Roger’ Blog

DEBRIS PILE
Mars is a dangerous place; we knew that when we agreed to make this voyage. A significant number of mankind’s efforts to send robotic surveyors have crashed on its surface. What we didn’t know until months ago was that something has been collecting the wreckage into a pile.
Our landing site was changed so that Samantha, Luis, Jenny and Ming could investigate the twisted hunks of metal and plastic. They examined it closely, but all they could do was confirm that it was indeed of Earth origin. If Martians have fingerprints, they didn’t leave any for us to find on it.
There were no tracks around the site, except those made by Luis’ rover. (It’s possible that the junk arrived by air.) For those who think it’s only purpose is to lure us here, nothing’s been disproven.

Roger’s Blog

EXPLORATION
Samantha finished her first examination of the Martian soil that Luis dug up in the farming section of the base, seeking proof of life. She hoped to find genetic material of any kind but came up…inconclusive. In that regard she was no more successful than all of humanity’s other probes.
All that means is that eons of cosmic radiation might have blasted away any evidence of Martian life on or just below the surface. Further down, however, it might be waiting for us. So, the next logical step is to investigate the hole that was spotted months ago and caused us to alter our landing site.
Dave and Maria are going to stay behind (with the baby, of course!) while Samantha, Luis, Ming and Jenny investigate. The dodos will remain on the base, too, since this mission will just be for recon. Their starring role will be the follow-up, and will depend on what’s at the bottom of the hole.
We’ll also get a close look at the nearby pile of Earth wreckage. For insurance purposes. That was a joke.

FIRST ASSIGNMENTS

The entire population of Earth is expecting the crew on the surface of Mars to immediately head outside and begin searching for little green men. They’ll get around to that (grin), but first there’s a ton of stuff to do just to keep everyone alive.
Mars is, quite simply, a hostile alien environment, and the crew is stuck there until the spring of 2020. There’s a ton of details in simply creating an Earth ecology within the walls of the base. Protecting themselves from cosmic rays is just the start. There’s also the matter of recycling air, water and nutrients.
Solar energy provides the power, keeping the temperature at 75˚ F. Everyone has assignments that are listed on the daily schedule; about ten hours a day. (Samantha and Dave have other duties, of course, although the others also tend to Baby Maria as need arises.)
I’m receiving the data they upload, and I’m making sure nothing falls through the cracks. Speaking of cracks, the two ecosystems, inside and outside, have to remain completely separate. That’s for everybody’s safety; Earth’s and Mars’.

Roger’s Blog

BABY MARIA
Samantha’s pregnancy had gone completely smoothly right up until the finish line when her baby found herself coming down the birth canal looking up instead of down. That resulted in her getting stuck for almost an hour. Finally, Maria ordered Jenny to create two forceps on the 3D printer that Luis had set up. (The forceps were already in the system under the Medical Equipment folder.)
Maria deftly used them to turn the baby around, and she came out soon after. The first human born someplace other than Earth.
Let’s let that sink in.
Dave and Samantha were so grateful to Maria for being there, especially since it meant Maria would be separated from her son Leonardo for over a year. In honor of her selflessness, they named the baby Maria Argus Hamper. (No hyphen; Argus is her middle name.)
As I write this she is one week old in Earth time and doing fine. Samantha is making the command decisions as the crew on the surface prepares to explore Mars.

Roger’s Blog

LABOR PAINS
When the lander departed the Fastrack One spacecraft we all knew that Samantha was close to going into labor. However, we didn’t know that it would begin during the descent.
Dave performed brilliantly, navigating the lander safely to touchdown. It was the accomplishment of a lifetime, and one that could not have been done by a program. It took his awesome skills to put human life on Mars.
(Oh, yeah. Dodo life, too.)
Once the crew ran down the checklist to determine that all systems were functional, Samantha announced that her baby was on its way. The activation of the medical unit was immediately moved up in priority.
The internal environmental readings were soon normal, and the crew shed their spacesuits before getting Samantha under Maria’s care. Luis, meanwhile, got the rest of the base up and online. We’re waiting breathlessly for updates.
Interesting day.

Roger’s Blog

DESCENT
It’s out of my hands now. The landing craft is away and heading to the surface. Everything depends on Dave’s piloting skills as it enters the thin Martian atmosphere. We’ve temporarily lost radio contact and we’re waiting for the signal that the crew made it safely.
Fingers crossed.

ROGER’S BLOG

PREPARATION

Now that we’re in orbit around Mars, everyone on Earth is expecting us to immediately hop in the lander and head down to the surface. Not so fast. There are about a million things we have to do to get ready; tasks that couldn’t be done in advance. They’ll take about a week.
While I’ll be staying on the ship as it circles Mars (behind Phobos), I’m still an important part of the landing procedure. In addition to being the interface between the ship’s tech and the crew, now I’ll have to be the intermediary between the ship and the lander. The data has to be absolutely precise, or the lander will crash.
Everyone else is making sure the lander has all the provisions necessary for the time they’ll spend on that hostile wilderness. It’s sort of like playing the old “Oregon Trail” game.

Roger’s Blog

ORBIT
We’re here, orbiting Mars. For the first time in history, humans are circling another planet.
As the interface between the ship’s tech and the crew, I had huge responsibilities during the process. Dave and Thomas steered us on target, and vast amounts of data were flowing into the system. I had to organize everything for the Commander and the two Pilots so they weren’t overwhelmed by a wave of meaningless numbers. Of course, we’d covered all this many times in the simulator.
If in fact something was still firing rocks at us, they missed. We continued our random course corrections until we were safely behind the misshapen lump of Phobos. It obscured our view of Mars, but better safe than sorry.
There’s a lot still to do before we head down to the surface. The lander has to be prepared for the dangerous descent, for one thing. (FYI, none of the children will take that journey, the parents all agreed that they stay on the ship. It really is risky.)
Check that. Samantha’s child will go.

Roger’s Blog

BILL OF HEALTH
It was a big milestone for Thomas, as Dr. Maria announced that he was fully healed from his appendectomy and cleared to resume his piloting duties. He and Remora celebrated, and then she returned to the water tanks in her Mermaid Classic form. (And yes, Samantha returned the dodos to their normal shapes as well. Sigh.)
Maria and Don still haven’t been given enough credit for the surgery’s successful outcome. As operating surgeon and nurse they were entirely their own, 100 million miles from backup. In the five years he played in the NBA Don never faced this level of pressure. Together they saved Thomas’s life.
So we sail on, now just weeks away from Mars. Maria’s next task will be to deliver Samantha’s baby, either before or after landing.

Roger’s Blog

COMMAND DECISION
Samantha never wanted the position of Mission Commander, intending to simply be a mission specialist that would allow her to focus on whatever genetics she found on Mars. The thing is, we already looked up to her as a leader so when we voted on it she was the unanimous choice.
This week required her to rise to the occasion when we were confronted with evidence of hostile intent. The first thing she did was calmly take action by telling Dave and Remora to take evasive maneuvers as we approach Mars. Once that was done she gathered the crew together and laid out her course of action and the reasons for it, giving us all the information that was available. The result was that everyone bought in.
So now a mysterious planet grows larger with each passing day. What was once merely silent and devoid of life may hide secrets no one expected.
Oh, and one other thing on something else that came up this week.
Just.
Fund.
NASA.