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Mission ElapsedTime [Day/Hr:Min:Sec]
In their orange pressure suits, York, Gershon, and Stone were jammed together so close they were rubbing elbows. They were shielded from daylight; small fluorescent floods lit up the Command Module's cramped cabin.
There was a powerful thump. York, startled, glanced at her crewmates.
"Fuel pumps," Stone said.
York heard a dull rumblinglike faraway thundera shudder that transmitted itself through the padded couch to her body.
Hundreds of feet below York, liquid oxygen and hydrogen were rushing together, mingling in the big first-stage engines' combustion chambers.
She could feel her heartbeat rising, clattering within her chest. Take it easy, damn it.
A small metal model of a cosmonaut, squat and Asiatic, dangled from a chain fixed above her head. This was Boris, the gift from Vlad Viktorenko. The toy swung back and forth, its grotesque features leering at her out of a sketch of a helmet. Good luck, Bah-reess.
The noise began, cacophonous, a steady roar. It was like being inside the mouth of some huge, bellowing giant.
Phil Stone shouted, "All five at nominal. Stand by for the stretch."
The five liquid rocket engines of the Saturn VB booster's first stage, the MS-IC, had ignited a full eight seconds ahead of the enhanced Saturn's four Solid Rocket Boosters. And next came the "Stretch, " as the stack reached up under the pressure of that immense thrust. She could feel the ship pushing upward, hear the groan of strained metal as the joints of the segmented solid boosters flexed.
It was all supposed tohappen this way. But still...Jesus. What a design.
Stone said, "Three, two. SRB ignition."
They were committed. The solid boosters were big firecrackers; once the SRBs were ignited, nothing could stop them until they burned out.
"Clock is running"
There was a jolt: mild, easy. The explosive pins holding down the boosters had snapped.
Nothing as heavy as a Saturn VB was going to leap into the air.
The cabin started to shake, the couch restraints and fittings rattling.
"Climbout," Stone said evenly. "Here we go."
Ralph Gershon whooped. "Roger! Going full bore!"
Liftoff. Good God. I'm off the ground.
She felt excitement surge in her, the grainy reality of the motion pressed in on her. "Poyekhali!" she shouted. Let's go!the spontaneous cry of an excited Yuri Gagarin.
The lurching continued.
York was thrown against her harness, to the right, and then to the left, so that she jammed up against Gershon.
The Saturn VB was inching its way upward past the launch tower, almost skittishly, its automated controls swiveling its five first-stage engines to correct for wind shear. Right, left, forward, back, in a series of spasmodic jerks hard enough to bruise her.
No simulation had even hinted at the violence. It was like riding out of an explosion.
"Access arm," Stone called. "Clear of the tower."
John Young, Houston capcom for the launch, came on line.
"Ares, Houston. Copy. You are clear of the tower."
York felt a lurch forward. The whole stack had pitched over; she was sitting up in her couch, the huge rattling thrust of the first stage pushing at her back.
"Houston, we have a good roll program,," Stone said.
"Roger the roll."
The Saturn was arcing over the Florida coast, toward the Atlantic.
Down there on the beaches, she knew, children had written huge good luck messages into the Florida sand. GODSPEED ARES. York looked up and to her right, toward the tiny square window there. But there was nothing to see. They were cocooned; the boost protective cover, a solid cone, lay over the Command Module, blocking out the daylight.
The Command Module's interior was the size of a small car. It was small, dingy, mechanical, metallic. Very 1960s, York thought. The walls, painted gray and yellow,, were studded with gauges, dials, control switches, and circuit breakers. There were 'scraps of notes, from the crew to themselves, and emergency checklists, and hundreds of tiny round-cornered squares of blue Velcro stuck to the walls.
The three crew couches were just metal frames with canvas supports. York lay on her back, in the Command Module's right-hand seat. Stone, as commander, was in the left-hand seat; Ralph Gershon was in -the center couch. The main hatch was behind Gershon's head, with big chunky levers on its inside, like a submarine's hatch.
"Ares, Houston. You're right smack-dab on the trajectory.""Roger, John," Stone said. "This baby is really going.""Roger that."
"Go, you mother," Gershon shouted. "Shit hot!" York could hear his voice shaking with the oscillation.
"Ten thousand and point five Mach," Young said.
Point five Mach. Less than thirty seconds into the mission, and I'm already hitting half the speed of sound.
John Young didn't sound scared, or nervous. just another day at the office for him.
John had ridden around the Moon in Apollo 10, back in 1969; and if the later Apollos hadn't been canned, he probably would have commanded a mission to the lunar surface.
In fact, if he hadn't been so critical of NASA following Apollo-N, Young might have been sitting in the cabin himself.
The vibration worsened. Her head rattled in her helmet, like a seed in a gourd. The whole cabin was shaking, and she couldn't focus on the oscillating banks of instruments in front of her.
"Point nine Mach," Stone said. "Forty seconds. Mach one. Going through nineteen thousand."
"Ares, you are go at forty."
Abruptly the ride smoothed out; it was like passing onto a smoother road surface. Even the engine noise was gone; they were moving so fast they were leaving their own sound behind.
"Ares, you're looking good."
"Rog," Stone said. "Okay, we're throttling down."
The engines cut back to ease the stack through max-Q the point when air density and the booster's velocity combined to exert maximum stress on the airframe.
"You are go at throttle up."
"Roger. Go at throttle up."