“Um,” Mindy said, “I’m Mindy Park. I work in SatCon.”
“You a director or something?”
“No, I just work in SatCon. I’m a nobody.”
Venkat looked to Mitch “I put her in charge of tracking Watney. She gets us the imagery.”
“Huh,” said Mitch. “Not the Director of SatCon?”
“Bob’s got more to deal with than just Mars. Mindy’s handling all the Martian satellites, and keeps them pointed at Mark.”
“Why Mindy?” Mitch asked.
“She noticed he was alive in the first place.”
“She gets a promotion cause she was in the hot seat when the imagery came through?”
“No,” Venkat frowned, “She gets a promotion cause she figured out he was alive. Stop being a dick, Mitch. You’re making her feel bad.”
Mitch looked over to Mindy. “Sorry.”
Mindy looked at the table and managed to say “’k.”
Teddy entered the room. “Sorry I’m late. Let’s get started,” He took his seat. “Venkat, what’s Watney’s status?”
“Alive and well,” Venkat said. “No change from my email earlier today.”
“What about the RTG. Does the public know about that yet?” Teddy asked.
Annie leaned forward. “So far, so good,” she said. “The images are public, but we have no obligation to tell them our analysis. Nobody has figured it out yet.”
“Why did he dig it up?”
“Heat, I think,” Venkat said. “He wants to make the rover do long trips. It uses a lot of energy keeping warm. The RTG can heat up the interior without soaking battery power. It’s a good idea, really.”
“How dangerous is it?” Teddy asked.
“As long as the container’s intact, no danger at all. Even if it cracks open he'll be ok if the pellets inside don't break. But if the pellets break too, he’s a dead man.”
“Let’s hope that doesn’t happen,” Teddy said. “JPL, how are the MDV plans coming along?”
“We came up with a plan a long time ago,” Bruce said. “You rejected it.”
“Bruce,” Teddy cautioned.
Bruce sighed. “The MDV wasn’t made for liftoff and lateral flight. Packing more fuel in doesn’t help. We’d need a bigger engine and don’t have time to invent one. So we need to lighten the MDV.
“We have an idea. The MDV can be its normal weight on primary descent. If we made the heat shield and outer hull detachable, they could ditch a lot of weight after landing at Ares 3, and have a lighter ship for the traverse to Ares 4. We’re running the numbers now.”
“Keep me posted,” Teddy said. He turned to Mindy. “Miss Park. Welcome to the big leagues.”
“Sir,” Mindy said.
“What’s the biggest gap in coverage we have on Watney right now?”
“Um,” Mindy said. “Once every 41 hours, we’ll have a 17 minute gap. The orbits work out that way.”
“You had an immediate answer,” Teddy said. “Good.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I want that gap down to four minutes,” Teddy said. “I’m giving you total authority over satellite trajectories and orbital adjustments. Make it happen.”
“Yes, sir,” Mindy said, with no idea how to do it.
Teddy looked to Mitch. “Mitch, your email said you had something urgent?”
“Yeah,” Mitch said. “How long are we gonna’ keep this from the Ares 3 crew? They all think Watney’s dead. It’s a huge drain on morale.”
Teddy looked to Venkat.
“Mitch,” Venkat said. “We discussed this-“
“No, you discussed it,” Mitch interrupted. “They think they lost a crewmate. They’re devastated.”
“And when they find out they abandoned a crewmate?” Venkat asked, “Will they feel better then?”
Mitch poked the table with his finger “They deserve to know. You don’t think Commander Lewis can’t handle the truth?”
“It’s a matter of morale,” Venkat said. “They can concentrate on getting home-“
“I make that call,” Mitch said. “I’m the one who decides what’s best for the crew. And I say we bring them up to speed.”
After a few moments of silence, all eyes turned to Teddy.
He thought for a moment. “Sorry, Mitch, I’m with Venkat on this one,” he said. “But as soon as we come up with a plan for rescue, we can tell Hermes. There needs to be some hope or there’s no point in telling them.”
“Bullshit,” Mitch grumbled, crossing his arms. “Total bullshit,”
“I know you’re upset,” Teddy said calmly, “We’ll make it right. Just as soon as we have some idea how to save Watney.”
Teddy let a few seconds of calm pass before moving on.
“Ok, JPL’s on the rescue option,” he said with a nod toward Bruce. “But it would be part of Ares 4. How does he stay alive till then? Venkat?”
Venkat opened a folder and glanced at the paperwork inside. “I had every team check and double-check the longevity of their systems. We’re pretty sure the Hab can keep working for 4 years. Especially with a human occupant fixing problems as they arise. But there’s no way around the food issue. He’ll start starving in a year. We have to send him supplies. Simple as that.”
“What about an Ares 4 presupply?” Said Teddy. “Land it at Ares 3 instead.”
“That’s what we’re thinking, yeah,” Venkat confirmed. “Problem is, the original plan was to launch presupplies a year from now. They’re not ready yet.
“It takes 8 months to get a probe to Mars in the best of times. The positions of Earth and Mars right now… it’s not the best of times. We figure we can get there in 9 months. Presuming he’s rationing his food, he’s got enough to last 350 more days. That means we need to build a presupply in three months. JPL hasn’t even started yet.”
“That’ll be tight,” Bruce said. “Making a presupply is a 6 month process. We’re set up to pipeline a bunch of them at once, not to make one in a hurry.”
“Sorry, Bruce,” Teddy said. “I know we’re asking a lot, but you have to find a way.”
“We’ll find a way,” Bruce said. “But the OT alone will be a nightmare.”