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Mike Mars Sourcebook
"Stand By For Mars!"
Mike Mars Sourcebook
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The Thunder Child ? The Mike Mars series sourcebook
Compiled by Justine Flood

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Michael Mars is my name.
America's my nation.
SavSpace-flying is my game?
and Mars my destination!
Does this ditty sound familiar? Read on to see why!

In 1961, the race for space between the United States and the Soviet Union was just getting started. A lot of money was being poured into, and being spent by, NASA.

Science fiction writer Donald A. Wollheim began writing a series of eight books featuring the character of Mike Mars, aspiring astronaut. He received cooperation from the United States Air Force and NASA, for these books, in addition to being adventure stories, were clearly propaganda tools.

Enthusiasm for the space race was at an all time high in the United States, and the Air Force and NASA, not to mention the government, wanted to make sure it continued. Hence the series of books starring the clean-cut, clean-living Michael Albert Robert Samson, or Mike Mars.

The Mike Mars Series
(White titles link to detailed analyses)

(1961) Mike Mars: Astronaut

(1961) Mike Mars Flies the X-15

(1961) Mike Mars at Cape Canaveral/Kennedy

(1961) Mike Mars in Orbit

(1962) Mike Mars Flies the Dyna-Saur

(1962) Mike Mars: South Pole Spaceman

(1963) Mike Mars and the Mystery Satellite

(1964) Mike Mars Around the Moon

In the eight books, author Wollheim followed the training and activities of the Gemini astronauts pretty closely. The last book in the series, in which Mars orbited the Moon, was pubilshed in 1964.

The hardback first editions were brought out by Doubleday. Paperback Library brought out the paperback versions in 1966.

The Space Race
By 1951, space scientists knew that 1957 would be a very good year. (Or, to be scientifically accurate, July 1957-December 1958 would be a very good 365+ days). It was to be the time of a 'solar maximum,'when solar activity would be at a peak and much could be learned if there were but the instruments in place to do so. So, the International Geophysical Year was announced to be from July 1957-December 1958. Countries around the world would cooperate in scientific enquiry.

But human nature being what it is, always has been and always will be, the cooperation soon lost out on competition. All technologically-advanced countries wanted to be the first into space...and the United States never doubted that they would be the victor...until the Soviet Union sent the satellite Sputnik up into space on October 4, 1957.

American pride was hurt. Something had to be done. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was formed, to take over from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) which had been founded in 1915. NASA officially went into action on October 1, 1958. Even then it was poorly funded, as President Eisenhower did not think the country could afford the cost of getting into space.

When President Kennedy came into office on January 20, 1961, all that changed. Less than five months later he made his famous 'Man on the Moon' speech.

The Mike Mars Sourcebook

1) Character of Mike Mars
2) The Opposition
3) Women
4) Minorities
5) Donald A. Wollheim
6) Bibliography
Recommended Reading

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Excerpts from President Kennedy's 'Man on the Moon' speech, delivered May 25, 1961:

"The Constitution imposes upon me the obligation to "from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union." While this has traditionally been interpreted as an annual affair, this tradition has been broken in extraordinary times.

These are extraordinary times. And we face an extraordinary challenge. Our strength as well as our convictions have imposed upon this nation the role of leader in freedom's cause. No role in history could be more difficult or more important. We stand for freedom. That is our conviction for ourselves-that is our only commitment to others. No friend, no neutral and no adversary should think otherwise. We are not against any man-or any nation-or any system-except as it is hostile to freedom. Nor am I here to present a new military doctrine, bearing any one name or aimed at any one area. I am here to promote the freedom doctrine....

IX. Space

Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take. Since early in my term, our efforts in space have been under review. With the advice of the Vice President, who is Chairman of the National Space Council, we have examined where we are strong and where we are not, where we may succeed and where we may not. Now it is time to take longer strides-time for a great new American enterprise-time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.

I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.

Recognizing the head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines, which gives them many months of lead-time, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by the feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.

I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for space activities, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior.

We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations -- explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon-if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

Secondly, an additional 23 million dollars, together with 7 million dollars already available, will accelerate development of the Rover nuclear rocket. This gives promise of some day providing a means for even more exciting and ambitious exploration of space, perhaps beyond the moon, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself.

Third, an additional 50 million dollars will make the most of our present leadership, by accelerating the use of space satellites for world-wide communications.

Fourth, an additional 75 million dollars-of which 53 million dollars is for the Weather Bureau-will help give us at the earliest possible time a satellite system for world-wide weather observation.

Let it be clear-and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make-let if be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action-a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 million dollars in fiscal 1962 -- an estimated seven to nine billion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.

Now this is a choice which this country must make, and I am confident that under the leadership of the Space Committees of the Congress, and the Appropriating Committees, that you will consider the matter carefully.

It is a most important decision that we make as a nation. But all of you have lived through the last four years and have seen the significance of space and the adventures in space, and no one can predict with certainty what the ultimate meaning will be of mastery of space.

I believe we should go to the moon. But I think every citizen of this country as well as the Members of the Congress should consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, to which we have given attention over many weeks and months, because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. If we are not, we should decide today and this year.

This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel.

New objectives and new money cannot solve these problems. They could in fact, aggravate them further-unless every scientist, every engineer, every serviceman, every technician, contractor, and civil servant gives his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space.


1) Mike Mars Astronaut

2) Mike Mars Flies the X-15

3) Mike Mars at Cape Canaveral

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















Johnny Bluehawk









Rod Harger






Jack Lannigan

The character of Mike Mars
Mike was created for boys to encourage boys to grow up to enter the Air Force and become astronauts. Therefore he has many excellent qualities.

He only drinks milk, never having acquired the coffee habit.
He's always embarrassed when praised.

He tried his best as a matter of principle. He was always surprised when somehow his best turned out all too often the very best. Long ago, when he was just a little kid, his father had told him, "If you're going to do a thing, do it right or don't do it at all. And if you do it right, you'll never have anything to worry about."

Throughout his life Mike had always stuck to this principle, and it had proved to be good advice. Doing things right was his whole secret - it was strange how many people, with the best of intentions, didn't quite follow through all the way on anything.

And the regime he followed since he was a child:

From that moment on [when he'd looked out a window, age 12, and vowed to get to Mars] his life had been decided. He thought out what he should do to accomplish his desire. He arrived finally at several conclusions. The first was that he must always keep himself in good physical shpae. No man man could hope to cross space who was handicapped by a body that had been allowed to get soft by laziness or overindulgence, or had been poisoned by heavy smoking or drinking.

The second that he must always be proficient in his studies. No man could hope to cross space who was stupid or uninformed or unable to learn new things fast and correctly. He must master his arithmetic and his science studies, for they were the tools that would help him reach his goal.

The third was that he must always keep faith. He must never doubt his future, never give up, never allow defeat or failure to cause him to turn away, but always try again. He must never believe that he couldn't get to Mars.

and finally:

Mike had trained himself from boyhood never to deceive himself, always to think honestly and to look squarely at the facts, whatever they were.

The Opposition
In the first three books in the series the Russians aren't mentioned except by implication. The villains are not Russians but greedy Americans - two men who want to use the space race for their own personal glory, and one man dismissed from the service who wants revenge at all cost.

But the importance of the US winning the space race is made very clear by the character of Major Drummond in Chapter 5:

"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."

There was no place for women in space in the 1960s. There were plenty of qualified women, as the secret Mercury 13 project proved, but society as a whole simply wasn't ready for it. (Russia may have sent the first woman into space, but it was clearly a publicity stunt, for no more women became cosmonauts for decades.)

The women in the Mike Mars series fare little better. A teen-age girl appears in the third novel, Mike Mars at Cape Canaveral. Although she is extremely knowledgable about flying she is treated as a nuisance by Mike Mars. She talks and talks and talks and Mike ignores everything she says.

Mike's best friend, Johnny Bluehawk, is a Cheyenne Indian, but the recital of his circumstances and desires could easily be transferred to those of African Americans and other minorities.

Johnny's thoughts about his responsibilities to his people:

He was himself a member of the original Americans, the Indians, and he never allowed himself to forget his deep obligations to his people. For him, there could be no question as to whether he should try out for this. If an Indian, a "redskin," could be amomg the pioneers of space exploration, it might do a good deal to assist his people to regain the dignity they had lost in the loss of their ancestral lands.

and....Mike thinks about Johnny while he's in the isolation test, but it's really the author giving the background on this Indian co-star of Mike's:

Johnny must have had a hard life. He doesn't talk about it much, but I can tell...The Northern Cheyenne Indians aren't rich ones. They're dirt poor, I understand. They're a proud people with a proud history. Plains Indians who fought against Custer and who rose up again under Dull Knife. Johnny studied at the Reservation School and he must have gone cold and hungry many times. He went to high school, too, and I understand that wasn't easy. There are still a lot of people who are scared of Indians, who take it out by acting nasty, by prejudice. Even poor Indians. Maybe especially poor Indians...

But Johnny is no quitter. He made his grades, high marks always. He entered the Air Force because he wanted to fly, and he made it. In spite of our tradition, there were some cadets who tried to cold shoulder him, to knock him. But that's one thing I'm real proud of. The Air Force doesn't take to that sort of thing. Prejudice plays no part among us...and when a man shows it, he'd better hush up. The brotherhood of the air is a pretty real thing.

Donald A. Wollheim
Donald Allen Wollheim was born in New York, New York on October 1, 1914 and died at the age of 76, also in New York, on November 2, 1990. He had been married to Elsie Balter since June 25, 1943.

In 1961, Wollheim was 47 years old. He had sold his first science-fiction story to Astounding Stories magazine in 1933. He was a member of the Futurians, a group of young science fiction writers that comprised such members as Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Cyril Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl. In the early 194os he became editor of Stirring Science Stories and Cosmic Stories, but they each lasted only three issues. He soon went to work as an editor for Ace Paperbacks.

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation.
Deep space is my dwelling place,
The stars my destination.

The ditty with which Gully Foyle comforts himself in The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester. 1956

Wollheim is known more for editing anthology collections than for his writing. Post Mike Mars, he will found his own publishing company, DAW Books (named for his initials).

The Futurians: The Story of the Science Fiction "Family" of the 30s That Produced Today's Top SF Writers and Editors, by Damon Knight. John Day. 1977.

The Mike Mars books are available from various used bookstores through []


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