A Star Witness
SPACE AND BEYOND
“That’s it! That’s them!” George Fayne cried as Mr. Drew pulled up outside the planetarium. She pointed out the car window. A group of people of all different ages was standing near the entrance. A woman with glasses and frizzy red hair held up a green flag with the letters RHAC written on it.
“That’s the River Heights Astronomy Club?” Nancy Drew asked, looking at the group in front of them. There was a woman wearing a turtleneck (even though it was eighty degrees out), standing
with a little girl a few years younger than Nancy, and a couple with white hair. It wasn’t quite what she’d expected.
“Yup! Those are my friends Marty and Hilda,” George said, hopping out of the car and pointing to the white-haired couple. “Hilda makes great banana bread. And that’s Trina. She’s the youngest member—only five. And her mom, Celia.” George pointed at the woman in the turtleneck. “Thanks for the ride, Mr. Drew!”
Carson Drew smiled as he watched his daughter, Nancy, and her friends Bess Marvin and George climb the stairs to the entrance. “You girls have a great time today,” he said. “I’ll be back later to pick you up.”
“Right after we see the Starship 5000!” George said.
“What’s the Starship 5000?” Bess whispered to Nancy.
Nancy just shrugged. George and Bess were cousins, but they couldn’t have been more different. George loved adventure. She went hiking on
the weekends, was part of their town’s astronomy club and their school’s chess club, and was the first of their friends to try judo. She wore her brown hair short and only went to the mall when her mom made her go back-to-school shopping—or to buy another electronic gadget to add to her collection. Her cousin Bess liked spending nights curled up on the couch, watching old movies. She had wavy blond hair that went past her shoulders and had the perfect outfit for every occasion—whether it was a school dance or the state fair.
“How many meetings have you been to so far?” Bess asked as they walked toward the group.
“This will be my fourth,” George said over her shoulder. “And the best—obviously. At most meetings we just eat donuts in the library and talk about stars and stuff. I haven’t been to the planetarium since first grade!”
Nancy looked up at the giant white building in front of them. There was a dome on one side—that was where they held all the different space shows. She’d passed it so many times, but hadn’t
been inside since she was in first grade either. Now that George had joined the River Heights Astronomy Club, they finally had a reason to go back. George had been talking about the big trip for over two weeks now. The club was going to explore the museum and see a special show by a famous astronomer, Dr. Arnot, in the dome. George had invited Bess and Nancy along as her special guests.
“George! You made it!” The woman with the red hair checked something off her clipboard as the three girls climbed the stairs. “And you brought your friends. Delightful!”
The white-haired man named Marty smiled. “You must be Nancy and Bess!” he said, looking at them. “George has told us all about you.”
Hilda peered over her tiny wire glasses. She pointed to Bess. “Aren’t you two cousins?”
“Yup,” George said.
“And you and Nancy have that club together,” Marty said. “Solving mysteries.”
“Something like that,” Nancy said. She glanced
sideways at George and smiled. Nancy, Bess, and George had a club called the Clue Crew. They’d become good at helping people in River Heights figure out things they couldn’t on their own. Sometimes someone’s cell phone disappeared. Other times the Clue Crew found lost dogs. One time they’d helped Nancy’s neighbor after her prize-winning roses were stolen. Nancy even had a special Clue Book she used to write down important details and suspects.
“George! You’re here!” the little girl, Trina, called out. She ran over to George and gave her a
big hug. She was dressed in black boots and a little green hat with a bow on it, and carried around a tiny pair of binoculars. Trina’s mom smiled as George picked Trina up and spun her around.
“Wouldn’t miss it!” George said. When she put Trina down, George turned to Nancy and Bess. “I taught Trina everything she knows about the Milky Way.”
The red-haired woman patted Nancy on the back. She was older than Nancy’s dad, and every inch of her skin was covered with freckles. “We’re happy to have you girls. I’m Lois Oslo, the head of the astronomy club. As George might’ve told you, this is our sixth annual visit to the museum. Let’s begin, shall we?”
She waved the green flag in the air as she turned inside. There were only seven astronomy club members besides Lois, so the flag didn’t seem necessary, but Nancy followed along anyway.
When they stepped into the museum’s front entrance, Nancy grabbed George’s arm. “Wow! I’d forgotten how amazing it is.”
They stood there, staring up at the fifty-foot ceiling. It was painted a deep blue with tiny glittering white stars. “I think I see the Big Dipper!” Bess said, pointing to the constellation that looked like a cooking pot with a big handle.
“You’re correct,” Marty said. Then he moved Bess’s hand so she was pointing at a different cluster of stars in the sky. These looked like a smaller pot—one that you’d cook macaroni and cheese in. “And that’s the Little Dipper.”
“Yes, the entranceway is impressive,” Lois said, pushing to the right, past a group of kids wearing Driftwood Day Camp T-shirts. “But not as impressive as the Hall of Planets.”
They followed Lois into a room that had one long glass wall. Floating in front of the wall were each of the eight planets. Some of the planets had been hollowed out and were big enough to walk around in. People were climbing the stairs and wandering inside them, reading different information about Saturn or Jupiter.
Trina hovered next to her mom, pointing at each planet one by one. “My very easy method just speeds up names,” she said slowly.
“I remember that!” Bess laughed. “Isn’t that how we learned what order they go in?”
“That’s right,” Nancy said, going down the row. “Mercury, Venus, Earth . . .”
“Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune,” Lois finished. “Very good, girls! Now let’s take a half hour or so in here to look around, shall we?”
The group split apart, with Celia and Trina going straight for Jupiter. There was a window in the giant planet’s side, right where its great red spot is. Nancy and Bess followed George to Earth. They climbed the stairs that wrapped around the planet and went inside the back. There were even seats so they could sit down.
booming voice came out of the speakers. “Four and a half billion years ago, Earth was formed. It’s known by many names: Terra . . . Gaia . . . the world. This, the third planet from the sun, is the only celestial body proven to accommodate life.”
A screen on one of the walls showed videos of people from all different countries. One woman was weaving a basket and another was carrying pineapples on her back. There were scenes of panda bears and strange colorful insects, followed by underwater scenes of sharks and dolphins.
Nancy and her friends watched the entire video, then went on to Mars, reading a sign about the different rovers, or vehicles, that had landed on the planet’s surface. They visited Jupiter and Saturn before noticing Lois and the rest of the group waiting by the exit. “We’ll have more time at the end of the day!” Lois called. “I promise. But right now we should go see the north wing of the building, where there is a new asteroid exhibit.”
Marty and Hilda waited for the girls to catch up. The group was almost out of the Hall of
Planets when they noticed an older man with wiry gray hair that stuck up in different directions. He wore a polka-dotted orange bow tie and had what looked like a mustard stain on his shirt collar. The man was standing in the hallway, talking loudly to a young woman who was wearing black-rimmed glasses and a red headband. She had on black Mary Jane shoes.
“Creepin’ conundrums!” the man cried. “I can’t believe that security guard nearly didn’t let us into the museum. I forgot my ID today, so I spent twenty minutes trying to convince him I was who I said I was, and then I had to ask to speak to the planetarium director. I mean, really—you’d have thought I was trying to bring some wild hyenas in here! It was just a telescope!”
The young woman turned, noticing Lois and the rest of the group standing behind them. Lois smiled and waved at her. They must’ve known each other. “Dr. Arnot!” the young woman said. “This is the River Heights Astronomy Club! They’re coming to your space show tonight.
Remember, I had told you about them?”
Dr. Arnot turned around, looking confused. It was clear he didn’t remember.
Lois stuck out her hand. “Dr. Arnot!” she said. “I’m Lois Oslo. What an honor. I’ve watched your TV specials since I was a teenager. Space and Beyond is my favorite. Thank you so much for hosting us tonight; it’s a special day for our club.”
Dr. Arnot puffed up his chest and smiled. “Well, it is a pleasure to meet you too. I was just telling Kirsten here, I brought the Starship 5000—one of the most high-tech telescopes—on loan from an astronomer in Germany. Only one was ever made. The lens is more powerful than any other in the world. So you’ll be getting a special treat tonight on the museum’s roof. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to find the director of the planetarium. We have a few things to discuss.”
The man turned and disappeared down the hall. Kirsten smiled at the group. Nancy noticed she was sipping a grape soda. She’d been hiding it behind her when she was talking to Dr. Arnot.
Nancy remembered seeing a sign posted near the museum’s entrance that said food and beverages were not allowed, so she figured that Kirsten probably didn’t want Dr. Arnot to see her drinking in the museum. “I’m Kirsten Levy,” she said, introducing herself. “Dr. Arnot’s assistant. I’m so happy you’re all here.”
Lois beamed at the club’s members. “I e-mailed Kirsten months back, and she was kind enough to arrange the special telescope viewing for us. Such a sweetheart!”
“So how long have you been working with Dr. Arnot?” Marty asked.
“For a year now,” Kirsten said, and then she quickly finished the last of her soda. “He’s very busy with travel and filming his TV show, so I help out when he’s in town. I’m studying astronomy at River Heights Community College.”
“Cool,” Trina said. “So you want to be an astro . . . nomer?” She had trouble getting out the whole word.
“Yeah, I think so,” Kirsten said. She pushed
her glasses up on her nose. “I love studying the stars. I’m actually part of a group project at school researching the Andromeda Galaxy. We’re supposed to be presenting to the class tonight, but since I’m working here, my friend is going to cover for me.”
“Oh, we’d hate to keep you from your presentation!” Hilda said.
Kirsten just shook her head. “No, this is one of my favorite parts of my job with Dr. Arnot. I love showing groups the night sky. He does an amazing planetarium show too. I think you’ll really love it.”
“We’re going to explore the museum until the show tonight,” George said. “What’s your favorite thing here?”
“Have you seen the moon landing exhibit?” Kirsten asked.
George raised her eyebrows at Nancy and Bess. “A moon landing exhibit? That sounds awesome!”
Kirsten waved for the group to follow her. They went down a side hallway that led to a smaller room. The floor was grayish white with fake craters
all over it. The walls were painted black with glittering stars. On one wall you could see Earth.
“It’s just like we’re on the moon,” Bess remarked.
Nancy climbed on top of the replica of the moon rover. “Look!” she cried, picking up an astronaut’s helmet. “They even have costumes.”
Kirsten smiled. “I’m off to find Dr. Arnot. Enjoy the museum! We’ll see you tonight!”
The rest of the group scattered. Some studied the
text on the wall beside the rover, which described the first time a human landed on the moon in 1969. Nancy and her friends put on the astronaut helmets. There were even puffy astronaut jackets that were all white with different metallic pieces on them. The girls put those on too.
“I can barely see out of this,” Bess said with a giggle. She almost fell back over the side of the moon rover, but George grabbed her hand, keeping her steady.
Nancy climbed down off the rover, grabbing the flag that was there for a prop. She pretended to walk very slowly, like she was moving through water. She’d seen the footage of the first moon landing in science class. Buzz Aldrin had floated and bounced above the surface of the moon.
Then, with Marty and Hilda watching, she took her first step. Lois and two women standing nearby clapped. “One small step for man,” Nancy said, some of astronaut Neil Armstrong’s words echoing inside her helmet, “one giant leap for mankind!”