The Lights in the Sky Are Stars was the second science-fiction novel by Fredric Brown, an author primarily known for his mysteries. The story is set near the opening of the twenty-first century; it concerns the launch of the first spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter and the political scheming that makes that launch possible.
The protagonist is fifty-seven-year-old Max Andrews, a former astronaut with an artificial leg who works as a rocket mechanic. He travels to San Francisco to be near the Treasure Island Rocket Base, where he has worked before, and also to meet Ellen Gallagher, who is running for the Senate and has expressed support for a mission to Jupiter.
Since 1964, when atomic engines replaced chemical ones on spacecraft, interplanetary travel has been possible. The moon, Mars, and Venus were reached shortly thereafter. Space travel has gone no further, however, mainly because of opposition by Conservationists, who insist that making things better on Earth is more important than launching rockets into space. Opposed to them are the Stardusters, who dream of traveling farther out.
Max and Ellen scheme to get her elected and to place Max in charge of the Jupiter mission. Both these goals are realized, although Ellen dies before the flight takes place. When it is discovered that Max has lied about his experience in space (he lost his leg on Earth, not on a trip to Venus, as he had claimed), he is fired as project...
(The entire section is 472 words.)