enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Robert A. Heinlein, Rocket Ship Galileo

I read this book about 8-Dec-2002. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1947. This note was last modified Sunday, 03-Jan-2010 13:24:58 PST.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


This seems to be out of print at the moment. Well, it's the first and least of the "juveniles". And only his third-published novel. I don't recall that I've ever reread it before, though I suppose I probably did way back when. Nazis on the moon!

In the chapter I just read, the adult casually goes into town and buys some guns (they've been having intruders at the site, even attacks). They're working in New Mexico, not where any of them live. For the past 30 years, they couldn't make the purchases -- they're not residents of the state. But of course the book dates from 1947, and they could have then, and I think any time up until 1968. And I'm really curious what Heinlein thought a "police .38 special on a .45 frame" was (it says later it's a revolver, at least).

The world of this book seems to have international peace assured by the UN, and their control of atomic bombs. The place they are testing their spaceship is right by the crater from the tests of the "doomsday" bomb. I guess it didn't work -- there's a big glass patch, but the Earth is still there.

I was just thinking about this at dinner; and then I encounter on p.131 (in my Ace paperback, no ISBN, #73331, $1.25) "You can cut it down to half of that without the lower pressure bothering you. It's oxygen, you know." I had been thinking that it was likely colonies on the moon would run at less than Earth-normal air pressure, since it makes building and sealing cubic easier. And then that this would completely destroy cooking if taken too far (even in Denver, you have to adjust recipes). The reference to pure oxygen also prefigures the practice of the US space program, and the Apollo 1 disaster. In this book, they're not doing much cooking at least. But they do imply (just before the quoted sentence) that they were running their ship at Earth-normal pressure.

On page 138, they put up flags -- with their top edges stiffened with wire, so they don't just hang down, mostly hidden. Just like we did in 1969. The do talk about "raising" them, though, rather than the fixed short staff actually used.

Will Shetterly tells a nice story that's hard to reproduce in print. When he was quite young, he read an excellent book called Rocket Ship Guh-lilly-o (second word spelled phonetically). Considerably later he found a rather bad book called Rocket Ship Galileo, but he's never been able to find the previous good book again.

It was interesting to look into this again. What strikes me most is the casualness about fission piles and fissionable material. Didn't work out that way. The frustrating thing is that I still don't know how much is ignorant hysteria and how much is honest evaluation of the risks. And then there's the speed with which engineering takes place, and how often things actually work. Heinlein would have known better than that, anyway; but it does make a shorter story, maybe even a better one.

[dd-b] [dd-b's books] [book log] [RSS] [sf] [mystery] [childhood] [nonfiction]
[dd-b] [site status] [pit]

David Dyer-Bennet