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This is a story of tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, when men have built a station in space, constructed in the form of a great wheel, and set a thousand miles out from the Earth, fixed by gravity, and turning about the world every two hours, serving a double purpose: an observation post in the heavens, and a place where a spaceship can be assembled, and then launched to explore other planets, and the vast universe itself, in the last and greatest adventure of mankind, the plunge toward the... conquest of space!
A crew of astronauts works on the last
preparations of a rocket
While a team of astronauts works to the last preparations of a rocket that has to take them on the moon, first step of the conquest of space, the commander of the "wheel", Commander Samuel T. Merritt welcomes an Earth emissary who is carrying a message of the highest importance. The former tells him that the imminent experimental flight to the moon is cancelled.
The new destination is Mars. Despite Commander's protest , who has just been promoted to General, concerning the training of the crew and the dangers of distant travels to which nobody has been prepared, he accepts the orders to which he has elsewhere never disobeyed.
Of course Samuel Merritt will be the chief of the expedition and will be accompanied by his son, Captain Barney Merritt, who finally cancel his permission, nevertheless so waited, to participate to the expedition.
Timing has to be precise, it is now necessary to recruit the three other crewmen who are going to participate in the trip. Sergeant Jackie Siegle, Sergeant Imoto and Sergeant Andre Fodor are selected for their own competence. Despite the willing of Sergeant Mahoney, leader of the astronaut troop, his candidacy is rejected because of his age.
After a good-byes evening in which the astronauts are the stars, the launching is processed the following day. The rocket rapidly reaches 20.000 miles per hour. But soon after the launching, the crew discovers that Sergeant Mahoney has embarked as a stowaway. Although casualty, his days are not in danger. A problem of antenna obliges Siegle and Fodor to realize an extra vehicular exit. while they work to solve the problem, a fragment of asteroid touches Fodor and kills him...
General Samuel T. Merritt becomes suddenly mad
Mars is now in view. But the General, suddenly taken by madness released by theological thoughts, tries to crush the rocket on the Martian ground when landing. finally the rocket lands quit brutally on Mars. It relaeses its wings and puts in vertical position, ready for the next take off.
Astronauts make their first steps on the red mountainous ground of the little planet that possesses a certain gravity.
But the real problem arrives when the General, always giving to madness, purges the tanks of water. Struggling with Captain Merritt, his own son who attempts to stop his dangerous act for the expedition, he finds death. Unfortunately, the pain is made, the expedition is compromised and the crew is condemned to die on the red planet if they do not discover some water...
The Martian rocket takes off
Spoiler ! the end of the story is revealed below…
Despite all their efforts to find water, the planet is arid and drillings do not change anything. After a month passed on the planet, the crew celebrates Christmas in melancholy when suddenly, the miracle arrives ! Snow appears and covers the planet with a white coat. Barney Merritt, Mahoney, Siegle and Imoto work together to pump a maximum of snow so as to fill the tanks of the rocket. Imoto pics samples of rock and whole that can demonstrate that life on Mars is possible. Seeds he had deposited when he arrived having produced a plant being the most irrefutable proof. Suddenly, the ground shakes and fissures provoking the imbalance of the rocket and threatening to bury it. After several attempts to straighten it with the help its boosters, our four astronauts finally leave to Earth in memory of the man who conquered space; the General.