Mission of Gravity

Hal Clement
Mission of Gravity Cover

Mission of Gravity,Hal Clement


Human scientists are intrigued by the massive planet Mesklin,which has an 18 minute day,rotating so rapidly that its equatorial diameter is more than double its polar diameter.So its gravity is variable,from a mere 3 gees at the equator to 700 gees at the polesIt has a methane/ammonia atmosphere,and an steep axis tilt that produces ferocious weather.The planet is totally inhospitable to humans (a 180 lb man would weigh 540 lbs at the equator,60 tons at the poles) so when an earth probe sent to the south pole fails to take off for its return with precious data about the mysteries of Mesklin gravity,the humans must enlist the help of a Mesklin sea captain,Barlennan,a trader,explorer,adventurer, to make the enormous,difficult and dangerous trek to the pole to bring back the data.....

Challenged by John W Campbell to devise a planet of variable gravity,Hal Clement with some help from a certain Isaac Asimov,painstakingly worked out the physics,chemistry and biology of Mesklin,and then used it to underpin an exciting adventure tale about Barlennan and his redoubtable crew.15 inches long,3 inches high,incredibly tough and strong physically,Barlennan is brave,resourceful,very intelligent,intellectually curious-and ambitious to learn as much as he can about the humans' science.He may look a bit like an earthly caterpillar,but Barlennan is cute.Its fun going on the journey with him,and though there is a great deal of hard science in this book,the plot and characters are enough to make it an enjoyable yarn as much as a scientific dossier about an amazing planet.

It is dated,of course.I was delighted to see a human engineer using a slide rule,using a wall projector to show their filmed material,but all in all a fun read as Clement manages the balance of science and story,something too many writers are unable to achieve.Highly recommended