Not sure if this was a book or a short-story. I read it in the late 80s. Teleportation devices had been built, but you needed both a send-unit and receiver-unit to transport something. So the two or three-man crew of a spacecraft was carrying one of these devices to an outpost on another planet, so a teleport link could be established. While enroute, they maintained contact with Earth, so they could teleport back when they were not on duty.

Unfortunately, they somehow lost the link. One of them tries to “tune-in the Earth station” and gets a strong signal. His crew-mate immediately steps thru, but they find out they’ve linked to an alien receiver. Later, an alien comes thru the teleporter to bring back the body of the now dead crewman. (The alien world had a poisonous atmosphere or something.)

I think there’s also a scene where the crewman’s body is returned to his family on Earth. The crewman’s father doesn’t regret his son’s death but says something like “they must do these (risky) things because they are men.”

2 Answers 2


This is The Enemy Stars by Poul Anderson.

You've remembered a few highlights from the book, and the plot is a lot more involved than your question suggests. The teleporter accident is at the end of chapter 16:

A being stood in the receiving chamber. It wore some kind of armor, so he could not make out the shape very well, but though it stood on two legs the shape was not a man’s. Through a transparent bubble of a helmet, where the air within bore a yellowish tinge, Maclaren saw its face. Not fish or frog or mammal, it was so other a face that his mind would not wholly register it. Afterward he recalled only blurred features, tendrils and great red eyes.

Strangely, beyond reason, in that first look he read compassion on the face.

The creature bore David Ryerson’s body in its arms.

The because they are men quote is right at the end, where it is said by Maclaren responding to a Kipling poem quoted by Ryerson's father:

When Ryerson had finished, Maclaren stood up, folded his hands and bowed. “Sensei,” he said, “give me your blessing.”

“What?” The other man leaned back into shadows, and now he was again entirely old. You could scarcely hear him under the waves outside. “You’ve naught to thank me for, lad.”

“No, you gave me much,” said Maclaren. “You have told me why men go, and it isn’t for nothing. It is because they are men.”


Larry Niven: The Known Space 'verse has humans installing "transfer booths" throughout the world, which creates all sorts of changes in society on Earth due to their virtually free running costs: Geographical identity vanishes in the face of global monoculture; people travel all over the world for minor errands like shopping; whenever anything happens on the news a massive "flash crowd" zips in from every corner of the earth after hearing about it; and whenever there is a crime, no one has an alibi. The Puppeteers' "stepping disks" also play a major role in the Ringworld sequels. He also put teleporting booths in the otherwise hard-science A World Out of Time. Unlike the Known Space teleporters, these were innately short-range and required a long, unbroken string of booths to travel long distances. Niven also wrote another Verse where exploring the social and economic ramifications of similar teleport technology is the main theme of the stories.

  • Which Niven teleporter story contains an alien from a planet with a poison atmosphere carrying the body of a dead crewmember? Nov 29, 2017 at 14:05

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