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Shipwreck in the Sky   By:

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There is a warm feeling about welcoming back into the pages of a science fiction magazine the work of a writer who is a legend in the genre. So, here's Binder and a neatly wrapped up package of a folktale of the future.

shipwreck in the sky

by ... Eando Binder

The flight into space that made Pilot Capt. Dan Barstow famous.

The flight was listed at GHQ as Project Songbird . It was sponsored by the Space Medicine Labs of the U.S. Air Force. And its pilot was Captain Dan Barstow.

A hand picked man, Dan Barstow, chosen for the AF's most important project of the year because he and his VX 3 had already broken all previous records set by hordes of V 2s, Navy Aerobees and anything else that flew the skyways.

Dan Barstow, first man to cross the sea of air and sight open, unlimited space. Pioneer flight to infinity. He grinned and hummed to himself as he settled down for the long jaunt. Too busy to be either thrilled or scared he considered the thirty seven instruments he'd have to read, the twice that many records to keep, and the miles of camera film to run. He had been hand picked and thoroughly conditioned to take it all without more than a ten percent increase in his pulse rate. So he worked as matter of factly as if he were down in the Gs Centrifuge of the Space Medicine Labs where he had been schooled for this trip for months.

He kept up a running fire of oral reports through his helmet radio, down to Rough Rock and his CO. "All Roger, sir ... temperature falling fast but this rubberoid space suit keeps me cozy, no chills ... Doc Blaine will be happy to hear that! Weightless sensations pretty queer and I feel upside down as much as rightside up, but no bad effects.... Taking shots of the sun's corona now with color film ... huh? Oh, yes, sir, it's beautiful all right, now that you mention it. But, hell, sir, who's got the time for aesthetics now?... Oops, that was a close one! Tenth meteor whizzing past. Makes me think of flak back on those Berlin bombing runs."

Dan couldn't help wincing when the meteors peppered down past. The "flak" of space. Below he could see the meteors flare up brightly as they hit the atmosphere. Most of those near his position were small, none bigger than a baseball, and Dan took comfort in the fact that his rocket was small too, in the immensity around him. A direct hit would be sheer bad luck, but the good old law of averages was on his side.

"Yes, Colonel, this tin can I'm riding is holding together okay," Dan continued to Rough Rock. If he paused even a second in his reports a top sergeant's yell from the Colonel's throat came back for him to keep talking. Every bit of information he could transmit to them was a vital revelation in this USAF Alpha exploration of open space beyond Earth's air cushion, with ceiling unlimited to infinity.

"Cosmic rays, sir? Sure, the reading shot up double on the Geiger ... huh? Naw, I don't feel a thing ... like Doc Baird suspected, we invented a lot of Old Wives' Tales in advance , before going into space. I feel fine, so you can put down cosmic ray intensity as a Boogey Man.... What's that? Yeah, yeah, sir, the stars shine without winking up here. What else?... Space is inky black no deep purples or queer more than blacks like some jetted up writers dreamed up just plain old ordinary dead black. Earth, sir?... Well, it does look dish shaped from up here, concave.... Sure, I can see all the way to Europe and say! Here's something unexpected. I can see that hurricane off the coast of Florida.... You said it, sir! Once we install permanent space stations up here it will be easy to spot typhoons, volcano eruptions, tidal waves, earthquakes, what have you, the moment they start. If you ask me, with a good telescope you could even spot forest fires the minute they broke out, not to mention a sneak bombing on a target city uh, sorry, sir, I forgot... Continue reading book >>

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