is a science fiction short story
by Isaac Asimov
. It was first published in the August 1965 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction
, and reprinted in the 1975 collection Buy Jupiter and Other Stories
. It was inspired by a cover painting of a space-helmeted face backed by several crosses, provided by the magazine's editor, Frederik Pohl
An exploratory spacecraft
of the Galactic Corps, charged with opening up planets for human colonisation, sometimes by terraforming
, crash-lands on an alien planet
. They find that the soil is heavy on ammonia
, making the atmosphere
unbreathable by humans.
As they are unable to take off again, the crew spend their time trying to adjust the environment to make it suitable for possible future human colonists. Although they spend many years at this task, they fail and, one by one, they die of ammonia poisoning.
As the last man dies, the flesh of the buried crew reacts with the soil, providing the catalyst
that alters the environment to become more Earth-like. Read More