I read this story 1 or 2 years ago.

My details are a little bit foggy, but the main gist of the story is that an astronaut learns that some dastardly villain (I think he was posing as a philanthropist?) planned to launch missiles/nukes at the Earth. The night before the attack, the astronaut gets rid of the fuel (probably plutonium), and as he dies from radiation, he thinks about his wife and everybody back on Earth. Back on Earth, he's celebrated for his heroic deeds.


1 Answer 1


This is Heinlein's "The Long Watch" (1949); the hero holes up in the missile magazine to prevent them being taken over by a would-be coup. Because they can starve him out, he decides he needs to disable the missiles by smashing their plutonium cores. The story ends with a (highly-radioactive) memorial to him. It's been anthologised many times, but most commonly in the much-reprinted Heinlein anthology The Green Hills of Earth.

You can read it online (legally) at Baen.com

The scene that always stuck in memory for me is when he's sitting, after smashing the cores, smoking a cigarette, and even his breath is so radioactive it makes the Geiger counter shriek.

  • 2
    I've taken the liberty of adding a link to where OP can read the story online legally.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 16:15
  • 1
    @Valorum Are you saying that the page scans on ISFDb are illegal!?
    – DavidW
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 16:21
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    Of dubious legality. Whereas Baen is confirmed to be legal.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 17:59

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