Author
Q&A

What made you want to write this book?
I had two main reasons you could say they were two challenges I gave myself. First, I felt like I hadn't seen anything in recent science fiction that gave young people a future they could hope for and try to reach. If you talk to people at NASA or in the aerospace industry, a lot of them will tell you that when they were young, they read books by Isaac Asimov or Robert Heinlein, or especially that they watched Star Trek. But today there seems to be a lot more fantasy being written, and less science fiction that a kid can think about and say, "Yeah, I want to do that!"
And you think that's important?
Absolutely. If you want to see how much Star Trek has influenced our world, just take out a cell phone. What do most of them look like? Captain Kirk's communicator. The Discovery Channel did an entire two-hour special about all the inventions and developments that Star Trek helped inspire. Fantasy stories can be fun to read, but they can't inspire people in the same way. You're never going to see someone inventing a real magic wand or anything like that.
So what was your second reason?
I wanted to write a story that depicted space flight as realistically as possible. In some ways, the environment within the Earth-Moon system is more alien than what you typically see in science fiction. The reality of dealing with differences in gravity and atmosphere can be a lot more fantastic than a typical space battle or fight with a bug-eyed monster.
Why do think there haven't been more "realistic" space stories?
Well, first of all, most people have never had the chance to learn about what space flight is really like. The public started tuning out on NASA after the Apollo 11 landing in 1969, and despite NASA's best efforts, they've never been able to recapture the public's attention for very long. That's not their fault NASA is a scientific organization, not part of the entertainment industry. But that means much of what it does only gets communicated to people who already want to know about it.

And second, the realities of space flight are simply too difficult for Hollywood to re-create easily or economically. Look at all the trouble Ron Howard went though to make Apollo 13 – he had to build a set on an airplane and fly it up and down repeatedly to simulate zero gravity. A realistic depiction of life on the Moon would probably be even harder. Of course, life in space or on the Moon would be easy to show with animation, and I have seen a couple of Japanese anime series do a good job of it, but Hollywood doesn't seem to be interested.
So how did you prepare yourself to write the book?
I've been interested in the Moon ever since I watched the first Apollo landing at age four, so I already had the general knowledge I needed. To get ready for Lunar Pioneers in particular, I researched a lot of theories and engineering design concepts people have developed for an actual Moon colony, and I also read a lot of accounts written by actual astronauts and cosmonauts. I spent several weeks just going over the NASA records of the Apollo 17 landing site transcripts, photographs, video clips and maps because I wanted to get everything right when I had Blair and her family go there.
Was there anything in your research that really stood out from the rest?
One book I particularly liked was written by the first British cosmonaut, a woman named Helen Sharman. She was just a regular person a chemist working for the Mars candy company, which the press found very amusing and she won a competition to go to the Mir space station. Her account brought up a lot of the more mundane things about space flight that I didn't find anywhere else. That was just what I'd been looking for.
And then you named a research center after her.
Yes, I did. A lot of the people and places in the story are named after something or someone from the history of space flight. For example, the colonies are all named after space probes that studied the Moon Clementine, Ranger, Zond, and so on. A few months after I finished the book, I got to meet the engineer who had been in charge of the Lunar Prospector mission. Fortunately, he didn't mind when I told him that in my book, Prospector Colony is the settlement that failed, and that all the kids think it's haunted.
What kind of story can you tell about life in space, if you don't have any space battles or bug-eyed monsters?
You could say that the theme of the book is, "My family is moving to the Moon what's in it for me?" I wanted to give my audience a character they could relate to, doing things they could relate to. Blair and her friends go to class, play games, volunteer for after-school projects, and other things that kids today do as well. It's just that they do it someplace where all the rules for how things work are different. I wanted to show my readers what that kind of world has to offer.
Let's go back to what you said about watching the Moon landing at age four. Were you really that interested in space flight?
I was obsessed. I devoured book after book about rockets and space flight even before I knew how to read, I still looked at all the pictures. I had a space-themed birthday party one year. I was always recruiting my little brother to go on imaginary Moon missions with me. I still remember being in kindergarten during the Apollo 13 mission the day they made it back to Earth after their primary oxygen tank blew up, and everyone was waiting to see whether they'd splash down safely, all the kids in my class were out playing on the playground, but I was still in the classroom watching TV with my teachers.
Is that why you studied engineering in school?
That was my original plan, yes, to study engineering and then go into the space program. There were a lot of reasons why that didn't work out the Challenger accident happened right in the middle of my senior year of college, for one thing, and by that time I'd discovered that I really didn't get into engineering down at the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts level. I was writing for You Can't Do That On Television by then, and that looked more like what I wanted to do. But it's all worked out in the long run. My engineering background was a big help in writing Lunar Pioneers, and it's paid the bills while I've worked on getting a writing career going.
Do you think human beings will really colonize space? It looks like such a difficult and expensive thing to do.
If you asked someone at the start of the 16th century whether anyone would ever colonize the new world that Christopher Columbus had just discovered, you'd probably have gotten the same kinds of objections and at that time, with that level of knowledge and technology, those objections would have been valid. But just as Europe eventually found ways to settle the Americas, I think humanity will eventually find ways to colonize space. And they'll do it for the same reason because it's there. Because it has mysteries, and because it offers people a chance for adventure or a fresh start or a new opportunity. That's one reason why my book includes the ongoing conversation between Blair and her grandfather about their family's pioneer heritage. It's a reminder that human beings have always been pushing at their frontiers. I think that's something they'll always do.


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