Marooned – Martin Caidin (1964)

Marooned is a 1964 science fiction thriller novel by Martin Caidin, about a manned spacecraft stranded in earth orbit, oxygen running out, and only an experimental craft available to attempt a rescue. A film based on the novel led Caidin to prepare a revised version of it in 1968. The film was released in 1969, four months after the Apollo 11 mission, with the revised novel hitting book stores a few weeks earlier. The first edition of the novel Marooned opens with the central character, Major Richard ‘Dick’ Pruett, attempting to come to terms with his impending doom. Pruett, an astronaut in the Mercury-Atlas IV program, is in orbit alone. His engines have failed to fire for re-entry and he is stranded in orbit, where he faces death due to asphyxiation as he depletes the on-board supply of oxygen. The story goes into an extended flashback that reviews Pruett’s development as a US Air Force fighter test pilot and training as an astronaut. As Pruett reviews his life, a friend of his in the astronaut corps, Jim Dougherty, refuses to accept that all is lost. He pushes NASA officials to mount a rescue mission using the prototype of a new spacecraft in development, the two-man Gemini. The challenges are formidable. The rescue mission must be prepared and launched in a matter of mere days. Dougherty must fly the untested Gemini spacecraft solo, achieve a rendezvous with the Mercury vessel stranded in orbit, get Pruett on board the new spacecraft in the empty co-pilot’s seat, and return to earth. (At the time the novel was written, none of these tasks – Gemini launch, rendezvous or EVA – had even been attempted.) As NASA scrambles to prepare and launch the rescue mission, the Soviets secretly make their own plans to rescue Pruett first, rushing to send a cosmonaut aloft in a Vostok spacecraft. (In this version, the Soviets have already achieved the orbital objectives of rendezvous, docking and extravehicular activity [EVA]; in real life the Soviets did not achieve all these milestones until 1969.) Ultimately Dougherty succeeds in his mission and rescues Pruett; cosmonaut Andrei Yakovlev in the Vostok does rendezvous with the Mercury and provides assistance in the rescue (by using high-intensity spotlights to improve visibility) but does not take an active physical role in it. The novel ends with all three spacemen returning safely to Earth. …”
Wikipedia
A tale of two Martins
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