The Blackbird aircraft and Space Shuttle were related in many ways. A commonly shared piece of trivia is, the pressure suits that shuttle astronauts wore were based on the Blackbird pressure suits. A lesser known fact; the early shuttle flights carried modified Blackbird ejection seats. Lockheed’s SR-1 ejection seats, installed in later model Blackbirds, were modified and tested to work with the shuttle cabin layout. SR-1 variants were flown on Columbia’s two-man test missions, STS-1 thru STS-4. The seats did fly on STS-5, but were deactivated with the addition of two more crew members. Ejection seats also flew on Enterprise’s free-flight landing tests.
The Space Shuttle Escape System Test Vehicle, pictured above, rests on display at Joe Davies Heritage Airpark in Palmdale California. Starting in late 1976, Rockwell International fired this vehicle, mounted atop a rocket sled, down the Holloman High Speed Test Track at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. The test article traveled in excess of 500 mph, then blew its escape hatches, firing the ejection seats, carrying pressure-suited dummies away from the vehicle. After one test, the airborne escape hatch struck the test dummy when it fell to earth, slicing it in half.
Before the shuttle, every NASA rocket made several unmanned test flights before putting a human at risk; but not the shuttle. This first test flight, STS-1, had to be crewed by two astronauts, John Young and Bob Crippen, who launched from the comfort of their SR-1 ejection seats. When questioned about the dangers of actually ejecting during launch, Crippen expressed that after ejection, the astronaut could have immediately been engulfed by the solid rocket booster exhaust plume. If the astronaut somehow dodged the fiery exhaust, the parachute would have surely melted, being in close proximity to the intense heat radiation produced by the plume. In a pre-flight press conference, Young was questioned about the same issue. A reporter said, “It’s still not completely clear to me whether or not you can abort with the ejection seat during the burn of the solids”. Young smartly replied, "You just pull the little handle", causing a hearty chuckle from the crowd at the reporter’s expense.
When I told my husband I started writing fanfic, he was intrigued. The other day, he asked if he could write something, and I said “Absolutely!” (Lol, inside joke :-) Anyway, here is his first attempt for the Kristanna fandom (he told me he identifies with Kristoff in many ways, so this is from Kristoff’s pov)
“Ice. Ice is my life.”
“What good is ice to a princess?”
“She can have anything she wants.”
“Anyone she wants.”
With a thunderous boom, the massive ice block that Kristoff had been chopping shattered into a million shards. He didn’t feel the sting as a razor sharp sliver cut deep into his cheek, under his eye. His intent was to break the large slab into smaller, more portable chunks for the rest of his crew. He preferred to skip this part when working alone but now he knew what was coming next. He felt stunned, deflated and like a fool.
Kristoff wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his glove and noticed the sun was starting to set behind the mountain to the west, casting its orange-yellow light over the frozen lake. He felt his mood sink.
“Damnit.” he muttered to himself.
“Good job Bjorgman! You just destroyed a couple hours work!” his fellow ice harvester raged.
“Kristoff, what the hell?!?” another yelled.
He muttered out a weak excuse “This block obviously had a fracture in it, made it weak”. He knew no one would believe it, but no one would challenge him. He was the largest and strongest of the harvesters, having grown from a small boy to the man he was now, living on the frozen fjords and lakes that they travelled to year round. His body was lean and well-muscled, the product of years of chopping, cutting and carrying his harvest of ice. His temper was equally as short as it was fierce, but he did not have it in him to fight.
“It’s not the ice that’s weak Bjorgman.”
He dropped his axe and some of his comrades visibly flinched, expecting his anger to be swift and intense. Instead he moved to grab an ice fork. “You guys head back to town, leave space on my sled. This is my fault, I’ll make this up.”
“And what a pretty sled it is.” Kristoff ignored the final taunt, but felt his blood begin to boil. He had grown used to the heckling of his work mates. His life had become a flurry of activity in the past few months. A chance meeting at Oakens Trading Post had changed his life irrevocably.
“Anna…” he sighed.
He put his mind to the task at hand, stepping deftly on to the frozen orange-cast lake, near the open water where his mates had been cutting. A few expert thrusts and he freed an extremely large block from its icy tomb. It was far larger and heavier than those cut by his colleagues; where it would take two men to carry a standard sized block, Kristoff could single handedly manage a block three times that size, or four times when he needed to work out anger. Or as penance.
However, when he worked with his crew, he always did everything a little better, but not too much. His friends were competitive, and he knew it was better to present a reachable challenge so they’d respond instead of giving up in hopelessness.
Away from their prying eyes, he could work at his pace, his power. It relieved him.
Grabbing the tongs he sank them into the frozen mass and heaved. This particular block was over three times the size of a normal block but Kristoff heaved it up onto his back in one smooth motion.
His muscles screamed, and he felt good. He let the weight settle onto his back, his legs withstanding it and strained against the burden, but he felt strong.
“This is what I know.”
Moving at a quick pace for the ice, he carried his load to his sled and in one clean motion, slid it safely into place. Sven turned and looked, first at Kristoff, then at the crystal-clear slab sitting in the sleigh.
I hope you don’t expect me to pull that weight! Kristoff voiced the question on Sven’s face.
“No buddy, you’re going to pull the weight of three more.”
Sven’s face fell as Kristoff turned to gather the next block.
“Ice. That’s what I know. What do I know of court, royal duty, pomp and circumstance. It’s all fluff and silliness. It’s not real. At least Anna lets me escape most of that. ”
*SHTACK* The ice fork dug deep.
“How can Anna love someone who carries ice on their own back, instead of ordering others to do it for them?”
*CRACK* An even larger block broke free.
“I have troubles dealing with Anna and Elsa in the same room, how can I deal with foreign dignitaries and emiss… umiss? I don’t even know what they’re called!”
Kirstoff stared down at the tongs that were supposed to grasp the ice and pull it from its watery bath. In the midst of the turmoil in his mind, he had pulled too hard and cleaved the chunk in two.
“Wasted effort. Wasted time. Anna will grow bored of me. I’m no match for those privately tutored, trained, pampered and well-travelled Princes!”
Kristoff tore his attention away from his inner dialogue to assess the situation. Using the fork, he positioned the two slabs next to one other and steadied them. Changing his grip on the tongs, he placed a tine on each slab and flexed. Pulling the tongs slowly yet inexorably apart, he felt his muscles tense and strain.
“Pressure, firm, strong… that’s it. Hold these together…”
Kristoff adjusted his familiar heave and pulled the blocks up, landing them higher upon his back. He felt the awkward weights as they fought his control, but he knew how to apply pressure, when to apply strength and when to loosen his grip. The ice obeyed his command, and he strode a little more solidly to the sled.
“I can make ice mind me. Prince Pieter of the Southern Isles orders armies of men under his command. His brother Hans was such a weasel… and he’s the reason Pieter’s here, attempting to repair the relationship between Arendelle and thems… ”
Ice rained off his back as one of the blocks shattered.
“Ah HELLS! FOCUS KRISTOFF!”
Kristoff quickly dropped the tongs and with sheer force of will and brute strength, dropped lower, giving the remaining block better purchase upon his back. His hands clamped the ice in place behind his head, strain showed on his face and beads of sweat started to stream in small rivulets down his face, where they froze in his unshaved stubble.
His arms protested this awkward position but he would not give in.
“I WILL NOT LOSE THIS FIGHT”
He moved erratically, countering every move the remaining block made resting upon his back. As he stepped, it was buffeted by the shifting muscles under his skin and attempt to fall, but he was too strong, too determined to allow that.
When he got to the sled, Kristoff only pondered for an instant, then momentarily squatted and gathered strength in his legs. He tensed and inhaled, then thrusted up with his legs and pulled with his arms, sending the massive cube of ice into the air, towards the sled. It flew up, over his head in a small arc, and once again he used his strength to slow it on its descent and nestled it safely onto the back of the sled, next to its larger kin.
“Sven, we’re going home before I make more ice cubes…”
Sven regarded him blankly and then turned to get ready to pull the sled. Kristoff loosened his tunic, the strain of his efforts had soaked it through. He inhaled sharply as the wind kissed his sweaty, muscled chest, and relaxed.
“This I know. Palace life isn’t real life, well not MY real life. Anna doesn’t need me. Someone better will come along.”
With that Kristoff mounted his sled and prompted Sven into action, returning to the castle.
The trip back was uneventful. The sun had sunk below the horizon, and the orange-red sky gave way to ebony, sprinkled with the thousands of stars that twinkled above. A meteor streaked across the sky in a fiery streak, highlighting the beauty of the heavens and the wonders of creation.
It was all lost on Kristoff.
His mood had turned foul and the inner turmoil grew. He was a simple man, with a simple life, thrust into a very uncomfortable situation - for him. Others would jump at the chance to be the one that a princess would choose. However, he was not like other men.
Hans had proven to be very good with words and able to quickly gain Anna’s affection. Had he not shown his true colors, Anna still might be with him. Pieter, on the other hand, was a staggering and imposing man of good quality and breeding. Well spoken, well mannered, he moved with a grace and confidence that spoke of a man that knew his place in this world, and his destiny as a ruler within it.
“Of course Anna would be a FOOL to not be attracted to a man such as Pieter. Even I’m in awe of him, though I know he’s no match for me physically.”
Kristoff had to chuckle at that. Of all the attributes one could ascribe to the man, being strong was not one that would be appropriate for the Princes of the Southern Isles. He was… “refined”. Lean, slender and skilled in his own right, his power came from his position, not from his body.
His amusement faded quickly. With news that Elsa had magic and the gates of Arendelle were open, other Princes and suitors would arrive to establish relations and trade agreements. Of course, they would vie for the attention of Anna.
“How can I measure up to all these men of status, of power? When they arrive and they talk with silvered tongues of peace, trade and prosperi… ah again I don’t remember that word! I’m too simple! How can *I* keep a Princess?”
He let his thoughts trail off and simply listened to the muffled rhythmic crunching of Sven’s hoof in the snow.
Once Kristoff arrived he didn’t even fight to deliver the ice to the storehouse, or prevent the stable boy from taking Sven and getting him ready for the night. He felt so small and powerless in the castle, and tonight the battles he normally would fight to maintain his identity seemed petty.
“KRISTOFF!!” Anna’s voice pierced the cold night and he looked up to see her running to him, joy filling her face.
He attempted a weak grin and failed, screwing his face into a twisted grimace that showed his mood to any that would look.
“Kristoff?” Anna bounded up to him and into his arms. This was his favorite part of every day, seeing her face and holding her against him. “What’s wrong? What happened to your cheek?”
Kristoff raised a hand and wiped his cheek, feeling a sting as his rough finger irritated the sweaty ice that had sealed the small wound. It was nothing to worry about “Oh that, nothing. Just a small cut. Don’t worry yourself.”
He held her tight. Tighter than usual and she knew something was out of place.
“Kristoff, what is it? I’ve been waiting for you. I’ve been in counsel and attending to all these stuffy foreign dignitaries, but all I could think about was you holding me again!”
“Anna…” he began weakly. Then Kristoff blinked. “You were thinking about me?” He was truly surprised.
“Of course, why wouldn’t I?” Anna pushed slightly away from him so that she could see his face.
“You’ve been with Prince Pieter have you not?” - a simple question that held his entire self-worth in it.
“Yes…” Anna answered softly.
“How can I possibly compete with someone like him? Even I find him intimidating, he’s very smart and well read, travels far and wide. And he’s rich, he’s a Prince for heaven’s sake, and all I do is sell ice and…”
“Stop right there.” It was not a request.
Startled, Kristoff looked down into the beautiful blue eyes that he had stared into many times now.
“All these so called intimidating men can never compare to you. You love me without condition. You do what is right for me. Your support of what I do and acceptance of who I am is what I need! You stand up for me even when I do not stand up for myself. You treat me as an equal. Do you understand what it would mean for me to be with any of these others?”
Anna’s eyes began to fill with tears. Kristoff’s mood melted, replaced by the warmth of his love for her. Only Anna had ever been able to melt him.
“No Anna, tell me.” Kristoff asked hesitantly.
“I would lose myself. I would not be Anna, I would be announced as Crown Prince Pieter of the Southern Isles, Protector of the Realm, Ruler of the Good People and his wife, Princess Anna. I would become a footnote. No matter how good the man, I would be reduced to a passing notation.”
Kristoff stared. He had never considered that.
“You are what I need. You’re all I’ve dreamed of.”
Tears were streaming freely down Anna’s cheeks and Kristoff could not deny what he saw there.
“So I’m the one?” He asked softly.
“The only one.” It was barely a whisper but Kristoff felt the words to his very core. “How can you ever doubt what you give me? No one else can.”
“I’m just a poor Ice Harvester…”
“You’re not here to buy me. YOU are not what you do. You’re what I need.”
Kristoff could not say any more. He simply lifted Anna into his arms and brought her face to his. He stared deeply into her eyes and was suddenly filled with confidence and surety. He was hers, and she was his. He was enough.
He leaned forward and placed his cold-chapped lips against her soft, warm ones, and tasted her tears.