Plot Summary/Details

I fear I'm a bit light on details with this one. From what I can remember:

NASA (or its fictional equivalent) has developed its first interplanetary space program. It represents a clear breakthrough in man's progress into space. Unfortunately for the program. A sort of neo-Luddite group is continually protesting and trying to shut the program down. I recall their basic ideology being that technological progress is endangering both man and the environment, and they advocate for a return to simpler times. Something like that. I can recall two specific events in the novella highlighting this mantra.

The first occurs at a test firing of the new rocket design. The protestors have stormed into the launching area, and will not leave. They are too close to launch the rocket (the blast will kill them), and hope to stop the test launch entirely. I recall distinctly that the solution by the mission command types was to ignite the Vernier thrusters. This had the effect of making the protestors think the launch was in progress (causing them to flee), while not actually endangering anyone.

The second occurs in the spacecraft itself. The protagonist has launched, and is in space when he discovers one of the leaders of the movement has stowed away in the ship with the intent of sabotaging the flight. The leader is female, a brunette, and quite attractive. I seem to remember her being described in a rather minxy/pulp novel sense. She has a gun with her, and gets the drop on the astronaut. She does not shoot him, but makes it clear that she's either sabotaged the spacecraft somehow, or intends to do so. There is a long flight time ahead (obviously), so she has the luxury of time, IIRC. The two engage in a rather well-written discussion/debate, where each makes a strong case for their viewpoints and philosophy. There is also more than a hint of sexual tension between the two, (again IIRC).

I do not know how the story ends, as the novella was presented in several parts in a sci-fi magazine. I never got the chance to read the final part to see how the crisis was resolved.

Publication Details/Timeframe

I definitely read this in a sci-fi magazine of some sort. It was one of the mainstream ones of the day (e.g. Asimov, Analog, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, etc.) It was also an older magazine. I can't provide a specific date, but I'd guess 1970's at the latest. It could be a number of years older than that.

  • 1
    Using the booster vernier to scare off protesters rings a faint bell with me - I have a feeling the booster was called a Big Dummy or something similar, and was a tanker for a long distance manned mission. Possibly Voyagers by Ben Bova ? Oct 14, 2018 at 23:05

2 Answers 2


I'm pretty sure this is Star Probe by Joseph Green. It was serialised in Analog, Oct, Nov, Dec 1975. The vehicle is piloted by the mentally-retarded son of the central character, who has had his grandfather's mind "imprinted" on his brain.

The FOE activists kidnap the central character (Hal Hentson) but he escapes. By the end he and the FOE activist Jodie Carson have developed a grudging respect for each other, but are not reconciled.

Jodie’s expression softened. “Listen Hal We had one good night, and that’s more than most people get in their lifetimes. Settle for it. Now I have to call my lawyer and arrange bail. I’ve seen the inside of too many Jails already. No, don’t kiss me. Let’s end it clean. The next time you see me it will be across a picket line”. Jodie walked to the door and out.

The concluding paragraph is a quote from Arthur C Clarke expressing the view that the current interest in ecology has been generated by views of the earth from space.


I don't know what story you are looking for.

Isaac Asimov's story "Trends" (1939) is similar in many ways, but I don't remember enough to confirm it, and the synopsis indicates it is different in some ways.

https://www.google.com/search?q=Isaac+asimov+%22trends%22&oq=Isaac+asimov+%22trends%22&aqs=chrome..69i57j0.9311j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 1


The Novel When Worlds Collide (1933) has a scene where hordes of desperate people seek refuge on a space ship and are finally driven off by firing the rocket tubes and incinerating thousands.


These are the closest stories I remember to your story. You might want to read "Trends" in case your memory is confusing it with another story.

  • 2
    If you don't know the answer you should really be commenting with your findings instead of posting an "answer" of multiple possible answers.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Dec 5, 2017 at 17:28
  • "Trends" is available at the Internet Archive. I don't think that's the answer. Things to Come has a scene where a mob tries to prevent a space shot. At least the movie does, I haven't read the book.
    – user14111
    Dec 5, 2017 at 21:38
  • I skimmed through "Trends" just now. It's definitely not that one.
    – Helbent IV
    Dec 7, 2017 at 6:41

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