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Formatted by Jo Harrison

Pathfinder: Mission to Mars

By Doug Turnbull

“Helen, let me introduce Hector Rodriguez. As we discussed at the last staff meeting, Hector will be working with you for the next few months as a part of his training for the Pathfinder Mission.” The speaker was Harold Tillman, the vice president in charge of site construction, and her boss.

The three of them stood near one side of a rectangular room about sixty feet wide and ninety feet long. All of the ceiling beams and ductworks were in plain view, and the structure could have been a warehouse as easily as what it was: the control room for a remote construction site. The space was devoid of any non-functional furniture, decoration, or other accoutrements. On one wall were multiple LED screens projecting images of several portions of the worksite: one displayed a panoramic view of the entire site, while another showed a diagram of the whole structure, with finished sections, sections under construction, and planned sections depicted in different colors. A large electronic sign was perched above the displays with the words SCHIAPARELLI STATION glowing in block letters. Judging by the desolate terrain, the construction site could have been almost anywhere in the desert near Tucson, Arizona, where this building stood.

A dozen workstations were arrayed in a semicircle facing the large screens, each with a seated technician in front of multiple smaller screens that depicted various portions of the worksite in more detail than the large screens on the wall. Each person in the room wore a patch on the right short sleeve of his or her shirt: a red circle, almost three inches wide, with the white letters “MC” across the center.

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