"Back to the Moon" by Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson does for near future space travel what Tom Clancy's novels used to do for near future war and terrorism. Too bad the near future the book describes has been jettisoned by President Obama.
"Back to the Moon" is set about eight to ten years in the future and concerns events surrounding NASA's planned return to the Moon. The book is filled with technical detail about how the Ares/Orion/Altair system would have worked, beginning with an unmanned shakedown mission to test the new Moon ship's systems.
In the meantime, a private space entrepreneur has sold enough seats on his new space craft, Dreamcscape, to fly a loop around the Moon on the vacation trip of the lifetime.
Finally, the Chinese are mounting their own lunar expedition, sending their own unmanned lunar lander on a shakedown mission.
When the Dreamscape, with its passenger list of the well heeled and adventurous passes behind the Moon, the commercial cruise ship picks up a low power signal from what is apparently a crew of Chinese space explorers, having crash landed on the Moon. The "unmanned shakedown mission" was in fact a Chinese attempt to steal away the glory from America to land the first people on the Moon in almost fifty years.
So the first American expedition to the Moon since 1972 becomes a rescue mission. Here the novel hits its stride, with enough death defying situations and potentially life ending technical "anomalies" (to coin the NASA term) to--well--fill a good two hour action film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks.
The NASA astronauts, the Chinese, and even the commercial space pilots must find a way to work together so that everyone can make it home on a mission that makes "Apollo 13" seem dull and ordinary.
The great tragedy is that "Back to the Moon" started as a near future techno thriller but, as the result of a monumentally stupid political decision by President Barack Obama, ended as a future alternate history. The authors touch upon this issue is a kind of literary cri de Coeur as an afterward, a pleading as it were for some kind of return to the Moon effort to be restored.
I recommend "Back to the Moon" very highly. More to the point, I wish Ron Howard or someone in Hollywood would make a movie out of it. There seems to be a lot of interest in the Moon, at least in the "secret history of Apollo" genre. Maybe there can be some for a possible future mission to the Moon as well.