“Ariel spacecraft, this is Houston.” A new voice sounded from the radio speaker.
“Go ahead Houston,” Astrid said.
“Ariel, we have a message for you, but I’m pretty sure you’re going to ignore it.”
“What is the message?” wondered Astrid.
“Your mother says ‘turn around and come home’.”
“Well, I couldn’t really, even if I wanted to.”
“Ten-four on that, Ariel. We would however like to know your plan.”
“Plan,” said the girl inventor. “I knew I forgot something. Well, my intention is to rescue Nova 5, but I have to be honest. I don’t really have a plan.”
“Well, we have a few suggestions for you.”
“I thought you might,” said Astrid. “Can I ask who I’m speaking to?”
“This is Eric Foley.”
“I’m familiar with you, Eric. You were a mission commander to the ISS. I’m Astrid.”
“I’m familiar with you too, Astrid. So here are the possibilities. Number one: You can rendezvous with Nova and nudge her up into a sustainable orbit. The problem is we don’t know how much that will help. She appears to be badly damaged. Number two: You could rendezvous and latch onto Nova with your robot arm, towing her to the ISS. The problem with this one is it might be dangerous to both crews, since her current orbit is pretty steep. Finally, you can rendezvous and Nova’s crew can transfer in their suits to Ariel and abandon their ship. This sounds easy, but it’s not. It’s difficult to get around in space, even when it’s not an emergency situation.”
“Well, I’m going to be honest, Eric. Since right now, there’s just a big empty space where Ariel’s robot arm goes, we have to go with option three. Can you tell Nova’s crew to suit up? We’ll rendezvous in 116 minutes.”
“Relaying that information now,” he said. “Just so you know, that’s cutting it close. They’re dusting some atmosphere now. We estimate that they have a window of only 121 minutes.”
“That’s just craptastic,” said Williams.
Ariel shot through space essentially flying herself. Astrid ran through calculations, eventually deciding that she could accelerate enough to gain 19 minutes, without taking herself off course and without cutting into the fuel that she would need to make it home safely. Unlike the Nova capsules, which maneuvered through space with very little fuel and then just dropped back to earth, the space plane had to maneuver through the air and fly down to a runway landing. Pushing the throttle forward, she guided her creation across the sky. Carl Williams meanwhile gathered the emergency gear.
“Nova 5 on alert radar,” said Williams, back in his seat.
“Got it,” she replied. “I see her! There she is!”