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Back to the Moon Hardcover – December 7, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Travis S. Taylor—“Doc” Taylor to his friends—has earned his soubriquet the hard way:  He has a doctorate in optical science and engineering, a master's degree in physics, a master's degree in aerospace engineering, a master's degree in astronomy, and a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. Dr. Taylor has worked on various programs for the Department of Defense and NASA for the past sixteen years.  He's currently working on several advanced propulsion concepts, very large space telescopes, space-based beamed energy systems, and next generation space launch concepts. He has appeared in several episodes of the History Channel’s Universe series. He lives in Auburn, AL with his wife Karen and their daughter.


Les Johnson is a NASA physicist, manager, author, husband and father.  By day, he serves as the Deputy Manager for the Advanced Concepts Office at the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, one of the coolest jobs in the universe.  In the early 2000s, he was NASA’s Manager for Interstellar Propulsion Research and later managed the In-Space Propulsion Technology Project. He was technical consultant for the movie Lost in Space and has appeared on the Discovery Channel series, “Physics of the Impossible” in the “How to Build a Starship” episode. He has also appeared in three episodes of the Science Channel series, Exodus Earth. In his spare time he writes popular science books and articles, including Solar Sails: A Novel approach to Interplanetary Travel, Living Off the Land in Space: Green Roads to the Cosmos and Paradise Regained: The Regreening of Earth.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Baen; F First Edition edition (December 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439134057
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439134054
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,435,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have been a great fan of both Les Johnson and Travis Taylor for many years, and eagerly anticipated this collaboration. I was not dissapointed. Except for recent political decisions, this novel, Back to the Moon, would almost not qualify as science fiction. It's more like a techo-thriller due to the great attention to accuracy of the science and technology with minimal extrapolation into the near future. Dr. Taylor addresses this irony in the afterward, where he describes how woefully underfunded NASA has become, but even so could still have achieved much more if the politicians hadn't kept moving the goal posts every 4 to 8 years. The afterward is practically a pro-space manifesto, and the entire work gets my highest recommendation to anyone interested in space exploration. And it is a great entertaining read, as well.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Back to the Moon" by Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson does for near future space travel what Tom Clancy's novels used to do for near future war and terrorism. Too bad the near future the book describes has been jettisoned by President Obama.

"Back to the Moon" is set about eight to ten years in the future and concerns events surrounding NASA's planned return to the Moon. The book is filled with technical detail about how the Ares/Orion/Altair system would have worked, beginning with an unmanned shakedown mission to test the new Moon ship's systems.

In the meantime, a private space entrepreneur has sold enough seats on his new space craft, Dreamcscape, to fly a loop around the Moon on the vacation trip of the lifetime.
Finally, the Chinese are mounting their own lunar expedition, sending their own unmanned lunar lander on a shakedown mission.

When the Dreamscape, with its passenger list of the well heeled and adventurous passes behind the Moon, the commercial cruise ship picks up a low power signal from what is apparently a crew of Chinese space explorers, having crash landed on the Moon. The "unmanned shakedown mission" was in fact a Chinese attempt to steal away the glory from America to land the first people on the Moon in almost fifty years.

So the first American expedition to the Moon since 1972 becomes a rescue mission. Here the novel hits its stride, with enough death defying situations and potentially life ending technical "anomalies" (to coin the NASA term) to--well--fill a good two hour action film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
An exciting, realistic near-future space exploration novel by a couple of honest-to-God rocket scientists. A next-generation private spacecraft (think Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne on steroids) takes a group of wealthy passengers to orbit the Moon, where they make an astonishing and terrifying discovery. NASA and the private DreamScape company team up in a loose, almost accidental partnership for a perilous mission to the Lunar surface to investigate.

As you might expect, Taylor and Johnson get the science and technology capital-R-Right, painting a vivid, believable portrait of space exploration 10 to 20 years from now. As you might or might not expect, they also manage to wrap all this in a decent techno-thriller story; not quite Tom Clancy territory, but still pretty good. The last half of the novel in particular, especially the Murphy's Law-plagued return trip from the final Lunar mission, feels much like the _Apollo 13_ movie (and the real-life 13 story, for that matter): supremely competent, dedicated people in space and on the ground refusing to accept failure as an option, bringing the astronauts home alive with innovative genius and sheer guts. There appears to be no doubt in the authors' minds that manned spaceflight is a crucial part of our future in space, and after reading this novel you'll likely agree.

The one real problem I have with this book is that the story takes a LONG time to ramp up. I was able to read the first half only a few pages at a time; the tech stuff was interesting, but the story really, really drags until midway through. Once we leave low Earth orbit, however, the pace picks up in a hurry, and the last hundred pages or so finally achieve can't-put-it-down Nirvana.

All in all, a good science fiction novel, one I wouldn't mind seeing become science fact...minus the peril to life and limb, of course.
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Format: Hardcover
First some background: I'm a 30-something physics Ph.D who hasn't read a Sci-Fi book since 'Dune' back in high school. When I got this book as a gift I almost didn't read it because the cover reminded me of some 1950's pulp fiction novel. But I did read it, and I'm glad I did. I liked the attention to technical detail and the story was certainly exciting and suspenseful. I have two criticisms. First, the parallel story thread about the Chinese espionage was interesting, but it ended rather abruptly and there was no tie-in later in the story. This left me wondering if the only point of this was to make a subtle political point. Second, the authors are clearly pro-manned space flight, and the characters go so far as to criticize unmanned robotic space probes as "boring". While the story clearly portrayed the excitement of manned space flight, I don't think it made a good case for its necessity to do great science. I think the book did a somewhat better job making the case for manned space flight's actual and potential economic benefits. After reading this book, I am motivated to go off and read up on the pros and cons of manned space flight, which is a good sign that this book is entertaining as well as thought provoking.
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