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Lights flickered on and off intermittently on the console. Before hitting the bow shock, Jupiter seemed to stand still. Now, it was easy to tell they were moving toward the planet. Even though the motion appeared slow, the dial on Pilot's console confirmed what he now realized, they were careening into the planet. Gently, he eased the sails around, trying to bring the ship into orbit. As he did, the ship began to shake violently, rattling his teeth. He was slowing the ship, but not fast enough. Jupiter's gravitational field, the collision of charged particles from the sun and Jupiter, along with photon pressure from both sources were causing the sails to vibrate at their resonant frequency.
"The masts are reaching critical stress," called Neb O'Connell from C-and-C. "If you don't back off the sails, they're going to snap."
"If I back off the sails, we'll go sailing right into the planet!" said Pilot through gritted teeth. "LaRue, give me some thrust! Help me out."
The ship's thrusters fired. If anything, the ship vibrated even more.
"There's a stress fracture developing on the number three sail." There was a hint of panic in Neb's voice. "We've got to do something quick or the ship's going to fly apart."
Pilot looked at the readout on his console and suddenly had a thought. He put his hands on the sail controls and locked his gaze on the clock on his console, counting down seconds.
"Prepare to jettison number three sail," called Jefferson from C-and-C. "LaRue, stand by on thruster control. Get Berko to the towing shuttle, now."
"No! You don't have time for all that. It's too late!" said Pilot.
Posted October 11, 2010
The Solar Sea is an engaging, well-crafted tale of space exploration. The author is an astronomer who knows the territory, and a storyteller who knows how to transport you there. In this adventure he describes a spacecraft designed for interplanetary travel. I suspect he may actually have worked up the schematics. I expect he'll be hearing from NASA.
With the Solar Sea, David Lee Summers has written a fine narrative on a par with the best of Science Fiction, including Burroughs' At the Earth's Core, Williamson's The Humanoids, Clarke's The City and the Stars, and Chrichton's Timeline.