Alexei Leonov has completed the first ever spacewalk. But as he reaches the airlock he realises his suit has expanded in the vacuum of space.
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Charlie Lupton and the Secret Satellite
Charlie Lupton Adventures, Book 4, 2016
- CHAPTER 1 -
Professor Michael Dewhurst
They say that everyone in Heatherbridge can remember what they were doing on the Saturday morning when it happened.
Charlie Lupton was teaching Mickey Dewhurst how to climb.
‘Come on Mickey, move your left foot.’
‘I’m trying. The back of my legs are like jelly.’
He was clinging to the rock with his fingers above his head.
‘The longer you don’t move, the worse it will get. Just go for it.’
‘How far have I got to go?’
‘You’re halfway. It’s called a traverse. That’s when you climb sideways instead of going straight up. You won’t be going any higher. Anyway, you like climbing on furniture when you play The floor is lava. This is no different.’
‘Of course it’s different. I wish we were using ropes.’
‘No, we don’t need ropes.’
‘Are you are sure? How high am I, anyway?’
‘I would say sixty, seventy, maybe eighty. Yes, it’s about eighty. You’re eighty centimetres above the ground.’
‘Eighty centimetres? That’s nearly a metre!’
‘It’s nothing. Even if you slip you’ll have a soft landing. That’s why my dad always insists we use this bouldering mat. It will break your fall.’ He pointed to a large red mat laid out on the grass at the foot of the rock.
‘I still think we should use ropes.’
‘You’re on a small boulder on the slope of Newstep Ridge in Heatherbridge behind my house,’ said Charlie. ‘We’re not exactly climbing the north face of the Eiger.’
‘I’d still like a rope.’
‘You don’t need ropes when you’re bouldering. Come on, Mickey, it took me less than a minute to get across and I’ve got an artificial leg.’
‘That makes it easier,’ said Mickey, who still hadn’t moved.
‘What do you mean, easier? How can having an artificial leg make climbing easier?’
‘Because an artificial leg can’t turn to jelly. And anyway, your dad owns a climbing shop and he’s always taking you climbing. You’re an expert.’
‘Mickey, stop prattling and move. There’s another foothold about ten centimetres across from your left foot. Go for it.’
Mickey moved his foot to the next foothold.
‘Right, now just keep going,’ said Charlie. ‘You’ve nearly made it.’
But then it happened.
‘What was that?’ said Mickey, as he half turned round. Then he slipped. ‘Ahh!’ He landed on the mat in a heap.
The sound of the bang echoed around the mountains.
‘What was that?’ said Mickey again, as he dusted himself down.
‘I don’t know,’ said Charlie. Then they heard distant sirens. ‘Come on, let’s go down to the house.’
Charlie folded up the mat and they ran down the hill.
‘Mum, did you hear that bang?’ said Charlie, as they dashed into the house.
‘Yes, I thought the chimney had collapsed. It frightened Barney.’
Barney the Springer Spaniel was whimpering in the corner.
‘Yeah,’ said Charlie, ‘it frightened Mickey too and he fell.’
‘It was a controlled slide,’ said Mickey.
‘It sounded like it came from the town,’ said Charlie. ‘And we heard some sirens soon after.’
‘I expect we shall find out what it was soon enough,’ said Mother. ‘Now, would you two climbers like a cold drink?’
‘Yes, please,’ they said.
She poured them a drink and handed them each a glass. They walked into the living room and sat down. Barney came in and sat, trembling, next to Charlie’s leg. Then their mobiles went off. It was a message from Geraldine Primrose. She had sent it to Emma Appleyard too.
Meteorite landed in school field. C U there! G.
‘Come on, let’s go,’ said Charlie, as he gulped down the rest of his drink.
They rushed outside to their bikes.
When they arrived at the school, the gates were open and they cycled in. A police car was in the car park. Charlie also recognised the car belonging to Mr Metcalfe, the head teacher.
A small crowd had gathered on the school field.
‘Great,’ said Mickey, as they dumped their bikes, ‘I spend the whole week looking forward to Saturday when I won’t have to come to school. Then, what do I end up doing on Saturday? I come to school.’
‘I can see Geraldine and Emma over there,’ said Charlie. ‘Let’s go.’
They walked over to the crowd.
‘Oh, hi, guys,’ said Geraldine.
‘Has a meteorite really landed?’ said Charlie.
‘Take a look for yourselves,’ said Emma.
Charlie and Mickey made their way to the front. There was a circle of blue and white police ribbon which was tied to some thin iron stakes. Inside the circle was a crater, about sixty centimetres across. In the middle of the crater was a small rock the size of a tennis ball. There was nobody inside the circle apart from a large policeman.
‘Is that it?’ asked Mickey. ‘I’ve rushed down here just to see a rock? It’s not even smouldering.’
‘That’s because it cooled down during its journey through the atmosphere,’ said Geraldine.
‘How do you know it came from space?’ asked Charlie.
‘For a start, it’s black,’ said Geraldine. ‘That’s because of the heat. When it hit the atmosphere it was travelling so fast that it began to melt. But when a meteor slows down it cools and the outside goes hard and black. It’s called a fusion crust if you’re interested.’
‘I had a fusion crust for breakfast,’ said Mickey. ‘It got stuck in the toaster.’
‘And if you look carefully you can see it’s got lines,’ said Geraldine. ‘They are called flow lines. They were formed by the air rushing past the melting rock. Just like when your hair blows back when you’re facing the wind.’
‘What’s the difference between a meteor and a meteorite?’ asked Emma.
‘A meteorite is a meteor that reaches the ground before it’s destroyed by the heat of re-entry,’ said Geraldine.
‘From now on I’m going to wear a crash helmet when I play football,’ said Mickey. ‘That crater is on the exact spot I scored a goal from last week.’
‘Don’t worry, they are extremely rare,’ said Geraldine.
‘She’s right,’ said Charlie. ‘Your goals are extremely rare.’
‘Very funny,’ said Mickey.
‘Have any landed in Britain before?’ asked Emma.
‘Oh, yes,’ said Geraldine. ‘One fell in Beddgelert in Wales in 1949. It went through the roof of a hotel. Another fell in Leicestershire on Christmas Eve in 1965.’
‘But where do they come from?’ asked Emma.
‘Most are thought to come from the asteroid belt. That’s a collection of large rocks located between Mars and Jupiter.’
‘I must say, Geraldine, you sound very well-informed,’ said a man’s voice.
They looked round. It was Mr Metcalfe.
‘A reporter from a local television station is here,’ he said. ‘He wanted to interview me, but I have suggested they might interview a pupil from the school, instead. Geraldine, would you be prepared to be interviewed?’
‘Yes, I would be honoured,’ said Geraldine, with a beaming smile.
‘I’ll introduce you to them,’ said Mr Metcalfe. ‘They’re over there.’
The policeman was holding up the ribbon while a cameraman stooped underneath. Another man in a suit and carrying a microphone followed him.
Mr Metcalfe signalled to the man with the microphone to come over. ‘This is Geraldine, a pupil from our top year,’ he said. ‘She knows all about meteorites. She’s happy to be interviewed.’
‘Pleased to meet you,’ said the man. ‘I am Rick, the reporter.’ He shook her hand. ‘Are you sure you don’t mind? It will be live on TV.’
‘It will be a pleasure,’ she said. ‘It’s not complicated. Of course, we will need to analyse the rock, but it looks to me like it’s mostly made of metal. Probably iron and nickel.’
‘Your pupil seems very knowledgeable for an eleven- year-old,’ said the reporter.
‘We start ’em young at Heatherbridge!’ said Mr Metcalfe, who sounded very proud.
‘Well, we’ll be on in ten minutes,’ said the reporter. ‘If you come and stand inside the circle a couple of minutes beforehand, that will be great.’ Then he walked back to the cameraman.
‘Are you going to be all right, Geraldine?’ asked Emma.
‘It will be a doddle,’ she said. ‘Oh, but how does my hair look? Does it look all right?’
‘It seems fine to me,’ said Emma.
‘I need to go and check it,’ said Geraldine. ‘Mr Metcalfe, is the school open?’
‘Yes, but ... ’
‘It won’t take long,’ she said.
‘I’ll come with you,’ said Emma.
They made their way back through the crowd and walked towards the school.
A minute later the reporter came back to Mr Metcalfe. He was holding an earpiece to his ear. ‘Mr Metcalfe, the director at the studio says there’s been a change in the running order. We’re on in one minute. Where is Geraldine, please?’
‘She’s gone to get her hair done.’
‘Well, not done, just checking it. She’s in the school.’
‘She won’t be back in time,’ said the reporter. ‘I’ll have to interview you, instead, Mr Metcalfe.’
‘Well, I don’t mind, but ...’
‘I’ll do it.’
They all turned to look at Mickey.
‘I’ll do the interview,’ he said.
‘But what do you know about meteorites?’ said Mr Metcalfe.
‘Oh, enough. Asteroids, iron, nickel, fusion, flow lines. It’s all pretty basic stuff.’
‘Well, if you’re sure,’ said Mr Metcalfe.
‘Okay, come and stand next to the crater when you’re ready,’ said the reporter.
‘Are you crazy?’ whispered Charlie.
‘Like Geraldine said, it’ll be a doddle.’
‘But you don’t like people thinking you’re brainy. You won’t even go in a library unless you have to.’
‘This isn’t about trying to look brainy. This is about raising my profile. It’s the first step to mega-stardom. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my fans await.’ With that, he stooped under the ribbon and walked over to the crater.
Then he came back to Charlie.
‘By the way, what are those people called who are experts? Begins with P.’
‘Uh, you mean, professor?’
‘That’s the one.’ He walked back to the crater.
Then the interview began.
‘Good morning from the playing field of Heatherbridge Junior School,’ said the reporter, as he spoke to the camera. ‘We are live at the scene where a meteorite has fallen from the sky less than an hour ago. You can see it here, still lying in the crater.’
The cameraman pointed the camera down at the crater, then back at the reporter.
‘I am delighted to say that we have one of the pupils from the school to speak to us about this extraordinary event. Perhaps you can begin by telling us your name.’
‘I’m Professor Michael Dewhurst.’
‘Well, welcome to the programme, Professor Dew ... Excuse me, but how can you be a professor? You’re only eleven years old.’
‘They start ’em young at Heatherbridge.’
Charlie looked at Mr Metcalfe. He had been standing with his arms folded. Now one of his hands was covering his face and he was shaking his head.
‘What exactly happened this morning?’ said the reporter.
‘Well, I was climbing high up on a rock face when I heard this loud bang. Oh, I thought, that sounded like a meteorite made of iron and nickel. Sure enough, I soon got a text from my friend, Geraldine, to confirm that, indeed, a meteorite had landed on the school field.’
‘What is he doing?’ whispered somebody.
Charlie turned round. It was Geraldine.
‘They had to start early, so Mickey volunteered,’ said Charlie.
‘But he knows nothing about meteorites! This was supposed to be MY interview!’
Meanwhile, the interview was continuing.
‘You must have been quite excited that the meteorite had landed on your school field,’ said the reporter.
‘I was quite upset, actually. This has ruined the football pitch. I wish it could have landed a hundred metres over there.’
‘But then it would have hit the school,’ said the reporter, as he turned to look where Mickey was pointing.
‘Exactly,’ said Mickey.
‘This is a disaster,’ said Geraldine.
‘Perhaps you would like to tell us what you know about the meteorite,’ said the reporter.
‘Well, it came from an asteroid’s belt.’
‘An asteroid’s belt? What do you mean, exactly?’
Charlie saw Mickey swallow and he seemed to be going red.
‘Well, uh, the asteroids use belts just like we do and, uh, they decorate them with stones.’
‘He’s lost it,’ said Geraldine.
‘And they live on Mars.’
‘Who live on Mars?’ asked the reporter.
‘They’re alive? I thought asteroids were just rocks.’
‘No, that’s just a rock,’ said Mickey, pointing at the meteorite.
‘He’s just set astronomy back four hundred years,’ said Mr Metcalfe.
‘Well, there you have it,’ said the reporter, as he turned once more to the camera. ‘This is one day the people of Heatherbridge will never forget - the day that a rock fell from the sky. And now, back to the studio.’
‘Are we off the air?’ Mickey asked the reporter.
‘The whole channel will probably be taken off the air after that,’ said the reporter.
Mickey walked back to Charlie and the others.
‘WHAT do you think you were doing?’ asked Geraldine, as Mickey stooped under the ribbon.
‘You weren’t here,’ said Mickey. ‘Someone had to do the interview.’
Geraldine huffed. ‘I can’t believe you did that,’ she said.
‘Thank you for volunteering,’ said Mr Metcalfe. ‘It was good of you to have a go, Mickey. Or should I say, Professor Dewhurst?’ He shook his head and sighed.
‘What will happen to the meteorite now?’ asked Geraldine.
‘We’ll keep it in the school,’ said Mr Metcalfe. ‘I’ll put it in a glass cabinet so everybody can view it.’
By now the crowd was walking away.
‘You don’t need me anymore do you sir?’ the policeman asked Mr Metcalfe, as he took the stakes out of the ground and removed the ribbon.
‘No, officer. Thank you for coming so promptly.’
‘That’s no problem. Cheerio.’
‘Goodbye,’ said Mr Metcalfe. ‘Now, Geraldine, perhaps you could go and retrieve the meteorite.’
She walked over to the meteorite, picked it up and held it up to the light. ‘Mr Metcalfe, could I keep this over the weekend?’ she asked. ‘I’d like to have a closer look at it.’
‘Yes, I suppose so, providing you don’t damage it. Bring it back to me first thing Monday morning. Now, I really must be getting back home. I’ll go and lock the school up and I’ll see you all next week. Goodbye.’
‘Goodbye, Mr Metcalfe,’ they all said.
‘I don’t know why you want to have that thing for the weekend,’ said Mickey, as they walked towards their bikes. ‘What’s so interesting about a meteorite?’
‘There’s something strange about this one,’ she said. ‘I don’t think it’s a normal meteorite.’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Charlie, as they reached their bikes.
‘I’m not sure. I need to study it in more detail. I’ll see you all on Monday.’
With that she put it in her pocket and rode off.
‘What was all that about?’ asked Emma.
‘I dunno,’ said Charlie, ‘I guess we’ll find out on Monday.’