Adam's Granddad is completely bonkers.

Honestly 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 !

"When I was ten years old Juri Gagarin became the first man in space."

Adam knew 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.

"When I was eighteen I watched the first moon landing live on television,"  Granddad said.

Eighteen ? 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.

Fireball 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 !

When Granddad asked Adam if he would like to go away on holiday when school broke up for the summer it sounded exciting.

"Where are we going ?"

"Somewhere special."

Adam knew 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 special ?

"Can Ollie come ?"  Ollie is Adam's younger brother.

"No he's too young. he can come when he is older."

"What about Mum and Dad ?"

"No, just you Adam."

"Is Nanny coming ?"

"Yes, and Jake." Jake is Granddad's dog.

"Anyone else ?"

"Just Robert the Robot."

Oh no !  This was one of Granddad's crazy stories.

"I see," Adam said disappointed.

"We are going to Titan. That's one of the moons orbiting Saturn."

"Yeh, yeh ! I suppose we are going in Fireball XL Five."

"How did you know ?

"Oh Granddad !"

The 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. It's hidden."

"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 believe you."

"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 things.

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 nodded.

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."

"Hello Granddad," the robot said ever so slowly in a strange voice.

"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 door closed.

"NO !" Adam said, frightened.

"It's alright Adam, we are not going yet. Not without Nan and Jake."

"Jake ? Are dogs allowed in space ?"

"They are," Robert the Robot said.

"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 offered.

"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 names."

"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 system.

"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 explained.

"You will need to learn their names," Robert said, "if you are to help me fly Fireball XL5."

"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 Purposes."

"So Jupiter is a jug then ?" Adam smiled.

"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 saiud.

"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 twenty-seven."

"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 safe ?


The 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 Robot.

"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 breakfast."

"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," Robert replied.


"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 counting."

"Time to get strapped into your seat Adam."

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 seat belt."

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 mode."


"Fuel pumps to maximum."


"T minus two minutes and counting."

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 on."


"Emergency escape system activated."


"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 counting."

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 said.

"Main engine to ten percent power," Granddad added.

It was over.

"Are we in space now ?" Adam asked.

"We are. You are now a spaceman."

"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.


"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 deck please."

"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 board."

"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."

"I see."

"We can stop at Mrs Emna's Rocket Station. It's orbiting one of Mars's moons, Phobos."

"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 there."

"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 not.

"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 inter-galactic kugerrands."

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 her crew."

"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 that ?"

"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 colours changed.

"You 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 eaten.

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 candy.

"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.

Max Robinson