How about a mission to Mars? According to John B. Olson and Randy Ingermanson, it should have already happened. When they first published Oxygen, which they describe as a science fiction romantic suspense space adventure, getting a manned mission to Mars off the ground in a decade seemed reasonable. It probably is still reasonable, if NASA or someone else can come up with the money and will to make it happen.
In Oxygen NASA does make it happen, with a little help from TV ad money. Imaging the ratings for a Mars landing on the Fourth of July! So two men and two women take off for the red planet, aiming to land on Mars on July 4, 2014. After a rough launch, they encounter a number of mechanical and logistical problems, including an explosion that takes out most of their solar power.
They are faced with a number of questions. Was it a bomb? Who planted it? The list of suspects is very short, including the four astronauts and a couple of crew members back on earth. The crew of four must decide whether they will depend on each other or continue the journey constantly suspecting and second-guessing their crew mates and ground crew. To make matters worse, due to the loss of power, they are going to run out of oxygen before they get to Mars. . . .
Oxygen is a Christian novel published by a Christian publisher, but the story and the science set the tone. It is more properly described as a sci-fi novel in which one of the main characters is a Christian. The main character, Valkerie, a Christian who struggles with her faith, chooses to put her life in God's hands and trust him to carry them through. Olson and Ingermanson report her faith journey in a way that will sound familiar to Christians who find themselves in crisis situations of the more pedestrian earthly variety.
One complaint I have is that Valkerie, who holds an M.D. and a Ph.D., acts a bit emotional and flaky. She's a brilliant scientist, hand-picked for the first manned mission to Mars, yet she sometimes seems to be more suited for a Nicholas Sparks novel. There is a romance storyline in Oxygen that sometimes seemed out of place. That said, Olson and Ingermanson humanize the astronauts in a way that reminds us that even though the men and women in the space program are much smarter and more physically fit that the rest of us (by a long shot), they are still humans, with emotions, families, and dreams and wishes.
Oxygen is an edge-of-your-seat near-future sci-fi adventure. The theme of astronauts facing crises is not new; the authors refer to the Apollo 13 mission extensively. I was also reminded of the recent novel The Martian which a solo astronaut on Mars is forced to adapt and adjust his mission to survive. Oxygen is definitely worth reading for fans of realistic, near-future sci-fi.