Braingle Lite

The Maru Crisis

Submitted By:JasonD
Fun:*** (2.59)
Difficulty:**** (3.18)

It was no surprise that the environmental alarm was blaring. They'd all heard a terrible CRACK when something had struck the vessel.

"This is bad," said Jack Peters, the science specialist, examining a gauge. "The damage extends across the airlock, so we can't shelter there. We're leaking across half the vessel! What about the bridge?"

"The bridge isn't designed to be sealed," answered Marvin Corey, the logistics officer. "Quick! Get out the emergency suits!"

But, to Marvin's horror, not all of the emergency equipment had been packed. The self-contained breathing apparatuses were there, along with plenty of oxygen, but the pressure suits were missing. "Who screwed this up!?" he demanded loudly. "This kind of incompetence might have been common in the early twenty-first century, but now--"

"Quiet," ordered Captain Joan Suder. "Let's work the problem." She calmly picked up a breathing kit. "Put these on. Once you're wearing your masks, unpack the balloon from the science lab and meet me on the bridge."

Marvin and Jack hastened to obey. A few minutes later, they entered the cockpit dragging what looked like a large rubber balloon and three spare oxygen bottles.

Captain Suder was seated at the comm station. She inhaled from her tank, then pulled aside the mask and said, "I just spoke with the Commander at Farpoint Seven. They're prepping the Andorra, and expect it to be underway in half an hour... which means we'll be rescued in about three hours."

"What about the Maru?" asked Marvin. He, too, was careful to inhale only from his equipment.

"Our own engines are fine," answered the Captain.

"Then we could make it to Farpoint Seven in only two and a half hours!"

"Bad idea," answered Captain Suder, "very bad, indeed. We have plenty of oxygen, so we'll wait here. I'll run the cabin heaters at maximum power on the bridge. If necessary, we'll crawl into the balloon and huddle together to stay warm." She arched an eyebrow at Marvin. "Just don't get too friendly."

1) Where is the Maru?

2) Why does Captain Suder refuse to take the Maru back to base (Farpoint Seven)?

3) Will Marvin get frisky despite the captain's warning?

[Important note: The cause of the accident is not relevant to the riddle.]


1) They are on the surface of Titan, a moon of Saturn.

Whatever is leaking in cannot be breathable air, because they need to use breathing kits. It cannot be the vacuum of space (air leaking out), because that would kill them in the time allotted. It cannot be water, because the balloon huddling strategy would be inneffective while immersed in liquid. It cannot be the thin upper atmosphere of Earth, because that wouldn't explain the forced wait.

The atmosphere of Titan is darned cold and contains trace amounts of cyanide. However, its pressure is 146.7 kPa, near enough to Earth's 101.3 kPa to be reasonably comfortable.

Also, a buoyant weather balloon would be very useful on Titan, thus explaining the science equipment.

2) Farpoint Seven is their space station. Leaving the surface to get there would require traveling through the vacuum of space, thus depressurizing the Maru. (If you read the hint and you're really into astrometrics, you might realize that 53,000 km is the distance from Titan to an L2 Lagrange Point.)

3) The first intoxicating pressure phenomenon is Nitrogen Narcosis, which doesn't kick in until the pressure exceeds 3 atm (about 300 kPa). So there's no excuse for Marvin to misbehave.

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