Unearthing: A Story Based on Port of Mars

Updated: May 23

by Patrick Rivers

Note: This is a work of fiction. This science fiction artefact was created by Patrick Rivers under the eLearning in Space pilot project of the Interplanetary Initiative at Arizona State University. The stories will also be featured in a simulated Mars habitat on a "SolarSPELL" device by the 5 Senses in Space team of the Interplanetary Initiative at ASU. These accounts describe the formal and informal learning experiences of interplanetary settlers, and give us insight into what resources, methodologies, and delivery systems will be needed in an interplanetary future.


Unearthing is the first significant artifact on the Port of Mars, the first established settlement on Mars. This log details the day-to-day (or on Mars, "sol-to-sol") activity in the Research Wing and the settlers’ learning habits.

The journal is written from the perspective of Olympia Lebedev during Project Substratum, which improved the Port’s structure leading to its further expansion. She is a Russian environmentalist, chemist, and physicist who has been living on the Port for 8 years. Olympia, along with the rest of the settlement, is part of Generation Zero, the name given to the first thousand “non-astronaut” settlers on Mars.

The journal also details the lives of four other settlers who were frequent users of the Research Wing and its Martian SolarSPELLS, which stores information ranging from emergency situation protocol to music theory. Kyla Gusto, Xingyu Chen, Rodrigo Pedro, and Edison Gulzar are all featured in the journal for their educational habits and their assistance in Olympia’s observation.

Ares Corporation, the company responsible for developing the Port, requested the analysis of the Research Wing in order to properly understand the learning habits of the settlers. What makes Olympia’s journal more unique is the personal observation she brings, with both Project Substratum as well as other observations and ideas she states in her entries. Unearthing laid the foundation for future research and development in Martian education and future settlers have Olympia to thank for her achievement.

This Journal and Its Discoveries Were Achieved For

We Thank and Honor Olympia Lebedev For This Piece of Martian History

Note from the Translator: If something is typed in [brackets], it was not written by Olympia but added during the translation for smoother reading.

Earth Year of Port of Mars Establishment: 2049

Olympia Lebedev’s Personal Log (Translated from Russian)

Earth Date: September 9, 2057

End of Week 1 of Project Substratum

Project Substratum has been long overdue. Despite another 50 travelers arriving earlier this year, we still have not expanded the Port since Y4 [Year 4 since the Establishment of Port of Mars in 2049], which is only half the size of the Valles. The tasks of collecting information about the red planet, as well as constant system repair, detract from setting expansion as a priority. This past week, I began researching solutions to make the Port safer and more secure with its structure.

While everyone continues learning repairs and EVA training, I believe that medical, agricultural, and environmental studies are just as important. When the system's health varies so much from sol to sol and 5 to 10 technicians are on call, it’s frustrating for someone like me, who was really excited about the expansion of this new world. The approval of Project Substratum has reignited my passion, so I am excited to truly leave an impact on this civilization and perhaps even lead the way into the expansion of the Mars settlement.

This is the first time I’ve spent the majority of a sol in the Research Wing. Out of all the wings and rooms on the Port, I think it's where I’ve spent the least time. It’s not that I haven’t utilized the SPELLs and their information, but as one who provided a significant amount of the information held in the devices, I just use it whenever I can’t remember something rather than to learn something new.

The R-Wing design is somewhat similar to the Scientific Library of MSU [Moscow State University], except of course that it’s very compact and has far less physical literature. I decided to set up shop at the closest holo station near the exit, in case there was an emergency situation on board. I have been leading most of the repair missions up until this point after all.

It became increasingly aware that Project Substratum would not be a simple task, and it was difficult adjusting to a desk environment once again. After years of repairing and relaying information back to the Ares Corp on Earth, I think I will be less stressed in researching. The idea of exploring and continuing to traverse this incredible planet’s terrain is inspiring to me. The work it will require is no small task.

Kyla Gusto, a former senator in the States, has helped me get accustomed to the R-Wing. There’s a reason why she was the tour guide in the “Hello from Mars!” edu-vid. She has time and time again been a blessing for us scientists, as her passion for our discoveries is contagious. In fact, she is probably why I kept requesting this, despite being denied so many times.

I sometimes worry for our safety during repair missions but we’ve always had the tools to fix it and I believe there are several capable settlers on board that can also lead the missions. Additionally, Kyla knew I wanted to do more than gather materials and hand them over to the historians on board. She continually surprises me with how much information she knows about everything, despite only coming from a law background from the United States. I promised I’d leave any prejudice I had against other countries back on Earth. It’s one thing to say it while it’s another to actually mean it. All jokes aside, I truly do think the idea of a fresh start without national identity is not only beneficial for the whole team but also ideal for the start of a settlement on Mars. We are all Martians now.

I’m excited to see where the next week takes my work.


Earth Date: September 16, 2057

End of Week 2 of Project Substratum

The research is going well, with potential solutions lying in the form of radiation shielding. I’m looking into possible material that may be able to simulate the Earth’s magnetosphere, which of course is what deflects solar particles and therefore repels the radiation of space: GCR (Galactic Cosmic Rays) and SPE (Solar Particle Events). Needless to say, building something that simulates a natural occurrence on Earth will be a giant undertaking, so I decided to halt that thought and work towards a solution that is more plausible: a better material for the Port’s structure devised of natural substances found here.

On the topic of repair, it seems that the Earth-favorite Perseverance Rover is experiencing difficulties again, and it may be out of commission for good soon. Perseverance has not been used for research for many years now, but it continues traveling around the Port and scientists on Earth still check in with the rover. Speaking without any emotional attachment, Perseverance, despite its historical significance towards Mars research, especially in the 20s and early 30s, has been a symbol, rather than a utensil, years before the Port of Mars was established.

Sometimes you need a symbol to survive. Perseverance represented a new step towards the establishment of my new home. I was only 10 when I saw the landing online. It still fills me with excitement thinking about the possibility of sending something to Mars, even now as a Martian. Lots of Zeroes [slang name for individuals in Generation Zero] like to refer to Perseverance as “Old Yeller,” so I guess it was a matter of time before a shutdown was to happen. Xingyu Chen, a brilliant mechanic from Shenzhen, China, has been assigned the project that will determine the next step for Perseverance, whether it be using its parts for something new or studying how the environment of Mars has affected its structure.

When we develop a new longer-lasting material for the Port, I expect Xingyu Chen to be the first to thank me. Every time system health takes a drop, Xingyu is the first to come check it out. Despite my working relationship with them, I can’t seem to recall a time where either of us initiated any sort of conversation that didn’t start with “what’s the problem?” Maybe it has to do with the language barrier between Russian and Mandarin. Translator devices are easier to use in more casual situations rather than times of repair.

Xingyu has occupied a space near the back of the R-Wing for their research, which has a connector to the outside that is convenient for whenever they need to peer in on Old Yeller. From what I have observed, Xingyu spent most of the week interacting with the rover outside the Port rather than at their desk. Learning by experimentation it seems. Except for yestersol, where I s