Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX (Hardcover)
"A colorful page-turner." —Walter Isaacson, New York Times Book Review
"As important a book on space as has ever been written." —Homer Hickam, Author of Rocket Boys
The dramatic inside story of the historic flights that launched SpaceX—and Elon Musk—from a shaky startup into the world's leading-edge rocket company
SpaceX has enjoyed a miraculous decade. Less than 20 years after its founding, it boasts the largest constellation of commercial satellites in orbit, has pioneered reusable rockets, and in 2020 became the first private company to launch human beings into orbit. Half a century after the space race it is private companies, led by SpaceX, standing alongside NASA pushing forward into the cosmos, and laying the foundation for our exploration of other worlds.
But before it became one of the most powerful players in the aerospace industry, SpaceX was a fledgling startup, scrambling to develop a single workable rocket before the money ran dry. The engineering challenge was immense; numerous other private companies had failed similar attempts. And even if SpaceX succeeded, they would then have to compete for government contracts with titans such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, who had tens of thousands of employees and tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue. SpaceX had fewer than 200 employees and the relative pittance of $100 million in the bank.
In Liftoff, Eric Berger, senior space editor at Ars Technica, takes readers inside the wild early days that made SpaceX. Focusing on the company’s first four launches of the Falcon 1 rocket, he charts the bumpy journey from scrappy underdog to aerospace pioneer. We travel from company headquarters in El Segundo, to the isolated Texas ranchland where they performed engine tests, to Kwajalein, the tiny atoll in the Pacific where SpaceX launched the Falcon 1. Berger has reported on SpaceX for more than a decade, enjoying unparalleled journalistic access to the company’s inner workings. Liftoff is the culmination of these efforts, drawing upon exclusive interviews with dozens of former and current engineers, designers, mechanics, and executives, including Elon Musk. The enigmatic Musk, who founded the company with the dream of one day settling Mars, is the fuel that propels the book, with his daring vision for the future of space.
Filled with never-before-told stories of SpaceX’s turbulent beginning, Liftoff is a saga of cosmic proportions.
About the Author
Eric Berger is a reporter and editor based in Houston. After a long career in the Houston Chronicle, he joined Ars Technica in 2015 as the site’s senior space editor, covering SpaceX, NASA, and everything beyond. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his coverage of Hurricane Ike in the Houston Chronicle in 2008.
"A colorful page-turner that focuses on the downs and ups of the early years of SpaceX."
— New York Times Book Review
“Liftoff reads like something out of the golden age of Science Fiction but this isn’t a novel by Robert Heinlein or Arthur C. Clarke. This is the true, astounding story of the men and women who spun those sci-fi dreams into reality.”
— Homer Hickam, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Rocket Boys
"The elegant brilliance of the engineering that allows today’s space rockets to land themselves back on earth—or at sea—right way up, and on target to the inch, is all the doing of the teams assembled by Elon Musk—and the story of how he did it, and how for sure he will get us to Mars whether we like it or not, is told in appropriately stellar fashion by Eric Berger in a book that held me captive, in earth orbit, from prologue to epilogue, countdown to splashdown."
— Simon Winchester, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Perfectionists
"A colorful page-turner."
— WALTER ISAACSON, New York Times Book Review
"Page-turning. ... Eric Berger writes with the kind of hard-won insider authority that only comes through covering the nuts and bolts of the commercial space industry for the past twenty years."
“Eric Berger has followed the exploits of SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk, from its very early days. In Liftoff, Eric relates the many personal accounts collected in one-on-one interviews with Musk and many of his key leaders and associates. He chronicles the frenetic pace of Falcon 1 development and the toll it took on many of the early employees. This is a book that will hold your rapt attention from start to finish.”
— Charles Bolden, Former NASA Administrator and Four-Time Astronaut
"[Berger] depicts race-against-the-clock crises as fast-paced as a thriller, with moments reminiscent of Apollo 13 or The Martian. ... An exciting and insightful read."
“Eric Berger brings to life the passion and sacrifice of the early SpaceX team as they navigated through countless obstacles toward unlikely success. The skillfully described technical details, paired with a candid glimpse into individual personalities, makes Liftoff a must read for space enthusiasts and novices alike.”
— KAREN NYBERG, NASA Astronaut
“This might be the best space book I've ever read. Liftoff will prove to be a defining story not only for the commercial space industry, but for the Space Age writ large, and there's no one better than Eric Berger to tell it.”
— KELLIE GERARDI, author of Not Necessarily Rocket Science
"Compelling. ... Great reading. ... An essential, unofficial reference test for what to do (and not do) as space flight goes commercial. ... Fascinating."
— New Scientist
"Does a fine job of telling the white-knuckle story of how SpaceX was created in 2002 and came close to collapse several times."
— Financial Times
"Thrilling. ... There is a self-assured momentum about the narrative, even as it describes infuriating setbacks and strokes of incredible luck."