How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight

Julian Guthrie. Penguin Press, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-1-59420-672-6
In this sympathetic retelling of the establishment of the Ansari X Prize, for the first launch of a private reusable manned spacecraft twice within two weeks, and the race to win it, journalist and author Guthrie (The Billionaire and the Mechanic) chronicles the struggles, triumphs, and everything it took to kick-start private spaceflight. She starts with the explosives-filled childhood of entrepreneur Peter Diamandis and works in the backgrounds of several other major players, including designer and entrepreneur Burt Rutan and aviator Erik Lindbergh (grandson of Charles), illustrating how they developed the skills, connections, and passion needed to pull everything off. As she follows them and teams from different countries through triumphs, setbacks, joys, and tragedy, the stakes become very real and even financial struggles feel suspenseful and compelling. Rutan’s SpaceShipOne becomes the actual star of the relatable and easy reading narrative, and the flights are written to make readers feel like they’re experiencing them in real time, nerves and all. Unfortunately, as Guthrie details this technological achievement, she fails to address very real criticisms of privatized spaceflight (commercialization and access, privatization of military contracts, lack of transparency, etc.). Her willingness to gloss over the Randian ideology of some figures may also raise red flags for some readers. But if readers are looking for scientific discussions, humorous anecdotes, and intense action, Guthrie covers those bases. Agent: Joseph Veltre, Gersh Agency. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/2016
Release date: 09/20/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 607 pages - 978-1-4104-9520-4
Compact Disc - 978-0-7352-8821-8
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-1-101-98049-1
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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