Granddad is completely bonkers.
he is. He is always coming up with stories. Adam has
always known that some of them are true but others must
simply come out of his head !
was ten years old Juri Gagarin became the first man in
that but when Granddad said his Nan and Granddad had
taken him to a Russian exhibition in London where he saw
some of the people who designed Gagarin's spaceship
Vostok One Adam did not believe him.
was eighteen I watched the first moon landing live on
television," Granddad said.
What would it be like to be eighteen ? Adam was seven.
When Granddad was seven they did not have computers.
Tablets and smart phones had not been invented.
Television programmes were all in black and white with
very little for children to watch. It must have been
very boring to be a boy in Granddad's time.
One of the
stories Granddad was always telling was about a
television programme which he used to watch, it was
called Fireball XL Five. Granddad downloaded the theme
tune from YouTube and would play it to Adam constantly
in the car when he took him to school.
XL Five was a spaceship commanded by Colonel Steve
Zodiac. All of the characters were puppets. Granddad
said his favourite was Robert the robot. The way he
described this robot made Adam think it was a bit girlie
Granddad asked Adam if he would like to go away on
holiday when school broke up for the summer it sounded
we going ?"
that when his Dad was a boy Granddad had taken him with
his sister and brother to Legoland in Denmark, they had
also been to Egypt to visit the pyramids but most
exciting of all they had been to California to
Disneyland and Universal Studios. Was that where
Granddad planned to take him ? Where was somewhere
come ?" Ollie is Adam's younger brother.
too young. he can come when he is older."
about Mum and Dad ?"
Jake." Jake is Granddad's dog.
Robert the Robot."
Oh no !
This was one of Granddad's crazy stories.
Adam said disappointed.
going to Titan. That's one of the moons orbiting
! I suppose we are going in Fireball XL Five."
you know ?
next time Adam went round to Granddad's house he was
determined to prove that his aging relative was crazy
and this Fireball XL5 stuff was just a joke.
"If all of thus is true
Granddad, if you have a spaceship, where is it ?"
"In the garden."
Adam went to the window and
looked out. "I can't see it."
"Of course you can't see it.
"So where is it ?"
"Behind the summer house."
"Yeh ! Yeh !"
There was nothing behind the
summer house but trees where the squirrels played and
the crows made their nests.
"So how about you show me ?"
"You don't believe I have a
spaceship in my garden do you ?"
"Quite frankly Granddad NO."
"Adam, if you do not believe in
something it will never happen."
"Well show me and then I will
"Come on then."
Adam and his crazy granddad
walked down the path. They passed the fish pond, past
the bit of ground where granddad grew vegetables.
Through the archway and into what Nanny called her fairy
garden. Adam never played there, it was for girs not
boys. Even Jake the dog never went into the fairy
garden. Boys could not have adventures in a fairy garden
with toadstools, pixies and all kinds of other silly
Adam had been to the summer
house many times before, Granddad had a barbecue o the
patio in front of the wooden cabin where, in the summer,
he cooked sausages and burgers. There was a fridge in
the summer house with lovely cold drinks of Pepsi Cola
and ginger beer. Adam had never noticed there was a
brown gate at the side of the summer house, he was sure
it was not there the last time he had been in this part
of the garden.
"So where is it Granddad ?
Where is Fireball XL5 ?"
"Open the gate and see."
Adam was astonished. He opened
his mouth but he could not speak. There was a large ramp
made of metal girders. One end pointed up to the sky
while at the bottom sat a giant spaceship. It was a long
silver tube with a pointed front. At the back was a huge
rocket motor. Either side of the motor were fins. On
each was written XL5.
"Granddad." Adam did manage to
speak but only that one single word. "Granddad."
"So do you like it ?"
Adam still could not speak so
Suddenly there was a loud hiss
from the rocket followed by a clanking noise. A door
opened and a ladder slid slowly out until it reached the
ground. A robot climbed down."
Granddad," the robot said ever so slowly in a strange
"Adam this is Robert the Robot.
Robert this is Adam my grandson."
"I am pleased to meet you
Adam," the robot spoke slowly pausing between each word.
"Are you coming on an adventure with us ?"
"Yes," Adam said.
"Come inside," Granddad pointed
up the ladder.
Adam very nervously followed
Robert the Robot up the ladder with Granddad bringing up
the rear. There was the clanking sound again as the
ladder retracted back inside then a loud hiss as the
"NO !" Adam said, frightened.
"It's alright Adam, we are not
going yet. Not without Nan and Jake."
"Jake ? Are dogs allowed in
"They are," Robert the Robot
"The first life form to travel
from Earth into space was a dog," Granddad explained.
"She was called Laika and went into space in a Russian
rocket on 3rd November 1957. That was my birthday, I was
seven years old, the same age as you are now Adam."
"I can project a picture of
Laika on to the screen if you wish me to," Robert
"Yes do that."
"Can't you speak any faster ?"
Adam said to Robert.
"Can't you speak any more
slowly ?" Robert said to Adam.
"Let's get a map so we can see
where we are going. Do you know the names of the planets
in our solar system Adam ?"
"There's Mars, Earth of course
and Venus. I think there is somewhere called Jupiter."
"Any more ?"
"I don't know all of their
"Shall I project a map for you
Granddad ?" Robert said.
"Why does he call you Granddad,
you are not his Granddad, he is just a robot."
"Don't say that Adam, you will
hurt his feelings."
"Robert took down the picture
of Laika the dog and replaced it with a map of the solar
"In the middle of the Solar
System," Granddad explained, "is the Sun. Then moving
out from the Sun are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.
they are called the inner four planets. After Mars come
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. They are
called the outer five planets."
"You have forgotten the
asteroids," Robert said.
"No I haven't Mister Clever
Robot," Granddad said. "I was about to explain them. The
asteroids Adam are billions of pieces of rock and ice
which orbit the Sun between Mars and Jupiter."
"Mercury - Venus - Earth - Mars
- Asteroids - Jupiter - Saturn - Uranus - Neptune -
Pluto," Robert said so slowly Adam thought he was
falling asleep. Robert that is, not Adam who as wide
awake and excited that he was inside a real spaceship.
"We will have to be very
careful when we pass through the asteroids," Granddad
"You will need to learn their
names," Robert said, "if you are to help me fly Fireball
"Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars,
what comes next ?"
"I'll teach you a little
trick," Granddad said. He pointed to each planet as he
said their names. "Take the first letter of each planet
and remember this. Men Very Easily Make Jugs Serving
Useful Numerous Purposes."
"What are you talking about
Granddad ? Jugs and all that stuff ?"
"It's to help you remember the
names of the planets and the order they orbit the Sun.
Men Very Easily Make Jugs Serving Useful Numerous
"So Jupiter is a jug then ?"
"Ha - ha - ha," Robert said.
"That is funny."
"You said we were going to a
place called Titan," Adam said. "I remember that. Where
is the planet Titan ?"
"Titan is not a planet,"
Granddad explained, "it is a moon."
"Now I am confused," Adam said.
"Some of the planets in the
solar system have moons orbiting round them," Robert
"Like our moon ?" Adam replied.
"Yes. We call it The Moon but
really its name is Lunar."
"Mercury and Venus," Granddad
explained, "do not have any moons. Earth has one and
Mars has two. The names of Mars's moons are
Phobos and Deimos."
"Shall I put up a chart of the moons ?" Robert asked.
"Yes please Robert. Jupiter has sixty-seven moons,"
Granddad continued, "and Saturn has sixty two. Neptune
and Pluto do not have any moons but Uranus has
"Wow," Adam said. "So with nine planets and," Adam
started to count in his head. "that makes one hundred
and sixty-eight all together."
"You are very clever Adam," Robert said, "nearly as
lever as I am."
"What worries me," Adam said, "is if all of these
planets and moons are spinning round the Sun how come
they do not crash into each other ?"
"Gravity," Granddad said. "Each has its own gravity
which keeps it in place.
"I see," Adam said, "but he did not really understand.
"We are going to visit Titan" Granddad said. "Titan is
the biggest moor orbiting Saturn."
"When when we leaving ?"
"I think we can have Fireball XL5 ready for take off
tomorrow. Can we do that Robert ? Robert is the pilot
for Fireball XL5"
"We can," Robert said in his usual slow voice.
"Granddad," Adam sounded worried, "if Robert is the
pilot and he speaks so slowly do you think it will be
night before they were due to depart for their space
adventure holiday Adam packed his own bag. What did he
need to take with him ? What would
the weather be like on Titan ? Would he need a coat ?
But there must be space suits onboard Fireball XL5,
surely there must be. So what to wear underneath a space
suit ? This was all very complicated. If Granddad was
taking Adam to Disneyland or to Legoland he would have
know what to take with him. What was Granddad taking ?
What was Nan taking ? What was Jake the dog taking ?
What was Robert the Robot taking ?
Robert the Robot, Adam was
worried about him. When Granddad said that Adam could
sit on the flight deck for the take off that sounded
like a good idea, Adam could keep an eye on Robert The
"Where will Nanny and Jake sit
?" Adam asked.
"In the living quarters then
once we have taken off and escaped the Earth's
gravitational pull we will go through to join them for
"T minus five minutes and
counting," Robert said in his slow, strange voice.
"What does that mean ?"
"T means time," Robert said.
"Take off is Time minus five minutes and still going
ahead - counting."
"When we take off we will be
going very fast," Granddad said.
"How fast ?"
"Seven miles ever second,"
"We have to travel that fast to
escape the Earth's gravity," Robert explained, "if we do
not it will pull us back down. As long as the rocket is
firing we will be able to fly but unless we reach escape
velocity and seven miles per second we will not be able
to leave Earth's atmosphere."
Adam wondered what Robert's
voice's escape velocity was, perhaps one inch per hour
"T minus four minutes and
"Time to get strapped into your
There were two seats at the
front of the cockpit, Robert was seated in the left hand
seat. Granddad moved to sit in the other. You sit in the
seat behind Robert," Granddad said, "and fasten your
Were they really about to blast
off into space or was this all an elaborate game of
Granddad's ? Was it a practical joke ? An April Fool
played many weeks too late ?
"T minus three minutes and
counting. Infighting the main rocket's primary burner."
"Check," Granddad said.
"Secondary engines in take off
"Fuel pumps to maximum."
"T minus two minutes and
It took Robert so long to say
all of this information Adam thought he would still be
talking about the countdown after take off and while
they were half way to Titan.
Lights on the controls in front
of Granddad an Robert started to twinkle and flash.
"Turning auxiliary batteries
"Emergency escape system
"Emergency ? What emergency ?
What escape system ?" Adam wanted to shout stop. He
wanted to go home to Mum, Dad and his brother.
"T minus one minute and
Strange noises started to fill
Fireball XL5 and Adam could feel it shaking.
"T minus thirty seconds. Take
off is now committed."
What did that mean ?
"Stop, I want to go home."
"Neither Granddad nor Robert
paid him any attention."
"Five - Four - Three - Two -
One - Blast off !"
Adam was thrown back into his
seat as Fireball XL5 erupted with noise and lurched
forward. They sped down the metal take off ramp then
turned so that Adam was laying on his back as the rocket
thundered upwards. Adam tried to look out of the window
in front of him but could see nothing. Neither Granddad
nor Robert the Robot was saying anything. How fast were
they going ? Adam wanted to shout STOP but knew it was
impossible now to stop. How long before they left
Earth's atmosphere and things got a bit calmer ?
"Shutting down boosters in,
five - four - three - two - one - shut down," Robert
"Main engine to ten percent
power," Granddad added.
It was over.
"Are we in space now ?" Adam
"We are. You are now a
"I can take over now Granddad,"
Robert said. "You and Adam go and have your breakfast.
Robots do not eat breakfast."
Adam was not sure if his
stomach was ready for breakfast. When he saw what Nan
had cooked he was sure he was not ready.
MRS EMNA AND CANDYLAND
"I don't usually eat all that
for breakfast," Adams said. "Sometimes yoghurt,
sometimes cereal and sometimes toast. I really can not
eat all of that."
Nan had been busy in Fireball
XL5's kitchen cooking bacon, sausage, fried bread,
scrambled egg, baked beans, tomatoes and hash browns.
"My tummy is too wobbly after
that take off," Adam explained. "I do not get car sick
but I think I may be feeling space sick."
"I'll eat yours," Granddad
said," pass it over."
"Captain Granddad to the flight
deck please," the voice of Robert sounded over the
loudspeaker. "Captain Granddad to the flight deck."
Adam wished the robot did not
call him Granddad. "That robot is stupid," he said to
himself. "Almost as stupid as the robots in the
supermarket self check out machines. Any minute now
he will say unidentified item in the bagging area !"
"Captain Granddad to the flight
"Better go and see what he
wants," Granddad said. "Keep the breakfast warm for me
can you ?"
"I'' come with you," Adam said.
He did not want to eat anything and wanted to know what
was so important Robert was interrupting breakfast.
"We are a little bit short of
fuel," Robert said.
"I thought you filled up before
we left," Granddad replied.
"I did but that take off used
more than I had calculated. There are so many of us on
"Jake doesn't weigh much and
neither does Adam," Granddad was not pleased by the news
of a fuel shortage. "How short are we ?"
"To get to Titan we will need
to fill up."
"We can stop at Mrs Emna's
Rocket Station. It's orbiting one of Mars's moons,
"I know where it is," Granddad
was not pleased. Not pleased that his breakfast had been
spoilt and not pleased that their journey was going, so
soon, to be interrupted. He knew of Mrs Emna's Rocket
Station and had heard a lot about the place but had
never been there. "Set a course," he said to Robert.
Back in the kitchen granddad
was looking forward even more now to his breakfast.
"Jake ate it," Nan said. "It
was going cold and I didn't think you were coming back.
Granddad was not pleased. "I'm
going back to the flight deck. I think I hid a Mars Bar
"Do Mars Bars come from the
Planet Mars ?" Adam asked. Nobody answered.
Mrs Emna was six hundred years
old and had been running her spaceship filling station
since she was a young woman. Earthmen may not have
journeyed into space until recently but there were other
species from all over the galaxy that needed rocket
fuel. Mrs Emna was not from Earth, she came from a
planet way outside our solar system but had emigrated to
Mars a very long time ago. All kinds of strange stories
were told about her spaceship filling station, Granddad
did not really want to find out if they were true or
"So if Mrs Emna is an alien,"
Adam asked, "is she green ?"
"Actually she is red," Robert
said. "Red with blue lines on her face."
"Does she have an aerial poking
out of her head like you do ?"
"No. I am an electronic life
form, she is a biological life form."
Adam had never met an alien
before so looked forward to seeing Mrs Emna. He hoped
she was a bit more fun that a robot.
It took an hour for Fireball
XL5 to reach Phobos by which time Granddad was feeling
very hungry and Adam had started to regain his appetite.
Granddad steered Fireball XL5
to dock with the orbiting petrol station then told
Robert to fill her up. "Fill her right up to the top,"
he said to Robert. "We do not want to have to stop
again. Adam, you come with me to pay."
"How do we pay ?" Adam asked.
"Is it with money or do we have to use a credit card ?"
"We pay," Granddad said, "using
Mrs Emna was not red with blue lines on her face, as
Robert had said. She was blue with red lines on her
face. She had hair just like a human but it was the
strangest colour Adam had ever seen. When she smiled her
teeth were not like those of a human they looked as if
they were made of diamonds and sparkled as the light
bounced off them.
"Welcome," Mrs Emna said, "Welcome
to the crew of Fireball XL5. Everyone in the galaxy has
heard of Fireball of course but I have never before met
"I am Robert," Robert said in his
slow metallic voice. "This is Granddad and this is seven
year old Adam."
"Seven years old, how wonderful. I
wish I was seven years old. I was born in the Earth year
of 1417, King Henry V was King of England then. Let
these grown ups sort the rocket fuel, I've got something
special to show you. Are you feeling hungry Adam ?"
"Depends," Adam said. "I don't
want to eat one of Nan's breakfasts, I'm still feeling a
bit space sick."
"I've got the perfect thing for
space sickness. Come with me, though this door over
here. Let me show you into Candyland."
"Candyland ?" Adam said. "What's
"Before we can go inside you need
to wear a special pair of glasses. Here," Mrs Emma said,
"put these on."
Adam put the glasses on and
immediately everything went very strange. All the
will need this," Mrs Emma said, "it's a map of Candyland."
With the glasses in his head and
the map to look at Adam realise he was in the most
wonderful place possible. Everything was made to be
The floor was made of chocolate.
There was a dragon made of sugar and a pizza covered
with the most delicious sweets. There was even a candy
rainbow which dropped little spots of lemonade which
Adam tried to catch in his mouth.
"Do you still feel space sick ?"
Mrs Emma asked.
"No, not anymore. This place is
delicious," Adam proclaimed.
"Well eat all you like and take
back with you enough candy so you will not have to eat
any more of Nanny's inter-planetary breakfasts.
Adam did not want to be greedy but
ate all he could then started to pick a few things he
could take back to FireballXL5.
"Here," Mrs Emma said, "use this."
She handed Adam a bag to put the
sweets in but guess what ? Even the bag was made of
"It is time to go." It was that
ridiculous robot again. Trust him to spoil the fun.
"Granddad is waiting for you."
"That robot really gets on my
nerves," Adam said to Mrs Emma.
"That's what robots do," she
replied, "all Robots are the same. Anyway, you had
better go. Have a safe journey and a fantastic adventure
then on your way come back to
Mrs Emna's Rocket Station and
another visit to Candyland.