by A21 Reporter Andy Clems
International Rescue’s latest mission into outer space almost proved to be the end for Thunderbird 3 and its crew. Following a distress call from the Solaris research station in close orbit around the Sun, Scott and John Tracy of International Rescue wasted no time in launching the space rescue rocket and setting course for the danger zone.
The similarity to an earlier mission in 2065 was not lost on the Tracy brothers. Speaking via long range radio transmission from Thunderbird 3, Scott recalls, “During the Sun Probe mission, we pushed Thunderbird 3 beyond its design limits and very nearly didn’t make it back. Brains made some modifications to the craft’s heat shields after we returned to Earth, but when it comes to the awesome power of the Sun there are no guarantees. Our mission to Solaris took us even closer to the star than ever before.”
John Tracy, the astronaut in charge of the mission explained, “Sure, I wasn’t involved directly on the Sun Probe mission, but I could well imagine the danger facing Scott, Alan and Tin-Tin. This time around I guess it was my turn in the hot seat, literally. It was a really hazardous mission, but we couldn’t just leave those folks on Solaris to die.”
Solaris Outpost, a privately funded research station, had been in close orbit of the sun for almost 2 years. During a routine power transfer to the backup system a surge overloaded the vital Prominence shielding system and it began to fail. At the same moment, the Emergency Escape Vessels (EEVs) were crippled by the drop in shield efficiency and rendered completely inoperable. The only portion of the station to escape instant damage was the main control hub, located at the center of the station. The crew of 6 remained relatively safe, but all too aware that it was only a matter of time before the central section of the station began to suffer irreparable damage.
Thunderbird 3 approached Solaris cautiously and was able to match orbit with the station. Scott took the controls, keeping the International Rescue craft as close to the space station as possible. Meanwhile John Tracy, wearing a specially designed heat resistant spacesuit, made the incredibly dangerous spacewalk to the airlock on the Solaris. John described the EVA as, “Probably the most insanely treacherous thing I’ve ever done, the few minutes it took to reach the station felt like the longest of my life. I trust Brains and his engineering genius, but when there are only a few inches of suit between you and the devastating heat and radiation of the Sun, a part of you can’t help but wonder…”
John made it on board, though not without incident. The airlock had sustained moderate damage and it took some precious time to cut through the outer hatch. Back in Thunderbird 3, Scott anxiously monitored John’s communications, “What John doesn’t know about EVA isn’t worth knowing, but I don’t mind admitting I was relieved to see him reach the station in one piece. Unfortunately getting on board wasn’t as straightforward as we’d hoped. We made contact with the crew and told them to get their spacesuits on. John had brought a set of tools with him in case there was a chance of fixing one of the escape craft on the Solaris.”
The hopes proved futile, as John discovered the craft were fused to the docking ports by the intense heat and it would have taken too long to free them with a cutting laser. He space-walked the crew from the airlock to Thunderbird 3 two at a time, but as he returned for the final two, the station began to disintegrate and spiral out of control.
In the control cabin of Thunderbird 3, Scott reacted with lightning speed, firing an emergency magnetic tether from the cargo bay of the International Rescue craft. The tether latched onto the control hub of the station close to the airlock and John was able to use his thruster pack to rush towards the opening, where the two researchers were desperately clinging to the hatchway. Scott, watching the unfolding drama on the monitor of his control cabin, waited until John gave the signal that the trio were secure to the tether and disengaged the magnets, hauling the group free and reeling them towards safety as the final remnants of the Solaris plunged towards the Sun and disintegrated.
The dramatic turn of events has led Solar-Corp, the parent company in charge of the Solaris to delay any future projects without first carrying out an exhaustive investigation into the cause of the disaster. In the meantime, Thunderbird 3 is expected to return the crew of the station to Earth within the next few days.