Missing Man: A Stunning Thriler of Murder and Betrayal at NASA [NOOK Book]


A gripping thriller of murder and betrayal at NASA. When a veteran astronaut dies mysteriously during a routine training flight, Mark Koskinen, the rookie astronaut who survives the crash, finds himself caught in a web of suspicion, intrigue, and deception.

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Missing Man: A Stunning Thriler of Murder and Betrayal at NASA

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A gripping thriller of murder and betrayal at NASA. When a veteran astronaut dies mysteriously during a routine training flight, Mark Koskinen, the rookie astronaut who survives the crash, finds himself caught in a web of suspicion, intrigue, and deception.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

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Editorial Reviews

NASA Watch
At last, a realistic whodunit in space! From a technical standpoint, the author clearly knows the systems, the hardware, the acronyms, and how NASA's team actually uses them. He also protrays NASA internal and external politics dead on...[Missing Man shows] the NASA world as it really is: an agency of motivated and highly talented people beset with the pressure of being perfect day in and day out—and what they might do if something went very, very wrong.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As this exciting action thriller begins, Astronaut candidate Mark Koskinen manages to survive when a training aircraft crashes, killing chief NASA astronaut Joseph Buerhle, under what seem to Mark suspicious circumstances. Trying to complete his requirements as an astronaut-in-training while quietly investigating Buerhle's death, Mark becomes linked with the dead man's lover, astronaut Kelly Gessner, veteran of several shuttle missions. The plot gains momentum as Mark and Kelly set out on board the shuttle to capture a rogue astronaut. NASA is rarely used as background for thrillers; here the detailed description of training, equipment and maneuvers, plus the invocation of the ecstasy of sailing far above planet Earth, gives an invigorating twist to the suspenseful plot. Most impressive, however, is the poignant description of life as a second-generation hero. The original astronauts are old or dead, and the rest of the country is back to business as usual--only the few dedicated space-hunters like Mark can tolerate the politics and pain that must be endured in order to gain the opportunity to fly weightlessly in space. TV writer Cassutt (who coauthored Deke!, the memoir of astronaut Deke Slayton) delivers a winner for lovers of aerospace, action or suspense fiction. Editor, Beth Meacham; agent, Richard Curtis. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
Absorbing, rather bitter debut thriller about NASA and a team of US astronauts going up in 1999 to join Russia's Mir space station team. The missing man of the title is Chief Astronaut Joe Buerhle, whoþs killed before the mission begins. Accompanying Buerhle in the T-38 trainer plane that he was flying when he died was astronaut Mark Koskinen, who was ejected when the usually calm Buerhle started hot-dogging over the ocean, lost an engine, was blinded by clouds, and came outþperhaps stupidly?þtrying to save the plane before it splashed down and sank. Unanswered questions about the crash haunt Mark and spread gradually to his fellow astronauts and the top staff at Houston. Meanwhile, Buerhle's ex-girlfriend, astronaut Kelly Gessner, discovers Joe's notes on his computerþnotes that point up either his paranoia or the fact that someone is trying to kill him. Then Mark's old girlfriend, Allyson, shows up to encourage and cook for him during his recovery from the crash, although he is still on schedule for the Mir mission. Later, Allyson is killed in a highway accident. The coronersþ reports on both her and Buerhle show cocaine in their blood, and the evidence slowly accumulates to suggest that both of these people were murdered when coke was injected into their food. As time passes, Mark and Kelly gather what further evidence they can, while their chief on the mission plays down their fears. Eventually, both realize that nothing they find will matter to NASA, which wonþt let anything interfere with the space docking and experiments on its own agenda. The climax is a one-gun shoot-'em-up in outer space, completely unlike anything you might expect.Cassutt's poker-faced plain style never busts the language envelope, but if it works for Tom Clancy, why not punch it out? Even so, it's not what we might hope for from a writer for TV's The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone revival, and the brainspinningly experimental Max Headroom.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312870812
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 4/1/2011
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 500,000
  • File size: 571 KB

Meet the Author

Michael Cassutt is noted for his writing about the space program -- not only articles in magazines such as Space World, but a massive biographical encyclopedia, Who's Who in Space. Cassutt is the author of two previous mystery thrillers set within the space program, Missing Man and Red Moon. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.
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Read an Excerpt

THE ASTRONAUT CANDIDATE’S TEN COMMANDMENTS1. Thou shalt smile, but not grin.2. Thou shalt keep thy humor harmless, pure and perfect, without irony.3. Thou shalt keep thy weaknesses to thyself; others may thus fail to notice.4. Thou shalt not complain; maketh survival look easy.5. Thou shalt make compliments after each flight, class or simulation.6. If thou canst not say something nice, thou shalt lie.7. Thou shalt practice saying “Thanks for pointing that out, sir! I’ll really work on that!” all the days of thy life.8. Thou shalt be aggressively humble and dynamically inconspicuous.9. That which is encouraged is mandatory; that which is discouraged is forbidden.10. When in doubt, say thou nothing.REVIEW THIS LIST DAILY!
CHAPTER 1Twelve miles south of Galveston, strapped into the rear cockpit of NASA T-38 number 911, Mark Koskinen began to wonder if he really had the Right Stuff after all.It wasn’t an admission that came easily to him. He was thirty-three years old and had wanted to be an astronaut for at least twenty of those years. He had built Estes model rockets and dragged his parents to all the IMAX movies about the Space Shuttle. He had majored in aerospace engineering and spent seven years in the Air Force. He had worked hard to qualify for selection—not only getting the right training but keeping himself in good physical condition (the new astronauts were going to be doing a lot of space walks on the International Space Station) and broadening himself: he had learned to fly gliders and taken a Dale Carnegie course in public speaking.With all that, NASA had still turned him down on his first application, selecting him only on his second try, after he’d finished his master’s degree. He had persisted; he had earned his place.On this bright October morning he had been an astronaut candidate—ASCAN—for six months. He had undergone a week of NASA orientation. He had attended college-level classes in astronomy, geology, and aerospace medicine. He had started to learn the systems and architecture of the Shuttle orbiter and the ISS. And, like all mission specialist astronaut candidates, Mark had attended Air Force flight school, to qualify as a backseater in the T-38. So far Mark had logged exactly 127 hours of time in the bird—a a meager amount for an operational air crew member but enough to make him feel at home in the aircraft. He had probably flown with twenty different pilots, ranging from the ones who flew slow and steady to the hot dogs who lived to make the guy in the backseat throw up.None of this had prepared him for the Joe Buerhle experience.Colonel Joseph Buerhle, USAF, a veteran test pilot and astronaut with over 4,500 flying hours and four Shuttle missions, was the guy in the front seat. And what a ride he had given Mark so far!It started with the rotation at Ellington Field. The supersonic T-38 wasn’t much more than a set of stubby wings mounted in front of two huge Pratt and Whitney engines. That and a pair of seats. Pilots called it the white rocket, and taking off left you with no illusions about its lift over drag … when a T-38 rotated, you were going up, and straight up was where NASA 911 had gone, so straight that Mark was sure he felt the beginnings of a stall burble. It was hard to tell, flat on his back, pulling four Gs and staring at the blue sky in front of him.Then the bird had whipped through a series of turns before leveling out for the streak toward the operating area over the Gulf of Mexico, fifty miles south.All these gymnastics had taken place within a few miles of the runway, uncomfortably close to the houses, apartments (including Mark’s own) and malls of Clear Lake, Seabrook and League City. Mark was sure he saw the sprawling campus of the Johnson Space Center during one of those turns. Had there been such a thing as an air traffic patrolman, he would have expected to hear sirens, too.Mark was amazed that he, the plane and Buerhle had lived through the maneuvers. What was more miraculous was the apparent ease with which Buerhle had done things. The only words he had said to Mark after receiving clearance to take off were: “Ready to rumble?”When he had wound up slotted to Buerhle’s plane, luck of the draw after Steve Goslin, the Marine who was his original pilot, turned out to be a last-minute scratch, Mark had expected something out of the ordinary. Buerhle, after all, was the chief of the astronaut office. Mark had seen him presiding over the weekly pilots’ meetings for six months. Buerhle was handsome, popular and charismatic.But he had never struck Mark as a silk scarf guy, a kick-the-wheels, strap-on-the-bird, light-this-candle kind of flier. He was known to be quite the opposite, a tough, demanding, by-the-book pilot who was all too ready to land on those who broke the rules. (And there were several habitual offenders in the astronaut office.)And here he was, hot-rodding all over south Texas, and now the Gulf of Mexico, like a teenager with his first license. Every maneuver was harsher than it really needed to be, and as Mark struggled to hold on to his breakfast, he felt a little like the man being ridden out of town on a rail: if not for the honor of the experience, he would just as soon have missed it.Then Joe Buerhle suddenly said, “Hey, Mark, take the stick.”The response was automatic. When the pilot offered you control, you took it. “Got it.”Feet on the rudders, hands on the stick. Try to fly it straight, Mark told himself. Nice and easy does it. Here he was, flying Joe Buerhle’s airplane—“Okay, Mark, why don’t you give me a two-minute turn to the right?”Now, this was something new. Doing a two-minute turn meant putting the snub-nosed T-38 into a bank and taking it through a full circle. Joe Buerhle could do it with his eyes closed. So could any of the pilots and a few of the mission specialists in the astronaut office. Mark had done such turns in small planes—well, at least twice—and in gliders. He eased the stick to the right … gently, gently … and then waited maybe fifteen seconds before moving the stick back to neutral.“Nice touch, for a scope dope,” Buerhle said. The term was hardly a compliment coming from a pilot, but Mark was proud of his time as a satellite controller. It was one of the jobs that had gotten him hired by NASA, after all.“Copy that.” Give him a little scope dope lingo.The Gulf of Mexico shone through the clouds above and around them. Whoosh, they punched through. There was a chance of rain—this time of year along the Gulf there was always a chance of rain—but the sun was bright and the sky was blue.“Sorry about the bumps on the way up,” Buerhle said. “I just started feeling a little light-headed. Remind me never to have a Le-Roy’s special late at night again.”Le-Roy’s was the Cajun restaurant right outside the main gate at Ellington Field. “I always thought Le-Roy overdid the jalapenos,” Mark said. Buerhle laughed, and Mark began to relax. He was acutely aware that his every move was being performed under surveillance, but had no fear of screwing up. People who were insecure didn’t get selected as astronauts. People who didn’t get a little insecure after selection weren’t paying attention, but Mark honored the ASCAN Commandments, especially the third one, about keeping your weaknesses to yourself. And he knew how to keep a T-38 straight and level.Joe Buerhle was still laughing. Mark knew he could be funny from time to time, but not that funny. Something wasn’t right here.For an instant Mark felt a sickening chill. Suppose this was a bizarre initiation rite? Break in the new ASCAN. Or worse yet, a test! Would he be too intimidated by his commander’s reputation to do his job? It didn’t matter anymore—“Colonel, I think we ought to turn back.”“Not yet.” He heard Buerhle laugh. “I don’t want them to know it was us falling all over the sky back there. I don’t need my ticket yanked.”“Me, neither.”“Well, then, let’s give it a few minutes. I’m feeling better.” Before Mark could say anything, the stick smacked against his right knee, and Buerhle announced, “I’ve got it now.”And then Mark was lying on his back with nothing but the sky in front of him. He watched the altimeter numbers going up, then suddenly felt thrown to his left as Buerhle put the plane into a turn.“That seem like a guy in trouble, Mark?”Well, yes, actually, it did.“Have it your way, Colonel … I’m not feeling good.” There, he’d said it. If this was some screwy test, he had just flunked it.But Buerhle ignored him. The T-38 was snapped into a quick roll. Then a second. A third.That third roll made Mark’s stomach a lot more queasy. He was suddenly aware of his own breath hissing in the face mask. “Colonel Buerhle?”There was no answer. Buerhle put the bird in a steep climb, then nosed over into a flat spin. Mark knew that this was the kind of thing that your ordinary pilot never wanted to see … wouldn’t know how to avert. But he also knew that Joe Buerhle had taught spin recovery at Edwards.The real Joe Buerhle, that is. Not this impostor in the front seat.The bird was well south in the bay now, with Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula far behind them. “Now, listen, Mark, this is worse than anything you’ll encounter on an ascent or entry. If you can hack this, you can hack anything.” Mark appreciated the sentiment, but Buerhle sounded strange, manic.They rolled right again and nosed down. Mark waited for the crushing six-G pullout at the bottom. Concentrate on the instruments. Think about the fact that Joe Buerhle just thought of you on a Shuttle crew—At fifty-four hundred feet Mark saw the engine warning light. He looked at it with a surprising sense of detachment, even though he knew they were in a pretty steep dive to be messing with an engine out. “Warning light,” Mark said, waiting for Buerhle to deal with it.“Nolo problemo.”Sure enough, they began to level out … and Mark found that he had been holding his breath. Buerhle tried starting the engine. Bang. Nothing. Bang again … still nothing. Mark tried to remember how well a T-38 would fly on one engine—“Oh, man … .”Suddenly they were in clouds, and Mark wasn’t sure he’d heard Buerhle’s words. “Colonel?”“You know what?” Buerhle’s voice was suddenly calm. “I can’t see.” The bird stayed in an ungodly bank. It started to buffet. Mark could hear Buerhle’s labored breathing in the helmet phone.“Let me take it!” Without waiting for confirmation, Mark grabbed at the stick just as the plane broke free of the clouds. Now Mark saw that they were nose down, rolled to the left, and getting very goddamn close to the water. And, oh God, the bird wasn’t responding! They were stalled!“Get out!”Those weeks of training paid off. Without thinking, Mark forced himself back into his seat and squeezed the handles.There was a bang and a puff of smoke as the canopy blew off, then a wrenching jolt as the rockets beneath the seat fired. He felt a blast of wind on his chest and face. Before he could even orient himself, the seat fell away and his parachute jerked open.He looked around wildly for another chute—nothing. Then he heard a muffled smash. Wrenching himself around, he saw a plume of black smoke on the water. The plane had gone in.Still no sign of Joe Buerhle.Mark Koskinen braced himself as the waters of the Gulf rose all too quickly to meet him.Copyright © 1998 by St. Croix Productions, Inc.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2000

    Fast-paced, engrossing book

    Anyone interested in mystery/amateur detective will enjoy this book. The author combines a highly readable, fast-paced mystery with an insider's knowledge of NASA to tell a fine story. My only (mild)disappointment was an ending that failed to deliver justice, but the way the author concluded certainly better reflects real life. I highly recommend it.

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