The conception of Galactic Journey was, like most of Ben Boatwright's works, rather spontaneous. He was sitting at his computer one night in fifth grade and decided to begin writing a story of two astronauts, Rochavov and Hwong, who were in the midst of a spacecraft simulation. At the time, Boatwright had no idea that these few opening sentences would lead not only to one but seven stories that would eventually comprise the Space Voyages canon.
Galactic Journey begins in medias res as two astronauts are apparently on a space mission when the first line is uttered, "We have engine fire, repeat: we have engine fire." The apparent calamity quickly ends when it is revealed that the two astronauts are in fact only in a simulation. Simulation coordinator Bob Sandals enters (although he is yet to be named at this point), saying that they have done well and will be considered finalists in the selection process for the Search for Intelligent Life Project Shuttles (SILPS). The two astronauts are Sergei Rochavov and Sai Hwong, the latter "you can probably assimilate...was Chinese."
- Meanwhile, over in the orbiter/satellite simulator, was a very strange group of people that you probably wouldn’t recognize as astronauts. That’s because they were kids! Nope, I’m not kidding. They all had IQ’s of over 150, and they were extremely well suited for “astronautism” because they never had motion sickness. Still seem strange? The truth is, these kids won an award of outstanding scientific merit and astronomy. Now does it make sense? OK.
The story continues, as both "teams" must compete in a final test to see who will be sent on the STS-127 mission as part of the SILPS program. Both teams end up tying, leading to a secondary STS-127B being procured for the kidronaut trio while Rochavov and Hwong are assigned to the original STS-127 (at the time of the authoring of the book, the actual STS-127 shuttle mission had not yet occurred. It was carried out by the shuttle Endeavour in July 2009.) The kids are not pleased with this arrangement, but they accept it nonetheless.
On launch day, later revealed in The Return to the Red Borkin to be June 14, 2018, both missions are to launch simultaneously a few miles apart from each other, certainly a dangerous scenario by current NASA standards and a recipe for disaster soon to be discovered by all involved. The trio ascends to their capsule, passing a crowd of rude onlookers who boo loudly at them. After a slight scare from an unscrupulous repairman, the crew "puts their helmets on" and is given the go for launch. Over the next several moments, Frank manages to "steer" the rocket (which would obviously be impossible) under the guidance of Bob Sandals, whose complete ignorance of the basic laws of physics continues to subject the crew to increasingly dangerous situations. Of all possible things, he tells them to "get behind STS-127," which puts their rocket directly beneath the exhaust plume of the Rochavov/Hwong craft. And as if that weren't bad enough, STS-127B next manages to pull alongside STS-127 so closely that Courtney is able to see the faces of the other two. This would involve a lateral distance of no greater than fifty feet. As Frank astutely notes, "If we do [hit them], it could cause critical damage!" Why Bob Sandals didn't think the same thing will never be fully understood.
Suddenly, a "boom jars them wildly," and the trio immediately suspects foul play from Rochavov and Hwong. Before they have time to react, however, the external fuel tank (a slight contradiction in nomenclature that would suggest a more shuttle-like setup of the rocket) comes loose and hits their own rocket so hard that they are knocked unconscious.