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19 February 2012

Orbit

Orbit by Thomas Block is the intense story of an airplane mishap - one that sends a Concorde-like jet into low Earth orbit.

The Star Streak Superliner flies faster than the speed of sound due to two rocket engines in addition to the regular jet engines. The idea being that when the plane reaches its normal flying height the rocket engines take over and take the plane along at hypersonic speeds. However, on this particular flight something goes wrong with the rocket engines and they will not shut off. In order to save the plane from overheating (in spite of the extra cooling science used in the wings) the pilot pulls them up higher to try and reduce speed.

Soon the plane is trapped in a low Earth orbit. The regular jet engines are no use because they need oxygen to function. And the rocket engines are out of fuel. The plane will loop the planet every 94 minutes until it is rescued or falls out of the sky. But the people only have a limited supply of oxygen.

Will NASA be able to launch a shuttle to resupply oxygen while passengers can be ferried back to Earth or will one hundred six people suffocate?

Block, Thomas. (1982). Orbit. New York: Coward, McCann and Geoghegan. 

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