Robert A. Heinlein Destination Moon
Today, with space full of ships, colonies on the inner planets, and Earth’s Moon so close that pilots on the Luna run sleep home nights, it is – hard to imagine when ‘flying to the Moon” was a figure of speech for the impossible, when men who thought it could be done were visionaries, crackpots.
It is hard to realize the opposition they faced, to understand why they persisted, what they thought.
– Farquharson, History of Transportation, III: 414
The Mojave Desert was gray with first morning light, but at the construction site lights were still burning in the office of the technical director. The office was quiet, save for petulant burbling of a pot of coffee.
Three men were present-the director himself, Doc tor Robert Corley, Lincoln-tall and lean, Rear Admiral “Red” Bowles, regular navy retired, and Jim Barnes, head of Barnes Aircraft, Barnes Tool Works, other enterpnses.
All three needed shaves; Barnes badly needed a haircut as well. Barnes was seated at Corley’s desk; Bowles sprawled on a couch, apparently asleep and looking like a fat, redheaded baby; Doctor Corley paced the room, following a well worn pattern.
He stopped, and stared out the window. A thousand yards away on the floor of the desert a great ship, pointed and sleek, thrust up into the sky, ready to punch out through Earth’s thick atmosphere.
Wearily he turned away and picked up a letter from the desk; it read:
Reaction Associates, Inc.
Your request to test the engine of your atomic-powered rocket ship at the site of its construction is regretfully denied.
Although it is conceded that no real danger of atomic explosion exists, a belief in such danger does exist in the public mind. It is the policy of the Commission-Corley skipped down to the last paragraph: – therefore, test is authorized at the Special Weapons Testing Center, South Pacific. Arrangements may be –
He stopped and shoved the letter at Barnes. “If we’ve got to test at Eniwetok, we’ve got to find the money to do it.”
Barnes’ voice showed exasperation. “Doc, I’ve told you the syndicate won’t put up another dime; there is no other money to be found.”
“Confound it-we should have government money!”
Barnes grunted. “Tell that to Congress.”
Without opening his eyes Bowles commented, “The United States is going to stall around and let Russia get to the Moon first-with hydrogen bombs~ That’s what you call ‘policy.”
Corley chewed his lip. “It’s got to be now.”
“I know it.” Barnes got up and went to the window. The rising sun caught a highlight on the polished skin of the great ship. “It’s got to be now,” he repeated soffly.
He turned and said, “Doc, when is the next favorable time to leave?”
“When we planned on it-next month.”
“No, I mean this month.”
Corley glanced at the wall calendar, dug into a bookcase for a well-thumbed volume, did a quick estimate. “Tomorrow morning-around four o’clock.”
“That’s it, then. We blast off tomorrow morning.”
Admiral Bowles sat up with a jerk. “Blast off in an untested ship? Jim, you’re crazy!”
“Probably. But now is the time-now. If we wait even a month, we will be tangled in some new snafu. That ship is ready, except for testing the power plant. So we’ll skip the test!”
“But we haven’t even selected a crew.”
Barnes grinned. “We’re the crew!”
Neither Corley nor Bowles answered. Barnes went on, “Why not? The takeoff is automatic.