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Mike Mars Sourcebook
"Stand By For Mars!"
Mike Mars Sourcebook
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The Mike Mars series Sourcebook:

1) Mike Mars, Astronaut, by Donald A. Wollheim (1961)

Michael Mars is my name.
America's my nation.
Space-flying is my game?
and Mars my destination!

Since he was twelve years old, Michael Alfred Robert Samson has dreamed of being an astronaut, and of stepping foot on Mars. His dream has a chance of coming true when, on the very day he and his class of Air Force Academy aviation cadets graduate, the Space Task Group announces the formation of Project Quicksilver, a group of astronaut trainees composed of brand new pilots. Project Quicksilver is to run concurrently (and secretly) with Project Mercury, which uses experienced pilots and will get all the media coverage. The Mike Mars Series
(White titles link to detailed analyses)

1) Mike Mars: Astronaut
2) Mike Mars Flies the X-15
3) Mike Mars at Cape Canaveral/Kennedy
4) Mike Mars in Orbit
5) Mike Mars Flies the Dyna-Saur
6) Mike Mars: South Pole Spaceman
7) Mike Mars and the Mystery Satellite
8) Mike Mars Around the Moon

Mike Mars and the rest of his graduating class?including his best friend Johnny Bluehawk and his archrival Rod Harger apply. Twenty-four candidates, from the various military branches, are selected and arrive at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas to begin testing. Only seven men will be chosen for the project.

Candidate Rod Harger intends to become an astronaut by hook or by crook, and with the aid of his father and a scar-faced man, he sets out to ensure that any candidates capable of beating him out...don't have the opportunity.

Mike Mars - main character
Johnny Bluehawk - Mike's best friend
Marty Sherrod - Mike's friend
Rod Harger - the antagonist
Jack Lannigan - Mike's friend
Major Killinger - official instructor
Col. Otis M. Drummond - Administrator, Project Quicksilver
Dr. Hugo Holderlin - Director, Project Quicksilver
Rod Harger, Sr. - father of the antagonist
Scar-faced man - Harger's confederate
This first in the Mike Mars series details the rigorous tests that the Mercury Seven had to go through in order to become astronauts. To make it entertaining, some conflict is put into the story. Rod Harger is not interested in being 'the best he can be' but rather in becoming rich and famous - and to do that he is will stop at nothing.

There are no women in the story, and no minorities, except for Johnny Bluehawk, a Cheyenne Indian, Mike's best friend. Dr. Hugo Holderin is the equivalent of Werner Von Braun. No foreign countries are mentioned.

The Influence of The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester
Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
Death my destination
In 1956, Alfred Bester's novel The Stars My Destination appeared in the science fiction pulp Galaxy, which was edited by Horace Gold. Its protagonist is Gulliver "Gully" Foyle, an extremely unpleasant individual who nevertheless discovers the knowledge that will enable mankind to "reach its full potential." Foyle is the "anti-Mars," but considering that Mike has adapted Foyle's mantra for his own use, Mike must consider him a hero.

The Stars My Destination synopsis and analysis at Wikipedia

Below is a chapter-by-chapter description of Mike Mars, Astronaut, highlighting moments of interest such as the propaganda for "clean living," "winning the space race," etc.

1. Mars One on the Beam

©1961. Mike Mars by Albert Orbaan
Mike Mars and the three members of his 'flight', Johnny Bluehawk, Marty Sherrod and Rod Harger, pass their final target test in their F-100 Super Sabres, and fly back to Nellis Air Force base in the Nevada desert. They learn that the Space Task Group is looking for astronauts.

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2. Volunteers for Space
Mike and his friends are briefed on the object of Project Quicksilver and they all send in their applications. They have their graduation ceremony while waiting to hear back. When the orders arrive, Rod Harger passes out the envelopes with the results. Mike's is not among them.

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3. Pledge to the Red Planet
Mike talks to Major Killinger, but resigns himself to the fact that he didn't make astronaut training. We read about his hopes, dreams and aspirations.

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4. Faster Than Sound
Mike, by chance, walks in to Rod Harger's old room and finds the envelope containing his orders to report to San Antonio, Texas. He persuades Major Killinger to allow him to fly an F-100 there, since if he is late to his assignment he will be disqualified. He arrives just in time.

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5. Project Quicksilver
Colonel Drummond gives the men more information about Project Quicksilver. He explains that America is in a race with "our powerful competitor on the other side of the Pole."

"For this is a race, there is no doubt of it. It is entirely possible that whoever fully masters space flight first, whoever first establishes strong bases on other planets, will be able to enforce their viewpoint on all the other people of the world. We are proud of our nation. We defend our own American way of life, and we are absolutely determined that it shall prevail. This is a race to conquer space, indeed, and the grand prize for the winner is not going to be some strange planet, but this one. The winner will win Earth."

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6. Space Medicine
Dr. Hugo Holderin introduces himself, then sends the boy s off to lunch. Mike explains to Johnny and Marty where he found his orders. They are quick to blame Rod, but Mike is prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. The men spend the rest of the day answering lengthy questionaires:

childhood illnesses?
parents and their health?
grandparents and their health
exact measurements
general examination of the body
withdrawal of blood and other specimens [that would be urine!] for analysis and laboratory testing

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7. The Harger Plan
Rod Harger goes in to San Antonio to meet with his father, and all is revealed. His father made a fortune on the black market during WWII, and intends for his son to follow in his footsteps. He is to become an astronaut for the fame and fortune, nothing more. Harger Jr. gives his father a list of astronaut candidates who might give him competition, Harger Sr. tells him that he has a cohort, an ex-Air Force man, eager to revenge himself against the corps, who will take care of these men.

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8. Two Miles Nearer the Moon
There are 24 candidates left. Two men have opted out. The remaining candidates head out to Echo Lake, near Denver, Colorado for more tests. While they're waiting to get into a bus, a car runs down one of htem, breaking his ankle. Mike Mars suspects that it was deliberate.

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9. The Deep Breathers
The candidates are subjected to more tests, including:

Pressure chamber - how long can the candidates retain consciousness? They have one test when they arrive at Lake Echo, and then spend a week hiking in the rarified atmosphere near the mile-high city. During one such hike, Johnny, Mike and Marty are attacked by a sniper. Marty falls off the side of the mountain.

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10. Runner in the Darkness
Mike and Johnny struggle to rescue Marty, after the sniper departs. Mike leaves Johnny with Marty on the ledge, and hikes to the Echo Lake camp, where instructions are sent for a helicopter to rescue the invalid. Marty is out of the race, and the Colonel tells the remainder to beware.

"It is a life-and-death matter to our country to win this race into space, and you all know now that other forces inside and maybe outside our country realize this..let them play dirty, if they have to. You fellows play it straight."

Jack Lannigan and Johnny Bluehawk tell Mike that Rod Harger had told the colonel he'd seen the three of them (Mars, Sherrod and Bluehawk) get into a car (ie. cheat) which is why a rescue party hadn't arrived earlier. Mike again refuses to believe that Harger did it deliberately. Before they leave, they're sent into the pressure chamber again. Mike is among the last to weaken and pass out, at 32,000 feet.

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11. The Silence of Outer Space
Mike spends the entire chapter in the sensory deprivation chamber. He spends the time thinking about his friendship with Johnny Bluehawk, and briefly about Rod Harger. His vital signs remain calm at all times, which pleases Dr. Holderin at the end of the test.

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12. Hoodoo Pilot

©1961. Mike in the gyroscope, by Albert Orbaan
More tests:

Seated at a board resembling the control panel of a a fast jet. His instructions were to keep flying and solve any problems and difficulties that might occur.

In a physical test, they sit in a "chair mounted on gymbals, which could revolve in all directions." The occupant must hold the chair steady with a guide stick.

Next come written tests: intelligence tests "not too different from the sort given in any school around the country." There was one series known as a Miller Anthologies Test: Light is to dark as pleasure is to pain.

After the tests, Mike and Johnny wander out to the airfield and overhear someone talking about a blue Cessna that had been buzzing the airfield. Mike wonders if it could be the man from Colorado.

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13. The G-Force Rider

©1961. The centrifuge, by Albert Orbaan
The next test they take is "one of the most dangerous you will take. Yet it is also a very important one. Because this machine will tell us - and yourselves as well-just how well you will stand up to the terrible pressures that rocket drive and space flight acceleration are sure to bring." In other words, they get to ride in a centrifuge.

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14. The Hot side of Mercury
After hearing about another test - 'the hot box' - sitting in a small box while heat is brought up to 130 degrees, Mike learns that two more candidates have been injured in a suspicious accident, by a pilot of a rogue plane on a runway. Next day, after his own turn in the hotbox, Mike gets to shove his feet in a bucket of ice water, lie on a tilt table, and anorther pressure chamber test.

The written tests this time are psychology tests (although they are not referred to in that manner). The testees are to complete sentences such as:

"I am sorry that..." "I can never..." "I hope..."

Mike attempts to write whatever seemed to make a sensible, truthful answer. Mike had trained himself from boyhood never to deceive himself, always to think honestly and to look squarely at the facts, whatever they were.

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15. Uphill Climb
The chapter begins with Mike on a treadmill. "Attachments to his arms registered his heartbeat and blood pressure..." While he walks Mike thinks about the attacks on Project Quicksilver.

Meanwhile, Rod Harger makes a phone call to his father, requesting that Mike Mars and Johnny Bluehawk be taken care of.

Mike and Johnny talk about their next test in a T-37 - they are to alternate as pilot while the other gets a feeling of 'weightlessness'. A man with a hooked-shaped scar on his cheek brings them some coffee. Fortunately Mike never drinks coffee...and despite never having seen this man before they are not the least bit suspicious....

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16. Beyond the Grip of Gravity
After speaking with Colonel Drummond, the test begins. Johnny and Mike take off in their plane. After several minutes Johnny passes out!

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17. Split Seconds
Mike disregards orders from ground control to bail out, and manages to take over the controls from Johnny and land the plane safely. He sees a T-33 about to take off and commandeers it in order to go after the blue Cessna, which he believes to be the plane of the saboteur.

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18. The Jet's Hot Breath
Mike finds the blue Cessna in the air and harries it into a crash. Then he returns to base, where he and Johnny are given the day off, but complete their test successfully the next day. Meanwhile, no body is found in the Cessna wreckage.

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19. Ladder to the Stars
A couple of days later, Mike is called into Colonel Drummond's office. He along with two other men, ask Mike questions. Why does he want to be a space flier? He answers:

"To me, sirs, the whole future of mankind is in the stars. We've explored the whole Earth, we can't go any further here and we've got to, you see, we've just got to. The stars, the other planets are waiting for us and we've always wanted to go?the desire has never left us since the dawn of time. You can go back as far as you can in history, and man has always dreamed of conquering the stars.

And now, sirs, right now, here in this very year, for the first time we can do it! We can go to the moon, we can reach the planets, here and now, just as surely as I'm sitting here. It's going to be done?and I want to be among those who do it....this is the final triumph of human civilization."

Mike is chosen, and thus is formed the seven astronauts of Project Quicksilver:

Mike Mars - Air Force
Joseph Stacey - Navy
Orin McMahan - Marine pilot
Hart Williams - Air Force
Rodney Harger - Air Force
Johnny Bluehawk - Air Force
Jack Lannigan - Navy

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