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At an observatory in South Africa, astronomer Dr. Henry Bronson hands pilot Dave Randall a black box containing top secret scientific data, with instructions to deliver it to Dr. Hendron in New York. Bronson does not reveal anything specific about the data and warns Dave not to discuss his mission, then handcuffs him to the box. At the airport in New York, Dave, a carefree playboy, is met by Hendron's daughter Joyce and a newspaper reporter. The reporter offers Dave a substantial sum for information about the box, but to Joyce's relief, Dave refuses the money. While taking Dave to see her father, Joyce alludes to Bronson's "end of the world" discovery, piqueing Dave's curiosity. At the observatory where Hendron works, Dave is introduced to physician Dr. Tony Drake, Joyce's fiancé, then turns the box over to Hendron. While Joyce double-checks Bronson's data with a differential analyzer, Hendron explains to Dave, Tony and members of the observatory board that Bronson has discovered a new planet, Zyra, circling the star Bellus, and that both spheres are racing at an incredible speed toward Earth. Bronson has predicted that in less than a year, Bellus will pass close to Earth, causing devastating earthquakes and tidal waves, and shortly after, Zyra will collide with Earth, destroying it. When Joyce announces that Bronson's calculations are indeed accurate, a pall falls over the group, and Dave gets drunk that night and flirts openly with Joyce. Later, Hendron presents Bronson's findings to the United Nations and proposes that a spaceship be built to take a few dozen people to Zyra just after it hits Earth. Although Hendron is dismissed as a crackpot by some leaders, two observatory board members, Glen Spiro and Marston, pledge money to start construction on the ship. Joyce then confides in her father that Tony wants to marry immediately, but she is having doubts, as she is attracted to Dave. Hendron advises Joyce to hold off on the marriage and promises to keep Dave in town. Soon after, wheelchair-bound millionaire Stanton agrees to finance completion of the spaceship in exchange for a spot on the passenger list. With only eight months to go, 600 men and women begin work on the ship, aware that only forty of them will be randomly selected to make the flight. During construction, Stanton tries to get Hendron to initiate security measures, anticipating that the doomed workers will storm the ship, but Hendron refuses. Meanwhile, Dave, who has been spending time with Joyce, upsets her when he declares that, unlike her and Tony, he is not vital to the operation. Months later, as Bellus and Zyra near Earth, mass evacuations begin. A series of disasters then rocks the planet, decimating coastal cities with floods and interior areas with earthquakes, volcanoes and fire. Although the construction area is badly shaken, the spaceship suffers little damage. While searching for flood survivors in a helicopter, Dave and Tony rescue a little boy, Mike, from a rooftop. During the effort, Tony, who is jealous of Dave, considers abandoning Dave on the roof, but quickly changes his mind. Construction on the ship resumes at a desperate pace, and workers are asked to pick numbers for the lottery, the results of which will be posted the day before the collision. Although Hendron announces that Dave has a guaranteed place along with his assistant, Dean Frye, Stanton, Tony, Joyce and him, Dave refuses to be given special treatment. Tony, however, informs Dave that because Frye, who is to pilot the ship, has a heart condition that most likely will incapacitate him during the flight, he must go along, as he is the only other person who can fly the machine. Joyce is overjoyed at the news and thanks Tony privately for his selfless act. With the ship all but completed, the winning lottery numbers are posted, and as Stanton had predicted, some workers protest their exclusion and form a mob. When lucky Eddie Garson finds out that his girl friend, Julie Cummings, did not win a seat, he declines to go. Stanton insists that, to avoid a dangerous overload, Eddie's vacated spot not be filled, but Harold Ferris, Stanton's aide, demands the seat at gunpoint. Stanton draws his own gun and shoots Ferris dead, but Hendron orders that Julie be included along with Eddie, even though the extra weight could jeopardize the flight. Fights and fires then break out, and Hendron instructs the ship passengers to board as quickly as possible. Moments before the ship is to take off, Hendron, who is outside pushing Stanton in his wheelchair, refuses to board, sacrificing himself as well as the millionaire. The ship blasts off, and as the space travelers lose consciousness, Zyra collides with Earth. Later, all of the passengers, including Frye, revive, and Dave realizes that Tony lied to him about Frye so that he and Joyce could be together. After the ship makes a rocky but safe landing on the Earth-like Zyra, Dave and Joyce disembark, ready to begin life in the new world.