“We'll keep working on ideas,” Lewis said.
“Iron Man, Commander. Iron Man.”
“Standby,” Lewis said.
She furrowed her brow. “Hmm... Maybe it's not such a bad idea...”
“You kidding, Commander?” Martinez said. “It's a terrible idea. He'd shoot off in to space-”
“Not the whole idea, but part of it,” she said. “Using atmosphere as thrust. Martinez, get Vogel's station up and running.”
“Ok,” Martinez said, typing at his keyboard. The screen changed to Vogel's workstation. He quickly changed the language from German to English. “It's up. What do you need?”
“Vogel's got software for calculating course offsets caused by hull breaches, right?”
“Yeah,” Martinez said. “It estimates course corrections needed in the event of-”
“Yeah, yeah,” Lewis said. “Fire it up. I want to know what happens if we blow the VAL.”
Johanssen and Martinez looked at each other.
“Um. Yes, Commander,” Martinez said.
“The Vehicular Airlock?” Johanssen said. “You want to... open it?”
“Plenty of air in the ship,” Lewis said. “It'd give us a good kick.”
“Ye-es...” Martinez said as he brought up the software. “And it might blow the nose of the ship off in the process.”
“Also, all the air would leave,” Johanssen felt compelled to add.
“We'll seal the bridge and reactor room. We can let everywhere else go vacuo, but we don't want explosive decompression in here or near the reactor.”
Martinez entered the scenario in to the software. “I think we'll just have the same problem as Watney, but on a larger scale. We can't direct that thrust.”
“We don't have to,” Lewis said. “The VAL is in the nose. Escaping air would make a thrust vector through our center of mass. We just need to point the ship directly away from where we want to go.”
“Ok I have the numbers,” Martinez said. “A breach at the VAL, with the bridge and reactor room sealed off, would accelerate us 29 meters per second.”
“We'd have a relative velocity of 13 meters per second afterward,” Johanssen supplied.
“Beck,” Lewis radioed, “Have you been hearing all this?”
“Affirmative, Commander,” Beck said. “
“Can you do 13 meters per second?”
“It'll be risky,” Beck replied, “13 to match the MAV then another 13 to match Hermes. But it's a hell of a lot better than 42.”
“Johanssen,” Lewis said. “time to intercept?”
“18 minutes, Commander.”
“What kind of jolt will we feel with that breach?” Lewis asked to Martinez.
“The air will take 4 seconds to evacuate,” he said. “We'll feel a little less than one g.”
“Watney,” she said to her headset, “We have a plan.”
“Yay! A plan!” Watney replied.
“Houston,” Lewis's voice rang through Mission Control, “be advised we are going to deliberately breach the VAL to produce thrust.”
“What?” Mitch said. “What!?” He yelled.
“Oh... my god,” Venkat said in the observation room.
“Fuck me raw,” Annie said, getting up. “I better get to the press room. Any parting knowledge before I go?”
“They're going to breach the ship,” Venkat said, still dumbfounded. “They're going to deliberately breach the ship. Oh my god...”
“Got it,” Annie said, jogging to the door.
“How will we open the airlock doors?” Martinez asked. “There's no way to open them remotely, and if anyone's nearby when it blows-”
“Right,” Lewis said. “We can open one door with the other shut, but how do we open the other?”
She thought for a moment. “Vogel,” she radioed. “I need you to come back in and make a bomb.”
“Um. Again, please, Commander?” Vogel replied.
“A bomb,” Lewis confirmed. “You're a chemist. Can you make a bomb out of stuff on board?”
“Ja,” Vogel said. “We have flammables and pure oxygen.”
“Sounds good.” Lewis said.
“It is of course dangerous to set off an explosive device on a spacecraft,” Vogel said pragmatically.
“So make it small,” Lewis said. “It just needs to poke a hole in the inner airlock door. Any hole will do. If it blows the door off that's fine. If it doesn't, the air will get out slower, but for longer. The momentum change is the same and we'll get the acceleration we need.”
“Pressurizing Airlock-2,” Vogel reported. “How will we activate this bomb?”
“Johanssen?” Lewis said.
“Uh...” Johanssen said. She picked up her headset and quickly put it on. “Vogel, can you run wires in to it?”
“Ja,” Vogel said. “I will use threaded stopper with a small hole for the wires. It will have little effect on the seal.”
“We could run the wire to lighting panel 41,” Johanssen said. “It's next to the airlock, and I can turn it on and off from here.”
“There's our remote trigger,” Lewis said. “Johanssen go set up the lighting panel. Vogel, get in here and make the bomb. Martinez, go close and seal the doors to the reactor room.”
“Yes Commander,” Johanssen said, kicking off her seat toward the hallway.
“Commander,” Martinez said, pausing at the exit, “You want me to bring back some space suits?”
“No point,” Lewis said. “If the seal on the bridge doesn't hold we'll get sucked out at close to the speed of sound. We'll be jelly with or without suits on.”
“Are you back in yet, Vogel?” Lewis asked.
“I am just re-entering now, Commander.”
“Beck,” Lewis said to her headset. “I'll need you back in, too. But don't take your suit off.”
“Ok,” Beck said. “Why?”
“We're going to have to literally blow up one of the doors,” Lewis explained. “I'd rather we kill the inner one. I want the outer door unharmed so we keep our smooth aerobraking shape.”
“Makes sense.” Beck responded as he floated back in to the ship.
“One problem,” Lewis said. “I want the outer door locked in the fully open position with the mechanical stopper in place to keep it from being trashed by the decompress.”