Lewis took a bite of her food. “I hope you're right.”
“Want to bet $100?” Martinez said with a smile.
“Of course not,” Lewis said.
“Damn right,” he smiled.
“I'd never bet on a crewmate dying,” Lewis said. “But that doesn't mean I think he'll-”
“Blah blah blah,” Martinez interrupted. “Deep down, you think he'll make it.”
LOG ENTRY: SOL 473
My fifth Air Day, and things are going well. I should be skimming south of Marth Crater tomorrow. It'll get easier after that.
I'm in the middle of a bunch of craters that form a triangle. I'm calling it the Watney Triangle because after what I've been through, shit on Mars should be named after me.
Trouvelot, Becquerel, and Marth form the points of the triangle, with 5 other major craters along the sides. Normally this wouldn't be a problem at all, but with my extremely rough navigation, I could easily end up at the lip of one of them and have to backtrack.
After Marth, I'll be out of the Watney Triangle (yeah, I'm liking that name more and more). Then I can beeline toward Schiaparelli with impunity. There'll still be plenty of craters in the way, but they're comparatively small and going around them won't cost much time.
Progress has been great. Arabia Terra is certainly rockier than Acidalia Planitia, but nowhere near as bad as I'd feared. I've been able to drive over most of the rocks, and around the ones that are too big.
I have 1435km left to go. Ares 4's MAV is in the southwest part of Schiaparelli. The primary goal of Ares 4 is to get a look at the long-term effects of Martian weather on deep layers of strata exposed by the crater.
At least, that was the original plan. I'll be taking their MAV and Commander Lewis hasn't given Hermes back, so we've ruined everything. They'll probably just send another MAV and wait for the next window.
I did some research on Schiaparelli and found some good news. The best way in is right in my direct-line path. I won't have to drive the perimeter at all. And the way in is easy to find, even when you suck at navigating. The northwest rim has a smaller crater on it, and that's the landmark I'll be looking for. To the southwest of that little crater is a gentle slope in to Schiaparelli Basin.
The little crater doesn't have a name. At least, not on the maps I have. So I dub it “Entrance Crater.” Because I can.
In other news, my equipment is starting to show signs of age. Not surprising, considering it's way the hell past its expiration date. For the past two sols, the batteries have taken longer to recharge. The solar cells just aren't producing as much wattage as before. It's not a big deal, I just need to charge a little longer.
LOG ENTRY: SOL 474
Well, I fucked it up.
It was bound to happen eventually. I navigated badly and ended up at the ridge of Marth Crater. With it being 100km wide, I can't see the whole thing, so I don't know where on the circle I am.
The ridge runs perpendicular to the direction I was going. So I have no clue which way I should go. And I don't want to take the long way around if I can avoid it. Originally I wanted to go around to the south, but north is just as likely to be the best path now that I'm off-course.
I'll have to wait for another Phobos transit to get my longitude, and I'll need to wait for nightfall to sight Deneb for my latitude. So I'm done driving for the day. I'd made 70km out of the 90km I usually do. So it's not too much wasted potential driving.
Marth isn't too steep. I could probably just drive down one side and up the other. It's big enough that I'd end up camping inside it one night. But I don't want to take unnecessary risks. Slopes are bad and should be avoided. I gave myself plenty of buffer time, so I'm going to play it safe.
I'm ending today's drive early and setting up for recharge. Probably a good idea anyway with the solar cells acting up; it'll give them more time to work. They underperformed again last night. I checked all the connections and made sure there wasn't any dust on them, but they still just aren't 100%.
LOG ENTRY: SOL 475
I'm in trouble.
I watched two Phobos transits yesterday and sighted Deneb last night. I worked out my location as accurately as I could, and it wasn't what I wanted to see. As far as I can tell, I hit Marth Crater dead-on.
This is the worst case scenario. I can go north or south, and they'll be about the same. It'll cost at least a day to correct. All because I aimed wrong yesterday.
That's frustrating, but it's not why I'm in trouble.
I still wanted to be efficient, and I wasn't 100% sure where I was. So I took a little walk this morning. It was over a kilometer to the peak of the rim. That's the sort of walk people do on Earth without thinking twice, but in an EVA suit it's an ordeal.
I can't wait till I have grandchildren. “When I was younger, I had to walk to the rim of a crater. Uphill! In an EVA suit! On Mars, ya little shit! Ya hear me? Mars!”
Anyway, I got up to the rim and damn, it's a beautiful sight. From my high vantage point, I got a stunning panorama. I figured I might be able to see the far side of Marth Crater, and maybe work out if north or south was the best way around it.
But I couldn't see the far side. There was a haze in the air. It's not uncommon; Mars has weather and wind and dust, after all. But it seemed hazier than it should. I'm accustomed to the wide-open expanses of Acidalia Planitia, my former prairie home.
Then it got weirder. I turned around and looked back toward the rover and trailer. Everything was where I'd left it (very few car thieves on Mars). But the view seemed a lot clearer.
I looked east across Marth again. Then west to the horizon. Then east, then west. Each turn required me to rotate my whole body, EVA suits being what they are.
Yesterday, I passed a crater. It's about 50km west of here. It's just visible on the horizon. But looking east, I can't see anywhere near that far. Marth Crater is 110km wide. With a visibility of 50km, I should at least be able to see a distinct curvature of the rim. But I can't.
At first, I didn't know what to make of it. But the lack of symmetry bothered me. And I've learned to be suspicious of everything. That's when a bunch of stuff started to dawn on me:
1) The only explanation for asymmetrical visibility is a dust storm.
2) Dust storms reduce the effectiveness of solar cells.
3) My solar cells have been slowly losing effectiveness for several sols.
From this, I concluded the following:
1) I've been in a dust storm for several sols.
Not only am I in a dust storm, but it gets thicker as I approach Schiaparelli. A few hours ago, I was worried because I had to go around Marth Crater. Now I'm going to have to go around something a fuckload bigger.