So, I've read the book and watched the movie several times. Looking at the still frames of the Hermes (from the movie), after the Rich Purnell Earth slingshot, I could not see any type of Earth reentry vehicle attached to the Hermes.
Was the MAV designed for earth reentry, or were the crew expected to use the vehicle that the ARES IV crew brought up for their return?


On the way back to Earth, the Hermes does a long deceleration manoeuvre which ends up placing it in Earth orbit. At that point, some kind of crew transportation ship would likely lift off from Earth, dock with the Hermes, bringing a new crew and new supplies, and the existing crew could use that to return to the surface. This is similar to how astronauts get on and off the ISS now.

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    Just a note, but the ISS swaps out its Soyuz craft fairly regularly, with astronauts that are visiting for only a few days often going back on a different Soyuz than they arrived on days before - their Soyuz then stays docked as the lifeboat for a few months. This ensures the lifeboats are rotated so expiring consumables such as the hypergolics and batteries arent an issue. – Moo Jan 30 '16 at 20:42

In the book, the Hermes is intended to be serviced in Earth orbit and reused for Aries IV, so there is an indication of infrastructure existing to handle that - no need to haul their Earth reentry vehicle as additional weight when they can be met by one at the "space dock" where the refurbishment will be carried out.

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