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Reviewed in the United States on March 9, 2021
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Later the author notes that SpaceX competitors like Lockheed worked against them and puzzles over a tepid reaction to the Falcon 1 launch from a Texas politician, even though there was a "large (~20 person) facility in McGregor TX", without ever connecting the dots that there's a billion dollar Lockheed facility in Ft. Worth building F-35s. There are several examples like this where obvious questions or topics are left completely unasked and unexamined.
It was an enjoyable enough read but left me wanting more in many areas. SpaceX is a fantastic American business and technology story, and hopefully one day someone will tell all of it - along with a bit of independent assessment and analysis. The reader won't find that here.
It's just a nicely written narrative of how SpaceX went from a small startup to a company that achieved a bunch of firsts in spaceflight.
If you are into spaceflight, this is a must read. I'll put it on my bookshelf (figuratively, because I bought the Kindle version) next to my copies of "Failure is not an option" and "October Sky"
Great read that concentrates on the people and their efforts instead of simple technical details. There's a good "where are they now" epilogue as well.
I am still not a fan of the SpaceX branding (it reminded me too much of the X Prize branding back have I first heard of it 15 years ago, as it was confusing, and it still sounds derivative), and, although cool and a P.R. dream, am not that thrilled about vertically landing rockets (that fuel could be used to increase payload delivered into orbit. I guess that I just got excited about Reagan announcing the National Aerospaceplane program in the 80's, what he called the new Orient Express, and wanted to see an era where scramjet powered spaceplanes would fly cost-effectively into orbit on a daily basis, the ultimate SSTO, or Single Stage To Orbit That aside, I'd like to see the return to some sort of spaceplane, as recovery options are better, and not a new twist on old methods that have been used since the space program began. Capsules and parachutes do have their issues). I am also not a fan of the Falcon branding for the launch vehicles, the Starship branding for that large rocket, and the Dragon branding for the spacecraft, although that Dragon logo is awesome. Ditto for my feelings about Musk himself..... I never was much of a fan and think that he succeeded in spite of himself rather than because of anything that he did; he was smart enough to surround himself with good, talented, smarter people, and they are why he succeeded, IMO.
That said, I have changed my mind after reading this book and am kind of impressed, especially with the cost-effectiveness and frequency of the launches of their Falcon 9 workhorse, and the absolute disruption of the industry. You have to respect that, although, let's face it..... What happened had to happen eventually, and it could have with another company.
I had thought that NASA has been funding private enterprise such as SpaceX and had no idea that SpaceX almost failed. I had no idea that Musk took a big risk by financing his start-up with his own money.
Now I am glad that SpaceX succeeded.
I highly recommend this book. It's great.
Top reviews from other countries
They both reawakened a long dormant interest in space for me. I read a lot of tech news, so had vague awareness of the big milestones of SpaceX, but can't claim to have followed them.
So from that point on, I immersed myself in both the spaceflight history of a half century or more ago, and the spaceflight present; where once or twice a month - sometimes once or twice a *week*, SpaceX put a payload in orbit then bring back the first stage of the rocket that did it. Kennedy may have said, "we do these things not because they were easy, but because they are hard"; yet SpaceX have made launches seem as routine as a supermarket shop.
Eric Berger's book shows you, starting from zero, how they got there - through teamwork and the efforts of many individuals, many of whose stories we hear in detail as the narrative thrums along. Like so many American journalists. Berger has the ability to conjure an evocative sense of place and time; and there is one sequence in particular that cries out to be dramatised in a big budget movie one day.
If there is a downside then its an inevitable one when dealing with billionaires like Musk. There's no doubt the book has benefited from astonishing levels of access to the key players, but there are only a couple of places that are less than hagiographic in their treatment of his flawed genius. But this is a minor quibble, because it's not about Musk.
But what I didn't know much about was how & why Elon Musk got started with Space X.
Eric Berger takes the reader from the beginning right up to the successful first flights of the falcon 1 & how that led on to the falcon 9.
You don't need an engineering degree to follow this book. It focuses primarily on the human stories, the struggles and the hardship and the joyous moments too. The author was given full access to the staff, and weaves a great narrative from their accounts that's both an enjoyable read and very insightful. He doesn't shy away from hard truths, Elon Musk does not always come up smelling of roses & it's all the better for that.
Buy this book, you won't regret it.
What I like about the book is the way the employees are depicted. We all know Elon is a great visionary but without such a great tribe he wouldn't be as successful.
The stories are fascinating and demonstrate the dedication of the employees at SpaceX, they all believed in the vision and gave up so much to make it happen.
I think this book should be dedicated to the fantastic staff who helped make Elons vision come to reality.