Flyball the Space Cat is back, and this time he's living in Luna Port, the first city on the Moon. Workers at the lunar station are building a rocket to transport him and his pilot buddy, Colonel Fred Stone, to Venus. The two friends take a long voyage to the planet, where they encounter violet skies, torrential ammonia rains, and strange plants that can communicate without speaking.
This new edition of a charmingly illustrated storybook from 1955 is the second of a four-book series starring the intrepid feline known as Space Cat. Young readers will delight in taking a look at space exploration from Flyball's point of view and following his escapades across the solar system.
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|Age Range:||6 - 10 Years|
About the Author
Illustrator and writer Paul Galdone (1907–86) specialized in children's books. His illustrations for Eve Titus's books include the Basil of Baker Street series. Galdone and Titus were nominated for Caldecott Medals for Anatole (1957) and Anatole and the Cat (1958), titles that were named Caldecott Honor books in 1971. Galdone was posthumously awarded the 1996 Kerlan Award for his contributions to children's literature.
Read an Excerpt
Flyball was the only cat in Luna Port, the first city built on the Moon. He was the only cat on the whole Moon. And he was a famous cat, for with his friend Captain Fred Stone, now Colonel Stone, he had travelled on the first rocket ever to go from Earth to the Moon.
In those days Flyball had been little more than an adventuresome kitten. Now he had become a large and handsome grey cat. He knew his way around Luna Port, under the great bubble of plastic, just as well as any of the men, and each day he went on several tours of inspection. Nobody dared to take things easy when he was around, and he was always around, popping up in the most unexpected places. He went about his business with his sleek grey tail stuck up in the air.
Away at one end of the dome many men were at work, putting together a huge new rocket-ship. This one was many times bigger than the one Flyball and Fred Stone had used to reach the Moon the first time. All the pieces of this enormous ship were being carried up from the Earth by other rockets, and were being put together on the Moon because it was much easier to work there, where heavy things became quite light.
Flyball, of course, was most interested in this big ship. He knew that it was being built for him (and, naturally, for Fred Stone) to make a new voyage. This new journey was to be much longer than the mere hop from the Earth to the Moon. They were going to try to reach the planet Venus.
"Going to Venus, pal," Colonel Stone had told Flyball, "will be quite some trip, but it will be interesting if we make it. Nobody knows what we'll find behind those clouds which hide the planet from us!"
Flyball knew that everybody expected him to go along on the trip. They had tried to prevent his journey to the Moon, but he had been too smart for them and had managed to have his own way. This time there would be no nonsense. When the rocket-ship left for Venus, Flyball would be right there, recognized as a full member of the crew.
Day by day the ship grew bigger and bigger. It was being built on a track that led to the wall of the dome, in which there was set a great metal door. Flyball, who knew everything, knew that once the ship was finished the part of the dome where it was being built would be sealed off and the air let out. Then the enormous ship would be pushed and hauled to the landing-ground and set up on its tail, ready for the take-off.
More and more equipment was brought in by each rocket that arrived from Earth. At first, Flyball had inspected each crate as it was unpacked, hoping to find a stowaway mouse. But as he found no mice, he soon knew that if he was to try to examine each one properly, and there were so many of them, he would have to give up his regular tours of duty around Luna Port. He had to be content with spot-checking, and with seeing that the men fitted all the strange-shaped gadgets neatly and properly.
Apart from the ship, there was plenty to occupy Flyball's time. For instance, there was the observatory where, free from the troublesome clouds and soupy atmosphere of Earth, the men had put up a giant telescope. With the help of this they took hundreds and hundreds of photographs and they were forever getting terribly excited.
"Here," one of them would cry, waving a dripping negative in front of a light, "what do you think of this?"
A shaking finger would point out to Flyball something that looked like a drop of ink in the millions of other drops of ink against a milky background that made up a photograph of the sky. Flyball, who really did not know or care much about star-gazing, would always twitch his whiskers gravely and approvingly.
He did not want to hurt anyone's feelings by appearing uninterested. If it was a new star or a new planet and they wanted him to go there to inspect it, he was perfectly willing to go.
Just give him the ship (and, of course, Colonel Stone) and he would be off. But Venus came first. It was not so far away and, besides, Flyball had heard so many people talking about it that he felt curious. The distant stars would just have to wait.
Much more interesting than the observatory, though, so far as Flyball was concerned, were the kitchens and the Moon gardens. In the gardens there were miles and miles of troughs filled with water and chemicals in which all sorts of vegetables grew without any soil. Tangled white roots filled the troughs and above were tomatoes, squash, spinach, corn and half a hundred other vegetables. The lights in these gardens were specially arranged to help the vegetables ripen in the shortest possible time.
Flyball noted with faint disapproval that, in the kitchens, there was none of the potato-peeling that had taken up so much time at the experimental station back on Earth. The potatoes here came ready peeled in big cans and all the cooks needed was a can-opener. The men seemed to be glad there was no peeling to be done but, just the same, Flyball felt that a station was not really a station without it. The piling up of empty cans was not at all the same thing as the slow growth of a mound of potato-peelings.
Still, Flyball had to admit that some pretty tasty things did come out of cans, even if men had not yet got around to canning fish-heads for the benefit of cats. Sometimes he thought longingly of a good old-fashioned cod's head. In the canned fish there were no bones with which he could wrestle, and a good fish-bone is sometimes a very pleasant thing.
However, when he thought of this, Flyball also remembered that he was a pioneer, and pioneers cannot really expect all the comforts of home. In addition there was the sad fact that there were absolutely no mice on the Moon, and in Flyball's opinion, a world without mice was a poor world indeed. He had great hopes for Venus. Maybe there he'd find plenty of mice to chase.
As the time for the flight drew nearer, Flyball would sit watching the men, through the transparent walls of the dome. They were busy raising the giant rocket so that it stood up, pointing toward the sky. On Earth it would have been a hard job to raise this enormous piece of metal, but on the Moon, where nothing weighed much, a job which would have taken masses of tackle and innumerable men could be done with very little by a few men.
Watching the men working on the rocket, Flyball thought the ship looked large enough to carry a crew of at least a dozen. However, he had heard the experts talking and knew that the scientists and engineers had worked out that it could only carry a little more weight than itself and he, along with Colonel Stone, made up that weight.
In fact, they came every week and asked Flyball whether he would oblige them by sitting on a set of scales, just so that they could keep a check on how heavy he was. The Colonel had to do the same. Luckily, the strict rationing and the exercise they took on the Moon meant that they did not vary much in weight. Of course, the men who weighed them had to do arithmetic, for weights on the Moon were very different from those on Earth. On Earth, for instance, the Colonel weighed a hundred and sixty pounds while on the Moon he barely tipped the scales at twenty-five pounds.
In addition to their weights, Flyball knew that there was also the matter of the fuel which would drive the rocket-ship free of the attraction of the Moon and send it on its way to Venus. On Earth the ship would have needed so much fuel that there would not have been room for Flyball and Fred Stone. It would, Flyball knew, take nearly as much fuel to escape from Venus as it would have done from the Earth, but the fact that it took so little to get away from the Moon meant that they would have plenty of room for extra fuel in case of accidents. Only by going to and from the Moon were they able to carry enough fuel.
This, the first expedition to Venus, was just to be a trial-flight. That was another reason for there being only one man and one cat as crew. There was no point in risking a great many men, or a great many cats, when no one knew what it was going to be like on Venus. The Colonel had volunteered for the journey and, as he had been the first man on the Moon, everyone agreed that he should go. And where Fred Stone went, Flyball went as well.
Day by day the rocket grew nearer to completion. Inside it was fitted with all the automatic equipment which would carry the great ship on its way without help from either Flyball or Fred Stone. The reason for this was that no one knew how either of them would stand up to the strain of travelling through space for many days. Everything had to be made simple in case the journey took too much out of the crew.
Some of the time was spent by Fred Stone and Flyball wearing their space-suits and being swung around in a great drum, in preparation for their great adventure. Flyball did not much like this, but knew he had to put up with it. It was impossible to think of Fred Stone departing for Venus without him. A space-flight without Space Cat would be sure to fail!CHAPTER 2
Then came the take-off. After the speeding-up period was over, and they had escaped from even the slight attraction of the Moon, Colonel Fred Stone helped Flyball out of the hammock which had been specially built for him. This hammock was indeed much more comfortable than the makeshift one he had used to his first journey, the trip to the Moon. That one had been made out of all kinds of odds and ends which had been lying around the station, back on Earth. Fred Stone had been sure in those days that the taxpayers would not have been at all pleased to learn that they had had to pay for a hammock for a cat, even for such a distinguished cat as Flyball.
This time, however, it was a different matter, and the Colonel had been allowed to order whatever he wanted for his companion. One of the first things the Colonel had wanted was the best possible hammock for Flyball. He had designed it himself, with the help of expert engineers. It had been custom-built on Earth, with a bed of foam-rubber, concealed springs and even an arrangement of straps which Flyball could, if necessary, fasten and undo for himself.
Even Flyball who, like all cats, considered himself a real expert on comfort, had to admit that it served to perfection. He had hardly felt any discomfort at all while the ship had been getting faster and faster.
Now the power of the rockets had been cut off, for the greater part of the journey would be made under the momentum which they had gathered in escaping from the attraction of the Moon. They were in free-fall, which meant that there was no longer any rightsideup or upsidedown. Fred Stone fixed tiny metal soles to the pads of Flyball's paws. These little metal sandals were really tiny magnets and they allowed Flyball to walk around on the walls, floor and ceiling of the ship, just as if he was strolling on the ground.
The old ship, which had taken them to the Moon, had only a number — the ZQX-1, showing that it was the first model of its especial type of rocket-ship. This great big shining new ship, however, had a name of its own. Before the bow of the ship had been sent up to the Moon, there had been a great ceremony in which the President's wife had broken a bottle of real champagne over it and had christened it the Halley. This was in honor of the famous astronomer who had described the comet which is called after him. Everyone hoped that the new ship would be as well-behaved as a comet as it streaked through space.
Now they were on their way to Venus and the Halley seemed to be doing everything that had been expected of her. As nearly all the controls were automatic, the Colonel, strapped loosely in his seat, could relax and read. Flyball, anchored by his magnetic sandals to pieces of metal on the Colonel's clothes, lay quietly and purred as he thought of the great adventure and possible mice on Venus.
In addition to the gadgets, such as the gyroscopic tops which held the Halley steady on her course, and the electric controls which would open and close shutters over the heavy glass port-holes, there were other things which had been worked out to help them, and, in particular, to help them eat. Colonel Stone had told the story on Earth of how Flyball, going to the Moon, had had to chase blobs of milk which were floating around the cabin, and the designers had done their best to make certain that that would not happen again. Milk was now stored in the ship's refrigerator in little plastic bags and all Flyball had to do was put a tube in his mouth and press gently on the side of a bag with his paw. In this way he was able to drink his milk without spilling it.
As a seasoned space-traveller, for he had been to and from the Moon several times after the first journey, Flyball had become used to the fact that flights through space were really neither exciting nor interesting. It was only during the take-off and the landing that one had to rely on the skill of the pilot, and there was nothing to bother about with Fred Stone at the controls. After the first shock of discovering that one had no weight in space, travel in a rocket-ship was just plain dull.
Flyball was content to drowse and dream of birds, dogs and mice, with an occasional memory of a really good fish-head.
There were neither nights nor days aboard the Halley once they had got out into deep space. They just had to eat when they were hungry and sleep when they were tired. Every now and then the Colonel would press one of the buttons which worked the electric mechanism which slid the covers back from the ports.
"That's Earth, Flyball," he would say, pointing to a thing rather like a big softball with strange markings on it, or, turning to a bright silver dollar that seemed nearer to them. "That's the Moon!"
Gradually, however, these objects grew smaller and smaller until, in the end, they were no more interesting than the other objects which were scattered around in the sky. Ahead of them, though, the thing which had only been a spot the size of a thumbtack kept growing bigger and bigger. This was Venus and that was where they were going.
Fred Stone became more and more interested in this thing. He examined it every so often through the powerful telescope that was a part of the equipment of the Halley. Still he could find no break in the clouds which surrounded it as if it had been an egg loosely wrapped in cotton-wadding.
"Well, Flyball," he said, after one of these inspections, "I wonder what we'll find behind all that? I can only hope it'll be clear enough for us to make a landing, and that we'll be able to leave the ship without our suits rotting away on our backs! Still," he paused thoughtfully, "there's not much point in guessing when we'll know the answer so soon."
It seemed as though the journey went on for weeks or even for months, for Flyball did not bother with the Halley's chronometer, a most fancy-looking clock that not only kept count of hours, but also of days, weeks, months and even years. He just let time flow round him like a river until Fred Stone, who had been keeping count of their progress, turned to him.
"We should be getting ready," he said, and turned to the closet in which he had shut their space-suits, to prevent them from floating hither and thither round the cabin of the ship. All along they had been careful about dropping things for, otherwise, with no gravity at all, the cabin of the Halley would only too quickly have come to look like a floating garbage-dump.
Once they were dressed in the clumsy but necessary suits, they got back into their hammocks. When the Colonel pressed the button that slid back the cover over the forward port, the woolly globe of Venus seemed to fill nearly the whole glass.
Instead of going straight toward the globe, however, as rocket-ships did when getting near the Moon, the Colonel, pressing the firing-studs of the rockets for short bursts of power, aimed the Halley toward Venus in a slanting angle.
"We haven't got the faintest idea of what there may be on the other side of all those clouds," he explained. "There may be plains but there may just as well be mountains. If there should be mountains we don't want to try to find out how strong the Halley is by bashing her against them. We'll just have to take things easy until we know which way the land lies."
Slowly, circling round the planet, they drew nearer and nearer to Venus. Looking out through the porthole Flyball watched the great woolly clouds and felt they were never going to get among them. Colonel Stone was being most terribly careful. At last, however, he pulled on a lever which started the rockets pulsing evenly.
"Here we go!" he exclaimed. "Now for the plunge!"
Then they were in the clouds.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Space Cat Visits Venus"
Copyright © 1955 Ruthven Todd.
Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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