In the novel The Martian, in the midst of sequences where NASA is deciding to send supplies to Mark, and Rich Purnell is calculating the orbit or trajectory for the mission, there is a section that reads as follows:

All 25 of the courses take 414 days, and vary only slightly in thrust duration and angle. The fuel requirement is nearly identical for the orbits and is well within the capacity of EagleEye's booster.

It's too bad. Earth and Mars are really badly positioned. Heck, it's almost easier to--

He stopped typing. Furrowing his brow, he stared into the distance.

What was being implied in this paragraph? Almost easier to do what?

1 Answer 1


He realized it was almost easier to send the Hermes back to Mars than it was to send a resupply vehicle to Mars.

That is why he started working on the Hermes return calculations, which were ultimately named The Rich Purnell Maneuver.

  • Oh! That makes sense, I am currently reading the book but was hung up on that line and kept going back to it. I thought it was implying something that had previously happened that I couldnt recall. Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 19:47
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    Nothing "Almost" about it. It was FAR easier to send Hermes back.
    – Aron
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 9:31
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    @Aron is right; that was the realisation - that offhand, sending the Hermes back looks so close to being easier that it might be worth running the calculations for that to see if it actually is easier. And of course, it turns out that it is easier, by a significant margin. Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 11:18
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    My answer was intentionally ambiguous so as to not give too much away. Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 15:13
  • @wizloc: If the answer is acceptable to you, please click on the checkmark to accept it.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 16:46

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