This book was very interesting, but didn’t explain a lot about what happened. We’re definitely in the future for Earth and space travel has become pretty routine with mining operations going on the moon and the asteroids. Most of this has been due to the ambition of one private company, Diamond Aerospace. It is led by Noah Bell, a very young entrepreneur who was also a very rich young man. Now his company was poised to pull off one of the most spectacular space missions every dreamed of. His team of four astronauts were headed to Titan!
Saturn is a long ways away. While there’s no intent to land on the gas giant, there’s also no intent to land on Titan. The mission of Explorer I was to reach Titan and build the beginnings of an orbital lab over Titan and then safely return. They were the first such crew to attempt to go so far and their space craft was the first of its kind with a new Thermal Antimatter Propulsion System (TAPS) engine. This engine would cut their journey down to five months and then they would have about a month to finish the construction mission and then another five months back to Earth. A pretty straight-forward mission if everything went according to plan. But, not everyone knew the entire plan. Noah Bell was withholding something from the crew until they got well on their way. He was then going to tell them of their additional mission requirements.
The space launch facility for Diamond Aerospace wasn’t the huge operation that NASA had. No, it was ran by some very competent people who had some history with the company. Frank Johnson was the Mission Director and an OK kind of guy, but not particularly friendly to everyone. Then their was Kate Bishop who for some reason was always called Ms. Bishop during most of the book. Kate was the Ground and Flight Teams Manager so she would be in direct contact with the Explorer I crew almost all the time. That was good, but complicated because Jeff Dolan, the Engineer Astronaut and Kate had a thing going just as Jeff left on this 11-month mission.
Aboard Explorer I was the crew of four, Commander Tag Riley, Pilot; Lieutenant Li Ming, Co-pilot from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, Jeff Dolan, Mission Flight Engineer, and Dr. Gabriel Silva, specialist in advanced hydroponics. All of these people were going to be stuck together for 11 months so they had to be able to work together and that’s what they all planned to do, except it didn’t work out that way.
Sometimes, when you hire people to do a job, you really don’t know what you’ve got until they actually do the job even in an emergency situation. While Frank Johnson had been around for quite some time, Noah Bell trusted him to provide sound decisions when the time required them. He didn’t expect Frank to go rogue. There were secrets within secrets about this mission. And, there was clearly something floating around Titan that wasn’t supposed to be there. The Explorer I crew were going to find out what that something was, but they didn’t know that yet. In Frank’s mind, that was the purpose of the mission and nothing would stop him from getting that done; not even if the crew never made it back to Earth!
A pretty exciting book, but I didn’t care for the space ship crew. They seemed very incompatible for such a crew to spend 11 months together. The Commander was just too military and the Lieutenant was a meek individual. Dr. Silva seemed to just do what he wanted reguardless of wheither or not it was part of his job. And then Jeff Dolan thought he had to be the hero for the stupidest reasons. The end also wasn’t explained very well and I’m not sure I want to read the second book. I’ll have to think about it.