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If at First You Don't... by John Brudy

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T ...

by

JOHN BRUDY

[Illustration: ILLUSTRATOR VARGA]

_To Amos Jordan, Secretary for Cislunar Navigation, no situation was unsolvable. There were rules for everything, weren't there.... Except maybe this thing ..._

"What's the matter, anyway?" Amos Jordan snapped at his assistant. "Is everyone in the Senate losing their mind?"

"No more than usual," said Clements, the undersecretary. "It's just a matter of sentiment."

"Sentiment?" Jordan poured himself a glass of lemonade. "What's sentiment got to do with it? It's just a standard procedural problem."

"Well, not exactly," began Clements soothingly. "After all, now, '58 Beta was the first long-lived satellite ever launched, and the first successful shot of the old Vanguard series. People are proud if it. It's a sort of monument to our early efforts in astronautics."

* * * * *

Jordan sipped experimentally, adding a little sugar.

"But, Clem, the sky's full of the things," he complained. "There must be a hundred fifty of them in orbit right now. They're a menace to navigation. If this one's due to fall out, I say good riddance."

Clements spread his hands helplessly.

"I agree, chief. But, believe me, a lot of people have made up their minds about this thing. Some want to let it burn up. Some want to retrieve it and stash it in a museum. Either way it's a decision we're not going to reach in this office."

Jordan tossed down the rest of his lemonade.

"I'd like to know why not," he snapped, almost bristling.

"Well, frankly this thing is moving pretty fast." Clements fished a facsimile sheet out of his jacket pocket. "Everybody's getting into the act." He handed the sheet across the desk. "Read this; it'll bring you up to date."

Jordan stared at the sheet.

"_Senate Committee Probes Beta,_" ran the lead, followed by,

"_The Senate Advisory Committee for Astronautics began hearing testimony this morning in an effort to determine the fate of satellite '58 Beta. Mr. Claude Wamboldt, leader of the CCSB (Citizens' Committee to Save Beta), testified that the cost of retrieving Beta from orbit would be trivial compared to its value as an object of precious historical significance. He suggested the Smithsonian Institution as an appropriate site for the exhibit. At the same time the incumbent Senator from Mr. Wamboldt's district filed a bill in the Senate which would add a complete wing to the Smithsonian to house this satellite and other similar historic objects. In later testimony Mr. Orville Larkin, leader of the unnamed committee representing those in opposition to the CCSB stated that his group felt that to snatch Beta from orbit at this moment of its greatest glory would be contrary to natural law and that he and his supporters would never concede to any plan to save it._"


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