looking forward to it.”
LOG ENTRY: SOL 98
I have to be watching the camera when it spels sh@t out. It’s half a byte at a time. So I watch a pair of numbers, then look them up on
an ASCII cheat-sheet I made. That’s one letter.
I don’t want to forget any letters, so I scrape them in to the dirt with a rod. The process of looking up a letter and scraping it in the dirt takes a couple of seconds. Sometimes when I look back at the camera, I’ve missed a number. I can usualy guess it from context, but other times I just miss out.
Today I got up hours earlier than I needed to. It was like Christmas morning! I could hardly wait for 08:00 to rol around. I had
breakfast, did some unnecessary checks on Hab equipment, and read some Poirot. Finaly the time came!
Yeah. Took me a minute. “Can hack rover to talk to Pathfinder. Prepare for long message.”
That took some mental gymnastics to work out. But it was great news! If we could get that set up, we’d only be limited by transmission
time! I set up a note that said “Roger.”
Not sure what they meant by “long message” but I figured I better be ready. I went out 15 minutes before the top of the hour and
smoothed out a big area of dirt. I found the longest antenna rod I had, so I could reach in to the smooth area without having to step on it.
Then I stood by. Waiting.
At exactly the top of the hour, the message came.
They want me to launch ‘hexedit’ on the rover’s computer, then open the file /usr/lib/habcomm.so, scrol until the index reading on the
left of the screen is 2AAE5, then replace the bytes there with a 141 byte sequence NASA wil send in the next message. Fair enough.
Also, for some reason, they want me to hang around for the next pic. Not sure why. You can’t see any part of me when I’m in the suit.
Even the faceplate would reflect too much light. Stil, it’s what they want.
I went back in and copied down the message for future reference. Then I wrote a short note and came back out. Usualy I’d pin up the
note and go back in. But this time I had to hang around for a photo op.
I gave the camera a thumb’s-up to go along with my note, which said “Ayyyyyy!”
Blame the ‘70’s TV.
“I ask for a picture and I get The Fonz?” Annie admonished.
“You got your picture, quit bit@hing,” Venkat said, cradling the phone on his shoulder. He paid more attention to the schematics in front of him than the conversation.
“Ayyyyyy!” Annie mocked. “Why would he do that?”
“Have you met Mark Watney?”
“Fine, fine,” Annie said. “But I want a pic of his face ASAP.”
“Can’t do that.”
“Because if he takes off his helmet, he’l die. Annie, I have to go, one of the JPL programmers is here and it’s urgent. Bye!”
“But-“ Annie said as he hung up.
Jack, in the doorway, said “It’s not urgent.”
“Yeah, I know,” Venkat said. “What can I do for you?”
“We were thinking,” Jack began, “This rover hack might get kind of detailed. We may have to do a bunch of back-and-forth
communication with Watney.”
“That’s fine,” Venkat said. “Take your time, do it right.”
“We could get things done faster with a shorter transmission time,” Jack said.
Venkat gave him a puzzled look. “Do you have a plan for moving Earth and Mars closer together?”
“Earth doesn’t have to be involved,” Jack said. “Hermes is 73 milion km from Mars right now. Only 4 light-minutes away. Beth
Johanssen is a great programmer. She could talk Mark through it.”
“Out of the question,” Venkat said.
“She’s the mission Sysop,” Jack pressed on, “This is her exact area of expertise.”
“Can’t do it, Jack. The crew stil doesn’t know.”
“What is with you? Why won’t you just tel them?”
“Watney’s not my only responsibility,” Venkat said. “I’ve got five other astronauts in deep space, who have to concentrate on their
return trip. Nobody thinks about it, but statisticaly they’re in more danger than Watney right now. He’s on a planet. They’re in space.”
Jack raised his arms. “Fine, we’l do it the slow way.”
LOG ENTRY: SOL 98 (2)
Ever transcribed 141 random bytes, one half of a byte at a time?
It’s boring. And it’s tricky when you don’t have a pen.
Earlier, I had just written letters in the sand. But this time, I needed a way to get the numbers on to something portable. My first plan was: Use a laptop!
Each crewman had their own laptop. So I have six at my disposal. Rather, I “had” six. I now have five. I thought a laptop would be fine
outside. It’s just electronics, right? It’l keep warm enough to operate in the short term, and it doesn’t need air for anything.
It died instantly. The screen went black before I was out of the airlock. Turns out the “L” in “LCD” stands for “Liquid.” I guess it either froze or boiled off. Maybe I’l post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”
So I used a camera. I’ve got lots of them, specialy made for working on Mars. I wrote the bytes in the sand as they came in, took a
picture, then transcribed them in the Hab.
It’s night now, so no more messages. Tomorrow, I’l enter this in to the rover and the geeks at JPL can take it from there.
“Come on up here, Jack,” said Venkat. “You get to be the most Timward today.”
“Thanks,” said Jack, taking Venkat’s place next to Tim. “Heya, Tim!”
“Jack,” said Tim.
“How long wil the patch take?” Venkat asked.
“Should be pretty much instant,” Jack answered. “Watney entered the hack earlier today, and we confirmed it worked. We updated
Pathfinder’s OS without any problems. We sent the rover patch, which Pathfinder rebroadcast. Once Watney executes the patch and
reboots the rover, we should get a connection.”
“Jesus what a complicated process,” Venkat said.
“Try updating a Linux server some time,” Jack said.
After a moment of silence, Tim said “You know he was teling a joke, right? That was supposed to be funny.”
“Oh,” said Venkat. “I’m a physics guy, not a computer guy.”
“He’s not funny to computer guys either.”
“You’re a very unpleasant man, Tim,” Jack said.
“System’s online,” said Tim.
“It’s online. FYI.”
“Holy crap!” Jack said.
“It worked!” Venkat announced to the room.
[11:18]JPL: Mark, this is Venkat Kapoor. We’ve been watching you since Sol 49.
The whole world’s been rooting for you. Amazing job, getting Pathfinder. We’re
working on rescue plans. JPL is adjusting Ares 4’s MDV to do a short overland
flight. They’ll pick you up, then take you with them to Schiaparelli. We’re putting
together a supply mission to keep you fed till Ares 4 arrives.
[11:29]WATNEY: Glad to hear it. Really looking forward to not dying. I want to
make it clear it wasn’t the crew’s fault. Side question: What did they say when
they found out I was alive? Also, “Hi, mom!”
[11:41]JPL: Tell us about your “crops”. We estimated your food packs would last
until Sol 400 at 3/4 ration per meal. Will your crops affect that number? As to
your question: We haven’t told the crew you’re alive yet. We wanted them to
concentrate on their own mission.
[11:52]WATNEY: The crops are potatoes, grown from the ones we were supposed to
prepare on Thanksgiving. They’re doing great, but the available farmland isn’t
enough for sustainability. I’ll run out food around Sol 900. Also: Tell the crew
I’m alive! What the fu@k is wrong with you?
[12:04]JPL: We’ll get botanists in to ask detailed questions and double-check
your work. Your life is at stake, so we want to be sure. Sol 900 is great news.
It’ll give us a lot more time to get the supply mission together. Also, please
watch your language. Everything you type is being broadcast live all over the
[12:15]WATNEY: Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)
“Thank you, Mr. President,” Teddy said in to the phone. “I appreciate the cal, and I’l pass your congratulations on to the whole
Hanging up, he saw Mitch Henderson in the doorway.
“This a good time?” Mitch asked.
“Come in, Mitch,” Teddy said. “Have a seat.”
“Thanks,” Mitch said, sitting in a fine leather couch. “Good day today!”
“Yes, it was,” Teddy agreed. “Another step closer to getting Watney back alive.”
“Yeah, about that,” said Mitch. “You probably know why I’m here.”
“I can take a guess,” said Teddy. “You want to tel the crew Watney’s alive.”
“Yes,” Mitch said.
“And you’re bringing this up with me while Venkat is in Pasadena, so he can’t argue the other side.”
“I shouldn’t have to clear this with you or Venkat or anyone else. I’m the flight director. It should have been my cal from the beginning, but you two stepped in and overrode me. Ignoring al that, we agreed we’d tel them when there was hope. And now there’s hope. We’ve
got communication, we have a plan for rescue in the works, and his farm buys us enough time to get him supplies.”
“Ok, tel them.” Teddy said.
Mitch paused. “Just like that?”
“I knew you’d be here sooner or later, so I already thought it through and decided. Go ahead and tel them.”
Mitch stood up. “Al right. Thanks,” he said as he left the office.
Teddy swiveled in his chair and looked out his windows to the night sky. He pondered the faint, red dot amongst the stars. “Hang in
there Watney,” he said to no one. “We’re coming.”
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