Short Story #70: Sky Lift by Robert Heinlein

Title:  Sky Lift

Author:  Robert Heinlein

Summary

Damon Knight - A Century of Science Fiction
Joe Appleby was just about to take some shore leave on planet Earth when all the flight deck is called about an impending mission.  Reluctantly, he shows up and hears about an emergency mission to Pluto where blood packs are needed immediately.  The Commodore asks for volunteers and Joe waits for someone else to be the first to leave but no one else does so he refuses to go.  Shortly thereafter, he is also selected to go on the mission with one other.  The trip out to Pluto will require them to travel at accelerated gravity for a long period that is known to do harm to the body.  They are directed to go at 3.5 Gs which shouldn't kill them.  Once they take off, the force of 3.5 Gs is significantly felt and messes significantly with both spacemen.  Throughout the trip, they grapple to maintain control of themselves with little success.  By the time they arrive on Pluto the other crew member has died and Joe is barely alive.  Many of the people are saved and Joe is returned to Mars where he is entered into a geriatric rehabilitation center, where the reader discovers that his condition is a result of accelerated space travel.  His body will have accelerated its deterioration and his body will not recover.

Reflection

Overall, a dark story about someone trapped into doing something good and the repercussions.  Heinleins pragmatic considerations and exploration of what would actually happen is part of what makes him a well-known sci-fi author.  Of course, he couples that hard sci-fi angle with a philosophical question around the value of life and who gets to decide how valuable lives are.    

Short Story #70 out of 365
Rating: 3  (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 3/9/2014 
Source:  A Century of Science Fiction, edited by Damon Knight. 

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
 

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