Dead on Mars

Chapter 17 - Sol Three, 13,416 Articles

Chapter 17: Sol Three, 13,416 Articles

Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon

Tang Yue was taken aback for a few seconds before feeling a sniffle appear.

This was the final Eagle shuttle. Earth had already gone, and every component on the shuttle had become a unique item in the Universe. The words, “Welcome to the Eagle Lander” were the greetings and blessings of his old friends before they vanished. Tang Yue never expected that the bidding of farewell back then had become forever.

Tang Yue sat down at the pilot seat. It was somewhere he had always wanted to sit, but Commander Old Wang forbade him for he valued the crappy seat dearly.

Now, Tang Yue could sit anywhere he wanted. No one could stop him ever again. The entire Orion I, along with the rest of the team had vanished.

The indicator lights on the main controls were flickering as dense lines of code scrolled across the screen. The Eagle’s computer was doing a self-check on its boot up. It was a very powerful computer, something which could play Red Alert or Warcraft according to Old Wang. It was indeed quite a formidable task for a computer meant for space travel. Years ago, the Apollo shuttles had computers with a frequency speed of only 2 MHz. In addition, it had 2 KB of RAM and 36 KB of ROM. It couldn’t even store one song.

The lander’s ascent and docking could be done automatically. The engineers on Earth had designed its trajectory, and about a hundred lines of code were stored on the Eagle’s computer. The astronauts simply needed to move their fingers and press a few buttons before shouting, “Away we go—”, and the Eagle would send them off Mars.

But as a contingency plan, the designers had left a manual operating system in the lander. In the event that Tang Yue and company were so unlucky that even a fart could stab their heels—the docking system suffering an unfortunate failure—the commander could step forward and showcase his skills as an elite astronaut and manually dock the lander with the International Space Station.

In the past century, this was what astronauts did. When computers lacked the ability to fully grasp the entire situation, the American and Russian astronauts used their eyes and fingers, using their hardened psychological quality and skills, as though they were dancing on the edge of a blade.

However, these series of procedures were unknown to Tang Yue. There were only two people in the expedition team who could do the manual docking.

One of them was Commander Old Wang.

Old Wang was formerly a test pilot in the Chinese Air Force. He held the rank of Colonel and had clocked thousands of hours in a fighter jet. He was later selected for entry into the Cosmonaut Training Center. As the commander of this mission to Mars, he was the most senior and experienced astronaut in the team. He was quite impressive.

The other was Thomp.

Thomp was an American whose full name was Howard Thompson.

Thomp was the second professional astronaut in the team. He once spent 320 days on the International Space Station. He was often responsible for the docking missions of the Soyuz and Progress. He was also trained in the manual docking system.

The others weren’t capable of doing so. They were experts who were ferried to Mars, with none of them being professional astronauts. Tang Yue was a mechanical and electrical engineer. His mission involved inspecting and repairing the Kunlun Station and the Martian vehicles. Mai Dong was a botanist with a long list of scientific research projects to do. Neither of them had ever touched the flight controls.

The main control screens gradually dimmed before lighting up again a few seconds later.

A NASA logo appeared, just like a Windows boot-up screen.

The self-checks were complete.

Tang Yue took out a maintenance manual as thick as an Oxford dictionary from his bag. Inspecting the Eagle was indeed a troublesome task. To do a complete inspection, he needed to go through more than 13,000 articles.

“Tomcat, do I have to read through every line and box on this?” Tang Yue looked down and stamped his feet on the hatch.

“That’s right!” Tomcat’s voice sounded from below. “They have to be gone through once!”

“Do you know how much content there is?”

“Six big ones, and eighteen smaller ones. There’s a total of 13,416 articles, as well as an appendix,” Tomcat replied. “It’s the third sol today. We have to launch the Eagle as soon as possible. It’s best you be quick!”

“You want me to finish all of this?” Tang Yue widened his eyes.

“Who was it that found five sols plenty of time?” Tomcat scoffed. “If you can’t finish it, I don’t mind. However, the lass on the space station will be dead.”

“You…” Tang Yue felt stifled. “Fine, you’re brutal.”

Tomcat stood in the cargo module as it held the ultrasonic fault detector with its claws.

An ultrasonic fault detector was a common device used for inspections. Ultrasound could penetrate deep into the components and check for cracks, loose components, and air pockets which would normally be invisible to the naked eye. Once the ultrasound came into contact with a damaged spot, it would reflect and show an abnormal waveform on the display.

Tomcat held the end of the display unit with one hand while holding a probe with the other. It held the probe close to the inner walls of the vessel as it stared at the display. The waveforms oscillated regularly like a heartbeat.

The Eagle’s cargo module was cylindrical in shape and was more than a meter tall. It was bent from an entire piece of aluminum alloy and had a loading capacity of three tonnes.

Logically speaking, the lander’s main structure should be devoid of problems. Before launching, the staff on Earth would do a thorough inspection to ensure that everything was fine. However, Tomcat remained uneasy about it. Even if the lander had been inspected on Earth, it was something that happened more than a year ago. The environment in space and Mars were harsh, and there was a huge disparity in the temperature during night and day. Furthermore, the vessel would experience tremendous heat and heavy g-force during its entry into the atmosphere. Such extreme environments would be an immense test on any material.

It couldn’t be guaranteed that a particular metal suffered fatigue, or a particular O-ring seal shattered due to cold temperatures. These were damages that were invisible to the naked eye and could rapidly spread under high g-force. Finally, it could cause a fatal structural failure.

The Eagle would then repeat the Challenger space shuttle’s tragedy, becoming a gigantic firework, vaporizing all the resources and Tang Yue’s hopes in a massive explosive boom.

The interior of the cargo module had a layer of smooth, hard polyimide material. The white walls had the blue logo of the Boeing Company.

The Eagle’s cargo module’s manufacturer was Boeing, and the lander’s control systems were made by its competitor, Lockheed Martin. Different parts of this vessel were made by different corporations and manufacturers. If one carefully searched, one would find many famous logos on the Eagle’s internal components…

Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, NASA, CNSA, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, Apple, Samsung, Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, ESA, Rolls-Royce Group, JPL, etc. Although these world-famous organizations and corporations were competitors who were at each other’s throats, their logos all coexisted on the Eagle.

The Mars Landing Project was one of humanity’s largest space engineering projects. The scale far exceeded the Apollo mission to the Moon. It was a joint collaboration between China, USA, Russia, UK, France, Germany, and Japan. Due to the difficulty and resources needed, it wasn’t something any single country could afford. Even the rich USA couldn’t afford it. Tang Yuan imagined what had happened behind the scenes.

Chinese representative: “Whoever has more money will pay more of it. Is everyone fine with this arrangement?”

Russian representative: “Agreed! I would first point out that we’re poor. We will only provide the technology, not money! (holding up the AK47 underneath his table and surveying the area). Feel free to raise any objections.”

English representative: “We will pay however much the French pay.”

French representative: “We will pay however much the Germans pay.”

German representative: “We will pay however much the English pay.”

Japanese representative: “Well… That won’t be enough money.”

Chinese representative: “Who’s the richest? I would like to point out that my country is a developing country. We are in the beginning stages of socialism that will extend for long periods of time…”

English, French, Germany, and EU representatives whispered: “USA.”

Russian representative shouting loudly: “USA!”

American representative slams the table angrily: “Me again? We still need to build more aircraft carriers!”

From the Orion space shuttle, the lander, to the Kunlun Station, every step was a result of pooling the efforts of humanity. It was truly the fruit of humanity’s wisdom.

All the humans on Earth took a collective step, leaving a faint footprint on a planet more than sixty million kilometers away.

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