The Astronaut’s Son

by Tom Seigel
Woodhall Press, September 2018, $25.95

In Tom Seigel’s The Astronaut’s Son, future astronaut Jonathan Stein hopes to avenge the possible murder of his father, a NASA astronaut who died only days before liftoff of an Apollo moon mission. During Jonathan’s investigation, we meet several characters who seem familiar, such as astronaut Dale Lunden, who sounds suspiciously like the real-life Buzz Aldrin. But we also come across the actual Neil Armstrong, and learn a possible reason for Armstrong’s reclusive existence after becoming the first man to walk on the moon. Jonathan has been obsessed by Armstrong since his childhood, and one of the book’s pivotal (and most unbelievable) moments comes when Armstrong’s German maid allows him to wander unchaperoned through the legend’s house and paw through Armstrong’s papers. German names abound in this novel, and not by accident. History tells us that after WWII, the US imported several Nazi scientists—two of them being Wernher von Braun and the infamous, dogtorturing Kurt Debus—to work on various space projects. This prevalence of “ex” Nazis in the US space program is one of the reasons why Jonathan suspects his father may have been murdered just days before liftoff. Avi Stein was Jewish, and the German scientists, dedicated anti-Semites to a man, refused to let a Jew walk on the moon. Jonathan’s suspicions are furthered by an online site maintained by someone calling herself Cassandra. Cassandra posits “proof” that the 1969 moon landing was a fraud, and that Avi was murdered (as were astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee) because they refused to be part of the hoax. While the book never fails to be eye-popping, it does have one big problem: its protagonist. Although Jonathan is part of the space program himself and is preparing for a moon launch, his behavior is so neurotic that any reader familiar with today’s space program will have trouble believing he ever gained admittance to the space program in the first place. He’s also not very likable. He cheats on his wife, and drinks too much. But these are mere quibbles. The book gives each side of the moon landing argument a chance to be heard, and the informative author’s note at the end of the book will curl your hair.

Betty Webb
Teri Duerr
September 2018
Woodhall Press