'It was a desert. A vista of reddish rocks and drifted sand, arid and hot, extending to the limits of their view. A dreary waste upon which nothing moved or grew...'. For British pilot Dale Currance the Keuntz Prize - to be awarded to the first person to take a spaceship to another planet and back - is the ultimate challenge. Not only has he to build a ship to survive the journey, assemble a top-notch crew and choose a destination, he's also got to beat the Russians and Americans. Soon the GLORIA MUNDI blasts off from Salisbury Plain, bound for Mars. There's only one problem - a stowaway called Joan. Not only does her presence wreck calculations and threaten the mission, but her tale suggests that Mars may be a more dangerous destination than they ever expected.