Weir returns to Watney’s log. It’s now Sol 79, and Watney has been driving for eight days. He’s saving his urine and feces in plastic boxes—when he gets back to the Hab, he’ll run the urine through the water reclaimer and compost his “manure” for the potato farm. The RTG, the solar cells, and batteries are working as planned. While the solar cells charge for twelve hours each day, he reads Poirot novels and watches Lewis’ seventies TV shows. The days are becoming repetitive and routine.
Weir juxtaposes Watney’s sense of boredom with the far-from-ordinary fact that he is driving on Mars. This renders Watney’s matter-of-fact log entry slightly surreal. Watney maintains his connection to the more mundane routines of life on earth by reading Poirot and watching Lewis’ TV shows.
Sol 80. Watney is 100 km from Pathfinder. He had hoped to navigate by landmarks, but the landscape is too uniform, so instead he navigates by the star Phobos, which rises and sets twice a day. On Sol 75, he reached a valley and decided to name it after Lewis. On Sol 77, he reached an unnamed small crater that’s on his map, and he named it Lighthouse of Alexandria. From here on out, he’ll use the Lighthouse and Hamelin crater to navigate.
Watney’s ability to navigate by the star Phobos shows, once again, that, though his specialties are botany and engineering, he has a lot of other practical knowledge, too. Watney’s decision to name a valley after Lewis shows that, even in their absence, Watney thinks about and cares about the rest of the crew.
Sol 81. Watney has run out of battery power just 22 km from Pathfinder. While waiting for the panels to recharge the battery, he takes a walk and thinks about how he’s the first human to walk here, the first to spend more than 31 sols on Mars, and the first to grow crops on Mars. He was the seventeenth person to set foot on Mars, the fifth member of the Ares 3 crew to do so. He admits that he misses the crew—he’d give anything, he says, to have a five-minute conversation with another human. Watney realizes that he’s the first person to be alone on a planet. Then, pulling himself together, he reminds himself that the log is a conversation with his future readers—someone will know what he thought and experienced, even if he dies on Mars. And if he recovers Pathtfinder’s radio, he’ll be reconnected with other people before he dies.
Watney doesn’t often take time to think about what it means to him to be alone on Mars, and though he mentions members of the Ares 3 crew often, he rarely says outright that he misses them, or even that he misses human contact. In the context of Dr. Shields’ earlier comments, Watney’s acknowledgement that the log connects him to the people who will eventually read it and his hope that he will connect with another person before he dies seem to show that Dr. Shields’ assessment of Watney’s likely mental and emotional state was accurate.
Sol 82. Watney has found the Pathfinder lander and the Sojourner rover that accompanied it to Mars. He’ll bring both back. The whole lander is too big to bring back, but he is able to use a crowbar to remove the probe (the part with the radio), and he digs and pulls it out of the sand. The probe is heavy, and Watney now needs to get it on the roof. He stacks the solar panels into one (rather than two) stacks on the roof to make room. He’ll move the probe onto the roof the next morning before he leaves. Watney explains that Sojourner is useful to him because it has six independent wheels, which NASA could control—they could potentially work out a communication code using the moving wheels.
The process of digging up the probe shows that creative thinking and physical labor play just as important a role in Watney’s bid for survival as the complicated technology of the rover, probe, and Sojourner do. Watney’s mention of using the Sojourner’s wheels to develop a communication code highlights that, even if he gets the comm systems back online, exchanging messages with NASA is likely to require some ingenuity.
Sol 83. To get the Pathfinder lander onto the roof, Watney builds a ramp out of rocks and sand next to the rover. Then he carries the lander up the ramp and ties it to the roof. The grueling part of the process is moving rocks while wearing the heavy EVA suit. Then, he takes apart the ramp. Tomorrow, he’ll start the drive back to the Hab.
The fact that the process of moving the probe onto the roof of the Rover is made even more arduous by the EVA suit shows how the technology that allows Watney to survive on Mars can simultaneously make his work harder.