Read The Astro Outlaw Online

Authors: David A. Kelly

Tags: #Ages 6 and up

The Astro Outlaw

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2012 by David A. Kelly
Cover art and interior illustrations copyright © 2012 by Mark Meyers

All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks and A Stepping Stone Book and the colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Kelly, David A. (David Andrew)
The Astro outlaw / by David A. Kelly ; illustrated by Mark Meyers.
p. cm. — (Ballpark mysteries ; #4) (“A stepping stone book.”)
Summary: While visiting Houston, Texas, Mike and Kate tour the Johnson Space Center with an astronaut in the morning and at the Houston Astros’ ball game that evening, the cousins search for the person who steals the astronaut’s moon rock when he arrives at the stadium to sign autographs.
eISBN: 978-0-375-89966-9
[1. Baseball—Fiction. 2. Cousins—Fiction. 3. Houston (Tex.)—Fiction. 4. Mystery and detective stories.] I. Meyers, Mark, ill. II. Title.
PZ7.K2936Ast 2012 [Fic]—dc22 2011013999

Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.


To Adam from Colorado, Anya from Massachusetts, Sam from Wisconsin, Isaac from Washington, DC, and all the other kids who’ve discovered the joys of reading through the Ballpark Mysteries —D.A.K

To Bob and Kay. You guys rock! —M.M

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
—Rogers Hornsby, Hall of Fame infielder and Texas native


Houston, We Have a Problem

Mike Walsh stared out of a big white space helmet. His breathing echoed in his ears. He saw a spacecraft from the corner of his eye. It felt like he was walking on the moon.

Mike tried to lift up the helmet’s shiny gold visor so he could see better. But the thick rubbery astronaut gloves he wore made it hard. His fingers fumbled with the helmet.

“Houston, we have a problem!” Mike said to his cousin Kate Hopkins. “I’m trapped!”

It was spring break. Kate, Mike, and Kate’s dad were taking a VIP tour of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. They were in town to visit Mr. Ryan, a friend of Kate’s dad. Like Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Ryan was a baseball scout. He worked for the Houston Astros and had given them free tickets for the tour and the Astros game that night.

Kate laughed. “The only problem Houston has is
!” she said, shaking her head. Mike was always fooling around. Kate flipped up the gold visor on his helmet. “Commander Rice told us how to open the visor earlier.”

“Can’t hear you,” Mike joked. “We’re on the moon, remember? Sound waves can’t travel because there’s no air in space.”

Kate rolled her eyes and turned to watch Commander Rice, the tall, athletic astronaut leading the tour. Other than Kate, Mike, and
Mr. Hopkins, the rest of the people on the tour were local business owners. Kate and Mike had met Sam Shine, a used-car dealer, Tex Rayburn, who owned a hat store called Fat Hats, and Manuel Lopez, an insurance salesman. The group was in a large training room filled with spacecraft replicas. Commander Rice was showing them how astronauts lived and worked in space. He picked up a chunk of black rock and held it out to the group.

“Is that a moon rock?” Tex Rayburn asked. He wore black cowboy boots and a black cowboy hat. His big brass belt buckle spelled out

Commander Rice shook his head. “No, it’s just a model we use for training,” he told Tex. “Maybe I can show you a real one later. They’re very valuable.”

“Shoot. You can put your boots in the
oven, but that don’t make ’em biscuits,” Tex said. “I reckon we can wait a little to see a
moon rock.”

Commander Rice put the rock down on a nearby table. Then he explained how astronauts take showers in space. Or how they don’t. In space, regular showers won’t work. Without gravity, water doesn’t fall to the ground. Instead, astronauts use damp towels to wash up.

“Where do y’all get the water from?” Sam asked.

“We bring water with us,” Commander Rice said. “Or we recycle it from the air and the water we use every day. We even have to recycle toilet water. Anyone want a sip?”

“YUCK!” Kate said, making a face.

Most of the members of the tour shook their heads. “No thank you,” Tex said. “I always drink upstream from the herd.”

Commander Rice laughed. “The filters make our water cleaner than any creek.” He checked his watch. “I still have time to show you the mission control room.”

Kate rapped Mike’s helmet with her knuckles. “Hey, take that off. We’re going to see mission control!”

Mike removed the helmet and placed it on a table. Tex slapped him on the back.

“Son, that helmet’s too hot for Houston. Stop by my store, Fat Hats!” Tex boomed. He handed Mike a business card. It had a picture of a ten-gallon hat on it. “We’ll fix y’all up with a proper Texas hat.”

Tex winked at Mike and followed Commander Rice through the door. Mike and Kate rushed to catch up. The commander led them to a building across the street.

After passing through security, they went
up a flight of stairs and through a heavy door. To their side stood four long rows of metal desks, filled with old-fashioned computers. Five large screens hung on the wall at the front of the room. Pictures of the moon, the earth, and a map of the world played across them.

“Welcome to NASA’s mission control,” Commander Rice said. “It’s the exact one that
was used for the Apollo moon missions. Have a seat.”

Mike and Kate scrambled for one of the desk chairs. Mr. Hopkins and some of the other visitors stood against the wall.

“Mission control is where flight controllers keep an eye on spacecraft and astronauts after they lift off into space,” Commander Rice said. He explained how different people were
in charge of different parts of a spaceflight. For example, a controller in the first row managed the spacecraft’s direction. A controller in the second row kept track of the crew’s health.

Commander Rice also told them about the Apollo rockets that traveled from the earth to the moon and back between 1968 and 1972.

Mike raised his hand. “Is that how we got the moon rocks?”

Commander Rice nodded and pushed some buttons at one of the desks. A picture of an astronaut flashed up on one of the screens. He was standing on the moon, holding a moon rock.

“On six missions, the Apollo astronauts brought back over eight hundred pounds of rocks,” Commander Rice told them. “Some were black. Others were white. And some were shades of gray.”

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