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The Martians


Ray Nothnagel

Mars Colonial Mission Report, Commander Andrew Grossman

June 6, 2050

Hello commissioner,

I've got great news about the in situ project. Yesterday, we successfully created the first test article made entirely from materials here on Mars. As you're aware, the early plastic deposition printing tests were unsuccessful, and ever since then, we've been working with the metals found in the Martian surface soil. We've found the most promising of these to be the pyroxenes, and that's just what we used for this part. This test article is a plain rod composed primarily of augite, and simply extruded from the smelted metal.

We are ready to proceed to the next phase, which I believe will be a straightforward task. This phase will involve creating more complex parts by using a laser sintering process. Once we have perfected this process, it will be simple to create all the replacement metal components we need, which means we will have a much reduced need for redundant parts and a far greater self-reliance.

Local manufacture of parts is the last major component of self-sufficiency we have remaining to accomplish. Obviously solar power has been providing our electrical needs, and for fuel we have been using the Sabatier reaction for years, converting the Martian atmosphere into methane. And of course, last year, we had a similar milestone with food when we ate our first full meal grown entirely in Martian greenhouses.

So today was a big step for us here on Mars, but I've heard there's some significant news from Earth. I know you're trying to protect our mental wellbeing, but I really must insist that we are informed about developments as significant as the first contact with aliens. Don't ask how we got around your firewall, I'm not giving that up, but throw us a bone, here. Who are these aliens? Do we have any standing orders with regards to them?

Cmdr. Grossman

Mars Colonial Mission Report, Extended Mission, Acting Commander Samantha Zubrin

March 29, 2054

Another sol, another problem. I wish I had more training, or just more preparation. I'm in over my head here. We all are.

We lost pressurization on Delta Dome today, with twelve people inside it. Only three of them managed to get to the emergency breathers before passing out, buying them enough time to be rescued. Early diagnostics are suggesting that it was one of our in situ repairs that failed—some kind of structural weakness in the augite part, or maybe in the connections to the main base parts. I wish we could do something to improve that, but Dr. Kilmister was our chief metallurgist, and we lost him two years ago. If we're going to make any improvements to the formula at this point, someone's going to need to start from scratch and just study the hell out of our encyclopedias.

The nine deaths, in combination with the ones we've already suffered, have brought us to a morbid milestone: we have now lost over 25% of our original mission crew. The mission parameters as originally written would have called for an unconditional mission abort at that number, but that's not really an option for us. We haven't even had so much as an email from Earth in over three years. For all we know, we might be the last Humans in the universe. It's not like our measly little 2-meter telescope can tell us whether or not there's life on Earth. Not that it stops us from looking at it every chance we get.

But even if we did know that everything was alright back on Earth, we still wouldn't have abort capacity. It's been over six months since we first started taking vital components from our ascent vehicle. Once we took the first piece, it was open season, and every department wanted something. Computers, pumps, piping, fluid tanks—you name it, we pulled it. There's been talk of knocking the frame on its side and using it as additional greenhouse space.

Even if not for the accidents, we wouldn't have been able to sustain the original crew regardless. We rationed our the food we brought with us as much as possible, but we knew it wouldn't last us more than 20 months. We converted every available square meter from the research domes into greenhouse space, trying our best but still knowing it wouldn't produce food enough to sustain a colony of our size. But then Theta Dome exploded, and suddenly, we had fifteen fewer mouths to feed. We've made it work since then.

Delta Dome's depressurization is a big problem in more ways than just the people it killed. Delta Dome was one of our hubs, which means three of our domes are cut off from the other seven that survive still. The medbay is in Beta Dome, but the storage unit with a lot of the medicines we need is in Mu Dome. One of the nine we lost today was literally there to bring medicine that Commander Grossman needs to survive; he's still in a coma, but he may come out of it one day. I hope so; I didn't have any plans on being the Commander here. In any case, I don't imagine the colony making it longterm if we don't get Delta Dome repaired, and fast.

Mars Colonial Mission Report, Extended Mission, Commander Samantha Zubrin

May 12, 2066

We made it. God damn, I can't believe we actually made it. The resupply is landing in less than an hour. We're all anxious, we're all hungry, and half of us are sick, but we're alive.

For twelve years, counting the casualties has been my duty. We lost 40% of the crew we initially came with. But our numbers are not quite as low as they seem. When we had no hope and no expectations of ever contacting Earth again, it was only a matter of time before the crew would start having babies. Ten babies have been born here in the last decade, the first children ever to be raised outside of Earth's gravity well. We lost the first two children in infancy to spinal deformations before we worked out how to compensate safely, but all the rest are in good health today. Though death has been a constant companion with us these years, those two were the hardest.

When I was first named Acting Commander, I tried to refuse—I wasn't nearly qualified for this. But Commander Grossman saw something in me I wasn't even sure I had in myself, and gave me more support than I could have imagined before he passed. With the resupply coming closer every second, we're about to sign off on the hardest chapter, and begin anew.

As of today, I am resigning my NASA commission and rank, and most of the original crew are tendering their resignations as well. We're not just a crew anymore. This isn't just a place we're stuck. This is our home, we are a family with ties stronger even than blood, and we're now raising the first native-born Martians ever to exist. I am no longer the commander here; I am just one citizen in this amazing, hardworking community. We are not astronauts; we are Martians.

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