فصل 04کتاب: مریخی / فصل 4
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LOG ENTRY: SOL 32
So I ran in to a bunch of problems with my water plan.
My idea is to make 600L of water (limited by the hydrogen I can get from the Hydrazine). That means I’l need 300L of liquid O2.
I can create the O2 easily enough. It takes 20 hours for the MAV fuel plant to fil its 10L tank with CO2. The Oxygenator can turn it in
to O2, then the Atmospheric Regulator wil see the O2 content in the Hab is high, and pul it out of the air, storing it in the main O2 tanks.
They’d fil up, so I’d have to transfer O2 over to the rovers’ tanks and even space suit tanks as necessary.
But I can’t create it very quickly. At 1/2L of CO2 per hour, it wil take 25 days to make the oxygen I need. That’s longer than I’d like.
Also, there’s the problem of storing the hydrogen. The air tanks of the Hab, the rovers, and al the space suits add up to exactly 374L
of storage. To hold al the materials for water, I would need a whopping 900L of storage.
I considered using one of the rovers as a “tank”. It would certainly be big enough, but it just isn’t designed to hold in that much
pressure. It’s made to hold (you guessed it) one atmosphere. I need vessels that can hold 50 times that much. I’m sure a rover would burst.
The best way to store the ingredients of water is to make them be water. So what’s what I’l have to do.
The concept is simple, but the execution wil be incredibly dangerous.
Every 20 hours, I’l have 10L of CO2 thanks to the MAV fuel plant. I’l vent it in to the Hab via the highly scientific method of
detaching the tank from the MAV landing struts, bringing it in to the Hab, then opening the valve until it’s empty.
The Oxygenator wil turn it in to oxygen in its own time.
Then, I’l release Hydrazine, VERY SLOWLY, over the iridium catalyst, to turn it in to N2 and H2. I’l direct the hydrogen to a smal
area and burn it.
As you can see, this plan provides many opportunities for me to die in a fiery explosion.
Firstly, Hydrazine is some serious death. If I make any mistakes, there’l be nothing left but the “Mark Watney Memorial Crater” where
the Hab once stood.
Presuming I don’t fu@k up with the Hydrazine, there’s stil the matter of burning hydrogen. I’m going to be setting a fire. In the Hab. On purpose.
If you asked every engineer at NASA what the worst scenario for the Hab was, they’d al answer “fire.” If you asked them what the
result would be, they’d answer “death by fire.”
But if I can pul it off, I’l be making water continuously, with no need to store hydrogen or oxygen. It’l be mixed in to the atmosphere
as humidity, but the Water Reclaimer wil pul it out.
I don’t even have to perfectly match the Hydrazine end of it with the fuel plant CO2 part. There’s plenty of oxygen in the Hab, and
plenty more in reserve. I just need to make sure not to make so much water I run myself out of O2.
I hooked up the MAV fuel plant to the Hab’s power supply. Fortunately they both use the same voltage. It’s chugging away, colecting
CO2 for me.
Half-ration for dinner. Al I accomplished today was thinking up a plan that’l kil me, and that doesn’t take much energy.
I’m going to finish off the last of “Three’s Company” tonight. Frankly, I like Mr. Furley more than the Ropers.
LOG ENTRY: SOL 33
This may be my last entry.
I’ve known since Sol 6 there was a good chance I’d die here. But I figured it would be when I ran out of food. I didn’t think it would
be this early.
I’m about the fire up the Hydrazine.
Our mission was designed knowing that anything might need maintenance, so I have plenty of tools. Even in a space-suit, I was able to
pry the access panels off the MDV and get at the six Hydrazine tanks. I set them in the shadow of a rover to keep them from heating up
too much. There’s more shade and a cooler temperature near the Hab, but fu@k that. If they’re going to blow up, they can blow up a rover, not my house.
Then I pried out the reaction chamber. It took some work and I cracked the damn thing in half, but I got it out. Lucky for me I don’t
need a proper fuel reaction. In fact, I realy, super-duper don’t want a proper fuel reaction.
I brought al the Hydrazine and reaction chamber in. I briefly considered only having one tank in at a time to reduce risk. But some
back-of-the-napkin math told me even one tank was enough to blow the whole Hab up, so why not bring them al in?
The tanks have manual vent valves. I’m not 100% sure what they’re for. Certainly we were never expected to use them. I think they’re
there to release pressure during the many quality checks done during construction and before fueling. Whatever the reason, I have valves to work with. Al it takes is a wrench.
I liberated a spare water hose from the Water Reclaimer. With some thread torn out of a uniform (Sorry, Johanssen), I attached it to
the valve output. Hydrazine is a liquid, so al I have to do is lead it to the reaction chamber (more of a “reaction bowl” now).
Meanwhile, the MAV fuel plant is stil working. I’ve already brought in one tank of CO2, vented it, and returned it for refiling.
So there are no more excuses. It’s time to start making water.
If you find the charred remains of the Hab, it means I did something wrong. I’m copying this log over to both rovers so it’s more likely it’l survive.
Here goes nothin’
LOG ENTRY: SOL 33 (2)
Wel, I didn’t die.
First thing I did was put on the inner lining of my EVA suit. Not the bulky suit itself, just the inner clothing I wear under it, including the gloves and booties. Then I got an oxygen mask from the medical supplies and some lab goggles from Vogel’s chem kit. Almost al of my
body was now protected and I would be breathing canned air.
Why? Because Hydrazine is very toxic. If I breathe too much of it I’l get major lung problems. If I get it on my skin, I’l have chemical burns for the rest of my life. I wasn’t taking any chances.
I turned the valve until a trickle of Hydrazine came out. I let one drop fal in to the iridium bowl.
It un-dramaticaly sizzled and disappeared.
But hey, that’s what I wanted. I just freed up hydrogen and nitrogen. Yay!
One thing I have in abundance here is bags. They’re not much different than kitchen trash bags, though I’m sure they cost $50,000
In addition to being our commander, Lewis was also the geologist. She was going to colect rock and soil samples from al over the
operational area (10 km radius). Weight limits restricted how much she could actualy bring back, so she was going to colect first, then sort out the most interesting 50kg to take home. The bags are to store and tag the samples. Some are smaler than a Ziploc, while others are as big as a Hefty lawn and leaf bag.
Also, I have duct tape. Ordinary duct tape, like you buy at a hardware store. Turns out even NASA can’t improve on duct tape.
I cut up a few Hefty sized bags and taped them together to make a sort of tent. Realy it was more of a super-sized bag. I was able to
cover the whole table where my Hydrazine mad scientist set-up was. I put a few knickknacks on the table to keep the plastic out of the
iridium bowl. Thankfuly, the bags are clear, so I can stil see what’s going on.
Next, I sacrificed a spacesuit to the cause. I needed an air hose. I have a surplus of space suits, after al. A total of seven; one for each crewmember and one spare. So I don’t mind murdering one of them.
I cut a hole in the top of the plastic and duct taped the hose in place. Nice seal, I think.
With some more string from Johannsen’s clothing, I hung the other end of the hose from the top of the Hab’s dome by two angled
threads (to keep them wel clear of the hose opening). Now I had a little chimney. The hose was about 1cm wide. Hopefuly a good
The hydrogen wil be hot after the reaction, and it’l want to go up. So I’l let it go up the chimney, then burn it as it comes out.
Then I had to invent fire.
NASA put a lot of effort in to making sure nothing here can burn. Everything is made of metal or flame retardant plastic and the
uniforms are synthetic. I needed something that could hold a flame, some kind of pilot light. I don’t have the skils to keep enough H2
flowing to feed a flame without kiling myself. Too narrow a margin there.
After a search of everyone’s personal items (hey, if they wanted privacy, they shouldn’t have abandoned me on Mars with their stuff) I
found my answer.
Martinez is a devout catholic. I knew that. What I didn’t know was he brought along a smal wooden cross. I’m sure NASA gave him
sh@t about it, but I also know Martinez is one stubborn son-of-a-bit@h.
I chipped his sacred religious item into long splinters using a pair of pliers and a screwdriver. I figure if there’s a God, He won’t mind, considering the situation I’m in.
Ruining the only religious icon I have leaves me vulnerable to Mars Vampires. I’l have to risk it.
There were plenty of wires and batteries around to make a spark. But you can’t just ignite wood with a smal electric spark. So I
colected ribbons of bark from local palm trees, then got a couple of sticks and rubbed them together to create enough friction to…
No not realy. I vented pure oxygen at the stick and gave it a spark. fu@ker lit up like a match.
With my mini-torch in hand, I started a slow Hydrazine flow. It sizzled on the iridium and disappeared. Soon I had short bursts of flame sputtering from the chimney.
The main thing I had watch was the temperature. Hydrazine breaking down is extremely exothermic. So I’d do it a bit at a time,
constantly watching the readout of a thermocouple I’d attached to the iridium chamber.
Point is, the process worked!
Each Hydrazine tank holds a little over 50L, which would be enough to make 100L of water. I’m limited by my oxygen production, but
I’m al excited now, so I’m wiling to use half my reserves. Long story short, I’l stop when the tank is half-empty, and I’l have 50L or
water at the end!
LOG ENTRY: SOL 34
Wel that took a realy long time. I’ve been at it al night with the Hydrazine. But I got the job done.
I could have finished faster, but I figured caution’s best when setting fire to rocket fuel in an enclosed space.
Boy is this place a tropical jungle now, I’l tel ya.
It’s almost 30C in here, and humid as al hel. I just dumped a ton of heat and 50L of water in to the air.
During this process, the poor Hab had to be the mother of a messy toddler. It’s been replacing the oxygen I’ve used, and the Water
Reclaimer is trying to get the humidity down to sane levels. Nothing to be done about the heat. There’s actualy no air-conditioning in the Hab. Mars is cold. Getting rid of excess heat isn’t something we expected to deal with.
I’ve now grown accustomed to the alarms that are blaring at al times. The fire alarm has finaly stopped, now that there’s no more fire.
The low oxygen alarm should stop soon. The high humidity alarm wil take a little longer. The Water Reclaimer has its work cut out for it today.
For a moment, there yet another alarm. The Water Reclaimer’s main tank was ful. Booyah! That’s the kind of problem I want to have!
Remember the spacesuit I vandalized yesterday? I hung it on its rack and carried buckets of water to it from the reclaimer. It can hold
an atmosphere of air in. It should be able to handle a few buckets of water.
Man I’m tired. Been up al night and it’s time to sleep. But I’l drift off to dreamland in the best mood I’ve been in since Sol 6.
Things are finaly going my way. In fact, they’re going great! I have a chance to live after al!
LOG ENTRY: SOL 37
I am fu@ked and I’m gonna die!
Ok, calm down. I’m sure I can get around this.
I’m writing this log to you, dear future Mars archeologist, from Rover 2. You may wonder why I’m not in the Hab right now. Because I
fled in terror, that’s why! And I’m not sure what the hel to do next.
I guess I should explain what happened. If this is my last entry, you’l at least know why.
Over the past few days, I’ve been happily making water. It’s been going swimmingly. (See what I did there? “swimmingly”)
I even beefed up the MAV fuel plant compressor. It was very technical (I increased the voltage to the pump). So I’m making water
even faster now.
After my initial burst of 50L, I decided to settle down and just make it at the rate I get O2. I’m not wiling to go below a 25L reserve.
So when I dip too low, I stop di@king with Hydrazine until I get the O2 back up to wel above 25L.
Important note: When I say I made 50L of water, that was an assumption. I didn’t reclaim 50L of water. The additional soil I’d filed
the Hab with was extremely dry and greedily sucked up a lot of the humidity. That’s where I want the water to go anyway, so I’m not
worried, and I wasn’t surprised when the reclaimer didn’t get anywhere near 50L.
I get 10L of CO2 every 15 hours now that I souped up the pump. I’ve done this process four times. My math tels me that, including
my initial 50L burst, I should have 130L of water added to the system.
Wel my math is a damn liar!
I’ve gained 70L in the water regulator and the spacesuit-now-watertank. There’s plenty of condensation on the wals and domed roof,
and the soil is certainly absorbing its fair share. But that doesn’t account for 60L of missing water. Something was wrong.
That’s when I noticed the other O2 tank.
The Hab has two reserve O2 tanks. One on each side of the structure, for safety reasons. The Hab can decide which one to use
whenever it wants. Turns out it’s been topping off the atmosphere from Tank 1. But when I add O2 to the system (via the Oxygenator), the Hab evenly distributes the gain among the two tanks. Tank 2 has been slowly gaining oxygen.
That’s not a problem, it’s just doing its job. But it does mean I’ve been gaining O2 over time. Which means I’m not consuming it as fast as I thought.
At first, I thought “Yay! More oxygen! Now I can make water faster!” But then a more disturbing thought occurred to me.
Folow my logic: I’m gaining O2. But the amount I’m bringing in from outside is constant. So the only way to “gain” it is to be using less than I thought. But I’ve been doing the Hydrazine reaction with the assumption that I was using al of it.
The only possible explanation is I haven’t been burning al the released hydrogen.
It’s obvious now, in retrospect. But it never occurred to me that some of the hydrogen just wouldn’t burn. It got past the flame, and
went on its merry way. Dammit, Jim, I’m a botanist, not a chemist!
Chemistry is messy, so there’s unburned Hydrogen in the air. Al around me. Mixed in with the oxygen. Just… hanging out. Waiting for a
spark so it can blow the fu@king Hab up!
Once I figured this out, and composed myself, I got a Ziploc-sized sample bag and waved it around a bit, then sealed it.
Then, a quick EVA to a rover, where we keep the atmospheric analyzers. Nitrogen: 22%. Oxygen: 9%. Hydrogen: 64%.
I’ve been hiding here in the rover ever since.
It’s Hydrogenvile in the Hab.
I’m very lucky it hasn’t blown. Even a smal static discharge would have led to “Oh the humanity!”
So, I’m here in Rover 2. I can stay for a day or two, tops, before the CO2 filters from the rover and my spacesuit fil up. I have that
long to figure out how to deal with this.
The Hab is now a bomb.
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