The year is 1968. Scott MacLeod takes over the controls of a military aircraft and makes an emergency landing, saving his Dad’s life and an expensive US Air Force jet. He is only 13 years old. On hearing about the boy’s amazing flying skills, NASA signs up Scott to command a top-secret mission to the Moon. But what will happen when he blasts off with only two chimponauts and a lucky mascot for company?
The opening chapters, counting down from ten to zero, are packed with excitement and intrigue. They are about speed, space rockets and special agents – the stuff of every boy’s childhood fantasy. But disappointingly, the narrative loses its thrust, with the final chapters describing the Moon landing seeing a change of tone and pace – possibly intended to mirror Scott’s own anticlimax – but a disappointing conclusion for the reader nonetheless.
The story is peppered with factual information about the American Space Programme and the Apollo missions. It also touches on the political situation at the time. Although the author tries to clarify fact from fiction at the end of the book, I did find this muddying of the historical waters a little disconcerting.
But at the end of the day One Small Step is aimed at imaginative youngsters with an interest in flight and space travel. Some readers may struggle with the detailed technical descriptions of flight procedure, but it’s a good choice for more confident readers, young space enthusiasts and budding astronauts.