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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.

ROGER’S BLOG

TARGET PRACTICE
As I’ve previously mentioned, we didn’t launch with all the supplies we need for the mission. Instead, during the voyage we regularly pick up shipments launched years earlier, waiting in space for us.
The last of these resulted in much consternation, as it was peppered with holes. As Samantha said, it could be that it ran into a swarm of space debris…or something’s been shooting at it. Samantha’s been thinking along those lines ever since a rock almost killed Luis by breaking his tether on a spacewalk.
So what do we do? Since we need Mars’ gravity as a breaking mechanism to return to Earth, there’s nothing can do but proceed to the red planet. We have no choice but to enter Mars orbit. Once there, however, we can circle it while staying behind Mars’ moon Phobos to block any further potshots.
As for the shipment, it contained goo for our 3D printers. Luckily we just lost 17% of the load from the hits.

ROGER’S BLOG

RETAINING WATER
The big Mars news this week was the discovery of water beneath the ice of the planet’s south pole. It’s a big lake, actually, although it won’t involve our mission. We’re landing in a completely different area, and even so, we have nothing that would be able to break through the ice to get to the water. That will be up to future missions.
Here on Fastrack One, Thomas continues to heal from his surgery. He’s at a dangerous stage, when he thinks he’s healed and ready for activity, but still vulnerable to ripping out the sutures if he’s not careful.
Samantha’s been visiting him in order to prevent him from getting restless, and for her own peace of mind. She also collects as much data on her condition as she can, to document humanity’s first pregnancy in space. She’s a scientist to the core.

ROGER’S BLOG

RECOVERY
Thomas is in good spirits and the medical prognosis is all positive. He just has to be careful for the next few weeks until he’s fully healed. The mission can’t afford for him to re-tear his incisions by trying to come back too soon. So, Maria is restricting his movements as much as possible (although she does allow him to hang carefully from his trapeze for limited periods of time).
As Samantha heads to the final weeks of her pregnancy, she’s a frequent visitor to Sick Bay in order to monitor her baby’s health. She and Thomas talk about pregnancies, of which Thomas has personal experience. (Long story) He’s actually more empathetic to Samantha than Jenny or Ming. The other mom on board is Maria, of course, who is strictly professional about the matter.
Remora, meanwhile, is demonstrating that she’s a more than capable co-pilot. Still, Dave makes sure to perform the really important maneuvers; what Remora does is keep the ship steady while Dave takes off for his normal shifts of sleep and down time.
Mars looms ever closer.

ROGER’S BLOG

POST OP

We don’t know exactly how much surgery Maria will do in the next thirty years until she comes back in time to join our voyage, but it was enough experience to successfully extract Thomas’s appendix. Let’s not forget Don’s role, too. He only recently got his nursing degree and he was fantastic. Thanks to the two of them Thomas will make a complete recovery.
That got us over the first hurtle. There’s more to come, though, as it’ll be weeks before he can resume his piloting duties. Remora insists that she can fill in for him, but we’ll have to see. Out here, there are no do-overs if a mistake is made. It’ll be Dave’s call whether she can actually pilot the ship during his sleep hours.
Thomas is in good spirits, except that he feels he’s let us down with his illness which is ridiculous. It could’ve happened to any of us.
The prognosis is that he’ll be able to resume his full duties in a month, just a week before we enter Mars orbit. That’s when we’ll really need him. In a sense we’re lucky this happened now and not when those maneuvers will determine whether we safely orbit the planet or be flung off into to the Oort Cloud.
No pressure.

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