Plot/Story Details

The protagonist is an astronaut, who has crash landed on one of the larger moons of either Jupiter or Saturn (can't remember which). The moon has an atmosphere, winds, and even lakes and oceans of a sort (though not water-based liquid). The ship he was on, IIRC, had a catastrophic failure and he and the other crew made planetfall in escape pods. There is a research base or supply station on the moon, but it is far away from where the protagonist has landed.

The protagonist also has a personal AI to assist him. I cannot remember if it is based in his suit and communicates with him audibly, or if it is a chip inside him and is "heard" in his thoughts. I am pretty sure the AI is feminine, and there is growing friendship/bond between them in the story.

The escape pod he has landed in has limited supplies, and he knows he cannot simply wait for help. His pod may also have been damaged somehow and cannot support him for long (unsure about that). His only hope for survival is to reach the research station on the far side of the moon. I believe the station is automated, which precludes him simply radioing for help. In any case, the distance he must travel before his air supply runs out makes the odds almost insurmountable, but He gathers what supplies he can (particularly oxygen canisters), and sets out. There are several very good descriptions of the moon in the story. At one point, the protagonist jokes about going swimming in a nearby lake. The AI points out that the lake is acetone, and with a specific gravity of .7 (or thereabouts), he'd sink straight to the bottom.

Two major events take place that give the astronaut hope for survival. I cannot remember the order of these two events, however. One is the discovery of the other escape pod. All of the other crew are dead, but there are plenty of oxygen bottles and power packs, etc. The other event is, the protagonist uses spare parts to build a sort of sail-powered sled to travel more quickly. The atmospheric currents on the surface are strong enough to push the platform along its rails along the surface. This will allow the protagonist to conserve oxygen and energy by resting/sleeping while the sled is propelled forward.

The story closes with the astronaut not knowing if he will make it to the research station in time, but optimistic about his chances and with spirits high.

Timeframe of Story & Publication

The story setting is near-future tech. The AI and interplanetary bases are beyond current technology (obviously), but there aren't ray guns and hyperspace, etc.

It sticks in my mind the publication time frame would be late 2000's. Maybe a little earlier, maybe a few years later. But nothing like from the 1980s or that, as best as I can remember.

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    If it's late 2000s the moon would probably be Titan since we've known since 2004 that Titan has lakes that are probably a methane/ethane mixture. – John Rennie Jan 27 '17 at 10:57

At last, I've found it! The story I was looking for was "The Sands of Titan", by Richard A. Lovett. The story appeared in the June, 2007 issue of Analog Magazine.

The protagonist is Floyd Ashman, who goes by the nickname "Phoenix." Phoenix has crash landed on Titan in a cargo pod, after escaping the doomed space tug that had been orbiting the moon. His companion is a chip-based symbiote that is embedded under his ribcage. Implanted about a year ago, the symbiote has matured to the point to where it has developed sentience and a personality. It calls itself "Brittney", and apparently has embraced the personality of a very chatty teenager.

A copy of the story can be found here, albeit in completely unformatted text.


Not a perfect match (not even a very close one really, but it fits the title pretty well so others might benefit), but worth mentioning in this context is Philip Jose Farmer's novel The Green Odyssey from 1983. (Also on Wikipedia.)

The story spends most of it's time on a voyage by sail-powered rolling vessels across the unusually flat and even grassy plain of a huge continent. There is an attack by pirates and a shipwreck on one of the moving hills that dot the landscape.

There is a romantic subplot, and a twist ending that makes the science fiction aspect obvious.

However, it takes place in the context of a substantial civilization; the protagonist didn't build the craft but talks his way on-board a established long-distance trading craft; and while the story doesn't spend much time on it the setting is clearly far future with interstellar travel a thing.

The story is available from Gutenberg and Librivox.

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