Chapter 09: Under New Management

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur Two, Tuesday, Sol 6 (001.2.6)  12:40 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Thursday, 10 March 2016  2:00 PM PST
  • Distance traveled:  47,764,872 kilometers   Time Delay:  2 mins 36 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  344,644,880 kilometers

“This is awkward trying to have a meeting when we are dealing with a five-minute round trip delay in transmission; however, our new format seems to be working. I would like Megan to continue to chair the new Council and I will observe meeting. I will transmit questions and concerns through Megan during the meeting and make remarks at the end of the meeting. Since I will abstain from all votes, the Council can make decisions without waiting for my vote.

With the exception of emergency issues, all agenda items must be submitted to Megan by 14:00 the day prior to the meeting. All items should only have a three-minute summary, and the rest of the information should be attached to the agenda item with a file.

As for the interim staff structure: Megan De Luca is now Earth Liaison for ESEP, Ken Hart is now ESEP Director of Security, Naomi Pierce is now my Chief of Staff, Paige Flores is now ESEP Chief Information Officer, and Anna Flores is now Mars Mission Operations Executive. The rest of the Mars Mission crew is expanding their roles during the interim.

I would ask the Council to work quickly to restore ESEP’s leadership, so that everyone can return to a normal schedule. I appreciate everyone’s dedication to ESEP and the Mars missions. It is incredible that we are back on schedule, less than a week after losing seven of our top leadership, and putting down a management coup. Thank you to all of you and your staff.”

Jenna ended her transmission and looked to her left, where Wendy was waiting. Wendy said, “Did you ever think that going to Mars, meant you had to run the whole, damn thing?” Jenna just looked down and shook her head. She then said, “Nick was my anchor. He was the one who cleared my path. I don’t know how long I can go without him there.”

Wendy said, “Well, that’s a side of you I don’t need to see.” Jenna looked up in surprise. Wendy continued,

“I’ve never seen a person like you. People hardly know you and they want to work with you. Sure, Nick was good at greasing the track and clearing the trash, but his motivation was to help you. You have a unique ability to do the right thing and Nick knew that, so he tried to help you. Now you are surrounded by ‘Nicks’ who all are motivated to help you, and you are mourning the loss of one person. Yes, you need the time to mourn for Nick, but you are not one person acting alone. Everyone else has had the same loss, but they are rallying around you. We remembered Nick two days ago and celebrated his life. Unfortunately, you, of all people, can’t linger on his loss. We will remember him many times over the next few years, but now you have to move on.”

Jenna said, “If I were a normal person, I would be angry right now.” Wendy smiled and said, “Jenna, there is nothing about you that’s normal. Let’s go grab some lunch.”

An icon was flashing at Jenna’s workstation. Jenna tapped it and said, “What’s next, Naomi?” Naomi replied, “You should grab some lunch and come up to the Command deck. I need to brief you on some important messages.” Jenna sighed and said, “On my way.”

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur Two, Tuesday, Sol 6 (1.2.6)  13:01 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Thursday, 10 March 2016  2:22 PM PST

Jenna and Wendy left her quarters and climbed up to the Mess. Jenna asked, “What’s the deal with everyone telling me to eat?” Wendy said, “You can thank Kayla. We’ve all been briefed to be your welfare team. Megan has asked for daily reports.” Jenna said, “Megan. I love her, but does everyone realize she is our master?,” then Jenna continued, “That reminds me….” Jenna called Ken. Ken answered, “What can I do for you Director?” Jenna hesitated. It had only been today that everyone began using her official title at Megan’s insistence. Jenna wasn’t used to it. Jenna replied, “Are you on the Command deck?” Ken said, “Yes.” Jenna said, “Good, if you have a few minutes I need to talk to you.” Ken replied, “Acknowledged.”

Wendy and Jenna were in the Mess and Wendy told her to go on. She would bring her lunch. Jenna climbed onto her workstation deck and saw Ken waiting for her. Jenna called John Schultz, who was a Comm Specialist for the mission, but now was handling Comm duties that would normally only be seen at one of the ESEP Centers on Earth. Jenna said, “John, I need to transmit to Earth Prime Actual, encrypted and priority.”

Ken said, “What’s up?” Jenna said, “I want you to work with Claude on something.” Jenna’s tapped an icon and a screen came up, “Transmission to Earth Prime Actual, Priority, Encoded – Delay 2 mins 36 secs” Jenna looked at her camera and said,

“Claude I’m asking you and Ken to work together on Megan’s detail. I know we have her under protection, but I’d like Ken to have someone he personally knows and trusts to lead her security team. Likewise, I need you to identify someone you know and trust to be her personal assistant. I trust her to find people who can assist her with her schedule and workload, but she is a critical link in ESEP’s continued operation, and I don’t think she places a priority on her needs. Set her up with team of five people managing her personal/work life interaction. I want them to report to Wendy and Kayla on a daily basis. I need all of them vetted with Ken. To be clear, she is to be covered by top-tier security and welfare. We cannot afford to lose her under any circumstances.

Also, I’m denying your request of your last message. I’m afraid transporting Mr. Duncan to Earth Prime and accidentally losing him out an airlock may send a message that we’re being to soft on him. My plan is to take up our friend’s in Chile who have offered to take Mr. Duncan on the high plateau, strip him, stake him to the ground, and cover him in honey. They say it could be days before the ants take enough blood for him to bleed to death. Jenna out.”

She looked at Ken, who had been smiling at the last topic, and said, “She may fight us on this.” Ken replied, “Megan’s smart. She’ll know why we’re doing this, and she’ll accept it. The key will be finding people who know when to let Megan be Megan, and when to step in. Good call on involving Wendy and Kayla. Offworld oversight is the best security we have now.”

Wendy brought Jenna’s lunch and Jenna thanked her and sat down at her workstation. All the workstation chairs had a frame the size of a food container that could be pulled out. In addition, workstations had built-in water dispensers for hot and cold drinking water. Jenna invited Ken and Wendy to sit in chairs designed to allow a small group of people to sit and talk with the Admiral at her workstation.

Jenna looked at Wendy and said, “Claude and Ken are going to set up a personal assistant team for Megan. I’m also asking Ken to personally set up her security team. The personal assistant team will be reporting to you and Kayla.” Wendy smiled and said, “Is this to get her back?” Jenna replied, “Actually, I thought of this yesterday, but I forgot to take care of it. Her monitoring my welfare reminded me.”

Jenna turned to Ken, “What’s the status of the investigation?” Ken said,

“As far as we can determine the plane crash was an accident. Based on communications we reviewed, Mr. Duncan was the first to be informed and he took control. I don’t know at what point he decided to make it a coup, but it seems it developed over a period of hours. By six that morning he was fully committed and ordered the passengers on the first two planes to be held upon landing.

I have a team reviewing the past six months of the people involved to determine if there has been any plan brewing, but it seems that everyone was loyal to ESEP until Nick allowed the mission to have priority decision-making. At that point, the organization fractured in a power struggle.

Everyone we know to be involved is under arrest somewhere. My team has tabs on all of them and none of them can be released without that law enforcement agency notifying us. In some cases it seems we have people who were just following orders; however, after Mr. Duncan began acting as ESEP Actual, it should have been obvious to anyone that he was not qualified to assume those duties. We may have cases coming to the Council for leniency.”

Naomi came down to the Admiral’s deck and Jenna motioned for her to join them. Ken continued,

“Right now we seem to be secure company-wide. Part of that is due to the fact that Paige holds the leash of the ESEP computer system and no one can try anything without her knowing it.”

Naomi broke in, “Sorry to interrupt, Director, we just got word. Mr. Duncan was found dead in his cell. It was suicide.”

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur Two, Thursday, Sol 8 (001.2.8)  11:23 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Saturday, 12 March 2016  2:00 PM PST
  • Distance traveled:  54,974,664 kilometers   Time Delay:  2 mins 48 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  337,435,088 kilometers

Mr. Duncan’s suicide was the bad end to a series of tragic events. It exposed the frailty of some of the people in ESEP. People who had been important gatekeepers in the decision-making process had suddenly turned on the central goal of the organization, only because the organization had grown past them. Instead of protecting the mission to Mars, they were trying to end it because they wouldn’t let go.

This frailty was not lost on the member countries of ESEP. The shock of the management coup began discussions of security and protocols. The Executive management was now split between the newly created Council, and the Interim Director, Jenna Wade, and her crew. The Council consisted of Division Executives and two representatives of the member countries. 

Throughout the crisis and the fallout, Jenna and her staff were the heroes. To the ESEP member countries and the Council, the process of selecting a new Director to replace Jenna seemed pointless. An idea grew that the solution to finding new leadership for ESEP had already been accomplished when Jenna and the Mars Mission crew took back control of ESEP.

Jenna laughed and said, “That’s absurd!”

Megan’s image was on the screen in front of Jenna. Megan had just explained the agenda item for tomorrow’s Council meeting that would make Jenna the permanent Director of ESEP. Megan wouldn’t hear Jenna’s reaction for another three minutes, but she could have guessed what it would be, and she knew she would have some more explaining to do.

Ken said, “No, actually it makes perfect sense. ESEP was vulnerable because people had access to key people and critical systems. With you offworld, and the Sagan controlling ESEP computers, any attempt to attack the company is almost impossible unless they destroy every communication system on Earth.”

Jenna’s Command team was gathered around for the morning briefing from Megan, and heard the idea at the same time Jenna did.

Wendy said, “And from a management perspective, it pushes back daily decisions to the people who are closest to the issues, so only the big decisions go to the top. It is ideal for a more efficient model of management. Because you’re too far away to nitpick on details that you don’t need to know, everything moves faster.”

Jenna said, “Because I’m not around to make a remark about the windows being dirty, no one scurries to clean the windows, because it’s not important to the objectives. I see your point, but what happens when we get to Mars? I can’t run ESEP and our first exploration of Mars.”

Wendy replied, “Why not? You’re at the tip of the sword. Where better to direct the operations of the Exploration of Mars than from Mars. It is one of the best management models I have ever heard.”

Jenna looked at her team and said, “What about all of you? This is putting an extra workload on all of you. We are going to have busy days setting up on Mars.” Lanny, the Director of Science for the mission said, “I’d rather be setting up are experiments on Mars knowing that you’re commanding all of ESEP’s resources, rather than being second guessed by my colleagues on Earth. Roman added, “We’re not going to be following their playbook in the Engineering Division when we get to Mars. I like the idea of them as consultants, not overlords, and if they select a Earthbound Director, that person is going to want to justify their existence by nitpicking what we are doing. With you as the Director, I’m confident that our workloads will be easier rather than harder.”

Jenna shook her head, and said, “First it was Commander, then I was a Rear Admiral, now I’m being asked to be the ESEP Director and Governor of Mars? Does anyone else see a problem here?”

Seven people in unison said, “No.”

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur Two, Friday, Sol 9 (001.2.9)  09:46 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Sunday, 13 March 2016  2:00 PM PDT
  • Distance traveled:  58,579,560 kilometers   Time Delay:  3 mins 00 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  333,830,192 kilometers

Daylight Saving Time on Earth does not impact ESEP. The entire organization operates on Noctis Standard Time, which is not affected by Earth time zones, nor annual changes in time for the seasons of Earth. In addition, the Mars landing site is close enough to the equator that there is no reason to impose a Daylight Saving-type change to the standard time.

However, an adjustment to the location of ESEP’s operation is advantageous in keeping Earth in synch with the mission.  A Mars day is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day, so every eight days or so the administrative functions on Earth is moved west in order to keep the Mars day aligned with the Earth day. The day of the swap is known as the Daylight Saving Day, as it is done to keep Earth-based ESEP functions in the daylight when the Mars landing site is in the daylight.

Currently, the administrative functions are handled out of the San Jose ESEP Center in California. At 12:01 AM NST it will switch to Kumamoto, Japan. A handful of administrators will leave San Jose at about 4:00 PM NST today and arrive in Japan at about 3:00 AM NST (6:00 AM JST.) At 6:00 AM NST (9:00 AM JST) the day shift will begin for ESEP.

It was during the last swap from the twin Operation Centers in Figueres, Spain and Perpignan, France that one of the three planes carrying the administrative team crashed in the North Atlantic. Today was haunted by the fact that it was the first Daylight Saving Day since the tragedy.

While it was on the minds of the Command team listening to Megan De Luca, it didn’t seem to faze her as she was explaining,

“Director, I understand your concerns; however, the more this has been discussed, the more logical it seems. The one issue is computer power. As we move into longer and longer transmission delays, the infrastructure needed to support an offworld centered administration becomes a critical issue.

The solution seems to be a triple-redundant computer system. This would mean computer centers on Earth, in orbit above Earth on Earth Prime, and a computer center on Mars. We had discussed the computer center on Mars as part of the establishment of self-sufficient colonies; however, what we are talking about now is sending the infrastructure up as soon as we have it built. This also means that a significant element of colonization will now be in place years before we planned.

Establishing ESEP administration offworld also means establishing support staff on Mars ahead of schedule. Development and Exploration would be concurrent. Life support and food resources would become a high priority. None of this is a negative, it just means we are moving faster than we originally planned. Let me know if we can move forward on this. It is pending your approval.”

Naomi was the first to speak,

“Director, Paige will be the lead on the computer system and Earthside has discussed this with her. Based on her recommendation, they could have the hardware ready to leave Earth orbit by the second or third week of Sur Three. I’m not sure when it would be in Mars orbit, but it would be a shorter trip than ours, so it would be there soon after we have established our landing site.”

Roman Gomez followed up,

“Director, the timing of it is good. They are talking about a three section Quill, and it would be best to land it close to our base, so connecting it up would be less complicated than bringing it in later. They expect Earth Prime’s computer center to be operational by the time we arrive at Mars.”

Jenna said,

“Alright, it’s a go; and Megan, I want this to be an open decision, with it revisited after we arrive at Mars. None of us really know what our lives will be like once we start putting people on the surface. I’ll assume the Directorship on those conditions. Also, let’s move up the next mission. Roman, I need you and Lanny to come up with a priority list of what we need and when we need it. Assume we will have four more missions by the end of this year, and a January mission. Look at equipment, supplies, and personnel.

Kayla, your medical center has now become a full-fledged hospital. Find out what we need for 400 people on Mars by Sur One of Year Two. Wendy, you need to look at staffing and facilities for your team. Assume two bases, four outposts, and multiple remote operations by the start of Year Two.

Ken, I’m not sure we can keep you as Commodore on Mars Prime. Look for a replacement and the timing of getting them to Mars. Same for you Naomi. Roman, at one point the engineering team discussed using Storm Crater as a city center and covering it with a transparent dome. Would you and Lanny look into the idea and decide whether we would be better with excavating living spaces underground or using a crater and building in to it.

Now, Megan, let’s talk about Daylight Saving Day.”

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur Two, Saturday, Sol 10 (001.2.10)  09:07 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Monday, 14 March 2016  2:00 PM PDT
  • Distance traveled:  62,184,456 kilometers   Time Delay:  3 mins 06 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  330,225,296 kilometers

When the Mars mission left Earth orbit it was moving away from Earth. As Earth continued its orbit, it began paralleling the course of the ESS Sagan. Now the relative distance between the Earth and the Sagan were increasing at a lesser rate which meant the time delay between Earth and the crew was leveling off.

Mars Earth 13 MARMegan remarked,

“Things are moving fast now, Director. They are now saying we are on track to put up fifty Quill sections in the next thirty Earth days, and I won’t be surprised if that is at sixty sections by this time next month. Our biggest issues are the equipment, supplies, and personnel. We have enough cargo planned for the next month or so, and we have three crews in training, but we need to determine the additional roles needed on the accelerated schedule. 

The Engineering team is having a field day with the Storm Crater idea, and with your request for rapid surface transportation. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them so excited. Your Areology Officer, Steve Conner, is going to have a long list of minerals and compounds to find at the landing site. It seems Martian cement and Martian glass are both a priority for the Engineering team.

We’ve had requests for interviews from everyone. I know you can’t do many, but I think it will be important to do three or four in the next week or so. I’m sending you a list, but the one’s I think you should give the strongest consideration of doing are, the BBC,, New York Times, Reuters, the Science Media Centre, and the Charlie Rose Show. I would put the Charlie Rose show at the top of my recommendations. They won’t send us questions in advance, but will transmit three questions, and while you are responding to them, they will transmit more questions, so it will feel like a real-time interview to you with no time delay.

Economists are predicting our accelerated schedule will grow the world GDP by three percent this year, and as much as a seven percent increase next year. Member countries will see most of the growth, and we have ten new countries that want to join.

Finally, Daylight Saving Day was a non-event. We arrived ahead of schedule and most of the administration team slept well during the flight. Everyone is occupied with the new schedule, and no one had time to worry about what happened during the last transition. I love Nippon and it feels great to be here. I’ll wait for your response, otherwise I’ll check in with you at 14:00 NST.”