Book Reviews


If the book has a main character, it's the Falcon 1 rocket.


Though Liftoff's subtitle is Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX, it's much more about the latter than the former, and thank goodness.

Musk is a fascinating character and the "Avengers assemble!" early chapters on the hiring of key employees are rather thrilling, despite being about H.R. management. But if Liftoff has a main character, it's the Falcon 1 rocket. The improbable object of obsessive desire, various iterations of the Falcon get built, hauled around, battered, burned, exploded, rebuilt, and rebuilt again before finally slipping the surly bonds of Earth.

Author Eric Berger, senior space editor at Ars Technica, had just the right amount of access for the book: enough to give a sense of the people and places, but not so much that he turned either fawning or resentful, as authorized biographers sometimes do.

There is a self-assured momentum about the narrative, even as it describes infuriating setbacks and strokes of incredible luck (both occasionally at the hands of government agencies). Musk is serenely confident he's going to get to Mars on a rocket built by his team. Given what the SpaceX team has accomplished so far—zero to manned spaceflight in a few short years—I wouldn't bet against them.