Robert "Bob" Sandals is the bumbling, disorganized "all-flight coordinator" of NASA (no such position exists in real life, although from such a prestigious title it can be inferred that Sandals is rather high in the administrative hierarchy) throughout the Space Voyages series. His role is almost always that of the reluctant caretaker, at first rejecting any idea of the SILPS trio going on another dangerous adventure, but every time eventually caving in by providing them with the necessary spacecraft for the occasion. Besides Thaddeus, he is perhaps the character who approaches the parental role the closest in the series, since the trio's actual parents are very rarely mentioned.
There is very little biographical information given about Bob Sandals in any of the books, although in general it can be assumed that he is in his thirties or forties, which would place his date of birth sometime in the 1980s. According to the Space Voyages Complete Guide, he was first hired by NASA in 2005. He seems to have very few if any higher-ups, as he always has the sole discretion on any matters relating to spaceflight for the SILPS trio. At the same time, he seems to be completely at the mercy of the NASA administration in terms of what job he is holding at any given time, as evidenced in the introductory paragraphs of Book V:
- Bob Sandals, the flight coordinator for NASA, sat in the satellite room, waiting. This was one of his "new" jobs, which he had volunteered to do when another person dropped out. He had said, "Anything is better than sitting in an office and watching a shuttle or rocket launch every half-year." But he had no clue it was going to be this boring.
Indeed, besides catering to the SILPS trio, the main thing he tends to do is complain. His scatterbrained personality helps little, as he often spends more time trying not to confuse himself than actually doing anything related to his job.
Involvement in the seriesEdit
Book I: Galactic JourneyEdit
Bob Sandals plays a significant role in Galactic Journey as the "simulation coordinator" running the tests to decide who will win the coveted spots aboard STS-127. Unfortunately, he (and everyone else at NASA) somehow overlooks that Sai Hwong and Sergei Rochavov are total shams and are in fact the evil dictators of the planet Zarcholon bent on keeping the SILPS trio from succeeding in their mission. Nonetheless, he gives both of them the go-ahead in perhaps the worst logistical move of the entire series – allowing both "teams" to launch at the exact same time just miles apart from each other. This, of course, is what ultimately causes STS-127B to veer off course and through the Galaxian Prime time warp. The last we hear of Bob Sandals is an intermittent radio message after the STS-127B capsule has gone through the time warp:
- "We're – kssssshhhh – losing contact. Your health meters say you've been unconscious – ksshhhkloop...brrrrrr"
Book II: Thaddeus and the Time Warp Trio and Book III: The Return of the Red BorkinEdit
Bob Sandals remains out of the picture until the last page of Book III when the SILPS trio returns to Earth with Thaddeus. In the intervening time, he seems to have been promoted to "flight coordinator" (but yet to become "all-flight coordinator") as he announces over an intercom that an awards ceremony will be taking place shortly and that everyone should proceed to the Staging and Briefing Area.
Book IV: Voyage to the Empire of JadaEdit
Bob Sandals takes on a role similar to that in Book I this time around when the SILPS trio receives a distress letter from Thaddeus, who has been kidnapped by the BAOJers (later revealed to be a branch of the BEFOs) in a "monstrous attack on the Door-Mart." Sandals, now officially the all-flight coordinator, consents to allowing them to use their old capsule (this would in fact not work in real life since the Apollo-like capsules the STS-127B capsule is based on are generally not reusable). After they are all nearly killed by a falling rocket, Bob Sandals is reluctant to let them leave immediately, but the trio does so anyway, leaving Bob to "report this to NASA" as the capsule takes off from the ground under its own power (also something impossible for an Apollo derivative).
Book V: Return to Jada and Book VI: Cornelius's Further DoingsEdit
In this installment, Bob Sandals has once again been demoted simply to flight coordinator. The opening chapter portrays Sandals as having taken a new position as monitor of various satellite dishes for NASA. The exact purpose of the dishes is not explained, although it is assumed they are used to track incoming objects from outside the atmosphere. When a BEFO missile strikes, Bob is too uninformed to handle it himself and must get Frank (who is the real "person who runs the satellites") to see what's going on. Soon, they are forced to hide in a closet as a 465-mph wind gust caused by the missile slams through the area. Afterwards, Bob Sandals becomes occupied with surveying the damage and leaves Frank and the other two kidronauts to figure out exactly what happened. Later, upon discovering the missile originated from Jada, the SILPS trio sneaks off on their own without ever consulting Bob Sandals. He remains out of the picture for the remainder of the novel.
Sandals makes a brief appearance in Book VI as part of Courtney's nightmare while sleeping at Em's house. He tells her that after the crash with Rochavov and Hwong they were knocked unconscious and reentered the atmosphere. Of course this ends up only being a dream, and Sandals was never there at all.
Book VII: Reclaim of the BEFOsEdit
Bob Sandals returns to prominence in the final installment, arguably playing his most important role in the entire series. For the first time, the trio openly complains about his personality, Courtney saying, "That man is so annoying. He always gets in our way." Frank decides that they should still get his permission. Upon hearing their idea, Sandals is surprisingly permissive, but perhaps because he is only allowing them to use an out-of-service spacecraft, the Pegasus XII, and not a full-blown space capsule that would probably cost more money to operate. Still, he warns the "ship is pretty sturdy, but I wouldn't call it stable on daredevil adventures like you three seem to set off on." He next appears when Frank and Jack (minus Courtney, who has become a cryogenic prisoner on Cornelius's new Death Star-esque space station) are attempting to reenter the Earth's atmosphere in the rickety Pegasus, which refuses to shift out of hyperdrive and is at risk of burning up upon reentry. Bob, who has no actual knowledge of how the particular spacecraft operates, attempts desperately to feed them ideas for how to slow the spacecraft down, which all fail until they manage to turn the hyperdrive off by accident at the last second. When the two claim they have just returned for a giant space station, Bob thinks they've suffered radiation poisoning and takes them to the Cape Canaveral Medical Center. There, a shockwave hits from the BEFO destruction of Mars, which confirms the boys' story. The U.S. declares war on the BEFOs, and the boys must return to the space station to save Courtney before a missile strikes to destroy it. Bob, in perhaps his most substantial monologue of the entire series, warns them:
- "First, don't get into any more trouble. Your parents are already angry enough with me. Second, you have to get in and get out before the missile hits the place and blows it up. Third – well, I can't think of anything else. Just do the first two things."
With this in mind, they set off, leaving a "doubtful" Sandals in their wake. They return some hours later, only for Bob to discover to his horror that Frank is now the one missing, having been transformed into an evil cattin dictator.
In Space Voyages: Galactic Journey and future video series, Bob Sandals is portrayed by Ben Boatwright. An added dimension to Sandals' personality is his near-constant state of cheerfulness, a slight departure from the more cynical character presented in the books. He is always seen wearing an untucked white dress shirt with a pink tie that is never tied correctly. His hair is, of course, always rather disheveled.