Mission Date 688
We have done a tremendous amount of damage and we still have to get home.
That's the good news. The bad news is: I'm in worse shape than the Hermes.
NASA spent a lot of time and brainpower figuring out how to get my physical body reunited with outer space; it didn't much care what condition I was in so long as that condition was "alive". I've also spent a year and a half on survival rations while doing my fair share of heavy labor, eating packaged food and potatoes, so you can imagine how much the assorted medical personnel back on Earth are crying right now. I've got rib problems, back problems, muscle problems, and whatever the physical result of the 589 Sols of stress ends up being. And for extra bonus points, Beck has been worrying over one of my knees. He doesn't think full gravity is going to be good for it.
Oh, and no one's sure just how much radiation I've been exposed to or what it's going to do to me. So there's that. The most definitive answer I've gotten is "possibly a lot, probably nothing good, and, no, Watney, you are not going to be turning into the Incredible Hulk, stop asking". Killjoys.
Also good (terrible?) news: no need to quarantine me to see if I've gotten Space Chicken Pox, since I'm going to be quarantined with 5 other people for half a year! (And then we'll be quarantined again when we get home.) This is like the set-up for a terrible B-movie, the kind they used to show on Syfy when I was in high school or that me and some friends would hack together with a GoPro and some pirated software. Dum dum dum, Mark Watney has survived Mars, but can he survive... THE VOYAGE HOME?
We've got 210 days until Earth. Do we survive? Tune in to find out.
Mission Date 690
They brought my parents in to Mission Control and we talked, for values of "talking" that include massive time lags and more eavesdroppers than I can imagine. It's kinda weird, since they sat shiva for me and everything, and it turns out cousin Eva out in Nevada named her son for me, thinking I was dead, so that's going to be awkward. They are very insistently proud of me, though. But they've been through the wringer and it was pretty obvious, even in those circumstances. NASA's been treating them right, but the media--
I'd kinda forgotten about the media.
NASA had kept reminding me that everything I did was being watched by the world, and all my communication was being broadcast, but that was just me, you know? I didn't realize my mom's neighbors were tsking over her having raised a son who made boob jokes in public. "My son is a doctor, and your son went to Mars and needed to make bad jokes to cope with his situation. If he'd wanted to make bad jokes in a barren land, he could have gotten a gig on Comedy Central."
Oh, fuck, when my logs get published, I am going to be in such shit with my parents. They're going to ground me. They will find a way. I'm going to be under lock and key in my childhood bedroom, the walls still plastered with Cubs posters, probably that dead cactus still in the corner, and my parents are not going to let me out until I apologize to everyone they have ever met for being a total embarrassment. Is it too late to redact my logs? They're going to let me redact them, right? Oh, fuck, I'm fucked. I didn't write that log thinking I was going to live! It's not fair that people are going to be able to read it while I'm still alive. Argh. Mark Watney: survived Mars, did not survive disappointing his parents.
Naturally, they say none of this on the phone. They are proud, they are worried, they know my ordeal isn't over yet, they know recovery will be long, and they love me very much. And that's sweet of them and all, but all I can think is: I'm fucked.
Mission Date 699
Crew meeting today went as normal, but then Lewis uncomfortably pulled out a list of Discussion Questions the shrinks had sent along, and we had a very uncomfortable ten minute talk about our feelings. Lewis encouraged us to air any resentments, with the attitude of a career military woman addressing another career military member and four civilians who take her orders. So that went fast. No resentments here!
Later, in smaller groups, while we were doing the science assignments or trying to fix bits of the Hermes that were slowly falling apart, we did actually discuss what they wanted us to talk about. But, look, we're not going to tell Lewis anything. Lewis still blames herself for leaving me behind, so if I feel resentment towards her for leaving me there? I am never going to say a fucking word to her about it. I could have fifty kilos of concrete on my chest and I will never tell Lewis anything other than she made the right decision, because she did make the right decision. But it was the right decision that nearly got me killed several times over, so it's human to be resentful. It would just be monstrous to tell her that, fuck no, that's not happening.
Martinez is a little upset he's not seeing his kid, and he's been making plans for his Post-Hermes Life that include a lot of staying in one place. He's getting out and is going to be staying home with his son, to hear him tell it. Don't know if his wife knows about that plan yet, but Martinez and his wife have been together for a while. They'll work it out. Me, I'm just wondering if I can get into the uncle-ing business. Hey, his kid's real cute, and I'm going to need a plan to avoid my parents and their attempts at grandchildren. Which are going to be so aggressive now, let me tell you. I'm the only child, so I'm the only hope of grandkids, and now I just got myself stuck on Mars.
Um, I wonder if Beck is equipped to tell me if Mars ate my ability to father children. (I shouldn't ask. He would totally Resent that. He and Johanssen have been annoyed that no one packed condoms on a voyage to Mars.)
Mission Date 714
It's my birthday and I'll duct-tape the Hermes back together, if I want to! Duct-tape the Hermes back together, if I want to! Duct-tape the Hermes back together, if I want to! You would duct-tape, too, if it happened to you!
Hmm. My lyrics may need some work. But I am an engineer and I am holding duct tape, I can do anything.
Mission Date 735
Hey, speaking of kids and awkward situations, Martinez's wife sent him a message. He hasn't been keeping to their kid-spacing plan they put together and got notarized (nerds!), so she's gone ahead and used "the insurance". And now she's two months along, so congratulations, Martinez, you're going to be a dad again.
Lewis put Martinez to work on breaking a few things, but we're all steering clear. Johanssen officially does the math and Martinez will be home in time for the birth, but who knows what kind of medical clearance we're going to need to do once we get home to make sure none of us caught Space Chicken Pox.
"I am naming the kid after you, Watney," Martinez says, finding me fixing some cabling. He looks a little too eager to put a dent in my skull. "Because this is your fault. I left those samples in case my balls got shot off! Not in case my idiot crewmate couldn't keep his head in a storm!"
"Hey!" I say, a little insulted.
Martinez shakes me a few times and then goes to contact Earth, presumably to rant to Marissa about how much of a loser I am, and obsessively worry over how she's feeling, if little David is ready for the responsibilities of big-brotherhood, and how Mark Watney is conspiring to ruin their family and everything it holds dear.
Mission Date 738
Thankfully for the sake of NASA's "Days Since A Homicide In Space" OSHA chart, Vogel settles Martinez down. For the last couple days, we've all had the awkward moment of walking in on Vogel and Martinez swapping baby pictures, talking about pregnancy, and just otherwise being Concerned Parents.
I owe Vogel a lot. The crew's told me about some of the behind the scenes stuff no one thought was important to tell Robinson Crusoe over here, and Vogel and his kids really saved my life. So I'm happy to look over baby pictures, too! I want to join their club!
Must look into honorary uncle-hood more. (I know I'm going to be getting a ton of honorary degrees out of this, so things of honorary nature are totally within my grasp.) Who knew that getting stranded on Mars for a year and a half would make you want to cuddle some babies? I'm not going to be lining up to have some of my own any time soon -- my parents are doing all that lining up for me, thanks -- but being able to hold a baby would be nice. The human race is going to continue. And to do that, it must spit up and vomit and shit and piss and scream a lot. Humanity is a beautiful thing.
Also, you can dress a baby in a space suit onesie and stage Martian rescue photos. I want to get in on that.
Mission Date 761
By my count, Beck and Johanssen have broken up three different times so far on this extended mission, and that's not including any times I wasn't present for.
Naturally, this is why Johanssen volunteered to help me with my physical therapy today, and then proceed to ask me how I felt about threesomes. They're the spice of life, providing useful variety, but, dude, 1) Beck and Johanssen are both my friends, 2) they are totally only asking me because I'm the only other single person on this mission, and 3) we are stuck in a tin can far above the world. This really isn't the place to make relationship decisions.
"I know, and I agree," Johanssen says, "but then life surprises you and you happen to fall in love with guy you're stuck in close quarters with for a year. Ugh, proximity effects," she groans.
"Sorry you're going through that?" I try.
"We're broken up for good this time," Johanssen replies. "We're going to start over fresh back on Earth, when we're able to be in different places, and see how things go."
"Uh-huh," I agree.
Yeah, they're dating again by night shift.
Mission Date 790
Had a heart-to-heart with Lewis today about disco. I tried to sell her on something, anything, better, but, alas, she and her husband bonded over disco and disco shall always be their musical genre of choice. Sad. Well, I tried. Interventions don't always work.
I still feel I grew as a person, though, because after that, we had a truly special moment together cursing NASA and the instructions they sent for fixing the microwave.
Mission Date 826
My back gave out today, so Johanssen and Vogel are sitting with me, picking my brain for the debrief. I already wrote, like, four of these, but NASA just wants more, more, more. I'm as high as a kite, or as the Hermes, and Johanssen tells me that I always think I'm funnier than I really am, but when I'm high, I'm even worse, but, hey, I've got them both laughing, that goes in the win column.
Beck comes in to relieve Vogel and then there's a weird moment where me and Johanssen and Beck are all looking at each other, and then I blurt out, "a weasel ate my napkins," and Beck sighs and checks my dosage again.
So we are not in a bad science fiction B-movie, otherwise we totally would have had awesome monkey sex.
Mission Date 855
My glorious master's degree in botany has done me well these last couple years, but today I had a stare-down with my zero-G plants and they won.
"I am the master of botany, you must bow to my wishes," I told the plants. But they didn't listen, the ingrates.
I threatened to shove the carrots out of the airlock, but it didn't help. So, anyway, my plants are dying, everything sucks, woe is me.
But you know something? This is great! This is fantastic! I have made a huge breakthrough, I should tell the shrink. I am definitely telling Martinez. Because the experiment was a (total, total, complete and total) disaster and it utterly failed, and I didn't die. I don't need these carrots to survive! The Hermes has enough food to last six people until we get back to Earth! FAILURE IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE, BOO-YAH.
Oh, man, I am so happy I could cry. I am going to cry on these carrots and see if that brings them back to life, but even if it doesn't, fuck the carrots, I don't need them! They might have won the battle, but I have won the war!
Mission Date 855 (2)
Beck asked me what had gotten me so happy, so I told him. He gave me a lollipop*.
*specifically, an "IOU for one (1) lollipop of your choice of flavor, to be delivered no later than one Earth week after arrival, in recognition of, check one, a) not whining during a check-up, b) submitting your paperwork on time, c) doing your own blood work, d) obeying doctor's orders regarding recovery from stitches/surgery/your own stupidity, e) other patient-excellence not above listed".
Mission Date 895
Only a few days out from Earth, our crew meetings have been getting ridiculously emotional. Lewis told us it has been an honor. Martinez said you only get to say that if someone's about to die, so Commander, can you please not tempt the space gods. Beck said that if we were going to be talking feelings, he was terrified of getting home to discover his accountant hadn't been filing his taxes correctly and then the IRS would come to take him away. At this point, Johanssen punched him in the arm. Vogel invited us to his place for every German holiday he could think of, and some I think he made up. And I apologized again for making them be on half-rations for a month while I got myself up to regulation weight. We did not have a group hug, because we are sober serious professional astronauts who have spent longer in space than anyone else ever, who have done great things in the name of science and in saving lives.
Okay, I cried on Martinez's shoulder, fine. And then he patted my back and told me I was his best friend on the crew, but no, he and his wife agreed that I would not get to be godfather for the upcoming kid. "Your luck is too bad," he said kindly. "I'm not having that rub off onto my baby girl."
Mission Date 897
We are practiced, we are briefed, we are ready. There's only the tiniest of chances any of us will ever be back in space again, even this close to Earth, so after we stopped spinning and lost the centrifugal gravity, Lewis let us have some fun and we did all the stupid shit that everyone does the first time they're in free fall. I am the undefeated backflip champion of the Hermes crew and I will take that accomplishment with me to the grave. Which could be very soon if something gets fucked up on re-entry.
Earth Date 1
Anyone who tells you that I kissed the ground is a dirty, rotten liar. I don't care if everyone on the planet saw it. A liar.