Ask Ethan #55: Could a Manned Mission to Mars Abort? (Synopsis)

“I sometimes catch myself looking up at the Moon, remembering the changes of fortune in our long voyage, thinking of the thousands of people who worked to bring the three of us home. I look up at the moon and wonder, when will we be going back, and who will that be?” –Tom Hanks

Imagine, hopefully, the not-too-distant future, when humanity launches the first manned mission to another planet in our Solar System: probably Mars. You’re on your way, and then — all of a sudden — you realize that something is wrong.

Image credit: Frank G., via https://shufti.wordpress.com/2011/11/26/aaa-around-another-airport-2/
Image credit: Frank G., via https://shufti.wordpress.com/2011/11/26/aaa-around-another-airport-2/.

Maybe the radiation dose is too much, maybe there’s been a critical malfunction and landing will be impossible, or maybe someone needs the kind of medical treatment that’s only available back on Earth’s surface. Whatever the case is, you simply must abort your mission and return home. Could you?

Image credit: ISRO.
Image credit: ISRO.

Consider the possibilities of returning home from a mission that was never designed to do so.