“All systems nominal,” said Astrid, looking at Ariel’s instruments.
“We have a clean burn,” said copilot Carl Williams.
Ariel, propelled by her custom Maxxim liquid fuel blend, a combination of hydroxy-terminated polybutadiene, nitrous oxide, and several top secret ingredients, pushed the advanced spaceplane higher and higher into the atmosphere.
“Throttling up,” said Astrid.
She looked over her shoulder at her three passengers.
“Everything good back there?”
Laura Bell flashed a smile. Booker Larson’s eyes were glued to his instrument panel, but her threw Astrid a thumbs up. Sergei Bryce simply looked like he was going to throw up. The three of them, all of whom could be found on the list of the twenty richest Americans, had each paid $2 million for the chance to fly into space.
The force of acceleration pressed everyone back into their seats.
“Nosing up to forty degrees,” said Astrid. “Throttling up to seventy percent.”
“Mach six point three,” called Williams. “Altitude is four five miles.”
The gentle rumbling of the rocket engines through the fuselage of the space plane continued.
“Fuel is good,” said Williams. “Pressure is good. All navigation and secondary systems are good.”
“Flight controls are good,” said Astrid. “Plotting a geostationary transfer orbit.” She looked back at her three passengers. “This will take us flying out to 22,230 miles out, and then swing us back down to one hundred miles.”
“That’s fantastic!” Laura Bell’s shout was amplified by the microphone.
“Easy there, Miss,” said Williams. “I’d like to return with both my eardrums intact.”
“Who’d like to get out of their seats and float around?” asked Astrid, as she released her restraints.
The others followed suit and soon they were all floating around Ariel’s large cabin, spinning, doing summersaults, and peeling off their flight suits. Astrid had just finished stowing her suit and helmet, when she turned around to see Sergei Bryce throwing up.
“I’ve got it,” called Carl Williams, as he retrieved a vacuum hose from a ceiling compartment and began chasing down the spherical globules of vomit.
Several hours later, back in her seat, Astrid made an announcement.
“Congratulations lady and gentleman, you have just reached the farthest point away from the earth of anyone since the crew of Apollo 17.”