On Sol 7, Watney assesses his odds of survival. The crew evacuated the Hab while wearing flight spacesuits, so Watney’s EVA suit (and 5 other EVA suits) remain in the Hab. The satellite dish is nowhere to be seen. The MAV’s landing stage (including its fuel plant) remains on Mars. The MDV is seriously damaged, but could be used for parts. Both rovers are unharmed and the solar cell array still works. The Hab is unharmed and the oxygenator and water reclaimer are working perfectly. If he rations his food, Watney has 400 days of meals, plus extra vitamins. He also has enough morphine to commit suicide, so he won’t have to starve to death.
Watney’s first log entry began with the panicked realization that he would likely die, but he now approaches his situation in a more rational way: his methodical approach to problem-solving is beginning to take over. Though he has access to a fatal dose of morphine, Watney does not consider suicide, so we know that he hopes he can still survive. Weir also uses this passage to give readers information on the solar cell array, oxygenator, and water reclaimer.
Watney begins to develop a long-term plan for survival and rescue. The Ares 4 mission is slated to arrive in four years at the Schiaparelli crater, about 3200 km away. Though Watney knows it’s possible that NASA will cancel Ares 4 after his apparent death, he hopes that if he can figure out a way to communicate with Earth, it may be possible to arrange for a rescue. His first goal is to fix the satellite radio.
Just one day earlier, Watney believed he would die on Mars, so his new plans and his hope for survival show us how quickly he has bounced back from the shock of being left behind by the crew. Industrious, hopeful, and determined, Watney is eager to get to work.
Sol 10. After spending several days searching the surrounding area in the rover, Watney gives up on finding the communications dish. Watney has enough CO2 filters to last him for about 1500 hours of EVAs, so Watney decides to start “rationing” his EVAs as well as food.
Readers now know that Watney has no hope of communicating with Earth or the Hermes ship. Watney’s decision to ration food and EVAs shows that he plans to be on Mars for some time. It also emphasizes the urgency of a rescue.
Watney begins thinking about ways to grow food. As the mission’s botanist, he was going to see if he could grow anything in Martian soil and in Martian gravity. Martian soil is similar to Earth soil, but doesn’t have the bacterial activity or organic nutrients that living soil on Earth does, so Watney brought a small amount of Earth soil with him, and seeds for ferns and grasses. Watney isn’t yet sure how to turn this into a food source.
Though Watney’s botany expertise and the fact that he has Earth soil (which can sustain life) offer readers the hope that he can find a way to grow food, Watney’s own uncertainty about how to do this leaves us in suspense. It is unclear how long he’ll be able to survive on Mars.
Sol 11. Watney writes one sentence: “I wonder how the Cubs are doing.”
Watney might really want to know how the Cubs are, but his decision to ask this in the log highlights his tendency towards snarky, glib humor.
Sol 14. Watney has begun saving his feces and the leftovers from his meals to use as “compost.” He plans to mix all this organic matter with Martian soil and Earth soil—the bacteria living in the Earth soil will spread through the rest of the soil and compost, converting it all to crop soil. Then, he’ll cover the floor of the Hab (92 square meters) with crop soil and plant beans, peas, and potatoes, which he has found in the Hab food supply. Since he has vitamins, he just needs his food to provide calories.
Watney’s plan to use compost, Martian soil, and Earth soil gives readers new hope that he’ll be able to grow food. Though his survival is far from guaranteed, it seems that he has a plan that might keep himself alive until the Ares 4 mission.
Sol 16. Watney realizes that the Hab does not have enough water to irrigate the crops he plans to grow. Adjusting his plan, he decides to he’ll ultimately cover only 2/3 of the Hab’s floor (62.5 square meters) with soil. This will save 50 liters of water, which he can then cycle through the water reclaimer, for himself. For now, he’s making a “planter” of just 5 square meters in order to test the process.
A new problem has arisen, but Watney soon finds a way to solve it by making his water use more efficient and scaling down the area that he’ll cover with soil. This pattern of finding and the solving a problem will continue to drive much of the novel’s action
While he works, Watney starts thinking about his family in Chicago. Today is Thanksgiving, which means his parents would normally be hosting a dinner, but they’re probably still in the midst of mourning Watney’s death. He wishes he could tell them that he’s alive.
This is the reader’s first glimpse of Watney’s life on Earth. His reticence to write about his family may show just how much he misses them—perhaps he’s not allowing himself to think about them too much.
Sol 22. Watney has now covered 2/3 of the 62.5 square meter area with soil. The soil is developing well. He has also been listening to his crewmate Johanssen’s Beatles music, which she left behind in the evacuation. Doing some math, Watney realizes that the potatoes he grows on his 62.5 square meters will only feed him for 90 days. This means he now has food supplies through Sol 490, but the next planned Mars mission, Ares 4, won’t land until Sol 1412. He needs more food.
Watney finds another flaw in his plan to grow potatoes, which shows that his fight for survival is far from over. For Watney, listening to music seems to be more than just a way to pass the time—readers can infer that the music helps him stay connected to life on Earth and to his memories of his crewmates and friends.