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Simulating A Manned Exploration Of Mars:

Reconnaissance And Results

Copyright © 2011 Alex Feinman, SmashWords Edition

In retrospect we should have realized sooner that the aliens were messing with us. But that's water under the bridge now, and anyway, I wouldn't change a minute if I could. Except maybe the puking.

The first clue was on Tuesday at 2108. I know, because I logged it, like I logged everything. There wasn't much to do in the Hab except log things, play poker, surf the web, and try to find a quiet corner to nod off in some fake kind of privacy. Thirteen people in a metal tube eight meters across, out in the middle of the Arizona desert. For "realism" we'd stuck a fifteen minute delay on the internet feeds, which made web surfing an exercise in patience. Much like the perpetual quest for enough funding to keep the program afloat.

At 2018 I was staring out the porthole at the sunset--nothing much, just a smooth wash of purple on the horizon--when I saw a green blip near the sun. A little flash; nothing big, nothing like you'd write home about. Except I was bored. So I logged it, and promptly forgot it, until Wednesday afternoon when we were trying to figure out when it all went wrong.

Jason and I had pulled the short straw for one of the fake EVAs. This was double torture; not only did we have to wear cumbersome surplus space suits, but you got to spend time outside knowing fresh air and relief from the scent of old socks was only a few mils of plastic away.

Jason turned on the air in my surplus spacesuit and a clammy stink filled my nostrils. He gave the bumbling ride-along robot a good yank. The damn APEL--our Autonomously Programmed Electronic Loader, and never let grad students name your hardware projects--was really more of a self-propelled shopping cart than a robot.

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