Martin on Mars – Down the Tubes – Day 3

Martin Coswell : April 10, 2151

Detective Log: Mars 3

I had a slight hangover today. Martian beer has some kick to it, and the whatever that was we sucked through the suit tubes didn’t help much either.  Constable Broderick messaged me sometime during the night. A check with the gymnasium revealed the sudden disappearance of the person known as Robert Kurst, the trainer that Daughtry identified as a person of interest in the case. A subsequent security check showed that Kurst had passed through several airlocks in the agricultural sector the day after the murder.  Broderick invited me with him to go in search of this individual today.

A little computer research discovered something that I wasn’t aware of. One of the reasons the city had been built here on Olympus Mons was because right beneath the largest known volcano is also the largest known system of lava tubes. The volcano itself occupies an area a little smaller than the size of France. The main city dome is located overtop of one of the six calderas. The calderas are the locations on the mountain where the lava flows erupted over millions of years. It’s estimated that the first of these eruptions occurred over three-hundred and fifty million years ago. The largest of Olympus Mons’s domes is the city dome, but it is only one of several domes. These smaller domes cap off multiple openings of collapsed lava tubes that fan out across Olympus Mons. These readymade habitats were discovered in the early days of robot and satellite exploration on the red planet. Olympus Mons is a treasure trove of such natural underground radiation proof chambers. Most of Mars’ agriculture occurs in these tubes. Kilometers and kilometers of underground fields grow and are harvested to feed the Martian population. The idea intrigued me, and I just had see this incredible thing.

After some walking and elevator rides, Broderick and I came through a series of airlocks. Some of which we were required to spend a little time acclimating ourselves to the pressure changes. According to what I’d read earlier, the tubes are pressurized only to four-hundred sixty-six mbars. That’s equivalent to climbing a mountain on Earth to twenty-thousand feet or about sixty-one hundred meters. That’s below the death zone for humans, but still within the limits of plant transpiration and photosynthesis. The oxygen created by the plants is recycled back into the living spaces, and vice versa. The co2 is pumped back into the gardening areas. Not that there isn’t plenty of c02 to go around on Mars, but this works well for C02 scrubbing, and requires less pumping energy. Sudden exposure to four-hundred sixty-six mbars is not fatal, although it would certainly trigger extreme altitude sickness. As it was, after the sixth airlock I was already feeling a little light headed, and was informed that we would be spending the night at the 600 mbar level to allow our bodies to acclimatize even more before we could continue on.

The pressure changes didn’t seem to affect Broderick in the least, so I assume that he’s made similar trips several times in his years living here on Mars. When we arrived at edge the of Harvard Tube by evening, I was exhausted and breathing hard. I was given a bottle of acetazolamide, an altitude sickness drug, which I was instructed to take every six hours until we return to Olympus.

I’ve had some trouble falling asleep, but the pills must have kicked in because I’ve started to breathe a little easier.  I can’t wait to get this trip over with and find Kurst so we can get back to Olympus where the air is normal.