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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"Entrepreneur Peter Diamandis can't travel into space--a retina tear made sure of that. Still, his focus on private passenger-carrying space travel--and the $10 million XPRIZE he created to pursue that goal--made a breakthrough possible. There's a bit of wonder in narrator Rob Shapiro's voice as he describes Diamandis's life and fascination with space. Author Julian Guthrie discusses more than research and flights. Down-to-earth matters such as funding and insurance are a large part of the story. Still, the run-up to the story's climactic flight is a breezy listen. The victory over gravity ends with Shapiro's voice bursting into a joyful yell of triumph. The story has its sad moments as well, but leaves listeners with an appreciation for the breakthroughs that may help take ordinary people into the next frontier. J.A.S. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine"
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