Plus Three To The Moon!
“Commence countdown!” the stalwart, strong-jawed captain said, flashing a smile
“Good Golly,” the eager-yet-green pilot said.
“Cut the chatter, you!” The captain snapped, his matinee-idol good looks clouding over.
“Atomic piles to power!” the engineer said, his voice coming into the control cockpit over the PA, “Counting down! Ten seconds to blast off!” he continued.
“The Blockhouse has given us final permission for the mission!” The pretty young communications officer said, blushing for no good reason other than she was expected to blush a lot, public relations being what they were.
“Nine Seconds” the engineer droned.
“Starting air intakes” the pilot said, still green but a bit less eager, or at least less likely to show it.
“How is our hyper-atomic generator power doing?” the captain asked. He had a few seconds to kill, and was feeling left out.
“Showing full power, skipper” the electrician said. He was a negro. That was important these days.
“Cookie,” the captain said into the intercom microphone by his command couch.
“Well brand my biscuits, boss, what the sam hill are you calling me for at a time like this?” Cookie replied. The Captain laughed condescendingly.
“Hold on to your pots and pans, because this is gonna’ be a big deal!” the captain said.
“Uhm…ok” the cook said, bewildered as to why the captain was bugging him, rather than doing more important space-captainly things.
“Jet Turbines to full power,” the pilot said.
“Get ready…” the captain said in a voice that was supposed to be intense and focused, but which really just said ‘I’ve had acting classes to appear more stalwart than I really am, and thus improve my career.’
“…zero!” The engineer concluded.
“LAUNCH! LAUNCH! LAUNCH! LAUNCH!” the captain shouted. The pilot pushed the button, and two hundred feet below them, the super-hyper-atomic rocket engine flared to life, its blazing flame so hot and bright that it was visible through the solid steel hull of their space ship.
“We’re off into the wild black yonders of outer darkness!” The captain said, with fake amazement in his voice. He was very conscious that his every word and facial expression would be on the evening news, and eventually in the history books. If he played his cards right, he could be president some day.
“Golly!” said the inexperienced young pilot, forgetting himself and letting his eagerness show again.
“Quiet, you!” said the captain.
The rocket was a beautiful thing of minimalist art, a cone, rounded on one end, and tapering to a point two hundred feet below. Four sleek tail fins circled the lone rocket exhaust vent at the tip of the tail, each one ending in a pod that housed the landing gear. Half way between them and the nose were two stubby wings. It was all shiny chrome, impossibly smooth, with no seams or rivets showing, and flawlessly polished to an almost-mirror-like sheen. The double-domed egghead scientists thought this would reflect the mysterious outer space rays, and thus protect them, but the real reason was that it looked cool. It was like a really classy hood ornament.
It lifted off slowly on a tongue of flame that incinerated and irradiated everything around, hovered for a moment, and then accelerated away at sixty-four feet per second. When they hit the edge of space twelve seconds later, they were traveling nearly three thousand miles an hour. The ship lurched slightly.
“Engines are sucking vacuum, skipper” the engineer warned, “We’re getting no thrust.”
“Gosh, I’m sorry captain,” the pilot apologized. He flipped a switch that closed the air intakes and shut down the jet turbines. The genius of the Super-Hyper-Atomic engine was that it was an air breathing open-cycled engine in the atmosphere, but in space it switched over to a closed-cycle engine which used fuel from the onboard tanks. This saved them nearly one percent of their fuel, which brought down their operating expenses. In just a hundred missions, it would pay for itself! Granted, it vastly increased the already-dangerous amount of hard radiation thrown out by the engine, but no matter. As the engineer frequently reminded them, it was a big world, and an even bigger atmosphere. It would take decades of daily flights to increase the fallout to dangerous levels, and by then, he was sure, they’d come up with some way to fix it.
“We’re running on internal fuel now,” the pilot said, “I’m really