If you’re a fan of the space program you’ll like this one about the cover up of an astronauts death in space. As a reporter,Date covered NASA for the Orlando-Sentinel. He gets some nice digs in at reporters and even a few shots at Trekkies as they try and relate to the space program. This book works as a high tech murder mystery with an SF background. Lots of suspense and well worth seeking out..
During a space walk, Sam Torrington’s helmet gasket malfunctioned and his head literally blew up. Atlantis pilot Steve Banke brings the shuttle back home early in a precarious landing that causes some damage. Torrington’s death is being covered up by NASA. At a press conference about the early landing no mention is made of the accident. To seal the deal Torrington’s body was put into a rental car and it was driven into a jet fuel tanker blowing it up.
The Dean of American Astronauts is Santy Santich. He fell out of favor after he questioned Nasa’s safety standards following the Challenger tragedy. For the past twelve years he’s had a make work job and the public attention on him no longer exists. A lot of his colleagues ignore him. He’s finally ready to hand in his resignation. That’s when he gets a chance to go back into space. The offer for a quick flight after the death is a PR move and also to keep his mouth shut. Marty Bruce, head of the shuttle program freely admits to Santy that Sam died in orbit.
As things move along Sanity forms a group of four, including Sam’s ex-wife Trudy, into a tight group looking into the murder. Since Sam was quite the womanizer there are a lot of suspects. When they have enough evidence they’ll present it to the police. That won’t be until after Santy’s flight. Bruce has two hidden programs that will kill off anyone who exposes shuttle incidents that can damage the program in the eyes of the public and the Congress who have the power of funding the program.. Rumor has it he’s used at least one in the past.
One of the four is getting hang up phone calls. One day he’s being chased across a deserted bridge. Sanity puts his T-38 jet to good use. Along side him in a T-38 is Melanie, a crew member on the flight. Now the group numbers five. A reporter named Jo never met an astronaut she didn’t like, married or not. Now she sets her sites on Santy and tells him she knows all about his T-38 incident. He makes her promise not to print anything until after his flight and proceeds to tell her everything. Meanwhile, Sam, the Atlantis commander, is missing. He said he’d be sailing off the Florida coast.
Now it’s time to blast off into orbit. The suspense really picks up as Santy’s life is in even more danger. The scenes aboard the Columbia are riveting.