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Protection, Location, Water, Food, Books

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"Good morning, class! I'm Professor Watney, and this is Survival Space Science."

The introduction was wholly unnecessary; every space-mad kid in the System would recognise the frail man at the front of the lecture theatre, and his was the most oversubscribed course in the Academy.

"This course will be one part SERE school, two parts basic science, and three parts MacGyver. There'll be no-holds-barred physics, street-fighting mathematics, and combat botany. You'll learn to make a radio out of anything that conducts electrons, to repair a solar array with pantyhose and spit, and to field-dress and butcher a human corpse in zero gravity. You will go through the investigation report of every major space accident since Apollo 1 - yes, including mine. You'll learn to do approximate astronavigation calculations by scratching figures in the dirt. You will routinely exceed the design specifications of duct tape. This is as practical a course as I could make it, and as much as possible of what you learn here you will invent yourselves, on-the-fly, while under pressure. You might only need these skills once in the course of your careers, but that's the point: you'll really need them then. Yes, Cadet Hansteen?"

"Sir, what's MacGyver?"

"Sorry, I sometimes forget that not everyone spent a year on a barren rock with only crappy twentieth century TV for company." This raised an uneasy titter. "OK, that's on the homework; track down and watch the first season of the TV show MacGyver. Take notes - we'll be going through some of his more implausible plans in class and improving on them - but as you watch, imagine what it would be like to have that as your only point of connection to the rest of the human race. If you survive the first five minutes of a space accident, you're probably gonna be there a good while before anyone can get to you. In that situation you've gotta do everything you can to keep your mind sharp. Boredom doesn't kill you as quickly as a leak in an air line, but it can be a whole lot messier."

All this and more came back to Cadet - now Commodore - Hansteen as he addressed the passengers and crew of the stricken Dust-cruiser Selene. In the course of his long and storied career he'd needed the skills from Professor Watney's class more than once; he'd never expected to draw on them again in his retirement, but once again it looked like he was going to really need them. He flicked a glance up at the boat's ceiling, above which lay unknown metres of radio-reflecting Moon dust, then continued in an easy voice: "Frankly, our biggest problem is likely to be boredom. By the way, do any of you have any books?"