In Tom Godwin's short story "The Cold Equations," why did the astronaut Barton realize he was not alone on his Emergency Dispatch Ship (EDS)?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Tom Godwin's short story "The Cold Equations," the reader learns very quickly how Barton, pilot of the Emergency Dispatch Ship (EDS), discovers he is not alone on the ship. In the very first full paragraph of the short story, the narrator describes the "white had of the tiny gauge on the board before him" that tells him he is not alone on the ship. It is further explained in the paragraph that when he had launched from the space shuttle Stardust, the little hand "had been on zero" but, "now, an hour later, it had crept up." We are never really told what type of instrument he is looking at, but we do know he has interpreted the hand as indicating that there is a second body on board the ship, "a body that radiated heat." Therefore, we can assume the instrument possibly measures heat signatures, and if his own heat signature is the only one on board as is it supposed to be, then the little hand remains on zero, remains giving a neutral reading. However, the hand did not remain on zero, so he knew his own heat signature was not the only one on board.

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