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

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Penguin, Sep 20, 2016 - Biography & Autobiography - 448 pages
A New York Times bestseller! 

The historic race that reawakened the promise of manned spaceflight

A Finalist for the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

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

User Review  - Book Verdict

Reminiscent of the author's previous title, The Billionaire and the Mechanic: How Larry Ellison and a Car Mechanic Teamed Up To Win Sailing's Greatest Race, the America's Cup, Twice, this latest from ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Publishers Weekly

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 ... Read full review


One Unruly
Two Early Regrets
Three Pete in Space
Four Mojave Magic
Five Space Medicine
Six Being a Lindbergh
Seven A Career in Orbit
Eight Struggles in the Real World
Eighteen Peter Blasts Off
Nineteen Elons Inspiration
Twenty Burt and Pauls Big Adventure
Twentyone A Lifeline for the XPRIZE
Twentytwo A Display of Hardware
Twentythree Another Lindbergh Takes Flight
Twentyfour A Hole in One

Nine Meeting the Magician
Ten An OutofThisWorld Idea
Eleven Eyes on the Prize
Twelve Cowboy Pilot
Thirteen History Repeats Itself
Fourteen The Space Derby
Fifteen Epiphanies in the Mojave
Sixteen Peters Pitches
Seventeen A Lindbergh Sculpts a Dream
Twentysix The Test of a Lifetime
Twentyseven Flirting with Calamity
Twentyeight Power Struggles
Twentynine In Pursuit of a Masterpiece
Thirtyone Rocketing to Redemption
Thirtytwo Hallowed Company
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About the author (2016)

Julian Guthrie is an award-winning journalist who spent twenty years at the San Francisco Chronicle and has been published by The Wall Street JournalTime, The Huffington Post, and others. She is the author of The Billionaire and the Mechanic, a bestselling account of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s pursuit of the America’s Cup, and of The Grace of Everyday Saints, the story of the longest parish protest in Catholic America.

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