Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Description: Mark Watney is stranded alone on Mars and must use his engineering and botany skills to survive until rescue is possible. Includes: pooptatoes.
Purchase: Bookshop.org (affiliate link)
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.
As I made my way toward the RTG’s burial site, it hit me: Mars is a barren wasteland and I am completely alone here. I already knew that, of course. But there’s a difference between knowing it and really experiencing it. All around me there was nothing but dust, rocks, and endless empty desert in all directions. The planet’s famous red color is from iron oxide coating everything. So it’s not just a desert. It’s a desert so old it’s literally rusting.
“You had an immediate answer,” Teddy said. “Good. I like it when people are organized.”
Three sols later, Lewis Valley opened into a wide plain. So, again, I was left without references and relied on Phobos to guide me. There’s probably symbolism there. Phobos is the god of fear, and I’m letting it be my guide. Not a good sign.
Man, I miss those guys.
Jesus Christ, I’d give anything for a five-minute conversation with anyone. Anyone, anywhere. About anything.
I’m the first person to be alone on an entire planet.
Okay, enough moping. I am having a conversation with someone: whoever reads this log. It’s a bit one-sided but it’ll have to do. I might die, but damn it, someone will know what I had to say.
I don’t even know what to say. This was an insane plan and somehow it worked! I’m going to be talking to someone again. I spent three months as the loneliest man in history and it’s finally over.
Sure, I might not get rescued. But I won’t be alone.
It died instantly. The screen went black before I was out of the airlock. Turns out the “L” in “LCD” stands for “Liquid.” I guess it either froze or boiled off. Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”
Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.
There’s still soil everywhere. No point in lugging it back outside. Lacking anything better to do, I ran some tests on it. Amazingly, some of the bacteria survived. The population is strong and growing. That’s pretty impressive, when you consider it was exposed to near-vacuum and subarctic temperatures for over twenty-four hours.
My guess is pockets of ice formed around some of the bacteria, leaving a bubble of survivable pressure inside, and the cold wasn’t quite enough to kill them. With hundreds of millions of bacteria, it only takes one survivor to stave off extinction.
Life is amazingly tenacious. They don’t want to die any more than I do.
The worst moments in life are heralded by small observations. The tiny lump on your side that wasn’t there before. Coming home to your wife and seeing two wineglasses in the sink. Anytime you hear “We interrupt this program…”
For me, it was when the drill didn’t start.
Staying alive isn’t about oxygen, it’s about getting rid of CO2.
As with most of life’s problems, this one can be solved by a box of pure radiation.
I tested the brackets by hitting them with rocks. This kind of sophistication is what we interplanetary scientists are known for.
“How did I end up in this situation? I’m the district sales manager of a napkin factory. Why is my daughter in space?”
I’ve been thinking about laws on Mars.
Yeah, I know, it’s a stupid thing to think about, but I have a lot of free time.
There’s an international treaty saying no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. And by another treaty, if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law applies.
So Mars is “international waters.”
NASA is an American nonmilitary organization, and it owns the Hab. So while I’m in the Hab, American law applies. As soon as I step outside, I’m in international waters. Then when I get in the rover, I’m back to American law.
Here’s the cool part: I will eventually go to Schiaparelli and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this, and they can’t until I’m aboard Ares 4 and operating the comm system. After I board Ares 4, before talking to NASA, I will take control of a craft in international waters without permission.
That makes me a pirate!
A space pirate!
You may be wondering what else I do with my free time. I spend a lot of it sitting around on my lazy ass watching TV. But so do you, so don’t judge.
No plan survives first contact with the enemy.
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, stuff on Mars should be named after me.
Also, have I mentioned I’m sick of potatoes? Because, by God, I am sick of potatoes. If I ever return to Earth, I’m going to buy a nice little home in Western Australia. Because Western Australia is on the opposite side of Earth from Idaho.
I still can’t quite believe that this is really it. I’m really leaving. This frigid desert has been my home for a year and a half. I figured out how to survive, at least for a while, and I got used to how things worked. My terrifying struggle to stay alive became somehow routine. Get up in the morning, eat breakfast, tend my crops, fix broken stuff, eat lunch, answer e-mail, watch TV. eat dinner, go to bed. The life of a modern farmer.
Then I was a trucker, doing a long haul across the world. And finally, a construction worker, rebuilding a ship in ways no one ever considered before this. I’ve done a little of everything here, because I’m the only one around to do it.
That’s all over now. I have no more jobs to do, and no more nature to defeat. I’ve had my last Martian potato. I’ve slept in the rover for the last time. I’ve left my last footprints in the dusty red sand. I’m leaving Mars today, one way or another.
About fucking time.
I think about the sheer number of people who pulled together just to save my sorry ass, and I can barely comprehend it. My crewmates sacrificed a year of their lives to come back for me. Countless people at NASA worked day and night to invent rover and MAV modifications. All of JPL busted their asses to make a probe that was destroyed on launch. Then, instead of giving up, they made another probe to resupply Hermes. The China National Space Administration abandoned a project they’d worked on for years just to provide a booster.
The cost for my survival must have been hundreds of millions of dollars. All to save one dorky botanist. Why bother
Well, okay. I know the answer to that. Part of it might be what I represent: progress, science, and the interplanetary future we’ve dreamed of for centuries. But really, they did it because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true.
If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do. And because of that, I had billions of people on my side.