Extract from Andy Weir's THE MARTIAN

Andy Weir's The Martian is appearing on bestseller lists around North America and thanks to the folks at Crown Publishing here's an excerpt from the book! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?



Okay, I’ve had a good night’s sleep, and things don’t seem as hope-less as they did yesterday.

Today I took stock of supplies and did a quick EVA to check up on the external equipment. Here’s my situation:

The surface mission was supposed to be thirty-one days. For redundancy, the supply probes had enough food to last the whole crew fifty-six days. That way if one or two probes had problems, we’d still have enough food to complete the mission.

We were six days in when all hell broke loose, so that leaves enough food to feed six people for fifty days. I’m just one guy, so it’ll last me three hundred days. And that’s if I don’t ration it. So I’ve got a fair bit of time.

I’m pretty flush on EVA suits, too. Each crew member had two space suits: a flight spacesuit to wear during descent and ascent, and the much bulkier and more robust EVA suit to wear when doing surface operations. My flight spacesuit has a hole in it, and of course the crew was wearing the other five when they returned to Hermes. But all six EVA suits are still here and in perfect condition.

The Hab stood up to the storm without any problems. Outside, things aren’t so rosy. I can’t find the satellite dish. It probably got blown kilometers away.

The MAV is gone, of course. My crewmates took it up to Hermes. Though the bottom half (the landing stage) is still here. No reason to take that back up when weight is the enemy. It includes the land-ing gear, the fuel plant, and anything else NASA figured it wouldn’t need for the trip back up to orbit.

The MDV is on its side and there’s a breach in the hull. Looks like the storm ripped the cowling off the reserve chute (which we didn’t have to use on landing). Once the chute was exposed, it dragged the MDV all over the place, smashing it against every rock in the area. Not that the MDV would be much use to me. Its thrust-ers can’t even lift its own weight. But it might have been valuable for parts. Might still be.

Both rovers are half-buried in sand, but they’re in good shape otherwise. Their pressure seals are intact. Makes sense. Operating procedure when a storm hits is to stop motion and wait for the storm to pass. They’re made to stand up to punishment. I’ll be able to dig them out with a day or so of work.

I’ve lost communication with the weather stations, placed a ki-lometer away from the Hab in four directions. They might be in perfect working order for all I know. The Hab’s communications are so weak right now it probably can’t even reach a kilometer.

The solar cell array was covered in sand, rendering it useless (hint: solar cells need sunlight to make electricity). But once I swept the cells off, they returned to full efficiency. Whatever I end up doing, I’ll have plenty of power for it. Two hundred square meters of solar cells, with hydrogen fuel cells to store plenty of reserve. All I need to do is sweep them off every few days.

Things indoors are great, thanks to the Hab’s sturdy design.

I ran a full diagnostic on the oxygenator. Twice. It’s perfect. If anything goes wrong with it, there’s a short-term spare I can use. But it’s solely for emergency use while repairing the main one. The spare doesn’t actually pull CO2 apart and recapture the oxygen. It just absorbs the CO2 the same way the space suits do. It’s intended to last five days before it saturates the filters, which means thirty days for me (just one person breathing, instead of six). So there’s some insurance there.

The water reclaimer is working fine, too. The bad news is there’s no backup. If it stops working, I’ll be drinking reserve water while I rig up a primitive distillery to boil piss. Also, I’ll lose half a liter of water per day to breathing until the humidity in the Hab reaches its maximum and water starts condensing on every surface. Then I’ll be licking the walls. Yay. Anyway, for now, no problems with the water reclaimer.

So yeah. Food, water, shelter all taken care of. I’m going to start rationing food right now. Meals are pretty minimal already, but I think I can eat a three-fourths portion per meal and still be all right. That should turn my three hundred days of food into four hundred. Foraging around the medical area, I found the main bottle of vitamins. There’s enough multivitamins there to last years. So I won’t have any nutritional problems (though I’ll still starve to death when I’m out of food, no matter how many vitamins I take).

The medical area has morphine for emergencies. And there’s enough there for a lethal dose. I’m not going to slowly starve to death, I’ll tell you that. If I get to that point, I’ll take an easier way out.

Everyone on the mission had two specialties. I’m a botanist and mechanical engineer; basically, the mission’s fix-it man who played with plants. The mechanical engineering might save my life if some-thing breaks.

I’ve been thinking about how to survive this. It’s not completely hopeless. There’ll be humans back on Mars in about four years when Ares 4 arrives (assuming they didn’t cancel the program in the wake of my “death”).

Ares 4 will be landing at the Schiaparelli crater, which is about 3200 kilometers away from my location here in Acidalia Planitia.

No way for me to get there on my own. But if I could communicate, I might be able to get a rescue. Not sure how they’d manage that with the resources on hand, but NASA has a lot of smart people.

So that’s my mission now. Find a way to communicate with Earth. If I can’t manage that, find a way to communicate with Hermes when it returns in four years with the Ares 4 crew.

Of course, I don’t have any plan for surviving four years on one year of food. But one thing at a time here. For now, I’m well fed and have a purpose: Fix the damn radio.


Well, I’ve done three EVAs and haven’t found any hint of the communications dish.

I dug out one of the rovers and had a good drive around, but after days of wandering, I think it’s time to give up. The storm probably blew the dish far away and then erased any drag-marks or scuffs that might have led to a trail. Probably buried it, too.

I spent most of today out at what’s left of the communications array. It’s really a sorry sight. I may as well yell toward Earth for all the good that damned thing will do me.

I could throw together a rudimentary dish out of metal I find around the base, but this isn’t some walkie-talkie I’m working with here. Communicating from Mars to Earth is a pretty big deal, and requires extremely specialized equipment. I won’t be able to whip something up with tinfoil and gum.

I need to ration my EVAs as well as food. The CO2 filters are not cleanable. Once they’re saturated, they’re done. The mission ac-counted for a four-hour EVA per crew member per day. Fortunately, CO2 filters are light and small, so NASA had the luxury of sending more than we needed. All told, I have about 1500 hours’ worth of CO2 filters. After that, any EVAs I do will have to be managed with bloodletting the air.

Fifteen hundred hours may sound like a lot, but I’m faced with spending at least four years here if I’m going to have any hope of rescue, with a minimum of several hours per week dedicated to sweeping off the solar array. Anyway. No needless EVAs.

In other news, I’m starting to come up with an idea for food. My botany background may come in useful after all.

Why bring a botanist to Mars? After all, it’s famous for not having anything growing there. Well, the idea was to figure out how well things grow in Martian gravity, and see what, if anything, we can do with Martian soil. The short answer is: quite a lot . . . almost. Martian soil has the basic building blocks needed for plant growth, but there’s a lot of stuff going on in Earth soil that Mars soil doesn’t have, even when it’s placed in an Earth atmosphere and given plenty of water. Bacterial activity, certain nutrients provided by animal life, etc. None of that is happening on Mars. One of my tasks for the mission was to see how plants grow here, in various combinations of Earth and Mars soil and atmosphere.

That’s why I have a small amount of Earth soil and a bunch of plant seeds with me.

I can’t get too excited, however. It’s about the amount of soil you’d put in a window box, and the only seeds I have are a few species of grass and ferns. They’re the most rugged and easily grown plants on Earth, so NASA picked them as the test subjects.

So I have two problems: not enough dirt, and nothing edible to plant in it.

But I’m a botanist, damn it. I should be able to find a way to make this happen. If I don’t, I’ll be a really hungry botanist in about a year.

1 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

This book is a fun quick read, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for such. BTW, the audio book is very good too!