I've been looking for this book I read as a teenager and can't find any reference to it. It was written probably late 70's to early 80's.

A mission to the first planet around another star is formed with a crew of four married couples. After the craft is underway it's discovered that the scientist who headed the mission had lied about the planet and it didn't actually exist. His purpose was to isolate the crew in space so they would evolve beyond being normal humans.

The crew ended up playing around with the configuration of the ship to improve it. They also began dabbling in the iChing and TM meditation, it's a very psychedelic themed story. One of the crew dies while modifying the engines and becomes a disembodied consciousness that is referred to as "Uncle Ghost" by the children who were born on the journey.

They eventually arrive at the planetless star and another crew member enters a deep trance and finally floats out of an airlock and a new planet forms around her.

They all eventually travel back to Earth but I don't remember how the story ends. It was so much fun to read and I would love to find it again.

  • 3
    see also scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/2697/… (about the short story on which the novel is based)
    – Otis
    Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 20:24
  • 1
    Sending a manned mission to another star without absolutely verifying that the star exists??? Nah...
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 2:47

1 Answer 1


This is Starburst by Frederik Pohl.

The crew of the Constitution--scientists cum astronauts--had been carefully screened for extremely high intelligence and superb physical qualities. They were to be the first explorers sent to another stellar system. There they would explore the planet Alpha-Aleph and then return. They were the toast of the world press--true heroes, for they were to go where no man had gone before. Or so they thought.

There are mentions of "Uncle Ghost" in the text.

What he looked like more precisely was a Thom optical catastrophe, but Jeron was not yet two and would not learn catastrophe theory for at least another year. First he had to learn to speak and read, and he did that from Uncle Ghost's bedside displays. They were not electric. They came in ripe fruit colors, banana yellow, peach, apple red, grass green. They were created by some of Uncle Ghost's magic.

Cover of "Starburst" by Frederik Pohl. The cover shows a spaceship flying into a rainbow-colored circle against a starry background.

  • 2
    Yes, that is it. Thank you! I should have remembered it was Pohl, love his stuff. Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 23:31

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