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Chapter 20

LOG ENTRY: SOL 376

I’m finaly done with the rover modifications!

The hard part was figuring out how to maintain life support. Everything else was just hard work. A lot of hard work.

I haven’t been good at keeping the log up to date, so here’s a recap:

First I had to finish driling holes with the Pathfinder-murderin’ dril. Then I chiseled out a bilion little chunks between the holes. Ok, it was 749 but it felt like a bilion.

Then I had one big hole in the trailer. I filed down the edges to keep them from being too sharp.

Remember the pop-tents? I cut the bottom out of one and the remaining canvas was the right size and shape. I used seal-strips to

attach it to the inside of the trailer. After pressurizing and sealing up leaks as I found them, I had a nice big baloon bulging out of the trailer.

The pressurized area is easily big enough to fit the Oxygenator and Atmospheric Regulator.

The regulator has an external component imaginatively named the “Atmospheric Regulator External Component.” The regulator pumps

air to the AREC to let Mars freeze it. It does this along a tube that runs through a valve in the Hab’s wal. The return air comes back

through another tube just like it.

Getting the tubing through the baloon canvas wasn’t too hard. I have several spare valve patches. Basicaly they’re 10x10cm patches of

Hab canvas with a valve in the middle. Why do I have these? Consider what would happen on a normal mission if the regulator valve

broke. They’d have to scrub the whole mission. Easier to send spares.

The AREC is fairly smal. I made a shelf for it just under the solar panel shelves. The tubing and shelf are ready for when I eventualy

move the AREC over.

There’s stil a lot to do.

I’m not in any hurry; I’ve been taking it slow. One 4-hour EVA per day spent on work, the rest of the time to relax In the Hab. Plus, I’l take a day off every now and then, especialy if my back hurts. I can’t afford to injure myself now.

I’l try to be better about this log. Now that I might actualy get rescued, people wil probably read it. I’l be more diligent and log every day.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 380

I finished the heat reservoir.

Remember my experiments with the RTG and having a hot bath? Same principle, but I came up with an improvement: Submerge the

RTG. No heat wil be wasted that way.

I started with a Large Rigid Sample Container (or “plastic box” to people who don’t work at NASA). I ran a tube through the open

top and down the inside wal. Then I coiled it in the bottom to make a spiral. I glued it in place like that, and sealed the end. Using my smalest dril bit, I put dozens of little holes in the coil. The idea is for the return air to pass through the water as a bunch of little bubbles.

The increased surface area wil get the heat in to the air better.

Then I got a Medium Flexible Sample Container (“Ziploc bag”) and tried to seal the RTG in it. But the RTG has an irregular shape, and

I couldn’t get al the air out of the bag. I can’t alow any air in there. Instead of heat going to the water, some would get stored in the air, which could superheat and melt the bag.

I tried a bunch of times, but there was always an air pocket I couldn’t get out. I was getting pretty frustrated until I remembered I have an airlock.

Suiting up, I went to Airlock 2 and depressurized to a ful vacuum. I plopped the RTG in the bag and closed it. Perfect vacuum seal.

Next came some testing. I put the bagged RTG at the bottom of the container and filed it with water. It holds 20L, and the RTG

quickly heated it. It was gaining a degree per minute. I let it go until it was a good 40C. Then I hooked up the regulator’s return air line to my contraption and watched the results.

It worked great! The air bubbled through, just like I’d hoped. Even better, the bubbles agitated the water, which distributed the heat

evenly.

I let it run for an hour, and the Hab started to get cold. The RTG’s heat can’t keep up with the total loss from the Hab’s impressive

surface area. Not a problem. I’ve already established it’s plenty to keep the rover warm.

I reattached the return air line to the regulator and things got back to normal.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 381

I’ve been thinking about laws on Mars.

Yeah, I know, it’s a stupid thing to think about, but I have a lot of free time.

There’s an international treaty saying no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. And by another treaty, if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law applies.

So Mars is “international waters.”

NASA is an American non-military organization, and it owns the Hab. So while I’m in the Hab, American law applies. As soon as I

step outside, I’m in international waters. Then when I get in the Rover, I’m back to American law.

Here’s the cool part: I wil eventualy go to Schiapareli crater and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody explicitly gave me

permission to do this, and they can’t until I’m aboard Ares 4 and operating the comm system. After I board Ares 4, before talking to

NASA, I wil take control of a craft in international waters without permission.

That makes me a pirate!

A Space Pirate!

LOG ENTRY: SOL 383

You may be wondering what I do with my free time. I spent a lot of it sitting around on my lazy ass watching TV. But so do you, so

don’t judge.

Also, I plan my trip.

Pathfinder was a cake run. Flat, level ground al the way. The only problem was navigating. But the trip to Schiapareli wil mean going

over massive elevation changes.

I have a rough satelite map of the whole planet. It doesn’t have much detail, but I’m lucky to have it at al. NASA didn’t expect me to

wander 3200km from the Hab.

Acidalia Planitia (Where I am) has a relatively low elevation. So does Schiapareli. But between them it goes up and down by 10km.

There’s going to be a lot of dangerous driving.

Things wil be smooth while I’m in Acidalia, but that’s only the first 650km. After that comes the crater-riddled terrain of Arabia Terra.

I do have one thing going for me. And I swear it’s a gift form God. For some geological reason, there’s a valey caled Mawrth Valis

that’s perfectly placed.

Milions of years ago it was a river. Now its valey that juts in to the brutal terrain of Arabia almost directly toward Sciapareli. It’s much gentler terrain than the rest of Arabia Terra, and the far end looks like a smooth ascent out of the valey.

Between Acidalia and Mawrth Valis I’l get 1350km of relatively easy terrain.

The other 1850km… wel that won’t be so nice. Especialy when I have to descend in to Schiapareli itself. Ugh.

Anyway. Mawrth Valis. Awesome.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 385

The worst part of the Pathfinder trip was being trapped in the rover. I had to live in a cramped environment that was ful of junk and

reeked of body odor. Same as my colege days.

Rim shot!

Seriously though, it sucked. It was 22 sols of abject misery.

I plan to leave for Schiapareli 100 sols before my rescue (or death), and I swear to fu@king God I’l rip my own face off if I have to live in the rover for that long.

I need a place to stay where I can stand up and take a few steps without hitting things. And no, being outside in a goddamn EVA suit

doesn’t count. I need personal space, not 50kg of clothing.

So today, I started making a tent. Somewhere I can relax while the batteries recharge; somewhere I can lay comfortably while sleeping.

I recently sacrificed one of my two pop tents to be the trailer baloon. The other is in perfect shape. Even better, it has an attachment for the rover’s airlock. Before I made it a potato farm, its original purpose was a lifeboat for the rover.

I could attach the pop tent to either vehicle’s airlock. I’m going with the rover instead of the trailer. The rover has the computer and controls. If I need to know status of anything (like life support or how wel the battery is charging) I’l need access. This way, I’l be able to walk right in. No EVA.

Also, while traveling, I’l keep it folded up in the rover. In an emergency, I can get to it fast.

The pop tent is the basis of my “bedroom,” but not the whole thing. It’s not very big; not much more space than the rover. But it has the airlock attachment so it’s a great place to start. My plan is to double the floor area and double the height. That’l give me a nice big space to relax in.

Hab canvas is flexible. When you fil it with pressure, it wants to become a sphere. That’s not a useful shape. So the Hab and the pop-

tents have special flooring material. It unfolds as a bunch of little segments that won’t open beyond 180 degrees so it remains flat.

The pop tent base is a hexagon. I have another base left over from what is now the trailer baloon. So when it’s done, my bedroom wil

be two adjacent hexes with wals around them and a crude ceiling.

It’s gonna take a lot of glue to make this happen.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 387

The pop tent is 1.2m tal. It’s not made for comfort. It’s made for astronauts to cower in while their crewmates rescue them. I want 2

meters. I want to be able to stand! I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

On paper, it’s not hard to do. I just need to cut canvas pieces to the right shapes, seal them together, then seal them to the existing

canvas and flooring.

But that’s a lot of canvas. I started this mission with 6 square meters and I’ve used most of that up. Mostly on sealing the breach from when the Hab blew up.

Goddamn Airlock 1.

Anyway, my bedroom wil take 30 square meters of the stuff. Way the hel more than I have left. Fortunately, I have an alternate supply

of Hab canvas: The Hab.

Problem is (folow me closely here, the science is pretty complicated) if I cut a hole in the Hab, the air won’t stay inside anymore.

I’l have to depressurize the Hab, cut chunks out, and put it back together (smaler). I spent today figuring out the exact sizes and

shapes of canvas I’l need. I needed to not fu@k this up, so I triple-checked everything. I even made a model out of paper.

The Hab is a dome. If I take canvas from near the floor, I can pul the remaining canvas down and re-seal it. The Hab wil become a

lopsided dome, but that shouldn’t matter. As long as it holds pressure. I only need it to last another 62 sols.

I drew the shapes on the wal with a Sharpie. Then I spent a long time re-measuring them and making sure, over and over, that they

were right.

That was al I did today. Might not seem like much, but the math and design work took al day. Now it’s time for dinner.

I’ve been eating potatoes for weeks. Theoreticaly, with my 3/4 ration plan, I should stil be eating food packs. But 3/4 ration is hard to maintain, so now I’m eating potatoes.

I have enough to last til launch, so I won’t starve. But I’m pretty damn sick of potatoes. Also, they have a lot of fiber, so… let’s just say it’s good I’m the only guy on this planet.

I saved 5 meal packs for special occasions. I wrote their names on each one. I get to eat “Departure” the day I leave for Schiapareli.

I’l eat “Half-way” when I reach the 1600km mark, and “Arrival” when I get there.

The fourth one is “Survived Something That Should Have Kiled Me” because some fu@king thing wil happen, I just know it. I don’t

know what it’l be, but it’l happen. The rover wil break down or I’l come down with Fatal Hemorrhoids or I’l run in to hostile Martians or some sh@t. When I do (if I live) I get to eat that meal pack.

The fifth one is reserved for the day I launch. It’s labeled “Last Meal.”

Maybe that’s not such a good name.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 388

I started the day with a potato. I washed it down with some Martian Coffee. That’s my name for “hot water with a caffeine pil

dissolved in it.” I ran out of real coffee months ago.

My first order of business was a careful inventory of the Hab. I needed to root out anything that would have a problem with losing

atmospheric pressure. Of course, everything in the Hab had a crash course in depressurization a few months back. But this time would be

controled and I might as wel do it right.

The main thing is the water. I lost 300L to sublimation when the Hab blew up. This time, that won’t happen. I drained the Water

Reclaimer and sealed al the tanks.

The rest was just colecting knickknacks and dumping them in Airlock 3. Anything I could think of that doesn’t do wel in a near-

vacuum. The three remaining laptops, al the pens, the vitamin bottles (probably not necessary but I’m not taking chances), medical supplies, etc.

Then I did a controled shutdown of the Hab. The critical components are designed to survive a vacuum. Hab depress is one of the

many scenarios NASA accounted for. One system at a time, I cleanly shut them al down, ending with the main computer itself.

I suited up and depressurized the Hab. Last time, the canvas colapsed and made a mess of everything. That’s not supposed to happen.

The dome of the Hab is mostly supported by air pressure, but there are flexible reenforcing poles across the inside to hold the canvas up.

It’s how the Hab was assembled in the first place.

I watched as the canvas gently settled on to the poles. To confirm the depress, I opened both doors of Airlock 2. I left Airlock 3 alone.

It maintained pressure for its cargo of random crap.

Then I cut sh@t up!

I’m not a materials engineer; my design for the bedroom isn’t elegant. It’s just a 2m perimeter and a ceiling. No, it won’t have right

angles and corners (pressure vessels don’t like those). It’l baloon out to a more round shape.

Anyway, it means I only needed to cut two big-ass strips of canvas. One for the wals and one for the ceiling.

After mangling the Hab, I puled the remaining canvas down to the flooring and re-sealed it. Ever set up a camping tent? From the

inside? While wearing a suit of armor? It was a pain in the ass.

I repressurized to 1/20th of an atmosphere to see if it could hold pressure.

Ha ha ha! Of course it couldn’t! Leaks galore. Time to find them.

On Earth, tiny particles get attached to water or wear down to nothing. On Mars, they just hang around. The top layer of sand is like

talcum powder. I went outside with a bag and scraped along the surface. I got some normal sand, but plenty of powder too.

I had the Hab maintain the 1/20th atmosphere, backfiling as air leaked out. Then I “puffed” the bag to get the smalest particles to float around. They were quickly drawn to where the leaks were. As I found each leak, I spot-sealed it with resin.

It took hours, but I finaly got a good seal. I’l tel ya, the Hab looks pretty “ghetto” now. One whole side of it is lower than the rest. I’l have to hunch down when I’m over there.

I pressurized to a ful atmosphere and waited an hour. No leaks.

It’s been a long, physicaly taxing day. I’m totaly exhausted but I can’t sleep. Every sound scares the sh@t out of me. Is that the Hab

popping? No? Ok… What was that!? Oh, nothing? Ok…

It’s a terrible thing to have my life depend on my half-assed handiwork.

Time to get a sleeping pil from the medical supplies.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 389

What the fu@k is in those sleeping pils!? It’s the middle of the day.

After two cups of Martian Coffee, I woke up a little. I won’t be taking another one of those pils. It’s not like I have to go to work in the morning.

Anyway, as you can tel from how not dead I am, the Hab stayed sealed overnight. The seal is solid. Ugly as hel, but solid.

Today’s task was the bedroom.

Assembling the bedroom was way easier than re-sealing the Hab. Because this time, I didn’t have to wear an EVA suit. I made the

whole thing inside the Hab. Why not? It’s just canvas. I can rol it up and take it out an airlock when I’m done.

First, I did some surgery on the remaining pop tent. I needed to keep the rover-airlock connector and surrounding canvas. The rest of

the canvas had to go. Why hack off most of the canvas only to replace it with more canvas? Seams.

NASA is good at making things. I am not. The dangerous part of this structure won’t be the canvas. It’l be the seams. And I get less

total seam length by not trying to use the existing pop-tent canvas.

After hacking away most of the remaining tent, I seal-stripped the two pop-tent floors together. Then I sealed the new canvas pieces in

to place.

It was so much easier without the EVA suit on. So much easier!

Then I had to test it. Again, I did it in the Hab. I brought an EVA suit in to the tent with me and closed the mini-airlock door. Then I fired up the EVA suit, leaving the helmet off. I told it to bump the pressure up to 1.2 atm.

It took a little while to bring it up to par, and I had to disable some alarms on the suit. (“Hey, I’m pretty sure the helmet’s not on!”). It depleted most of the N2 tank, but was finaly able to bring the pressure up.

Then I sat around and waited. I breathed, the suit regulated the air. Al was wel. I watched the suit readouts carefuly to see if it had to replace any “lost” air. After an hour with no noticeable change, I declared the first test a success.

I roled up the whole thing (wadded up, realy) and took it out to the rover.

You know, I suit up a lot these days. I bet that’s another record I hold. A typical Martian astronaut does, what, 40 EVAs? I’ve done

several hundred.

Once I brought the bedroom to the rover, I attached it to the airlock from the inside. Then I puled the release to let it loose. I was stil wearing my EVA suit, cause I’m not an idiot.

It fired out and filed in three seconds. The open airlock hatchway led directly to the bedroom, and it appeared to be holding pressure.

Just like before, I let it sit for an hour. And just like before, it worked great. Unlike the Hab canvas resealing, I got this one right on the first try. Mostly because I didn’t have to do it with a damn EVA suit on.

Originaly I planned to let it sit overnight and check in the morning. But I ran in to a problem: I can’t get out if I do that. The rover only has one airlock, and the bedroom was attached to it. There was no way for me to get out without detaching the bedroom, and no way to

attach and pressurize the bedroom without being inside the rover.

It’s a little scary. The first time I test the thing overnight wil be with me in it. But that’l be later. I’ve done enough today.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 390

I have to face facts. I’m done with the rover. I don’t “feel” like I’m done. But it’s ready to go:

Food: 1,692 potatoes. Vitamin pils.

Water: 620L.

Shelter: Rover, trailer, bedroom.

Air: Rover and trailer combined storage: 14L liquid O2, 14L liquid N2.

Life Support: Oxygenator and Atmospheric Regulator. 418 hours of use-and-discard CO2 filters for emergencies.

Power: 36kwh of storage. Carrying capacity for 29 solar cels.

Heat: 1400W RTG. Homemade reservoir to heat regulator’s return air. Electric heater in rover as a backup.

Disco: Lifetime supply.

I’m leaving here on Sol 449. That gives me 59 sols to test everything and fix whatever isn’t working right. And decide what’s coming

with me and what’s staying behind. And plot a route to Schiapareli using a grainy satelite map. And rack my brains trying to think of

anything important I forgot.

Since Sol 6 al I’ve wanted to do was get the hel out of here. Now the prospect of leaving the Hab behind scares the sh@t out of me. I

need some encouragement. I need to ask myself: “What would an Apolo astronaut do?”

He’d drink 3 whiskey sours, bang his mistress, then fly to the moon. And if he ever met a botanist like me he’d dispense a wedgie on

principle.

To hel with those guys. I’m a Space Pirate!

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