Once upon a time when the world was young there was a Martian named Smith. Valentine Michael Smith was as real as taxes but he was a race of one. The first human expedition from Terra to Mars was selected on the theory that the greatest danger to man in space was man himself. At that time, only eight Terran years after the founding of the first human colony on Luna, any interplanetary trip made by humans necessarily had to be made in weary free-fall orbits, doubly tangent semi-ellipses - from Terra to Mars, two hundred fifty-eight days, the same for the return journey, plus four hundred fifty-five days waiting at Mars while the two planets crawled slowly back into relative positions which would permit shaping the doubly-tangent orbit - a total of almost three Earth years. Besides its wearing length, the trip was very chancy. Only by refueling at a space station, then tacking back almost into Earth's atmosphere, could this primitive flying coffin, the Envoy, make the trip at all. Once at Mars she might be able to return - if she did not crash in landing, if water could be found on Man to fill her reaction-mass tanks, if some sort of food could be found on Mars, if a thousand other things did not go wrong. But the physical danger was judged to be less important than the psychological stresses. Eight humans, crowded together like monkeys for almost three Terran years, had better get along much better than humans usually did. An all-male crew had been vetoed as unhealthy and socially unstable from lessons learned earlier. A ship's company of four married couples had been decided on as optimum, if the necessary specialties could be found in such a combination. The University of Edinburgh, prime contractor, sub-contracted crew selection to the Institute for Social Studies. After discarding the chaff of volunteers useless through age, health, mentality, training, or temperament, the Institute still had over nine thousand candidates to work from, each sound in mind and body and having at least one of the necessary special skills. It was expected that the Institute would report several acceptable four-couple crews. No such crew was found. The major skills needed were astrogator, medical doctor, cook, machinist, ship's commander, semantician, chemical engineer, electronics engineer, physicist, geologist, biochemist, biologist, atomics engineer, photographer, hydroponicist, rocket engineer. Each crew member would have to possess more than one skill, or be able to acquire extra skills in time. There were hundreds of possible combinations of eight people possessing these skills; there turned up three combinations of four married couples possessing them, plus health and intelligence - but in all three cases the group-dynamicists who evaluated the temperament factors for compatibility threw up their hands in horror. The prime contractor suggested lowering the compatibility figure-of-merit; the Institute stiffly offered to return its one dollar fee. In the meantime a computer programmer whose name was not recorded had the machines hunt for three-couple rump crews. She found several dozen compatible combinations, each of which defined by its own characteristics the couple needed to complete it. In the meantime the machines continued to review the data changing through deaths, withdrawals, new volunteers, etc. Captain Michael Brunt, M.S., Cmdr. D. F. Reserve, pilot (unlimited license), and veteran at thirty of the Moon run, seems to have had an inside track at the Institute, someone who was willing to look up for him the names of single female volunteers who might (with him) complete a crew, and then pair his name with these to run trial problems through the machines to determine whether or not a possible combination would be acceptable. This would account for his action in jetting to Australia and proposing marriage to Doctor Winifred Coburn, a horse-faced spinster semantician nine years his senior. The Carlsbad Archives pictured her with an expression of quiet good humor but otherwise lacking in attractiveness. Or Brant may have acted without inside information, solely through that trait of intuitive audacity necessary to command an exploration. In any case lights blinked, punched cards popped out, and a crew for the Envoy had been found: Captain Michael Brant, commanding-pilot, astrogator, relief cook, relief photographer, rocketry engineer; Dr. Winifred Coburn Brant, forty-one, semantician, practical nurse, stores officer, historian; Mr. Francis X. Seeney, twenty-eight, executive officer, second pilot, astrogator, astrophysicist, photographer; Dr. Olga Kovalic Seeney, twenty-nine, cook, biochemist, hydroponicist; Dr. Ward Smith, forty-five, physician and surgeon, biologist; Dr. Mary Jane Lyle Smith, twenty-six, atomics engineer, electronics and power technician; Mr. Sergei Rimsky, thirty-five, electronics engineer, chemical engineer, practical machinist & instrumentation man, cryologist; Mrs. Eleanora Alvarez Rimsky, thirty-two, geologist and selenologist, hydroponicist. The crew had a well-rounded group of skills, although in some cases their secondary skills had been acquired by intensive coaching during the last weeks before blast-off. More important, they were mutually compatible in their temperaments. Too compatible, perhaps. The Envoy departed on schedule with no mishaps. During the early part of the voyage her daily reports were picked up with ease by private listeners. As she drew away and signals became fainter, they were picked up and rebroadcast by Earth's radio satellites. The crew seemed to be both healthy and happy. An epidemic of ringworm was the worst that Dr. Smith had to cope with - the crew adapted to free fall quickly and no antinausea drugs were used after the first week. If Captain Brant had any disciplinary problems, he did not choose to report them to Earth. The Envoy achieved a parking orbit just inside the orbit of Phobos and spent two weeks in photographic survey. Then Captain Brant radioed: "We will attempt a landing at 1200 tomorrow GST just south of Lacus Soli." No further message was ever received.