Disaster has hit Britain's troubled space program with the loss of astronaut Brian Parker.
Operation Space Ladder was Britain's ambitious project to put a man in orbit using a 252,000 mile long aluminium ladder, propped up against the moon.
If successful, the plan would have completely revolutionised the future of space travel, slashing fuel costs and rendering extensive heat shielding redundant.
Furthermore, the Space Ladder would drastically reduce the stresses and strains on the astronauts, as - unless he was climbing really fast - the g-force would be negligible.
Brian Parker was specially selected for the mission because of his exceptionally powerful thighs and superb head for heights. He began climbing at 13.45 GMT last Tuesday, but Mission Control lost contact with him early yesterday morning.
Parker's colleague, Danny Fellows (whose job it is to hold the bottom of the ladder steady) is confident that contact will be re-established.
"I don't think he's fallen off," he says optimistically. "If that were the case he'd have hit the ground by now. The last time I spoke to him over the radio he seemed very confident and in good spirits. There was certainly no indication of any trouble.
"In fact, his last words to me were, 'Hey, I can see my house from here.'"