Collin smiled at the solemn-looking MP and saluted him quickly. Then he grabbed Courtney's and Morgan's hands and the three ran after the rest of the class.
They squeezed into a seat at the back of the bus and stared out the window as they bumped over a cracked and pitted road that led them past small sand dunes and swampy areas with patches of marsh grass and stumpy pine trees that looked like they'd been beaten up by the wind.
"Look, there's a sign," Courtney said. "Eastern Test Range, Home of Mercury Space Program."
"I thought we were going to the Space Center." Morgan frowned as she looked from Collin to Courtney. "This doesn't look at all that impressive."
It looked more like something out of M.A.S.H., Collin thought. A bunch of old-style, temporary-looking Army buildings were scattered around the desolate area, as were airplane hangars that looked like they were left over from World War II. They passed a few newly constructed but plain concrete-block buildings. There were several concrete launch pads and towers, like the ones Collin had seen in old science films Mrs. Lee had forced them to watch.
"Listen, class," the teacher instructed, and the noise of at least thirty boisterous kids ceased immediately. "They're talking about the launch on the radio." Collin listened carefully to the sound of a man's deep, confident voice coming from the tiny speaker.
"This day, May 5, 1961, will go down in history as the day that America officially entered the Space Age. In his Freedom Seven space capsule, Astronaut Alan Shepard is now flying more than 5,100 miles an hour. He has already reached his high point of 115 nautical miles above the earth, making him the first American to venture into space. If all continues to go well, the entire flight should take less than 15 minutes, and Astronaut Shepard will splash down 300 miles from Cape Canaveral, in the ocean near Bermuda."
The sweaty blond kid in front of Collin waved his hand in the air.
"Yes, George?" the teacher responded.
"The Russians already orbited the Earth, didn't they, Mrs. Lee?"
Collin did a double take at the woman at the front of the bus and looked at Courtney's and Morgan's wide-eyed stares.
"Could it be...?" whispered Morgan.