What If What We Think We Know Really Isn't? A Pair of Science-Fiction Writers Team Up to Offer Some History Alterations

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan

"THE CASSANDRA PROJECT"

Authors: Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick

Data: Ace, 387 pages, $25.95

What if Richard Nixon wasn't a crook, at least when it came to Watergate? And what if Neil Armstrong didn't take that first small step for man in 1969 because someone beat him to it and it was all hushed up?

That's the premise of "The Cassandra Project," a fun novel by two old hands at award-winning science fiction: Jack McDevitt (18 novels and a Nebula) and Mike Resnick (67 novels, 5 Hugos and a Nebula).

Their novel is set in the near-future of 2019 and focuses on NASA's harried public relations director, Jerry Culpepper. He's frazzled because the space agency is close to closing down and all he can talk about are some robotic missions to other planets and memories like the 1969 moon landing. Trying to keep the flame alive, he's hosting a news conference to remember NASA's 60th anniversary when a reporter plays an odd piece of old audio from an Apollo mission six months before Armstrong. On it, fictitious astronaut Sidney Myshko tells CapCom "We are in the LEM [lunar lander]. Ready to go."

Go where? All that earlier lunar flights were supposed to do was orbit and test systems. Seeking answers, Culpepper hits stone walls as everyone from his boss on up says, "Leave it alone - it never happened." Are they right, or just hoping? …

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