Mars for Beginners
Mars for Beginners.
Mars UWP: A450546-8 IC
Type: Terrestrial Planet
Size: Approximately 0.5 Earths by Mass
Gravity: 0.375 g
Surface Pressure: 1 kPascal
Surface Composition: Primarily a basalt rock base containing some silica glass. Surface covered in finely grained iron-oxide dust.
Atmosphere: Carbon Dioxide (95%), with traces of Argon, Carbon Monoxide, Krypton, Neon, Nitrogen, Ozone, Xenon, and Water,
Cloud Layer Temperature: Around −125° C/-193° F.
Day: 24.6 Hours
Year: 1.8 Earth-Standard Years
Satellites: Formerly 2, now a loosely formed ring
The Red Money Pit
For as long as humanity has realized that the red light in the sky was a planet, there has been a need to set foot on that planet and make it a home for humanity. Centuries of missions were planned and executed to assess the scientific and economical viability of a permanent settlement on Mars. Nearly all of these missions found great possibility in the natural resources of Mars. In most cases, if we could have just overcome one or two hurdles, the collection of resources from the planet could have led to fortunes. 112 years ago, the first permanent settlement was created on the surface of Mars. Deep within the 4000 km/2485 mile long Valles Marineris canyon. The settlement, a joint effort by all space faring nations on the planet Earth, was built at the lowest point of the canyon (7 km/4 miles from the surface) to provide as much protection as possible from the dust storms, solar winds, radiation and meteorite impacts. Simply called Mars Base, the personnel set about expanding the facility and digging for the materials needed to support the even larger community they hoped to build along the valley floor. 15 years after Mars Base was established, the Mars Space Elevator was completed. This breakthrough was critical to the delivery of materials to orbital ships for transport home. Even though the escape velocity of Mars is much less than that of Earth, to use rockets or shuttles to get materials to orbit for transport back home would be very cost prohibitive. The tether which connects the main base in the Valles Marineris to Mars’ single orbital station allows for materials to be delivered to the surface and offloaded to orbiting freighters without having to land on the planet. The strength of the tether also allows for the access to the main base from orbit during the dust storms that make planetary flight very dangerous. As the Space Elevator became operational, the first of the current twelve atmospheric processors went online to begin the conversion and generation of the canyon’s weak Martian atmosphere to a human breathable environment. Along with these converters, the floor of the canyon began to fill with domed enclosures that housed mining facilities. Housing for the mining personnel and their families was created to support long-term life on the planet. In the beginning, the mining operations on Mars produced better than anyone ever hoped. Jobs were plentiful and calls to Earth for more settlers brought shuttle after shuttle of people hoping to cash in on the prosperity. Unfortunately, this did not last. The dig sites all began to encounter a material in the ground that was incredibly hard to drill, blast, or bore through. The material was useless to the miners and no one could find a way to profit from it. Worse still, all indications were that this material was present all over the planet. The mining operations were shut down or severely curtailed in most locations. Unemployment rose and, with no way to return home for most of the settlers, the sheen of the new home for humanity began to fade. Tourism began to lag behind the more exotic locations found on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
However, the planet had one final message to the people of Earth that thought that life could be restored to Mars – one year ago the moon Diemos radically shifted orbit and swung into the path of Phobos. The impact shattered the moons and blanketed the orbit of Mars with millions of particles of space debris. Much of this debris rained down in a hail of meteorites that peppered the planet for days on end. The settlements in low-lying areas saved them from the worst of the damage. The Space Elevator sustained massive damage and was offline for nearly nine months. The dust storms created by the impact of so many meteorites continues to blanket the planet to this day. Solar collectors struggle to collect the little sunlight that sneaks through the clouds above.
By the year 2060, the original settlement, now going by the name Mariner Valley, housed over 400,000 people. It has developed into a thriving community of close knit colonists – all very proud of their lineage as Martian settlers. Subsequent bases were created in the caves found in the flanks of the Arsia Mons volcano. The settlements, named after female loved ones of the original discoverers of the caves (Abbey, Annie, Chloe, Dena, Jeanne, Nikki, and Wendy, were small but the caves provided a safe environment with natural barriers to radiation and meteor impacts. Collectively called the Seven Sisters, the bases were created to provide a secondary agricultural center for all of Mars. In case a disaster struck the main facilities in Mariner Valley, food supplies could still be maintained from the Sisters.
Other smaller research bases have been constructed near the poles, but these are domed facilities without the benefit of atmospheric conditioning. Most of these are corporate-owned facilities that allow for off-world testing of items the Unified World Council would never permit back home.
Life on Mars
The heart of Martian life remains in Mariner Valley. All the comforts expected on Earth were available as the corporations shipped goods and products to Mars to support the people there. Many corporations with interests already committed to the Mars colony have set up branch offices. It was once considered the height of power and prestige to hold corporate annual meetings in the expansive Business Center created on the upper rim of the canyon. From the view stations located under the armoured meteorite canopy, it was possible to see the entire colony as it spread across the floor of the valley. To support the growing population and attract tourism, the corporations funneled money into all forms of entertainment and development. There are high-class theaters, restaurants and bars. There is even a large domed park where Founders square, a site dedicated to the original settlers, is located. The agricultural colonies located in the Seven Sisters region have remained as isolated and separate as most rural communities – the residents are perfectly happy with that arrangement. These days especially, prostitution, drugs, and other criminal endeavors are as evident here as anywhere else people exist. The criminal element has had to adapt to a more mobile setup, due to the lack of space in the colony, with no organization staying in one place for very long. A series of signals and marks placed around the community will lead those looking for a not so ethical good time to the correct location. Life continues on Mars because there is no place for these people to go. There are still jobs and healthy commerce because the corporations are being kindly blackmailed by the UWC into staying there during this crisis. There is little hope that, should things return to some form of normalcy, that the perceived economic boom will ever take place. The people who have been caught in this cross-fire of inhospitable conditions and economic crisis need something to bolster their spirits and, unfortunately, there are many who have been so crushed that they fall prey to fringe religious cults or criminal endeavour.
Near-Earth: Mars has been in the process of being terraformed for decades. As a result, the atmosphere has started to approach a point that it is habitable- at least within the (relative) safety of the Mariner Valley. However, note that it is only approaching that point – it still has several decades to go before it will truly be habitable. A person can survive unprotected on the surface of Mars for several hours, so long as he does not exert himself. With a simple breathing mask, this period can be extended indefinitely. Space stations and colonies with severely damaged environmental systems can also fall under this category of atmosphere. If exerting oneself in a Near-Earth type of atmosphere, a character must make a 8+ End check each turn. Failure results in the character being unable to do anything more than move half his normal distance, as he tries to catch his breath. If this check is failed three turns in a row, the character falls unconscious and can only be revived once a sufficient supply of oxygen has been provided.
Arctic: Arctic environments are those which average less than 0-degrees Fahrenheit. A character will need to wear an environmental suit or risk freezing to death. Each turn a character is exposed to an arctic environment, he must make an End 8+ check. Failure
causes a -1 DM to all activities, physical or mental, until the character can get warmed up. This DM is cumulative with each failure. When the total number of failures equals the Endurance of the character, he will lose consciousness and freeze to death in a number
of rounds equal to twice his Endurance.
Super-Cold: This environment is so cold (-100 degrees Fahrenheit or less) that merely being exposed to it for a few moments can result in severe frostbite. A character cannot operate in a super-cold situation at all without wearing an environmental suit. If exposed to a super-cold clime, the character cannot do anything more than stagger forward at half his normal speed and will freeze to death in a number of rounds equal to half his Endurance.
Terraforming: Terraforming utilises Resslin Atmospheric Processors (or RAPs for short). RAPs are massive structures that resemble a large pinecone. Each of the ‘leaves’ that give the RAP its unique appearance contain a series of atmospheric scrubbers and converters that take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Filters work to scrub other aspects of the atmosphere until those elements have been reduced to a point that is safe for humans to breathe. Pumps deep inside drive the cleaned and scrubbed atmosphere up through a series of cables to a distribution node that flies two miles up. The process of terraforming requires decades to complete. As the atmosphere is scrubbed, basic forms of algae are introduced that help convert the atmosphere. Dozens of RAPs are positioned evenly across the surface of the world to accelerate the conversion. Finally millions of tons of water vapour are introduced in order to thicken the atmosphere and ensure there is enough water to support the developing ecosystem. This water vapor is generally mined from comets by specially designed mining barges.
The current effort to convert the Martian environment into something compatible with human existence is well underway, though it will be several decades before the process is complete. As things stand, a human can survive outside without aid for limited periods, though any strenuous activity limits this even further. The Amazonis Planitia is covered in various species of algae, giving it the appearance of a vast grassy field from space. Other vast patches of algae can also be found spread across the surface. It is expected that within the next decade, more complex forms of plant life capable of surviving in cold regions will be introduced into the system.
Mars Suit: a woven mesh bodysuit, often with a flexible hood which is not normally raised. This is nowadays fairly light and worn only as an underlayer, with overalls, ponchos etc being worn on the outside. The weight is negligible but provides DR 2. If skin is penetrated the mesh protects the body with the contracting mesh, resulting in blistering but no other effects. A gel layer seals smaller holes. The suit adds +2 to cold End rolls; heated versions negate any need for a roll up to -60 celsius, and otherwise add +4. (Cr500, + Cr 500 heated).
Up on the main plateau itself, outside the Mariner Valley deeps, a fully enclosed vacc suit is still required.
Overgarments: over the mars suit are worn tough jackets, overalls, trousers or ponchos. These are typically padded and often contain radiation shielding material for additional protection. (Cr 500)
Headwear: a breath mask is always worn, as are ear protection and eye goggles due to the amount of dust in the atmosphere. In some instances this takes the form of a full enclosed helmet. Even if it isn’t the outdoor mars settler will still wear head and face coverings, and probably a hat of some sort. Skin is not really left exposed. (Cr 1000)