Back at NASA, Mitch, Mindy, Venkat, and Bruce examine satellite images of the crash for any sign that Watney is alive. Watney’s Sol 498 log entry reveals that he is not injured, and nothing in the rover seems to be broken. He does an EVA to check out the damage. The trailer’s inflated roof, miraculously, did not pop. The rover’s tow hook is ruined, but Watney has a spare. Some of the solar cells are trapped under the rover, but Watney collects the rest and sets them up to charge the batteries. He writes a message for NASA: Rolled. Fixing now. Back on Earth, Mindy and Venkat groan at the lack of information.
Weir once again moves between NASA and Watney’s log entry to build suspense and to remind readers that, though NASA is observing Watney, they cannot help him. Though Watney has often been unlucky, here he is fortunate that the rover was not more damaged by the crash. His terse message for NASA implies a confident, matter-of-fact approach to this new problem. Watney has dealt with much worse already.
Sol 499. Watney connects a long power cable to the rover, then uses the sample drill to anchor the other end of the cable to a rock. The power cable provides enough leverage for Watney to tip the rover back onto its wheels. Sol 500. Watney digs a hole downhill of the trailer, then uses the rover to drag the trailer towards the hole. The nose of the trailer catches, and the trailer flips upright. Sol 501. Watney checks out the trailer. The atmospheric regulator and oxygenator are working perfectly. Watney refills the RTG’s water tank, which spilled when the trailer rolled, reconnects the hoses between the rover and trailer, and uses the spare tow hood to connect the trailer to the rover. He’ll start traveling again tomorrow.
Once again, Watney is able to solve the problem at hand by thinking creatively and re-purposing the tools that NASA sent with him to Mars. While many of Watney’s previous problems have required him to apply principles of chemistry or botany, here he’s dealing with physics. Once again, his background in the sciences does not fail him. Readers are aware, though, that Watney is lucky that the damage is not more severe—he does not have the same resources with him that he did back at the Hab.
Back on Earth, Mindy informs Mitch, Bruce, Venkat, and Annie that Watney’s Morse code message indicates he’s fixed everything. Venkat asks Bruce about the plan for MAV modifications, but Bruce says he’ll fill Venkat in on them in private. Mindy informs them that Watney should reach the MAV on Sol 504 or Sol 505.
Weir uses this scene to give readers information and to build suspense. Mindy’s announcement tells us just how close Watney is to the end of his journey, and Bruce’s comment leaves readers wondering why he avoids discussing the MAV.
Sol 502. Watney reminisces about how slowly and cautiously his father used to drive. Now, to avoid rolling again, Watney is driving even more slowly than his father used to. He reaches the Shiaparelli Basin and eats his “survived something that should have killed me” meal pack.
Earlier in the novel, when Watney thought he might never see his family again, he rarely mentioned them. But now that he is closer to the MAV and to rescue, he seems more comfortable writing in the log about his emotions.
Sol 504. Watney’s radio briefly catches a signal from the MAV. Weir switches to the third-person narrator, who describes Watney’s rover approaching the MAV and parking outside. Watney emerges from the rover in his EVA suit, leaps and pumps his fist, then enters the MAV.
Usually, when Weir switches to the third-person narrator, disaster strikes—but here, that pattern changes. Instead, readers watch from the narrator’s removed perspective as Watney celebrates his arrival at the MAV.