Rocket Ship Galileo – Robert A Heinlein (1947)
‘Ross Jenkins, Art Mueller and Morrie Abrams are not your average high school students. While other kids are cruising around in their cars or playing ball, this trio known as the Galileo Club is experimenting with rocket fuels, preparing for their future education at technical colleges.
Until Art’s uncle, the nuclear physicist Dr Donald Cargraves, offers them the opportunity of a lifetime – to construct and crew a rocket that will take them to the moon. car graves believes their combined ingenuity and enthusiasm can actually make this dream come true.
But there are those who don’t share their dream – and who will stop at nothing to keep their rocket grounded…’
Blurb from the Ace 2005 paperback edition.
Three teenagers, Art, Ross and Morrie, are the only remaining members of The Galileo Club, a school science society. The boys have designed a rocket which explodes during testing. Leaving their testing area, they discover Art’s uncle, the atomic scientist Dr Cargraves, lying prone and injured, seemingly struck down by a piece of rocket schrapnel.
When recovered, the Doctor tells the boys that he wants them to help him build and crew a rocket to fly to the moon and back. However, it seems that the Doctor’s accident was not the result of the rocket, but a physical attack from people who do not want his mission to succeed.
Despite the juvenile style and the rather improbable circumstances of a) an atomic scientist asking three teenage boys to go to the moon with him and b) their parents readily agreeing to the plan, this is a highly enjoyable wish-fulfilment fantasy wrapped around a few science lectures.
It hasn’t dated too badly either, although the All-American coming of age pathos might be rather hard to stomach for readers of today.
The group attempting to stop the rocket launch turns out to be the remnants of Hitler’s scientific elite who have created a base on the moon from which to launch atomic bombs at the Earth. It is up to Dr Cargraves and the boys to defeat their dastardly plan and return to Earth safely.