The world is watching the events unfold with bated breath, but their anticipation is no match for the mood at NASA HQ and on Hermes.
Mark, on the other hand, doesn't have much time to think before "the MAV launched with incredible force" (26.61). It's just like ripping off a Band-Aid.
As usual, there are plenty of problems. The MAV starts off too slowly, resulting in a lower launch arc than they expected. Luckily, it kicks into full gear a moment later.
Mark isn't worried, however—though, to be fair, that's mostly because he was knocked unconscious by the launch. If he was awake, he'd get a great view of the Mars atmosphere, as the Hab canvas was torn clean off mere seconds after launch.
The MAV is still off-course, however. In order to make up the difference, Lewis order Martinez to point its "altitude thruster all in the same direction" and give them full power (26.109).
There are some downsides to this, however. First—it'll waste a bunch of fuel. Second—and most importantly—they'll be traveling too fast to pick him up.
Just then, Mark wakes up and his briefed on the situation by his crewmates. As usual, he tosses out a crazy idea—he wants to "poke a hole" in his suit and use the escaping air "as a thruster" (26.178).
Although everyone agrees that this is literally insane, it does spark a saner one (only slightly, though) from Commander Lewis. She wants to use the same principle with Hermes itself, breaching the ship's airlocks to slow it down.
Naturally, NASA is losing their collective minds as this all unfolds.
The only way to make Lewis' plan work is pretty nuts, though, to be fair—the only way to open the doors is to "make a bomb" (26.223). That way, they can breach the inner doors while leaving the outer doors in one piece for the return trip.
With all preparations completed and the crew in their position, Commander Lewis gets ready to blow Hermes up. Boom! The explosion rocks Hermes, but it achieves the desired effect.
Now that the ship is in position, Beck leaps from the airlock and "managed to grab hold" of the MAV's torn canvas (26.237). Then, quick as can be, Mark and Beck hustle back to Hermes.
Holy smokes—it actually worked! NASA HQ "exploded with applause"—a scene that's repeated all over the planet Earth (26.402).
We're left with one final log entry from Mark as he rides back home. To him, this whole experience shows him that "every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out" (26.424). When you think about how many people risked their lives and well-being to help one man get home, it's hard to disagree.