Friday, December 30, 2011
Mission of Gravity
By Hal Clement
Mesklin is a huge, cold planet with liquid methane seas and crushing gravity from three to 700 times that of Earth, depending on where you were on the surface, with the lightest gravity at the equator and the heaviest at the poles.
Inhospitable to human life, still Mesklin is not a barren planet. It teams with plants and animals and also has intelligent denizens who are not technologically advanced.
Humans have a scientific outpost on a moon of Mesklin and have sent a survey rocket down to the poles. It is the only rocket they have that is designed to withstand the tremendous pressure it will encounter there. But something has gone wrong and the rocket, which apparently landed as intended, is not responding to their communications.
Fortunately, a scientist at a station on the planet's equator (the only location where a human can survive the planet's gravity since it is only three times that of Earth's there) has established friendly relations with a few the natives of the planet, a group of intrepid explorers and traders. Led by their captain, Barlennan, they have agreed to travel to the pole and, with the advice of the humans, attempt to salvage the rocket's mission. But this will be a journey of thousands of miles, across strange territory, inhabited by unknown perils. Why would Barlennan and his crew undertake such a risky and dangerous expedition? Because they want to get their pinchers on human technology!
This was a really good story. Barlennan and his friends have lots of exciting adventures and, with the advice of the humans communicating with them from the moon base, manage to reach the disabled rocket and conclude their mission, helping not only the research scientists but gaining a lot for their own people. Just a fun read, with a lot of hard science for the science buffs to enjoy.