Page 57 of The Martian

Every now and then, I'll need to break for a day and let the Oxygenator use all the power. How often? After a bunch of math I worked out that my 18pn budget can power the Oxygenator enough to make 2.5 sols of O2. I'd have to stop every two to three sols to reclaim oxygen. My 65 sol trip would become 91!

That's too fucking long. I'll tear my own head off if I have to live in the rover that long. Anyway, I'm exhausted from lifting rocks and whining about lifting rocks. I think I pulled something in my back. Gonna take it easy the rest of today.


Yeah, I definitely pulled something in my back. I woke up in agony.

So I took a break from rover planning. Instead, I spent the day taking drugs and playing with radiation.

First, I loaded up on Vicodin for my back. Hooray for Beck's medical supplies!

Then I drove out to the RTG. It was right where I left it, in a hole 4km away. Only an idiot would keep that thing near the Hab. So anyway, I brought it back to the Hab.

Either it'll kill me or it won't. A lot of work went in to making sure it doesn't break. If I can't trust NASA, who can I trust? (For now I'll forget that NASA told us to bury it far away.)

I stored it on the roof of the rover for the trip back. That puppy really spews heat.

I have some flexible plastic tubing intended for minor Water Reclaimer repairs. After bringing the RTG in to the Hab, I very carefully glued some tubing around the heat baffles. Using a funnel made from a piece of paper, I ran water through the tubing, letting it drain in to a sample container.

Sure enough, the water heated up. That's not really a surprise, but it's nice to see thermodynamics being well-behaved.

The Atmospheric Regulator doesn't run constantly. The freeze-separation speed is driven by the weather outside. So the returning frigid air doesn't come as a steady flow. And the RTG generates a constant, predictable heat. It can't “ramp up” its output.

So I'll heat water with the RTG to create a heat reservoir, then I'll make the return air bubble through it. That way I don't have to worry about when the air comes in. And I won't have to deal with sudden temperature changes in the rover.

When the Vicodin wore off, my back hurt even more than before. I'm going to need to take it easy. I can't just pop pills forever. So I'm taking a few days off from heavy labor. To that end, I made a little invention just for me...

I took Johanssen's cot and cut out the hammock. Then I draped spare Hab canvas over the frame, making a pit inside the cot, with extra canvass around the edges. Weighing down the excess canvass with rocks, I now had a water-tight bathtub!

It only took 100L to fill the shallow tub.

Then, I stole the pump from the Water Reclaimer. (I can go quite a while without the Water Reclaimer operating). Hooking it up to my RTG-water-heater, I put both the input and output lines in the tub.

Yes, I know this is ridiculous, but I hadn't had a bath since Earth, and my back hurts. Besides, I'm going to spend 100 sols with the RTG anyway. A few more won't hurt. That's my bullshit rationalization and I'm sticking with it.

It took two hours to heat the water to 37C. Once it did, I shut off the pump, and got in. Oh man, all I can say is “Ahhhhhh.”

Why the hell didn't I think of this before?


I spent the last week recovering from back problems. The pain wasn't bad, but there aren't any chiropractors on Mars, so I wasn't taking chances.

I took hot baths twice a day, laid in my bunk a lot, and watched shitty '70's TV. I've already seen Lewis's entire collection, but I didn't have much else to do. I was reduced to watching reruns.

I got a lot of thinking done.

I can make everything better by having more solar panels. The 14 panels I took to Pathfinder provided the 18kwh that the batteries could store. When traveling, I stowed the panels on the roof. The trailer gives me room to store another 7 (half of its roof will be missing because of the hole I'm cutting in it).

This trip's power needs will be driven by the Oxygenator. It all comes down to how much power I can give that greedy little fucker in a single sol. I want to minimize how often I have days with no travel. The more juice I can give the Oxygenator, the more oxygen it'll liberate, and the longer I can go between those “air-sols.”

Let's get greedy. Lets say I can find a home for 14 more panels instead of 7. Not sure how to do that, but let's say I can. That would give me 38pn to work with, which would net me 5.1 sols of oxygen per air-sol. I'd only have to stop once per five sols. That's much more reasonable.

Plus, if I can arrange battery storage for the extra power, I could drive 100km per sol! Easier said than done, though. That extra 18kwh of storage will be tough. I'll have to take 2 of the Hab's 9kwh fuel cells and load them on to the rover or trailer. They aren't like the rover's batteries; they're not small or portable. They're light enough, but they're pretty big. I may have to attach them to the outside hull, and that would eat in to my solar cell storage.

100km per sol, stopping every fifth sol to reclaim oxygen. If I could pull that off, I'd get there 40 sols. That would be sweet!

In other news, It occurred to me that NASA is probably shitting bricks. They're watching me with satellites, and haven't seen me come out of the Hab for six days. With my back better, it was time to drop them a line.

I headed out for an EVA. This time, being very careful while lugging rocks around, I spelled out a Morse code  message: “INJURED BACK. BETTER NOW.  CONTINUING ROVER MODS.”

That was enough physical labor for today. I don't want to overdo it.

Think I'll have a bath.


Today, it was time to experiment with the panels.

First, I put the Hab on low power mode: No internal lights, all nonessential systems offline, all internal heating suspended. I'd be outside most of the day anyway.

I detached 28 panels from the solar farm and dragged them to the rover. I spent four hours stacking them this way and that. The poor rover looked like the Beverly Hillbillies truck. Nothing I did worked.

The only way to get all 28 on the roof was to make stacks so high they'd fall off the first time I turned. If I lashed them together, they'd fall off as a unit. If I found a way to attach them perfectly to the rover, the rover would tip. I didn't even bother to test. It was obvious by looking and I didn't want to break shit.

I haven't removed the chunk of hull from the trailer yet. Half the holes are drilled, but I'm not committed to anything. If I left it in place, I could have four stacks of seven cells. That would work fine; it's just two rovers worth of what I did for the trip to Pathfinder.

Problem is, I need that opening. The regulator has to be in the pressurized area and it's too big to fit in the rover. Plus which, the Oxygenator needs to be in a pressurized area while operating. I'll only need it every 5 sols, but what would I do on that sol? No, the hole has to be there.