Chapter 9 - Dead on Mars

Chapter 9: Sol One, Kunlun Station is a Turtle Shell

Translator: CKtalon  Editor: CKtalon

From an Earthling’s point of view, Kunlun Station was no doubt a simply constructed tent in a desert. The entire Station was formed from two parts.

The first was the Hab. This was where the scientific team resided and completed their missions. The Hab’s core was a short circular turtle shell structure made out of aluminum alloy. Its outer shell was made of fortified engineering plastics, and it was deeply rooted in the Mars surface. Its diameter was about fifteen meters long and, from the outside, it looked like a flattened white Mongolian yurt.

The Hab was where Tang Yue mainly resided. It was Kunlun Station’s main hall, kitchen, storage room, gym, meeting room, laboratory, and mainframe room. It was home to most of the facilities provided by the Station.

The Hab had seven smaller cabins connected to it in a radial manner. Six of them were the sleeping quarters for the team, with the remaining one an airlock.

The sleeping quarters were pathetically small. Furthermore, they weren’t hard structures. In the words of Commander Old Wang, one even had to worry about puncturing a hole in the wall while farting… The six cabins used an inflatable, modular design. They could be replaced and had been compressed in a crate when they were first shipped over.

The second part of the Kunlun Station was a garage. It was simpler in structure than the Hab… It was simply a container where the crewed Martian rovers were typically parked.

Tang Yue checked on the batteries first.

The backup battery was already fully charged. This power system mainly provided energy for the life support system during the night. After the sun set, the solar panels wouldn’t be of any use; therefore, it was imperative that Tang Yue put them away to prevent any dust storms from damaging them.

“Are you heading out to bring in the solar panels?” Tomcat asked.

Tang Yue took down the EVA 1 suit hanging on the wall and said, “That’s right. It’ll be getting dark soon. I need to bring them in.”

“Keep safe.” Tomcat nodded.

Tang Yue unzipped the zip at the back of the EVA suit before bending over to wriggle in. The EVA suit was a very heavy piece of equipment. It had a mass of sixty kilograms, but thanks to Mars’s gravity being only 40% of Earth’s, wearing this thing, that had a mass of sixty kilograms, felt as though it weighed twenty-four kilograms on Earth.

Tomcat came over to help Tang Yue pull up the zipper before latching on the massive life support system.

The life support system was shaped like a luggage bag, and in it was all the equipment needed to keep Tang Yue alive. As long as he left the Kunlun Station, he needed to carry this turtle shell.

The green LED light inside the visor lit up, indicating that the life support system was online and the EVA suit was operating normally.

“Radiant Armor is in normal working condition. The airtight seal is working fine.” Tang Yue spoke to Tomcat through the earpiece and gave a thumbs up.

Tomcat patted Tang Yue’s visor and raised up the thumb on its claws.

Radiant Armor was what the scientific team nicknamed the EVA suit. It was simply too heavy and bulky, and it was mostly rigid, making the upper half of the EVA suit a hard shell. The visor and shoulders were fixed in place together. The limb joints were connected by alloys and steel rims. It was akin to wearing armor from ancient times.

Wearing Radiant Armor outside the Hab gave one the feeling that they were about to face Martians in battle.

Tang Yue didn’t like the suit as he couldn’t even bend when wearing the Radiant Armor.

“Good luck!” Tomcat’s voice sounded over the earpiece. Tang Yue looked up and saw Tomcat standing in the hall, waving.

Tang Yue nodded and, with great difficulty, turned around before opening the door to the airlock.

Once he had donned the EVA suit, Tang Yue felt isolated from the world. On the one hand, the noise isolation effects of the visor were very good. Once his head had reached the visor, the noise around him seemed to drown out into the distance. On the other hand, the EVA suit was just too thick. Tang Yue didn’t feel as though he was wearing something, but more like he had entered a room.

The airlock was a cylindrical chamber that reached out transversely. The Hab was on one end, while the other end was the exit to the Kunlun Station.

The airlock was six meters long and had a diameter of three meters. The two ends had doors that resembled a vault’s door. Tang Yue had to lower his body slightly to enter the airlock before turning around to close the airlock’s door behind him and ensuring that there was a seal.

Through the observational glass window, above the chamber, he could clearly see Tomcat.

Tang Yue walked across the airlock as it depressurized. Following that, he stood at the entrance of Kunlun Station. The instant the airlock opened its doors to connect to the Martian atmosphere outside, a red warning light lit up.

Atmospheric pressure on Mars was a hundredth of Earth’s. Without donning an EVA suit, Tang Yue wouldn’t live a minute outside.

“How’s the situation?” Tomcat asked.

“I’m out. It feels alright.”

Tang Yue took a deep breath as the grand, expansive desert of Mars presented itself to him. The sun was already setting in the west and the sky was gradually becoming dark.

The garage storing the Martian rover wasn’t too far away. Further off was the huge Eagle. The white lander stood erect over the sand, its smooth, soft lines contrasted starkly with the crude and wild desert around it.

The empty space before the Kunlun Station was where the array of solar panels was situated.

The intensity of the sunlight received on Mars were not even half of the Earth, which meant that one needed even more solar panels on Mars to provide for Kunlun Station.

The Kunlun Station’s main energy source stemmed from the array of solar panels that consisted of more than forty panels. The total power it could produce was 9,000 watts. When fully laid out, it could occupy half a standard sports field of four hundred meters.

Every morning, Tang Yue had to manually open up the panels. And in the evening, Tang Yue had to take them back indoors before the sun set.

After sunset, Mars’s surface temperature would drop to –80°C. At times, it could even plunge to –100°C. Such low temperatures would drastically reduce the lifespan of the solar batteries.

There were no spare solar panels. Every panel broken meant one less; therefore, Tang Yue needed to properly maintain them.

Tang Yue held a brush in his hand as he began cleaning the dust off the panel. After cleaning them, he would move them back to the garage.

Due to the thin atmosphere, the wind on Mars wasn’t like Earth, but dust storms would still happen. This fine particulate would land on the solar panels, with a possibility of finding themselves in the cracks of the circuitry or block the heat exhaust vents, causing short circuits or disconnections. Therefore, Tang Yue needed to clean them daily.

“Tang Yue.” Tomcat’s voice sounded over the earpiece.

“Yes? I’m here.”

Tang Yue knelt on the ground. As the EVA suit was hard-shell, with his torso unable to bend or turn, all the tools in Kunlun Station had long handles. It was to reduce the need for astronauts to bend their backs.

Tang Yue pushed up the light-filtering visor and held a long-handled brush in one hand as he carefully cleaned a panel.

“How many resources do you plan on sending Miss Mai Dong?” Tomcat asked. “I need it for the planning.”

Tang Yue stopped the work he was doing and thought.