Ya snooze, ya lose


I’m so pissed at myself.

My first few days on the “road” were uneventful. I fell right back into my routine after the excitement of the Pathfinder discovery. Check the oxygen and CO2 levels, secure the solar cells, and drive. Rinse and repeat. But I couldn’t get over the fact that I had this twentieth-century lander lashed to the roof of my rover. It was unbelievable.

I spent my tedious driving hours thinking about my Pathfinder game plan. Most landers die when their batteries fail. If I just have to recharge a battery, I should be able to have it functioning within a day or two. If not… well, there could be any number of things wrong with very small, very complex electrical components that I have no chance of repairing without the right parts. I’d be screwed. Either it needed juice, or the whole thing had been a waste of time.

Once I arrived at this conclusion, I ran out of things to think about. There’s not much I can make progress on until I’m back at the Hab. Did I mention the fact that I’m driving through a featureless wasteland? I was bored out of my mind, and with the RTG cooking me alive, I felt like a truck driver in the middle of an Alabama summer. Cruising along at my top speed of 25 kilometers per hour, with the same god-awful disco music on repeat, bathed in the warm glow of radioactivity… I started dozing off.

I know. Deserted on a planet that is actively trying to kill me, and I was falling asleep at the wheel?!

I tried giving myself a stern talk about how dire my situation was. If I fell asleep and hit a crater or rock, no matter how small, it could damage the undercarriage of the rover. Worst case, it wouldn’t take much to flip the rover on its side – having Pathfinder lashed to my roof had significantly shifted my center of gravity. Great. Unfortunately, this thought process was not particularly motivational. Near-death situations are all in a sol’s work out here.

My next thought was to pop some caffeine pills to stay awake. As if caffeine still had an effect on me. Good one. My coffee habit has gotten to the point where I need my daily caffeine just to fend off the inevitable headache.

I decided to just toughen up and talk to myself or something. Keep an audio log. Shouldn’t be hard to keep myself alert for the two hours of driving between EVAs, right?

Wow, was that a stupid assumption to make. An hour into the first leg of my drive this morning, I started getting drowsy.  I should’ve gotten out and walked around, or something. But I wanted to try to make it until the first battery died so I wouldn’t have to suit up twice.

At around the 1.5 hour mark, my eyes slid closed for what didn’t feel like more than a few seconds. I jolted awake to the horrifying feeling of the rover’s driver’s-side wheels dropping down into some sort of huge pothole. I heard very faint thuds as the solar cells flew off the roof and landed in the sand.

The pothole, or small crater, or whatever it was, couldn’t have been more than half a meter deep. The rover hadn’t rolled. I did a quick systems check – nothing had failed in the relatively insignificant jolt, and I wasn’t injured. But the rover was sitting with its left wheels in the hole at an angle that made me very nervous about tipping.

I’m not sure if I could right the rover if it did tip. And even if I could (with the help of the thin Martian atmosphere), I didn’t want Pathfinder to be damaged beyond repair by landing on its side if it came crashing down. Destroying my one shot at communicating with NASA wasn’t high on my agenda.

I climbed out of the rover and inspected the hole. It was a small crater, about half a meter deep and three meters across. It didn’t end up being too difficult to dig a sloped path out of the crater and maneuver the rover back onto solid ground. And my careful job lashing Pathfinder on top had held.

Now I just need to go collect my solar cells, dust them off, and check for any cracks. I think I’m going to call it quits for today and use the rest of the daylight to double-check the rover for any minor damage I might have missed. Can’t be too careful out here.

That little jolt was manageable. No real harm was done. But I’m disgusted with myself for letting something like that happen. It could have been immeasurably worse. Mars is determined to kill me, and I’m sure as hell not going to make things easier for it. I was given a second chance at survival out here on this godforsaken frozen planet, and I will NOT throw it away.




No more rover naps for me!

After the scare a few days ago, I spent the night lying awake and berating myself for putting myself in needless danger (when there’s plenty of danger to go around already). I needed some kind of foolproof method to keep myself alert that wouldn’t make my journey significantly longer.

Suiting up and taking a stroll every hour or so simply isn’t practical. It would cut into the valuable daylight I need for charging the solar cells at the end of the day. And getting in and out of a spacesuit isn’t like slipping on a bathrobe, let me tell you. It requires some effort.

I considered leaving the insulation off the hull so I wouldn’t get as toasty warm, but I’d rather not become a frozen Watney-sicle. So I threw that idea out pretty quickly.

My solution… well, NASA medics would probably shit themselves if they could see me now. I’m injecting adrenaline.

I was digging through the med kit looking for inspiration (Adderall, maybe?) when I came across our supply of EpiPens. I was never entirely sure what the NASA geniuses thought we’d encounter out here that could send us into anaphylactic shock… sand? rocks? But better safe than sorry. They’d included 12 in the med kit and plenty back at the Hab medical station if we were to run out.

Lucky for me, it’s not difficult to crack open an EpiPen and transfer the epinephrine into one of the med kit syringes. EpiPens are auto-injectors, and I didn’t want their full dose of adrenaline shot into me all at once, so I prepared my own syringe. I can’t imagine that injecting a full dose all at once would be good for me… especially if it becomes a habit.

Brilliant idea, right? Nothing keeps your eyes wide and your heart pumping like chemically-induced panic.

I hit the road at dawn and made good progress today. I’m only a little bit jittery. Honestly, I think it’s a little ironic that on a deserted planet where I find myself in terrifying life-or-death situations on a daily basis, I’m administering more adrenaline. Huh.

I’m out here, road-tripping across Mars, stopping every so often to shoot up. Don’t tell my mom.


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