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Space Sagas: The Astronaut
Young Allan Cooper dreams of being an astronaut when he grows up, and getting the light-speed space shuttle, Exceller Five model is first on his list for his next money-making scheme.
Published on Jan 23, 2023
The sun shone brightly just above the horizon. The crowd below, many of whom had been gathering at Kennedy Space Center since before dawn, were likely basking in the morning’s warm glow. I couldn’t see the onlookers, but I knew they were ready to cheer for us. I was a couple hundred feet up in the air, sitting with my back to the ground, cozily buckled into the cockpit of a highly advanced shuttle equipped with a third generation hover engine.
A thrill filled me from my head to my toes as I examined my surroundings: the complicated panel of buttons, dials, and switches in front of me, the clean white interior, and Paul right beside me with a grin on his face as he went through preflight checks. He wore a silver space suit identical to mine, down to the American flag patch on his right shoulder.
A voice crackled into the cockpit through a speaker and I heard it echo outside over the crowd, “This is mission control. We are clear for takeoff.”
I watched the crowd stir at the statement. I settled back into my seat and finally caught Paul’s eye. I didn’t need to ask him if he was ready; he already knew what I was going to ask, and his response was a simple nod.
“Roger that,” I called back. “We are standing by for takeoff.”
Paul flicked a couple more switches. Underneath me, the whole shuttle began to rumble like a giant cat beginning to purr. The noise of the light-speed hover engines filled the cockpit, so though I couldn’t hear anything from outside anymore, I could see the crowd clapping and cheering.
“Wait!” Paul suddenly exclaimed. “Allan, what about Sara?”
You ready, pal? We’re going to Mars!”
“Sara? Sara who?” I laughed, enjoying myself as I pretended not to know who he was talking about. I wasn’t going to let the panicked look on Paul’s face dampen my enthusiasm.
The engines grew louder. I gripped handles on both sides of my seat as my body shook.
“Sara Decker!” Paul called out. “She’s supposed to be our copilot! Remember?”
I shrugged. All I cared about was getting to Mars—nothing could stop me now!
“We can’t leave her!” Paul insisted.
I just kept laughing. “Soon we’ll be DECKER-free!” Even though I shouted to be heard, the engines were now at a deafening roar and I couldn’t hear my own voice. Paul shouted back, but his words were swallowed by the noise.
Mission control cut through loud and clear on the speaker. “We are clear for liftoff in ten…nine…eight…seven…”
Paul struggled in his seat and looked all around, but I knew we would be fine—and, as a bonus, we wouldn’t have to deal with Sara anymore. Who needed a copilot, anyway? Paul and I could do it all on our own.
The shuttle began to lift off the ground. I was immediately pressed back into my seat and couldn’t move as the G-forces pressed down on me.
“And we have liftoff!” the voice said through the speaker.
I laughed. “Sayonara, Sara!” I yelled.
Suddenly, another voice buzzed through the intercom and I immediately recognized it as Sara Decker!
“You forgot me!” she screamed, her voice echoing throughout the cockpit.
“You snooze, you lose,” I chuckled.
For a brief moment, though, I wondered if we should have waited for her… But then I remembered how annoying Sara could be and smiled at the thought of leaving her behind.
In the blink of an eye, the blue sky of Earth disappeared as Paul and I entered the endless twilight of space.
Then something wet swiped across my cheek. No, I wasn’t crying, was I? But as I raised my hand to wipe it away, my fingers were submerged in something soft and fluffy.
Suddenly, I was taken down from space and into somewhere I knew very well: the dining room right next to the kitchen in my house. Sammy pawed at me as his tail wagged endlessly with excitement. His shaggy gray and white fur flopped as he jumped up onto my leg again and licked my cheek—that was what the wet thing had been!
Beside me, Paul laughed. I finally became aware of reality and the scene around me replaced the space shuttle daydream altogether. It was Saturday, the first one of summer vacation, and Paul and I had spent all night talking about the Exceller Five shuttle we were going to build and launch into space.
Sammy licked me again, grabbing my attention. I smiled and scratched the sheepdog behind his ears. “Hey, Sammy! Do you want another pancake?”
“I can’t blame him,” Paul said, mumbling over a mouthful of breakfast. “Your dad makes the best pancakes.”
At the stove in the kitchen, my dad turned and smiled at Paul, but a frown quickly overtook his face as he looked at me. “I don’t think another pancake is a good idea, son. You’ve given him three already.”
I shrugged. “One more won’t hurt him. Besides, Sammy needs to keep up his strength if he’s going to be the first dog in space!”
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