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

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  686 ratings  ·  103 reviews
How a historic race gave birth to private space flight
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. There was a chance he would not come back alive. If he did, he would make history as the world’s first commercial astr
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by Penguin Press
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Sep 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
An interesting read about the characters and drama behind the Xprize, highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the present and future of commercial space travel. Almost a 4* but I wasn't a big fan of the writing style and it could easily have been 100 pages shorter.
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An odyssey to encourage and promote privately financed space exploration

This is an outstanding story of a few who dreamed big and remained focused in putting a private spacecraft into the space. This was a big dream when it was first thought, but the efforts and persistence of an individual like Peter Diamandis made this dream a reality. Author Julian Guthrie has done a fascinating job of documenting everything associated with this adventure. There is suspense, drama, initial setbacks and final
Oct 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t have an overwhelming number of thoughts about this book. It served as part history of the X-Prize (the $10 million cash prize for the first private group to get a piloted ship into sub-orbital space flight twice within 7 days) and part biography of the founder of the prize.

I’ve always been a fan of spaceflight, but my knowledge specifically has been the history of NASA up until the beginning of the shuttle era – and a little bit about the old Soviet program up until they quit seriously
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While this book certainly has interesting moments, most of the time it was a chore to get through. It just seems like it talks about so many different people who, in the overall scheme of things, were not all that important. I know I could not bring myself to care about them, as harsh as it sounds. The final third of the book, which mostly centers on the Spaceship One team was for me the most enjoyable and it is where the book picks up the pace again. Bottom line is: I would not recommend this b ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book gave me all sorts of information I didn't have both about the early space program I followed SO avidly, but gave details about what happened to cause the US to go from putting men on the moon to zilch... This also gave good aviation milestone history & described how the XPrize was won. While things have moved slower than many of us want, we now have private enterprise making regular trips to the ISS & hopefully soon adding manned missions to the Dragon capsules! ...more
Roger Misso
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Only 4 stars because I thought the writing could have been a bit tighter. The story, however, is awesome!
Apr 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about the privatization of the space industry. There's nothing like capitalism to make things accessible only to the super wealthy. I know that our country isn't really a meritocracy, but NASA just seems a little more fair to me than something that only benefits people with a ton of money. I also hold no faith in libertarian ideals. Generally only white men who privilege from our current system think that libertarianism is a good idea, and that description fits most of the ...more
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
This is like a 400+ page book that easily could have been 600 or so - why ? For starters, the font size was like 10. Not too many books with that font size and size 12 should be the norm. Too much detail, I don't need to know all about the major players, etc. Just condense it so that I can chew and digest this novel instead of regurgitating it out. Never got finished reading this, just briefly read some of the chapters that I was interested in. Too long. Too boring. My opinion.
Aug 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-won
I won this book.

The book was really fascinating. Guthrie does a good job of describing everything from the beginning of space travel and NASA, all the way up to where we are today - missions and crafts independent from the Government. If you know a space nut, go buy this book for them. Overall a really neat read.
Theodore Kinni
Nov 19, 2016 rated it liked it
A sometimes overly-detailed recounting of the first X-Prize and the people behind it. It really delivers in the last third of the book where Guthrie writes about the historic SpaceShipOne flights. I wrote about it here: ...more
Robert Wilson
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Honestly I wish I could give this book 3 and 1/2 stars.

Please don't misunderstand me, this is a good book although the first 1/3 of it is a bit slow. We get to meet the genius that is Peter Diamandis. He holds two degrees from MIT and a Medical Degree from Yale (or was it Harvard?).

We get to met the brilliant Burt Rutan, who designed the eventual X-Prize winning SpaceShip One and has, at least when this book was published, something like six or seven airplanes that he designed hanging in the Aer
Oct 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race and the Birth of Private Space Flight (2016) by Julian Guthrie is all about the creation of the X-Prize, the groups that entered, the people involved and the group who won.

Peter Diamandis established Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) while studying molecular genetics at MIT. He then went to Harvard Medical School to get an MD but still pursed his space dreams. He paused his medical studies to get a Master's in
I picked up this book because of the Lindbergh family connection. Erik and Morgan Lindbergh, grandsons of Charles, became involved in the X Prize after the founder (and star of this book, Peter Diamandis) was inspired by reading Lindbergh's autobiography, The Spirit of St. Louis. It was a contest that had inspired Lindbergh to attempt his historic transatlantic flight and Diamandis realized this would also be a great way to inspire innovation in space flight.

There were so many other interesting
Good, although I feel it would have been better with a tighter focus on certain areas.

The best parts for me were those about Burt Rutan and the Scaled Composites team; this comprises most of the final third of the book, and several chapters earlier on. Occasional chapters on other
competitors for the XPrize in the first two thirds are also decemt, although we never get any insight as to how serious or viable their approaches were.

The Peter Diamandis stuff - at least every other chapter in the fir
Joy Kaur
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Genre: Nonfiction
Type: Biography
Part of a series: Yes/ No
Reading level: High School or Mature
Grade: 10th grade

Synopsis: The book follows many different people starting from Peter Diamandis reaching towards their dreams of space exploration. Peter Diamandis had a long time dream of being an astronaut but realized that NASA wasn't acting upon the budget they were given and he would have to get to space without their help. He got in touch with many other innovative engineers and many historical f
Julian Guthrie has put together the story of the Ansari XPrize based on the host of interviews he had with the people involved in it, either as organizers or as competitors. The story is well told and well paced. I did not find it dull at any moment in time. It even managed to convey emotions well, for example when describing the scenes when the pilots would say their goodbyes to the loved ones before a test flight.

It was also interesting to briefly see what other competitors were doing in other
Munthir Mahir
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A riveting journey through what it might take to successfully bet against every odd there is. I believe it is one of the rarest chances there are to be purviewed and be able to document people and events that are in true sense revolutionary. Achieving private space flight is the point and marker of the beginning of a possible realization of far-distance exploration and colonization - economics in my opinion was the last true barrier to opening up space and that now has been breached. Not to take ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: avgeek
Julian wrote a nice book about the Asari X-Prize and separately the SpaceShipOne effort led by Burt Rutan here. Took me a couple of months to make it thru the book for more than just some boring parts to this avgeek fanboy; but happy I stuck with it and a patient Central Skagit library to learn a bit of late 1990s-early 2000s aerospace history.

With that, Julian really took to writing this book as a historian, and not a fanboy and that is sincerely appreciated. Highly recommend to those who want
Prafful Sahu
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of my all time favourite personality/entrepreneur's story was amazing and mind blowing. Its just amazing to read about how he balanced his obligations without giving up his dream. He indeed is a true genius and extremely hard working individual. The book is written really well, you will feel connected with each of the individuals who played such important roles in getting it all together. I am really astounded by how Peter managed to do so many things so well. I would really recommend this b ...more
Dan Korth
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really well done and inspirational book detailing one of the most bold and exciting technological achievements of the new century. In a period where so much has gone wrong the X-Prize stands out as a major and significant event that went right. One that has spawned a new industry, challenged humanity to create the future. As an engineer I found this book to be incredibly motivational and one that's made me question whether I am spending my time and using my skills to develop technologi ...more
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Even if you aren't an aviation fan, the author's storytelling skills are impressive - you have to keep telling yourself this is non-fiction! The details that she includes in the story add great texture to the tale. The perseverance of Peter Diamandis is almost diabolical, but in the end, he moved heaven and earth to make the XPRIZE happen. The history of Burt Rutan and the "inside baseball" details about Scaled Composites made this a really intriguing read. I've already recommended it to friends ...more
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I give this book 4 stars because the story of the X Prize and SpaceShipOne was fascinating and important. I wasn’t really paying attention when this happened in the early 2000s. I didn’t realize how important SpaceshipOne was and how many firsts it achieved. I really enjoyed this book for the education it brought to the topic.

The only negative for me was there was a lot of character biography about a lot of people related to the story that just didn’t add to the goal of the book. I listened to
Zuzka Jakubkova
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are many books on history of space discovery, but How To Make a Spaceship provides the reader with something more than just listing of facts and dates: it inspires.

Story of first steps into commercial space flight focuses on the heroes of first crossing through Karman line and subsequent safe landing by a non-governmental entity - both engineers and pilots. I'm properly pumped for all other books about human travel in space.
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
The beginning story about Peter Diamandis was interesting and the end was an exciting read, but the middle of the book was very hard to get through. There were too many details about too many people - many of them I felt were not as important to the overall story. It was disappointing that it was such a hard read, as I was very excited for the space topic! I feel that the book could have been much shorter (by having fewer people/details) and it would have been great!
Jessica Avery
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book has major motion picture written all over it! Steven Soderbergh or Quentin Tarantino? This is the kind of story that leaves you with the feeling that anything is possible. If you have an appreciation for entrepreneurship, aeronautics, rebellious spirits, big dreamers or plain old fashioned perseverance in the face of adversity, this book will surely spike a surge of serotonin. Very cool and inspirational story!
Jason Lin
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Guthrie provides interesting insight into the incipient commercial spaceflight industry, and captures the grit and genius of Peter Diamandis and his team. Guthrie's book is packed full of content and details. However, I did not appreciate the way the book was written -- Diamandis's quest is described in the fashion of a novel, which detracted from the historical and real aspect of the book. The book also contains some unnecessary details. All in all, a worthy read.
I’m enraptured with idea of humanity getting back into the space game; especially if the goal is Mars. All the Right Stuff is one of my favorite stories, regardless if we are speaking of the book or the movie.

This is the story of entrepreneurs in the private sector attempting to revitalize the space program. Definitely worth a read, or a listen. I consumed this as an audiobook and enjoyed it.

Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Lots of interesting information and great stories, but I felt it was pretty drawn out and was easy to put down and forget about it for weeks at a time. Overall a good history of the private space race, but was hoping for better overall storytelling. I would have liked the emphasis to stay more on Peter throughout the story rather than switching over so heavily on Burt. I believe he is real hero of this story, but lost some of the shine in the shadow of Scaled Composites/Virgin Galactic.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-books
Based around the primary players in the X-Prize - $10 million prize for the first private company to get to space (100km). Peter Diamandis was the guy who organized the X-Prize, got the funding, etc. Lots of background on the people who were involved, including those who were building rockets. Interesting story, some interesting people. Didn't love the writing style - seemed pretty over the top at times. Way too much background too. Could have easily been quite a bit shorter.
Alex Jeffries
Though I'm partial to a story about Peter Diamandis since I found his book Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World to be so powerful, this story by Julian Guthrie rounds out his launching of SpaceX with colorful profiles of international dreamers and builders racing to get to suborbital space (and to get a $10M prize) in a compelling, intimate way. The way she captured the second successful flight (spoilers? kind of? this happened over a decade ago, so there shouldn't be too many ...more
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Julian Guthrie is a NYT best-selling author who spent 20 years as a journalist with the San Francisco Chronicle. She is drawn to improbable underdog stories that combine great human drama with game-changing innovations. Her feature writing and enterprise reporting have been nominated multiple times for the Pulitzer Prize.
Ms. Guthrie's new book, Alpha Girls: The Women Upstarts Who Took on Silicon

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