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Plot Details/Summary

The protagonist in this one wakes aboard the wreckage of the space-going equivalent of a 747 or the like. That is, it's a commuter spaceship of some sort. The ship has crash-landed on some unknown planet or planetoid with a very thin atmosphere and (IIRC) a rather unpleasant climate. It's very difficult for the protagonist, and he realizes immediately he needs to acquire some sort of environmental protection.

Survival being the first order of business, the protagonist acquires a "survival suit" from underneath one of the seats. I remember the suit being described as sort of a lightweight emergency suit in case of the ship having an explosive decompression event while in space. The protagonist comments that it wasn't nearly as effective as an actual space suit, but it would at least insulate him from the weather (can't remember if it is too cold, or too hot) and make breathing a little bit easier.

There's a bit of exploration of the planet around him, but IIRC, his efforts are limited until he finds an actual space suit. I think he locates the cockpit of the spacecraft, which (again, IIRC) was torn free from the rest of the vessel in the crash. However the space suit is found, it represents a turning point of sorts in his fortunes. With the atmospheric pressurization capabilities of a full space suit, he's able to engage in normal physical activity again. I believe it is at this time he removes the bodies of the other passengers from the vessel to give them a burial of sorts, and to keep his own shelter (the wreck of the ship) habitable.

I do not recall the ending of the story, other than I remember it being a happy one. There may be an element of Robinson Crusoe to the tale, with the protagonist discovering and befriend a native of the planet, which helps him survive until rescue. Or the rescue may have been more straightforward. I really can't remember for sure.

Publication Details

I'm almost positive I read this in an anthology, rather than a sci-fi magazine or periodical. I think the story is a rather old one. Certainly no later than the 1970s, and likely to be considerably older. I can't narrow it down beyond that, unfortunately.

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    How does tthe hero walk away unharmed from a crash that killed everybody else? – user14111 Feb 27 '18 at 9:02
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    Was there a "point" to the story? I mean, could there have been a plot twist such as the survivor being an alien on a hostile Earth or something? Otherwise this sounds like simply a chapter from a longer book. – Mr Lister Feb 27 '18 at 9:08
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    @MrLister If there was a "twist" it probably would have been finding native life on the planet. A point which, as I mentioned in my question, I'm not entirely sure existed. It's definitely a short story, though. – Helbent IV Feb 27 '18 at 11:48
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    I'd like to read this, I hope someone ids it. – Organic Marble Feb 27 '18 at 13:14
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    Important point: Did the survivor have a device that played music? – Covertwalrus Mar 31 '18 at 4:58
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Although it doesn't appear to ever have been anthologized, this sounds a lot like "Survival" (1953) by Don Green. It was published in the July 1953 issue of Astounding and only ever reprinted in the British edition the following December.

Philip Jennings wakes up to intense cold and a feeling of suffocation. He finds all 21 of the other passengers and the stewardess dead in the Passenger Section with him. A look into the pilots' compartment shows that the crew is dead too.

Spacesuits - what had the stewardess said? Under... under something... the seats? Yes, that was it. Under the seats. Like one-piece coveralls, she'd said. Step into one, zip up the front, put on the hood and the oxygen mask, and there you were. Not really spacesuits, though, the girl had said. "Survival suits," she'd called them - like life preservers on ocean ships.

The planetoid that the ship has crashed on is too hot during the day, only the suit keeping him safe, and too cold at night.

He leaves the ship, and does a bit of exploring, but doesn't find anywhere safer to be than the ship, nor any way of making anything more obvious than the ship itself already is. He moves all of the corpses off the ship, since they are a grisly mess and stinking in the heat of the day.

The spacesuits aren't very useful since the helmets have all been shattered in the crash, but he does put one on to take advantage of its better thermal control systems. He starts sorting through the shards of faceplates to try to glue a complete helmet together, at which point it registers that he's got 6 suits and he's only accounted for 5 crew.

He finds the engineer alive in the power room, and after freeing him, Philip splints his broken arm and leg. After food and rest he helps the engineer, Aiken, into a spacesuit and Aiken checks out the controls.

After some work, Aiken manages to get the radio working, and the story closes with a message coming in that a rescue ship is on the way.

You can read the entire story at the Internet Archive.

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