Juice and “The Big G”!

APRIL 2023

Okay, why am I so interested in the European Space Agency’s “Juice” (“Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer”) mission, which launched a day late on 14 April? It’s going to take eight years and four gravity assists to get to the Jupiter system! How could that be exciting? Well, for me there are two main reasons: first, they’ve been working on the mission almost the same length of time I’ve been creating the building blocks for my series of books; and second, assuming all goes well, in July 2031 the spacecraft will settle into orbit around Ganymede, which just happens to be the setting of The Big G, published on Amazon just a week after the launch!

For anyone who read The Big G when it was out and about as a freebie last year, I’d obviously be delighted if you could find time to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads (there have been no advanced review copies or any other kind of publicity prior to this, so don’t be surprised if you’re the first!). And for the uninitiated, it’s a novella in the same style as the recent Martian (Blues) Shuffle, features cultivated seafood, death in a vacuum without eyeballs popping out, and a game of poker. And it’s going to be available at a very special price for just a week or two.

But back to Juice. After Ganymede, the bird-like interplanetary spacecraft will also be taking a close look at Europa – where the second novel in the Backdoor Angels series, The Safest Moon, begins – followed by Callisto, which is the setting for the third novel in the series (due to be published this December). The big questions are: Will they prove the existence of the underground oceans on at least one of the three moons? Will they find organic molecules? And – slightly less important to humankind as a whole – will they find things that make my visions of these distant worlds obsolete? I hope not! Still, I’ve got at least eight years before I have to start issuing revised editions, and that’s part of the fun of “near future” fiction, isn’t it?

And, of course, NASA’s Europa Clipper may still beat Juice to Europa, following the recent decision to launch, possibly next year, with one of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rockets. Somehow, it’s always a race, isn’t it? But since this is NASA, the Europa Clipper mission is more focused on habitability and the search for future landing sites, while the Artemis mission to get people back on the Moon is moving forwards in (giant) leaps and bounds in parallel to the purely research-based projects like Juice. And you can’t write off Elon Musk just because he keeps blowing up rockets (and also his launchpad this last time) and still manages to come across as a rebellious adolescent. At least he’s changed the name of his latest beast from ‘BFR’ ­– widely known to stand for ‘Big Fucking Rocket’ – to ‘Starship’.

Anyway, it’s an exciting time for those of us interested in space travel. But I’ve waited too long since the moon landing of 1969, so I’m just going to carry on imagining what it will be like in a world where the ‘Artemis generation’ means people’s great-great-grandparents, and spaceships can shuttle everyone around the solar system in days rather than years …

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *