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The book focuses on the development of Falcon 1 from the perspective of many of the key players from the early days of SpaceX, but overall seems like a somewhat shallow history that never takes the time to take a deeper dive into anything. For instance a C-17 transport is mysteriously made available for a last ditch effort to get Falcon 1 to orbit. Who made this plane available? Later, Lori Garver is quoted as saying the Obama administration's space policy depended on this launch. Was the White House involved in the C-17? This question is never asked and the reader will never know.
Later the author notes that SpaceX competitors like Lockheed worked against them and puzzles over a tepid reaction to the Falcon 1 launch from a Texas politician, even though there was a "large (~20 person) facility in McGregor TX", without ever connecting the dots that there's a billion dollar Lockheed facility in Ft. Worth building F-35s. There are several examples like this where obvious questions or topics are left completely unasked and unexamined.
It was an enjoyable enough read but left me wanting more in many areas. SpaceX is a fantastic American business and technology story, and hopefully one day someone will tell all of it - along with a bit of independent assessment and analysis. The reader won't find that here.
This book is good if you're a diehard Elon Musk fanboy but lacks a lot of substance I wish came from the actual engineers within SpaceX. This reads like a piece to prop up Elon Musk's "genius playboy" narrative and narrowly escapes those boundaries. It makes it seem like there were only a handful of challenges (financing, equipment sensory issues, etc) SpaceX faced until it reached the point of longevity through government contracts but anyone who has read the press regarding SpaceX's early flight attempts will know there was a lot left out here.
This was mostly a great read. I got to know all the main SpaceX players, I think. Loved the way that it was written, and it was exactly the version of their story that I wanted to hear. It motivates me to think of working at a startup again. And, that is what a somewhat biographical book like this should be -- a way to motivate the reader on to greater heights. To want to perform at one's best level at a project that makes a difference.
It was a little disheartening to hear that Elon used the F word three times in three consecutive sentences while yelling at the staff of a small manufacturing concern. I had hoped Elon was a better manager, and a better person, than this. Still, he gets amazing things done.
So, why did I only give this book two stars? Well, the author thought it important to include gratuitous political swipes at the 45th President of the United States, as well as an ugly description of an unnamed SpaceX intern whose hobby is, apparently, target shooting -- a hobby which cost him his job at SpaceX. Eric thought this intern's public explanation of his action (bringing a gun to an military base which he was told had a fine gun range) was tantamount to a "manifesto". You know, the kind of long-winded treatise that crazy killers write. I assume that is the connection that Eric wanted us to make.
Eric's political swipes included a less-than flattering description of the President, along with a quote with poor grammar that I must assume was invented by some Leftwing news organization of the kind that was often derided (with good reason) as "Fake News". Like many readers who are not of the Leftwing bent, I am put off by this gratuitous insertion of political bias. It ruined a good read. So, it must also ruin what would have been a good review.
I had high hopes for this book. I'm a huge fan of Elon Musk & SpaceX, and the sleeve reviews promised an "essential reading" page-turner from someone given "complete access" to SpaceX and it's founding fathers. What I was left with was the disappointment of missed opportunity.
Author Eric Berger never specifically asks, nor answers the questions: Why has SpaceX been successful? Why has Musk, with SpaceX, Tesla, Starlink and his other ventures been such a positive disruptive force in industry and technology? Why is it just possible that Musk will make the human species multi-planetary? Reasons that Berger describes include smart people, an insanely hard work ethic, engineering and financial control in the hands of one man (Musk), a leader with a vision, and a big dose of good luck. All true, all important, but none of them decisive. Hundreds of other startups have these qualities, yet have failed to achieve SpaceX's success. Why then did SpaceX succeed? Good luck???? Nope!
Tim Dodd, with 1.33 million subscribers as The Everyday Astronaut on Youtube, recently interviewed Musk during a tour of the SpaceX facilities in Boca Chica Texas (see his three-part "Starbase Tour with Elon Musk"). In Part1, Elon Musk brilliantly analyzes the decisive reason why SpaceX (and Tesla) have been successful. The answer is the company's approach to engineering, problem solving methodology, and risk management and the culture within the company that has internalized that methodology. This interview has been characterized as a seminal contribution to understanding the nature of successful engineering practices and is essential viewing for any budding problem solver.
What Musk doesn't talk about in that interview, is that an army of SpaceX employees practice that methodology becoming the force-multiplier that has allowed Musk's companies to succeed. This is the most important gap that Berger fills with his book.
So if you want to understand why SpaceX is successful, take the 53 minutes and 17 seconds required to hear Musk explain it to Tim Dodd. Then, it you want to hear a bunch of great war stories about how it happened, who the key players were, and what kind of commitment it took them to get the job done, read Berger's book.
Caveat Emptor: This book deserves three stars; not great, but not terrible. But amid more than a thousand reviews, mine won't be read if I flagged it as 3 stars.
Serviceable journalists overview of the evolution of Elon Musks SpaceX. Too light on psychology and emotions. I kept expecting the authors full access to the players to result in direct and personal questioning. It seems not to have done so. I turned down no page corners in my reading, which never happens. Interesting factually but missing serious depth.
Great read. But I was disappointed that the author put everything Space X after the last Falcon 1 flight into about one chapter. I really want to know more about the Falcon 9 development and the steps towards reusability. Dragon, Crew Dragon, Fa!con Heavy.... So much more to read about Space X. The book is too short.