Read SOLARITE: CHAPTER II of The Black Star Passes , free online book, by John Wood Campbell, on ReadCentral.com.

“When we start this work,” Arcot began next morning, “we obviously want to design the ship for the conditions we expect to meet, and for maximum convenience and safety. I believe I’ve thought about this trip longer than the rest of you, so I’ll present my ideas first.

“We don’t actually know anything about conditions on Venus, since no one has actually been there. Venus is probably a younger planet than Earth. It’s far nearer the sun than we are, and it gets twice the heat we do. In the long-gone time when the planets were cooling I believe Venus required far longer than Earth, for the inpouring heat would retard its cooling. The surface temperature is probably about 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

“There is little land, probably, for with the cloud-mass covering Venus as it does, it’s logical to visualize tremendous seas. What life has developed must be largely aquatic, and the land is probably far behind us in evolution. Of course, Venus is the planet of mystery we don’t know; we can only guess. But we do know what things we are going to need to cross space.

“Obviously, the main driving force will be the power units. These will get their energy from the rays of the sun by absorbing them in copper discs about twelve feet in diameter the ship will have to be more of a disc than a cylinder. I think a ship a hundred and eighty feet long, fifty feet wide, and twenty feet deep will be about the best dimensions. The power units will be strung along the top of the ship in double rows one down each side of the hull. In the middle will be a series of fused quartz windows, opening into a large room just under the outer shell. We’ll obviously need some source of power to activate the power tubes that run the molecular motion power units. We’ll have a generator run by molecular motion power units in here, absorbing its heat from the atmosphere in this room. The air will be heated by the rays of the sun, of course, and in this way we’ll get all our power from the sun itself.

“Since this absorption of energy might result in making the ship too cool, due to the radiation of the side away from the sun, we’ll polish it, and thus reduce the unlighted side’s radiation.

“The power units will not be able to steer us in space, due to their position, and those on the sides, which will steer us in the atmosphere by the usual method, will be unable to get the sun’s power; they’ll be shaded. For steering in space, we’ll use atomic hydrogen rockets, storing the atomic gas by the Wade method in tanks in the hold. We’ll also have a battery down there for starting the generator and for emergencies.

“For protection against meteors, we’ll use radar. If anything comes within a dozen miles of us, the radar unit covering that sector will at once set automatic machinery in operation, and the rockets will shoot the ship out of the path of the meteor.”

All that day Arcot and the others discussed the various pieces of apparatus they would need, and toward evening Fuller began to draw rough sketches of the different mechanisms that had been agreed upon.

The next day, by late afternoon, they had planned the rough details of the ship and had begun the greater task of calculating the stresses and the power factors.

“We won’t need any tremendous strength for the ship while it is in space,” Arcot commented, “for then there will be little strain on it. It will be weightless from the start, and the gentle acceleration will not strain it in the least, but we must have strength, so that it can maneuver in the atmosphere.

“We’ll leave Earth by centrifugal force, for I can make much better speed in the atmosphere where there is plenty of power to draw on; outside I must depend solely on sunlight. We’ll circle the Earth, forming an orbit just within the atmosphere, at five miles a second. We’ll gradually increase the speed to about ten miles a second, at which point the ship would normally fly off into space under its own centrifugal force. With the power units we’ll prevent its release until the proper moment. When we release it, it will be entirely free of Earth, and no more work will be needed to overcome Earth’s pull.”

The planning continued with exasperating slowness. The details of the work were complex, for all the machines were totally new. Several weeks passed before even the power units could be ordered and the first work on the ship started. After that orders for materials left the office daily. Still, it was late in November before the last order was sent out.

Now they must begin work on other phases of the expedition food supplies and the standard parts of the equipment.

In the interval Arcot had decided to make a special ventilated suit for use on Venus. This was to make use of a small molecular motion director apparatus to cool the air, and blow it through the suit. The apparatus consisted of a small compressed air-driven generator and a power tube bank that could be carried on the back.

“Arcot,” Wade said when he saw the apparatus completed and the testing machine ready, “I’ve just noticed how similar this is to the portable invisibility apparatus I developed as the Pirate. I wonder if it might not be handy at times to be invisible we could incorporate that with a slight change. It wouldn’t add more than five pounds, and those tubes you are using I’m sure are easily strong enough to carry the extra load.”

“Great idea, Wade,” said Arcot. “It might be very useful if we met hostile natives. The disappearance stunt might make us gods or something to primitive beings. And now that you mention it, I think we can install the apparatus in the ship. It will require almost no power, and might save our lives some time.”

The work went forward steadily at the great Transcontinental Shops where the space ship was being built. Its construction was being kept as much of a secret as possible, for Arcot feared the interference of the crowds that would be sure to collect if the facts were known, and since the shops directly joined the airfield, it meant that there would be helicopters buzzing about the Transatlantic and Transcontinental planes.

The work to be done required the most careful manipulation and workmanship, for one defect could mean death. They calculated six weeks for the trip, and in the time before they could reach either planet, much might happen to a crippled ship.

To the men who were making the trip, the waiting seemed most exasperating, and they spent the days before they could begin the installation of the electrical apparatus in purchasing the necessary standard equipment; the standard coils, tubes, condensers, the canned food supplies, clothes, everything that they could imagine as of possible utility. They were making the ship with a great deal of empty storage space, for Arcot hoped the trip would be a financial success, particularly supplying much-needed metals. Many vital elements were already excessively scarce, and no satisfactory substitutes had been found.

On the outward trip some of this space would be filled with the many things they would consume en route. In addition they were carrying a great many spare parts, spare tubes, spare power units, spare condensers a thousand and one odd parts. Arcot intended that they should be able to make an entire new power switchboard and motion director unit if anything should go wrong, and he certainly had all the apparatus.

At last came the day when the final connection had been soldered, and the last joint welded. The atomic hydrogen tanks were full, and under the ship’s own power the oxygen tanks were filled and the batteries charged. They were ready for a test flight!

The great ship rested on the floor of the shed now, awaiting the start.

“Oh fellows come here a minute!” Arcot called to the other members of the party. “I want to show you something.”

The three walked quickly to the bow where Arcot stood, and following the line of his vision, looked in wonder to see that everything was right. They watched curiously as he drew from his coat a large glass bottle, tightly sealed.

“What’s that for?” asked Wade curiously.

“We’re about to start on the first cruise, and I’ve been wondering if it isn’t time we gave the ship a name.”

“Great I’d been thinking of that too what are we going to name her?”

“Well,” said Arcot, “I had been thinking of Alexander he longed for other worlds to conquer!”

“Not bad,” Morey commented. “I have been thinking of naming it too I guess we all have but I was thinking of Santa Maria the first ship to discover the New World.”

“I was thinking more of its home,” said Wade. “How about calling it Terrestrian?”

“Well it’s your turn, Fuller you designed it. What do you suggest for your masterpiece?” asked Arcot.

“I was thinking also of its home the home it will never leave. I like to think that we might find people on Venus, and I would like to have a name on it that might be translatable into more friendly and less foreign terms why not call it Solarite?”

“Solarite a member of the solar system it will be that, always. It will be a world unto itself when it makes its trips it will take up an orbit about the sun a true member of the solar system. I like it!” Arcot turned to the others. “How about it?” It was agreed upon unanimously.

“But I’m still curious about that glass bottle, so carefully sealed.” Morey commented with a puzzled smile. “What’s in it? Some kind of gas?”

“Wrong no gas practically nothing at all, in fact. What more appropriate for christening a space ship than a bottle of hard vacuum?

“We can’t have a pretty girl christen this ship, that’s sure. A flying bachelor’s apartment christened by a mere woman? Never! We will have the foreman of the works here do that. Since we can’t have the ship slide down the ways or anything, we will get inside and move it when he smashes the bottle. But in the meantime, let’s have a symbol set in contrasting metal on the bow. We can have a blazing sun, with nine planets circling it, the Earth indicated conspicuously; and below it the word SOLARITE.”