Monday, September 5, 2011
Rocket Ship Galileo by Robert A. Heinlein
Rocket Ship Galileo is another young adult novel by Heinlein, which starts off well, and then goes in an unexpected direction. It begins with three young men, Morrie, Ross and Art, close to graduating from high school, who have formed an amateur rocketry club and have been designing and building rockets that are far from amateurish. While they are testing their latest rocket, Morrie's uncle, Doctor Cargraves - a respected atomic scientist, stops by to see how it's going. When the rocket explodes, it appears that he is hit by a piece of shrapnel, but fortunately survives.
When he sees what a professional setup the boys have built for testing their rockets, he makes them a proposal. He's trying to build an atomic-fueled rocket to go to the Moon, hoping to capture a large financial prize, and he's working on a shoestring budget. He needs some help building the spaceship, and hopes they can work for him over the summer. After overcoming some objections from the boys parents, they all set off for a secluded spot in the New Mexico desert and begin construction.
There are nefarious forces in opposition, however, and someone tries to sabotage their efforts several times. They perservere, and end up blasting off for the Moon just one step ahead of a subpoena.
There's some great, though dated, educational bits about rocketry, stellar navigation, engineering, and a number of other subjects here, and a good look at what science fiction authors thought about space travel before the U.S. succeeded on putting a man on the Moon.
Unfortunately, after the landing, things go wacky rapidly. Space Nazis?? I mean, really. Heinlein seemed to have a problem ending his stories back in those days in a reasonable manner. He always used some outlandish premise - more outlandish than space travel.