HOW TO MAKE A SPACESHIP ~ A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight

HOW TO MAKE A SPACESHIP  ~ A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight

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Book review and technical detail HOW TO MAKE A SPACESHIP ~ A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight Julian Guthrie

Technical detail of HOW TO MAKE A SPACESHIP ~ A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight
Title
HOW TO MAKE A SPACESHIP ~ A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight
author Julian Guthrie
ISBN 94863
Language
Category Science & Technology
Publisher Penguin Press
Pages 448
Publishing Date 1st January, 1970

Book Reviews:

Engaging account of the race to get a rocket up to the Karman line without getting NASA involved.In her last book, The Billionaire and the Mechanic (2013), former San Francisco Chronicle journalist Guthrie recounted Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s quest to win the America’s Cup. Here, she recounts entrepreneur Peter Diamandis’ libertarian dream of taking space exploration out of the hands of government and putting it into the hands of private citizens. Of course, there’s a reason government handles most space flight: it costs staggering amounts of money. Diamandis was not always wealthy, writes Guthrie, but he had been single-minded about his pursuit, blending studies in engineering and medicine while sublimating some of his other interests. “There were times when Peter longed for a girlfriend,” writes the author, “and other times when he realized love would have to wait.” Big-picture thinker thus secured, Guthrie’s tale turns to the foot soldiers of the piece, chief among them 63-year-old test pilot Mike Melvill and his team of desert-rat mechanics, who pinned all their hopes on winning the $10 million purse that Diamandis offered for a spacecraft that could get beyond Earth’s atmosphere. As Virgin Group founder Richard Branson writes in the foreword, because of Diamandis and his XPRIZE, “billions of dollars have been invested in commercializing space.” Guthrie’s book isn’t quite up to the literary heights of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff (1979), but it’s very good. The author treats matters of scientific and technical weight with a light hand, as when she writes of how a test flight is put together—with a lot of data analysis and braking at first, then with a few passes in the “thin cushion of air inches above the runway,” and then, finally, in the wild blue yonder. Just the thing for aspiring astronauts and rocketeers.

The historic race that reawakened the promise of manned spaceflight Alone in a Spartan black cockpit, test pilot Mike Melvill rocketed toward space. He had eighty seconds to exceed the speed of sound and begin the climb to a target no civilian pilot had ever reached. He might not make it back alive. If he did, he would make history as the world’s first commercial astronaut. The spectacle defied reason, the result of a competition dreamed up by entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, whose vision for a new race to space required small teams to do what only the world’s largest governments had done before. Peter Diamandis was the son of hardworking immigrants who wanted their science prodigy to make the family proud and become a doctor. But from the age of eight, when he watched Apollo 11 land on the Moon, his singular goal was to get to space. When he realized NASA was winding down manned space flight, Diamandis set out on one of the great entrepreneurial adventure stories of our time. If the government wouldn’t send him to space, he would create a private space flight industry himself.   In the 1990s, this idea was the stuff of science fiction. Undaunted, Diamandis found inspiration in an unlikely place: the golden age of aviation. He discovered that Charles Lindbergh made his transatlantic flight to win a $25,000 prize. The flight made Lindbergh the most famous man on earth and galvanized the airline industry. Why, Diamandis thought, couldn’t the same be done for space flight?   The story of the bullet-shaped SpaceShipOne, and the other teams in the hunt, is an extraordinary tale of making the impossible possible. It is driven by outsized characters—Burt Rutan, Richard Branson, John Carmack, Paul Allen—and obsessive pursuits. In the end, as Diamandis dreamed, the result wasn’t just a victory for one team; it was the foundation for a new industry and a new age.

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