Book Review: Liftoff, Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX

By National Space Society

Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys which became the movie October Sky, summed it up this way: “This is as important a book on space as has ever been written and it’s a riveting page-turner, too.”

On May 30, 2020, a Falcon 9 rocket roared off historic pad 39A in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The mission was the first crewed test flight of the new Crew Dragon spacecraft. After spending two months docked to the International Space Station, the Crew Dragon, carrying two NASA astronauts, returned to Earth on August 2.

In Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX, author Eric Berger writes about the early years of the American aerospace company SpaceX. What began as an idea by founder Elon Musk to send a greenhouse to Mars evolved into a company focused on reducing the high costs of rocket launches. Readers will learn, however, that the success of SpaceX was far from certain. Achievements such as the Crew Dragon demonstration mission almost didn’t happen.

There are both similarities and differences between early SpaceX and today’s SpaceX. One thing that never changed is the company’s ability to do things quickly. Some employees joked that they worked in dog years—seven years in one. The first SpaceX rocket, the Falcon 1, went from the drawing board to the launch pad in under four years.

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