For all those aboard the USS Cutty Sark, their mission is routine. While the crew interprets new sensor data amid the boredom of deep space, their captain directs their mineralogical survey ship into a standardized polar orbit. But everything changes when they see Galton III in the viewfinder, a seemingly unremarkable Earth-like planet that appears to have undergone a mysterious demise.
Without robot ships capable of a two-way trip to the planet’s surface, the crew decides to take a small team down in a lander. But just as the vehicle enters the planet’s upper stratosphere, something goes terribly wrong, forcing the team to land off course and leaving them with no way to communicate with their ship. Now as the crew aboard the spaceship feverishly works on a rescue plan, the team on the ground must determine how to survive in an unfamiliar environment.
Cardinal Rule is a story of endurance, determination, and perseverance as a team of scientists becomes embroiled in a battle that pits their physical needs against the needs of their souls after they crash land on a strange planet.