I am aware that this might not be a good question because you probably won't be able to understand what I am asking if you haven't read "Space Odyssey 2010", and it's impossible for me to introduce the whole background in detail, but I will try my best provided that space odyssey is a quite famous series.
...already explained gloomily, "I'm a space engineer, not a space monkey"; but the job had to be dome. He alone possessed the skills that could save Discovery from Io's grasp. Max and his colleagues, working with unfamiliar circuit diagrams and equipment, would take far too long. By the time they had restored power to the ship and mastered its controls, it would have plunged into the sulfurous firepits below.
"You're not scared, are you?" asked Max, when they were about to put on their helmets.
"Not enough to make a ...
My question is about the highlighted text. The spaceship discovery had been circling IO for several years after its passenger got lost. Max and his colleagues were on a second spaceship to rescue it. To do that, they need to board the spaceship. The text here says that if they don't go with someone who really knows the ship, it will take them much longer to "restore the power and master the control". What I don't understand is how come it is long enough for the ship to "plunge into the sulfurous firepits below". The ship had been circling IO for years and in common sense it would sustain for much longer. I checked the chapters before without finding anywhere saying the ship had begun to descend, then why here it says the ship would fall into IO? Is it a semi-humorous way to state that the job would take too long (long enough for the satellite to fall)? It seems to me the context doesn't support the idea that the author is being semi-humorous here.
I often encounter this kind of situation when I try to read English literatures, where I seem to understand every words of the text but the whole passage or the whole chapter just doesn't make sense to me.