Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race, by Tim Fernholz (2018)

Nonfiction
Adult
Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race, by Tim FernholzFor most of my life, NASA has been the leader in space exploration – sending my beloved Voyager craft into the solar system in 1977, then developing the space shuttle program, with its high-profile disasters in 1986 and 2003, and of course the amazing Mars exploration program that continues today. (Sorry boomers, I don’t remember the moon landings.) Early in this millennium, however, I started to hear interesting news about privately funded space travel, starting with the X Prize and the Antari Prize competitions. Not long afterward, NASA retired its shuttle program but had nothing to put in its place, relying instead on Russia’s Soyuz capsules to deliver astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station. (Check out Chris Hadfield’s book to find out more about this.) Today we regularly see tests of “reusable rockets” that can launch a satellite into orbit and then return to earth and land for later reuse, saving a LOT of time and money. Blue Horizon, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic – how did these efforts get their start? This book tells the stories of two men in particular, Silicon Valley billionaires Elon Musk of Tesla fame and Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, and their decisions to plow personal fortunes into rocket development. It’s a difficult task, a road littered with explosions and mishaps but it’s a fascinating story that will lead to, perhaps as early as this year, humans heading into space on a privately-funded rocket. Fernholz is a former Washington D.C. reporter, and the book benefits from his strong writing, well-organized approach, and meticulous research. His opinion occasionally bleeds through – while Fernholz is obviously interested in this shift from government to entrepreneurial space development, I get the sense his first draft at the title might have been Space Dilettantes instead of Rocket Billionaires. He calls Musk the “rock star of dorks, whose ambition knows no bounds.” He uses a lot of quotes from personal interviews as well as citations from documents, but there’s no numbered footnote or endnote system. Instead, he organizes endnotes by chapter using short excerpts (e.g. “no money to continue”) to reference his source. In the Kindle version I used, the e-book embeds links within the short excerpts back to the original reference in the chapter. By not using numbered notes, I am guessing Fernholz intends to make the book more populist in its appearance, knowing that dedicated researchers can quickly figure it out. A fascinating read that will appeal to those interested in the current rocket research activity. It’s a good candidate for sharing with teen tech and space geeks, too. My thanks to publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the digital reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
More discussion and reviews of this title: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35721160
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s