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One Small Step
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One Small Step

3.6 3
by P. B. Kerr

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It's 1969 and thirteen-year-old Scott MacLeod is doing all of the normal activities that boys do�and just happens to fly airplanes with his air force flight instructor father. When Scott manages to successfully crash-land a plane, he catches the sys of NASA, who recruits him for a top-secret space program that will send a test flight to the Moon before the first


It's 1969 and thirteen-year-old Scott MacLeod is doing all of the normal activities that boys do�and just happens to fly airplanes with his air force flight instructor father. When Scott manages to successfully crash-land a plane, he catches the sys of NASA, who recruits him for a top-secret space program that will send a test flight to the Moon before the first lunar landing. The craft was originally supposed to be piloted by chimps, but when one of them is taken off the mission, they call on Scott to take his place.

Soon Scott finds himslef in the midst of grueling training for this mission�and quickly realizes the chimps are much more clever and competent than their human counterparts give them credit for. But things are not quite adding up at the training facility. Could NASA be hiding a secret from the boy aviator and his crew of chimps?

G-forces and goverment secrets collide as Scott sets out on his journey to the Moon�and goes on the adventure of a lifetime!

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Karen Galenis
Set in 1969 when space travel was in its infancy, this novel makes the reader wonder if NASA conceals the truth regarding what actually occurs during space travel. The only thing that thirteen-year-old Scott likes better than airplanes is flying airplanes. Instructed on the art of aircraft flying by his Air Force flight-instructor father, Scotts attracts the attention of NASA after he puts his training to the test by crash landing a training plane in which he was not even supposed to be a passenger. In order to keep his father from being dishonorably discharged from the army and ruining the only chance of reuniting his estranged parents, Scott agrees to pilot, along with two chimpanzees, a test flight to the moon. During his NASA adventure, Scott learns that chimps are smarter than one might think, NASA keeps many secrets, and the moon is home to much more than just craters and dust. The reader gets much more than a tale of space travel, including an extremely detailed account of various flying techniques, numerous flying apparatuses, unique NASA training techniques, and questionable animal behavior modification practices. At times the details are mundane and monotonous and distract the reader from the plot line and character development. This novel would be ideal for the middle school student who is fascinated with space travel. Reviewer: Karen Galenis
School Library Journal

Gr 7-9

Thirteen-year-old Scott MacLeod has been an underage pilot since his dad, a Korean War-era ace and flight instructor for Vietnam War jet pilots, secretly let him take the stick of his Cessna at age 12. Now, dad's letting him take occasional control of a "Tweet," the two-engine jet trainer he uses to ready "fresh meat" for duty in beefier aircraft. Though Scott, a quick study, handles the airborne aircraft well, he's never had to do the most difficult thing-land a jet aircraft. That changes suddenly when a fluke occurrence forces him to land a damaged plane himself, possibly ending his father's career. The incident arouses the interests of NASA officials who, in a top-secret program, have been sending chimps into space as a rehearsal for manned Apollo missions. The agency thinks that the diminutive Scott would be a perfect candidate to accompany two trained chimpanzees on a scaled-down test mission to orbit the moon in preparation for the upcoming Apollo 11 moon landing. In order to save his dad's career-and to satisfy his own thirst for adventure-Scott convinces his reluctant father to allow him to serve as the first tween-aged astronaut. Accompanied by two endearing primates, he will do everything the adult astronauts are scheduled to do-except actually land on the moon. Unless, that is, he decides to go the distance and take the mission into his own hands. Allusions to things like sneaking cigarettes, beer, and peeks at Playboy magazine are authentic and realistic. This is a gripping and well-researched piece of space-age historical fiction.-Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI

Kirkus Reviews
Stories do not get any more outlandish than this one about a 13-year-old boy recruited by NASA to fly with two chimps to the moon in 1969. His parents separated, Scott MacLeod lives with his father, an Air Force major who indulges his son's interest in flying. After Scott's remarkable demonstration of skill and calm during a mid-air emergency, two NASA scientists decide to recruit him as a replacement for an unruly chimpanzee on a secret moon mission that will precede Apollo 11. After intensive training, Scott blasts off with his two simian crewmates in the Caliban 11-and even takes a stroll on the moon. Kerr creates some snafus to keep up the tension but all safely return to Earth. References to cultural and current events give a good sense of the time, and detailed discussions of the training and technologies will interest many readers. Plausibility and imagination are stretched to the limit, but readers who would enjoy fast-paced, space-age adventures will wish they had the outrageous good fortune of Scott MacLeod. (Fiction. 8-13)

Product Details

Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
8 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

There was a ceiling of thick cumulus cloud at about five thousand feet. I never liked flying through thick cloud. It was like in Star Trek when Captain Kirk finds himself somewhere dreamlike and weird and between worlds. Dad said that when he was in Korea, sometimes he used to hide in a cloud and wait for a MiG to come on by; then he'd wax its tail before it knew what was happening. I can believe that. To me, clouds always seem like they're hiding something. But above eight thousand we found ourselves in clear blue sky with fifty-mile visibility in every direction. Below us the ground had disappeared altogether, and the cloud covering looked less like an ambush waiting to happen and more like thick and fluffy layers of whipped cream. Sometimes that's the best kind of flying there is. The kind where it's just you and the sky, without a hole in the cloud to indicate the way back home. We were in an excellent mood. And in these particular circumstances it seemed kind of fitting that there should be no reminder of an Earth that wanted us both tied down or grounded.

"Isn't this something?" said Dad.

"It's great," I said.

"How many thirteen-year-old kids do you figure ever get to do anything like this?"

"I dunno. Not many, I guess."

"I'd say less than not many. I'd say you're the only one, Scotty. Wanna take over for a while?"


"You have control of the aircraft," he said, and let go of his stick.

"I have control of the aircraft," I said, taking hold of mine.

It was probably the best that I had ever flown, a real dollar ride. I did an aileron roll and a loop and a perfect figure of eight. Then I took the Tweet up to thirty-four thousand, which was the highest I'd been in any aircraft. The sky up at that height was the bluest blue — the most perfect sky I'd ever seen outside of that picture of the air above the Island of Skye that was hanging on my bedroom wall. I felt like an angel. I could hardly bear the idea that I was about to give all this up.

"Like I always say," said Dad, "you're a natural stick-and-rudder man. Something born, not made. A true MacLeod."

I whipped the Tweet the length and breadth of Harris County for about an hour before I felt him on the brakes and he said it was time to head for home. I wondered when I would ever again feel such monumental power through my hands.

"You have control of the aircraft," I said.

"I have control of the aircraft," he said, taking the stick and pushing it forward.

Dad dropped down to about seven thousand feet, just above the cloud layer, and then radioed the tower controller at Ellington, who advised him that he was clear to land. So he throttled back and began banking gently to the right, flying in a big wide circle that would bring us in to land from the southeast. Completing his turn, we dropped through the cloud and prepared to make our final approach.

Suddenly, without warning, we found ourselves faced with a flock of about a dozen snow geese flying in a V formation and coming right toward us. There was no time to get out of the way. We were going too fast for that. For me there was no time to do anything except yell and then duck as one of the geese hit the right side of the Tweet's canopy. The Tweet rocked like it had been hit by a surface-to-air missile, and the Plexiglas shattered into a dozen fragments as the goose came hurtling right through the canopy and collided heavily with my dad. The cockpit was filled with a smell like singed hair as another bird, perhaps, or even part of the same bird, was ingested by the air-breathing intakes of one of the two engines.

There was blood and feathers and pieces of Plexiglas everywhere. It was impossible to know how much of the blood and guts spread all over the right-hand cockpit seat was the bird's, and how much was Dad's. The shark pictured on his helmet looked like it had made a fresh kill. Its pointy teeth were dripping with red. It was hard to believe that an ordinary bird could cause such destruction to a jet fighter aircraft. It was equally hard to believe that we were still airborne. But we were. For the moment, at least.

"Dad?" I shouted desperately. "Are you okay?"

His chin stayed on his chest, and his hands remained motionless on his lap. He wasn't holding the stick. He didn't look like he was even awake.

"Dad?" I took him by the shoulder and shook him hard. Restrained by its harness, his body stayed put, but his head lolled alarmingly. I couldn't see his eyes behind his visor, and when I tried to push it up, I found that it was stuck, as if the impact had damaged the hinge. So I reached across and unbuckled his oxygen mask. His mouth was open and full of blood. His tongue was hanging out. A terrible feeling took hold of my stomach. For a moment I felt like throwing up. I was terribly afraid that he was dead. "Dad!"

For a moment I saw his lips move and in the earphones inside my helmet I heard him utter one word: "Eject." Then he was silent.

Instinctively, I reached down beside my thigh, took hold of one of the ejection-seat handgrips, and raised it to the full up position, exposing the trigger the way he had shown me. I felt the shoulder harness tighten. I needed only to squeeze the trigger to launch myself out of the aircraft. Except that I couldn't do it. Despite what he'd said earlier, there was no way I could eject.

For one thing, I could only eject myself, and that would have been like killing my dad. For another, the canopy was a mess. It was supposed to blow off a split second before the seat ejected. But looking at it now I had my doubts about that happening. It seemed just as likely that my seat would be fired straight through the damaged canopy, killing me outright. There could be no question of ejecting. Our only chance was for me to take control of the aircraft and land it myself — something I had never done. I grabbed the stick as the Tweet gave a little shudder and began to dip to the right.

"I have control of the aircraft!" I yelled at him.

The trouble was, I didn't. Not by a long shot.

They say your whole life passes in front of your eyes in the moments that precede your own death. But this isn't what happened. Not for me, anyway. Being only thirteen years old, I guess there wasn't that much to remember. Instead, I remembered the last time I'd been really scared. That is, scared enough to think that I might be about to die. It was six months ago, in Miami, before I ever started flying with my dad. Before my life really got started. Copyright © 2008 by P. B. Kerr

Meet the Author

P. B. Kerr has written numerous books for children, including the bestselling Children of the Lamp series. He lives in London with his wife, a novelist,and their three children.

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