By Travis Taylor and Les Johnson
Decades after the last footprints were left on the Moon, the U.S. was preparing to return to the Lunar surface in a new class of rockets, when the mission suddenly became much more urgent. It would have to be a rescue mission.
Unbeknownst to the rest of the world China had sent its own Lunar expedition. A manned expedition. Until a distress call was received, no human outside of China even knew that the mission was manned—or that their ship had crash-landed and couldn’t take off again.
Time was running out, and if the four Chinese astronauts were to be rescued, the American lunar mission would have to launch immediately, with a only a skeleton crew. Once the heroic U.S. astronauts were underway the army of engineers and scientists back home had the daunting task of deciding what equipment could be left on the Moon to permit the lunar landar to lift safely from the Moon with the two U.S. astronauts and the four stranded Chinese taikonauts! Could the U.S. mount such a mission succesfully—and would thousands of years of instilled honor “allow” the Chinese astronauts to accept a rescue?
"For everyone who felt a shiver at Lovell's words on that long-ago Christmas, or who held their breath until Apollo 13 emerged from the far side; for everyone whose heart skipped a beat at Armstrong's first step and who still believes that July 20, 1969 was the greatest date in history -- Back to the Moon is a reminder of a lost era." ANALOG (May 2011)