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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Book Review: Rocketeers

Rocketeers: How a Visionary Band of Business Leaders, Engineers, and Pilots Is Boldly Privatizing Space
by Michael Belfiore
Harper Collins , 2007
ISBN-10: 0061149020

To cut to the chase, if you want to buy a book on the private space industry this year, buy Rocketeers by Michael Belfiore. It is a brilliant look at the recent history of private companies trying to get into space and make a dollar by someone who was at ground zero. It is an easy read for anyone regardless of technical background.

For those of you who interested in more detail, Rocketeers starts out at the second X-Prize flight of SpaceShipOne, as Mr. Belfiore takes us from the VIP section at Mojave back through the Apollo era at NASA and its effect on him. I identified with his excitement and later disappointment at where NASA took us in space.

He follows the history of the X-Prize starting with Peter Diamandis’ ingénues idea to have a prize for going to space. All this leads up to a word picture of what it felt like to see Brian Binnie break the 62-mile invisible wall into space. This marks the beginning of the modern private space age.

Rocketeers takes us to an in-depth peek into most of the major private space companies. He talks with the visionaries and engineers (and even passengers) from the most successful businesses, such as SpaceX, to ill-fated endeavors, like the da Vinci Project and everyone in-between including Bigelow Aerospace, RocketPlane, the Rocket Racing League, and Virgin Galactic. Moreover, he looks at each of these without judgment on their chance of success or importance. He simply reports what they are doing and why and lets the reader decide who is worth watching.

Before you accuse me of taking bribes from Harper Collins or Mr. Belfiore, there are some less than perfect parts of the book. First, the flow-of-consciousness science fiction style Mr. Belfiore uses, while working very well for a first pass through, makes it a little difficult to go back and find some tidbit of info to impress your friends.

I would highly recommend Rocketeers for anyone interested where the next 50 years of space travel is going.

4 1/2 Stars

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