En route to Mars, McCauley calls Major Vic Devery to the bridge for the start of his shift. They are 236 days away from Earth and approaching Mars. McCauley goes back to the bunk where Dr. Morrow is working on his notes. They're interrupted when Devery reports a meteorite impact. McCauley and Jim Nichols go forward and Devery tells them that there was a minor impact but no drop in pressure. The two men go outside while Devery asks Morrow why they are suffering increasing meteorite strikes. Morrow suggests that as a large object moves through space, it draws in smaller objects within its gravitational field. McCauley and Nichols seal the hole.
At Earth Control, Dr. Tola and General Albright monitor the Mars expedition's flight path. Tola wishes that he could be there and hopes that one day he can go to the red planet. McCauley gives his daily report and informs them that they will land in six hours. Once he's done, he tells them to make preparations to land on the moon of Phobos. Morrow disagrees, insisting that they land on Mars, but McCauley insists on sticking to the flight plan. Deimos is too far out so they're going to land on Phobos since they have experience landing on asteroids. Morrow isn't satisfied and warns McCauley that he'll be disappointed if they don't land on Mars, and then walks out of the cabin.
Later, the crew looks for a place to land on Phobos. As they go lower, they suddenly hit a pile of rocks. Once they confirm that they're maintaining pressure, McCauley and Nichols go out to check the hull. Devery wonders how they hit the rock pile so suddenly and Morrow suggests that Phobos' surface has a magnetic charge. They go outside and patch the hull, ignoring Morrow's demands that they set up the observation equipment first. The doctor tells Devery to open the port so he can begin his observations, hoping to learn the origins of the canals on Mars. McCauley goes back inside while Nichols checks on the fuel bay. He reports that they have a leak in the fuel bay and McCauley goes to check it out.
Nichols explains that there's a crack in the fuel bay from their reserves to get home. Back on the bridge, Devery confirms that they're losing propellant at the rate of 14 pounds per hour. When the major suggests they go back immediately, Morrow objects, saying he wants to begin his work immediately. He dismisses the risk as inconsequential and the others as cowards. McCauley ignores the scientist and tells Devery and Nichols to prepare for departure.
On Earth, Albright and Tola wait and worry when McCauley doesn't check in on schedule. Tola warns that Morrow is extremely persuasive in his pursuit of knowledge. Albright insists that McCauley knows what he's doing, and Tola warns him that the crew's live depends on McCauley's judgement.
Morrow takes his equipment out but Devery warns that they have to depart in four hours. He offers to take his equipment over the next ridge since he can't help them, and McCauley warns him not to get out of sight of the ship. Once the scientist leaves, the others go to work. McCauley checks in to make sure that Morrow is in radio contact and the scientist assures him that he's okay.
Three hours later, McCauley and the others finish setting up the transmitter dish. They call for Morrow but get no answer. McCauley sends Devery and Nichols back to the ship while he looks for Morrow. The colonel finds Morrow out of line of sight, busy at work taking readings from Mars. The scientists insists that the canals are waterways and demands that McCauley take some samples from a nearby rock outcropping. McCauley tells him that he needs to return to calibrate the equipment and warns that time is running out. Morrow reluctantly goes back with him and McCauley contacts Devery to tell him they're on their way. He orders the two officers to come out and help with the final check.
Morrow finishes the calibration with 25 minutes to spare. The others go inside to complete the final calibrations while he adjusts the equipment. Once they're done, McCauley orders Morrow inside. They get no response and McCauley goes out to get him. He figures that he knows where Morrow has gone and tells Devery to take off on schedule whether he's back or not. McCauley goes back to where Morrow set up his equipment and finds the scientist nearby, buried beneath a landslide. McCauley gets Morrow clear as more rocks come down, but both of their radios are smashed. Morrow's leg is injured and he limps along as best he can, racing against the clock.
Devery tries to contact the two men without success. McCauley hears them and realizes they can receive but can't send. Meanwhile, Devery tells Nichols to prepare for departure in three minutes. With 45 seconds remaining, they spot McCauley and Morrow coming and Nichols suits up to help them aboard.
The ship takes off on time and McCauley sends a new message to Earth Control. They also send the first batch of data and Tola is impressed at the wealth of scientific knowledge. The ship leaves Mars orbit and Nichols jokingly suggests that they can take Morrow back. McCauley says that they were all anxious to land on Mars, and the next time they may have the chance to find out if there really is life there.
Written by Gadfly on Sep 15, 2015