The Maretian

by Kris Overstreet

Chapter 145: Sol 245

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[08:01] JPL: Good morning, everyone. At least, I’d like to say it’s good, but I really haven’t got much good news for you. The best I can say is that this storm has peak internal winds of seventy kph at the present time, based on satellite observation. The Sol 6 storm was eighty kph two sols before it hit you. So there’s a chance this one won’t be that bad.

But on every other count the news is bad. The storm is currently in Arabia Terra on a west-northwest track directly for you at between thirty-five and forty kph. It’ll hit the Hab sometime after sunset tomorrow evening.

And the best part? Our satellites are picking up strong electrical activity in the storm. That’s incredibly rare, and we’ve never seen electrical activity at this level before.

We want you all to ride out the storm in the cave. The soil and the quartz minerals should protect you from any electrical discharge. If at all possible, we also want you to store the Friendship engines in the cave. It’s the safest place.

There are a lot of things you need to do before you turtle up, though. We want you to take as many antenna farm components as you can spare and attach them to the outer skin mount clips on Friendship using bare wire. Once that’s done, you need to inspect the electrical ground system for the Hab and make sure all the components are still attached to the Hab. Every part of the electrical system depends on that ground system to avoid static buildup and related damage. Finally, be sure the shutters are closed on Rover 1’s windows.

Also, we want you to cut off the base from one of the pop-tents, take it to the cave, and attach the ground wires for the solar panels and battery there to it. There are some spare tungsten static discharge points in your repair kit; attach as many as possible to that pop-tent base. That’s all we have to ground any electronics in the cave.

When you evacuate the Hab, power everything down as per the Sol 31 checklist. Do not deflate the Hab, but make sure all the electronics are down. Also, disconnect Pathfinder from Hab power. Pathfinder has its own anti-static ground system, but there’s a danger of a short-circuit through the rig you built to power it- either from a direct hit to the power line or from a strike to the Hab. We’ll use Morse via Friendship’s radio for comms after the storm blows over.

Finally, when you evacuate, park Rover 2 on the northwest face of Site Epsilon, as close to the slope as you can for protection against wind. Remember to close the shutters on the windows before cross-country EVA to your farm. This is the best we can do to protect Rover 2 short of digging a hole for it, and we think that would only bury it faster and deeper.

Good luck and stay safe.

[08:34] WATNEY: That’s a lot of shit to do, but we’ll get it done. The cave airlock is wide enough for the engines- just barely- but we'll probably have to magic them inside one way or another. One question: why not deflate the Hab? Isn’t there a danger of it blowing out in the storm?

[09:02] JPL: The Sol 31 checklist deflates the Hab only to protect the MAV in the very unlikely case of a breach during launch. It has nothing to do with preserving the Hab for future use. In this case, deflating the Hab would make it easier for the wind to pick up the fabric and damage it. It’d also mean you’d have to shovel dust off of the canvas before you could re-inflate it, and there’s a good chance the weight of dust would break the plastic supports. The best chance for the Hab coming through intact is leaving it pressurized.

[09:31] WATNEY: Roger. Going outside to begin preparations now. Go ahead and order a power-down for Pathfinder so I can disconnect the power at the end of our EVA. Will signal you after the storm passes.

[09:59] JPL: Sending the power-down order now. Good luck, Mark. Good luck, everyone.

Author's Notes:

This is short partly because I needed a buffer, and partly because there really isn't much else to say for this sol.

We've only picked up rare circumstantial evidence for lightning on Mars. We do know it won't behave anything like Earth lightning. Mars doesn't have a global magnetic field to draw discharges groundwards, and its freeze-dried air and upper soil make grounding even more difficult. No danger of grounding failure of the Hab is mentioned anywhere in the book, and there's no talk of the rovers picking up static-charged Mars dust, so it's a safe bet NASA solved the grounding problem- either by discharging into the air with tungsten lightning-rod points as on Sojourner and its successors or through a large buried grid of conductive material (presumably built into the Hab floor).

In the book Weir mentions that Pathfinder uses its outer hull as a ground to protect its internal electronics. I was completely unable to find any confirmation of that in many, many online searches. So we'll see what happens.

Anyway, safe in Atlanta; going to go grocery shopping, since I'm in a long-term living hotel and have a kitchenette to save money on food in.

Next Chapter: Sol 247 Estimated time remaining: 14 Hours, 37 Minutes
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