Men into Space

Season 1 Episode 5

Lost Missile

Aired Wednesday 8:30 PM Nov 04, 1959 on CBS

Episode Recap

McCauley goes to Los Alamos to pick up Dr. William Thyssen. Thyssen is the creator of Project Dragonfly: the first nuclear-powered remote-controlled missile. After saying goodbye to Thyssen's partner, Dr. Dave Parsons, who is taking a fishing trip, McCauley and Thyssen go to the airport. Thyssen's wife Helen is there to leave with her older husband, and worries that the nuclear pile could blow up. McCauley assures her that it won't be activated until it in space. Helen half-jokingly notes that her husband wants to be aboard the next manned nuclear missile, and Thyssen admits that he's too old.

McCauley and Thyssen arrive at Cape Canaveral and the nuclear missile soon lifts up using conventional boosters. Once outside of Earth's atmosphere, the nuclear drive activates but a course deviation occurs and the ground crew is unable to compensate. Thyssen confirms that it's going to take up a low orbit around the Moon, and that the deviation occurred because of a malfunction in the remote-control system that caused the removal of all eight cadmium control rods. Without them, the nuclear pile will soon go critical.

After coordinating with tracking stations around the world, McCauley confirms that the missile's low orbit will cause it to crash into the Lunar Apennines in 27 hours. Thyssen sees no cause for concern until the commanding officer, General Thomas, informs him that they have a twelve-man lunar expedition in the vicinity, and the only ship available for them holds six men. McCauley contacts Lt. Hargraves at the moonbase, and he informs them that the other team members are on two-man geographical surveys and won't be back for at least 28 hours. Thyssen confirms that the missile will strike in 27 to 28 hours, and Thomas tells them to evacuate who they can and abandon the rest.

With the team's life on the line, McCauley suggests that they send a second manned missile to intercept the first one. Thyssen explains that two men will have to board the rogue missile and shut down the nuclear pile. McCauley would rather take the younger Parsons, but Thyssen claims that he can't get back from his fishing trip in time. The scientist explains that one man will have to turn the wheel shutting down the pile while the other man watches a gauge that will indicate if it's being turned in the right direction. McCauley convinces the skeptical Thomas to let them go up in a rocket piloted by Captain Parrish.

As Thyssen undergoes a quick medical check, McCauley finds Helen waiting for husband outside. Although her husband hasn't told her anything to avoid worrying her, Helen realizes that Thyssen is going up with McCauley. She asks the colonel to keep an eye on her husband as Thyssen comes out. He claims he went in for a quick checkup and then kisses her. As Thyssen goes, he gives Helen a phone number and tells her that Thomas can reach Parsons with it.

As the second missile closes in on the first, Parsons gets to Canaveral. Helen realizes that Thyssen knew his colleague could get there in time but wanted to go himself because he felt responsible for his control system's malfunction. Parrish brings the second missile parallel with the first and McCauley and Thyssen cross over using jetpacks. Once inside, Thyssen confirms that the nuclear pile will explode in 33 minutes. He opens the control panel and disengages the motor drive, and then has McCauley go to the gauge on the opposite site of the reactor. Thyssen tells the colonel that if the dial goes to the right, he needs to yell out since it means Thyssen has cranked the wheel in the wrong direction.

As Thyssen begins to turn the drive wheel, the panel slams shut on his wrist. He ignores the pain and turns the wheel, and McCauley tells him that it's going the wrong direction. Before Thyssen can tell the colonel which way he turned, he passes out from the pain. McCauley has no choice but to turn the wheel himself since Parrish can't come over to watch the gauge. The colonel asks Parsons for advice but he admits that he doesn't know which way the wheel needs to turn. With two minutes left, McCauley tells Parsons to flip a coin. The scientist flips it and announces tails, and McCauley tries to turn the wheel left. He discovers that it's jammed but finally manages to work it loose. Parsons' choice turns out to be the correct direction and they shut down the pile. Without the nuclear pile's extra acceleration, they have enough time to get the expedition clear. When Thyssen recovers consciousness, he and McCauley go back over to their ship. As they head back to Earth, Thyssen asks Ground Control to tell his wife that he'll meet her at their hotel... unaware that she's listening in.