فصل 02

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فصل 02

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Chapter 2


Ok, I’ve had a good night’s sleep, and things don’t seem as hopeless as they did yesterday.

Today I took stock of supplies, and did a quick EVA to check up on the external equipment. Here’s my situation:

The surface mission was supposed to be 31 days. For redundancy, the supply probes had enough food to last the whole crew 56 days.

That way if one or two probes had problems, we’d stil have enough food to complete the mission.

We were six days in when al hel broke loose, so that leaves enough food to feed six people for 50 days. I’m just one guy, so it’l last

me 300 days. And that’s if I don’t ration it. So I’ve got a fair bit of time.

The Hab stood up to the storm without any problems. Outside, things aren’t so rosy. I can’t find the satelite dish; it probably got blown kilometers away.

The MAV is gone, of course. My crewmates took it up to Hermes. Though the bottom half (the landing stage) is stil there. No reason

to take that back up when weight is the enemy. It includes the landing gear, the fuel plant, and anything else NASA figured it wouldn’t need for the trip back up to orbit.

The MDV is on its side and there’s a breach in the hul. Looks like the storm ripped the cowling off the reserve chute (which we didn’t

have to use on landing). Once the chute was exposed it dragged the MDV al over the place, smashing it against every rock in the area.

Not that the MDV would be much use to me. Its thrusters can’t even lift its own weight. But it might have been valuable for parts. Might stil be.

Both rovers are half-buried in sand, but they’re in good shape otherwise. Their pressure seals are in-tact. Makes sense. Operating

procedure if a storm hits is to stop motion and wait for the storm to pass. They’re made to stand up to punishment. I’l be able to dig them out with a day or so of work.

I’ve lost communication with the weather stations, placed a kilometer away from the Hab in 4 directions. They might be in perfect

working order for al I know. The Hab’s communications are so weak right now it probably can’t even reach a kilometer.

The solar cel array was covered it in sand, rendering it useless (hint: solar cels need sunlight to make electricity). But once I swept

them off, they returned to ful efficiency. Whatever I end up doing, I’l have plenty of power for it. 200 square meters of solar cels, with hydrogen fuel cels to store plenty of reserve. Al I need to do is sweep them off every few days.

Things indoors are great, thanks to the Hab’s sturdy design.

I ran a ful diagnostic on the Oxygenator. Twice. It’s perfect. If anything goes wrong with it, there is a short-term spare I can use. But it’s solely for emergency use while repairing the main one. The spare doesn’t actualy pul CO2 apart and recapture the oxygen. It just

absorbs the CO2 the same way the spacesuits do. It’s intended to last 5 days before it saturates the filters, which means 30 days for me (just one person breathing, instead of six). So there’s some insurance there.

The Water Reclaimer is working fine, too. The bad news is there’s no backup. If it stops working, I’l be drinking reserve water while I

rig up a primitive distilery to boil piss. Also, I’l lose half a liter of water per day to breathing until the humidity in the Hab reaches its maximum and water starts condensing on every surface. Then I’l be licking the wals. Yay. Anyway, for now, no problems with the Water


So yeah. Food, water, shelter al taken care of. I’m going to start rationing food right now. Meals are pretty minimal already, but I think I can eat a 3/4 portion per meal and stil be al right. That should turn my 300 days of food in to 400. Foraging around the medical area, I found the main bottle of vitamins. There’s enough multivitamins there to last years. So I won’t have any nutritional problems (though I’l stil starve to death when I’m out of food, no matter how many vitamins I take).

The medical area has morphine for emergencies. And there’s enough there for a lethal dose. I’m not going to slowly starve to death, I’l

tel you that. If I get to that point, I’l take an easier way out.

Everyone on the mission had two specialties. I’m a botanist and mechanical engineer. Basicaly, I was the mission’s fix-it man who

played with plants. The mechanical engineering might save my life if something breaks.

I’ve been thinking about how to survive this. It’s not completely hopeless. There’l be humans back on Mars in about four years when

Ares 4 arrives (assuming they didn’t cancel the program in the wake of my “death”).

Ares 4 wil be landing at the Schiapareli Crater, which is about 3,200km away from my location here in the Acidalia Planitia. No way

for me to get there on my own. But if I could communicate, I might be able to get a rescue. Not sure how they’d manage that with the

resources on hand, but NASA has a lot of smart people.

So that’s my mission now. Find a way to communicate with Earth. If I can’t manage that, find a way to communicate with Hermes

when it returns in 4 years with the Ares 4 crew.

Of course, I don’t have any plan for surviving 4 years on 1 year of food. But one thing at a time here. For now, I’m wel fed and have a

purpose: “Fix the damn radio”.


Wel, I’ve done three EVAs and haven’t found any hint of the communication dish.

I dug out one of the rovers and had a good drive around, but after days of wandering I think it’s time to give up. The storm probably

blew the dish far away and then erased any drag-marks or scuffs that might have led to a trail. Probably buried it, too.

I spent most of today out at what’s left of the communication array. It’s realy a sorry sight. I may as wel yel toward Earth for al the

good that damned thing wil do me.

I could throw together a rudimentary dish out of metal I find around the base, but this isn’t some walkie-talkie I’m working with here.

Communicating from Mars to Earth is a pretty big deal, and requires extremely specialized equipment. I won’t be able to whip something

up with tinfoil and gum.

I need to ration my EVAs as wel as food. The CO2 filters are not cleanable. Once they’re saturated, they’re done. The mission

accounted for a 4-hour EVA per crewmember per day. Fortunately, CO2 filters are light and smal so NASA had the luxury of sending

more than we needed. Al told, I have about 1500 hours worth of CO2 filters. After that, any EVAs I do wil have to be managed with

bloodletting the air.

1500 hours may sound like a lot, but I’m faced with spending at least 4 years here if I’m going to have any hope of rescue, with a

minimum of several hours per week dedicated to sweeping off the solar array. Anyway. No needless EVAs.

In other news, I’m starting to come up with an idea for food. My botany background may come in useful after al.

Why bring a botanist to Mars? After al, it’s famous for not having anything growing here. Wel, the idea was to figure out how wel

things grow in Martian gravity, and see what, if anything, we can do with Martian soil. The short answer is: quite a lot… almost. Martian soil has the basic building blocks needed for plant growth, but there’s a lot of stuff going on in Earth soil that Mars soil doesn’t have, even when it’s placed in an Earth-atmosphere and given plenty of water. Bacterial activity, certain nutrients provided by animal life, etc. None of that is happening on Mars. One of my tasks for the mission was to see how plants grow here, in various combinations of Earth or Mars soil and atmosphere.

That’s why I have a smal amount of Earth soil and a bunch of plant seeds with me.

I can’t get too excited, however. It’s about the amount of soil you’d put in a window planter-box, and the only seeds I have are a few

species of grass and ferns. They’re the most rugged and easily grown plants on earth, so NASA picked them as the test subjects.

So I have two problems: not enough dirt, and nothing edible to plant in it.

But I’m a botanist, damn it. I should be able to find a way to make this happen. If I don’t, I’l be a realy hungry botanist in about a



I wonder how the Cubs are doing.


I got my undergrad degree at the University of Chicago. Half the people who studied botany were hippies who thought they could

return to some natural world system. Somehow feeding 7 bilion people through pure gathering. They spent most of their time working out

better ways to grow pot. I didn’t like them. I’ve always been in it for the science, not for any New World Order bulsh@t.

When they made compost heaps and tried to conserve every little ounce of living matter, I laughed at them. “Look at the sily hippies!” I would scoff. “Look at their pathetic attempts to simulate a complex global ecosystem in their back yard.”

Of course now I’m doing exactly that. I’m saving every scrap of biomatter I can find. Every time I finish a meal, the leftovers go to the compost bucket. As for other biological material…

The Hab has sophisticated toilets. sh@t is usualy vaccum-dried, then accumulated in sealed bags to be discarded on the surface.

Not any more!

In fact, I even did an EVA to recover the previous bags of sh@t from before the crew left. Being completely desiccated, this particular

sh@t didn’t have bacteria in it anymore, but it stil had complex proteins and would serve as useful manure. Adding it to water and active bacteria would quickly get it inundated, replacing any population kiled by the Toilet Of Doom.

I found a big container and filed it with a bit of water, then added the dried sh@t. Since then, I’ve added my own sh@t to it as wel. The worse it smels, the more successful things are going. That’s the bacteria at work!

Once I get some Martian soil in here, I can mix in the sh@t and spread it out. Then I can sprinkle the Earth soil on top. You might not

think that would be an important step, but it is. There are dozens of species of bacteria living in Earth soil, and they’re critical to plant growth. They’l spread out and breed like… wel, like a bacterial infection..

Within a week, the Martian soil wil be ready for plants to germinate in. But I won’t plant yet. I’l spread it out over a doubled area. It’l

“infect” the new Martian soil. After another week, I’l double it again. And so on. Of course, al the while, I’l be adding al new manure to the effort.

My asshole is doing as much to keep me alive as my brain.

This isn’t a new concept I just came up with. People have speculated on how to make crop soil out of Martian dirt for decades. I’l just

be putting it to the test for the first time.

I searched through the food supplies and found al sorts of things that I can plant. Peas, for instance. Plenty of beans, too. I also found several potatoes. If any of them can stil germinate after their ordeal, that’l be great. With a nearly infinite supply of vitamins, al I need are calories of any kind to survive.

The total floor-space of the Hab is about 92 square meters. I plan to dedicate al of it to this endeavor. I don’t mind walking on dirt.

It’l be a lot of work, but I’m going to need to cover the entire floor to a depth of 10 cm. That means I’l have to transport 9.2 cubic meters of Martian soil in to the Hab. I can get maybe 1/10th of a cubic meter in through the airlock at a time, and it’l be backbreaking work to colect it. But in the end, if everything goes to plan, I’l have 92 square meters of croppable soil.

Hel yeah I’m a botanist! Fear my botany powers!


Ugh! This is backbreaking work!

I spent 12 hours today on EVAs to bring dirt in to the Hab. I only managed to cover a smal corner of the base, maybe 5 square

meters. At this rate it’l take me weeks to get al the soil in. But hey, time is one thing I’ve got.

The first few EVAs were pretty inefficient; me filing smal containers and bringing them in through the airlock. Then I got wise and just put one big container in the airlock itself and filed that with smal containers til it was ful. That sped things up a lot because the airlock takes about 10 minutes to get through.

I ache al over. And the shovels I have are made for taking samples, not heavy digging. My back is kiling me. I foraged in the medical

supplies and found some Vicodin. I took it about 10 minutes ago. Should be kicking in soon.

Anyway, it’s nice to see progress. Time to start getting the bacteria to work on these minerals. After lunch. No 3/4 ration today. I’ve

earned a ful meal.


One complication I hadn’t though of: Water.

Turns out being on the surface of Mars for a few milion years eliminates al the water in the soil. My master’s degree in botany makes

me pretty sure plants need wet dirt to grow in. Not to mention the bacteria that has to live in it first.

Fortunately, I have water. But not as much as I want. To be viable, soil needs 40 liters of water per cubic meter. My overal plan cals

for 9.2 cubic meters of soil. So I’l eventualy need 368 liters of water to feed it.

The Hab has an excelent Water Reclaimer. Best technology available on Earth. So NASA figured “why send a lot of water up there?

Just send enough for an emergency.” Humans need 3 liters of water per day to be comfortable. They gave us 50 liters each. There are 300

liters total in the Hab.

Looks like I won’t be able to cover the whole surface of the Hab with fertile soil. I’m wiling to dedicate al but an emergency 50 liters to the cause. That means I can feed 62.5 square meters at a depth of 10cm. About 2/3 of the Hab’s floor. It’l have to do. Anyway, I’ve

only got a paltry 5 square meters covered at the moment.

After that, things got disgusting. I spent three hours spreading sh@t on Martian sand. I didn’t have to do it with my hands, at least.

I spread the sand out in a corner of the Hab, about 10cm thick. I wadded up a few blankets and uniforms from my departed

crewmates to serve as one edge of a planter box (with the curved wals of the Hab being the rest of the perimeter). Then I sacrificed 20

liters of precious water to the dirt gods.

5 square meters was about right for the amount of manure I had handy. I dumped my big container o’ sh@t on to the soil and nearly

puked from the smel.

That smel’s going to stick around for a while, too. It’s not like I can open a window. Stil, you get used to it. I mixed this soil and sh@t together with a shovel, and spread it out evenly again. Then I sprinkled the Earth soil on top. Get to work, bacteria. I’m counting on you.

In other news, today is Thanksgiving. My family wil be gathering in Chicago for the usual feast at my parent’s house. My guess is it

won’t be much fun, what with me having died 11 days ago. Hel, they probably just got done gathering for my funeral.

I wonder if they’l ever find out what realy happened.


Wow. Things realy came along.

I got al the sand in and ready to go. 2/3 of the base is now dirt. And today I executed my first dirt-doubling. It’s been a week, and the former Martian soil was rich and lovely. Two more doublings and I wil have covered the whole field.

Al that work was great for my morale. It gave me something to do. But after things settled down a bit, and I had dinner while listening

to Johanssen’s Beatles music colection, I got depressed again.

Doing the math, this won’t keep me from starving.

My best bet for making calories is potatoes. They grow prolificaly and have a reasonable caloric content (770 calories per kg). I’m

pretty sure the ones I have wil germinate. Problem is I can’t grow enough of them. In 62 square meters, I could grow maybe 150kg of

potatoes in 400 days (the time I have before running out of food). That’s a grand total of 115,500 calories, a sustainable average of 288

calories per day. With my height and weight, if I’m wiling to starve a little, I need 1500 calories per day.

Not even close.

So I can’t just live off the land for ever. But I can extend my life. The potatoes wil last me 76 days.

Potatoes grow continualy, so in those 76 days, I can grow another 22,000 calories of potatoes, which wil tide me over for another 15

days. After that, it’s kind of pointless to continue the trend. Al told it buys me about 90 days.

So now I’l start starving to death on Sol 490 instead of Sol 400. It’s progress, but any hope of survival rests on me surviving until Sol 1412, when Ares 4 wil land.

There’s about a thousand days of food I don’t have. And I don’t have a plan for how to get it.


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