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  • Published: 6 May 2021
  • ISBN: 9781473568600
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

Test Gods

Tragedy and Triumph in the New Space Race




Meet the astronauts forging a new world of commercial space travel

When Richard Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, his goal was simple: to offer paying customers a trip to space by the end of the decade. Seventeen years, countless delays, and one catastrophic crash later, his space tourism dream may finally be on the verge of becoming a reality.

New Yorker journalist Nicholas Schmidle knows that story intimately. He spent nearly four years embedded with Virgin Galactic at its California hangar, meeting the individuals working to make commercial space travel possible.

Now, Schmidle offers the definitive account of life inside the new space race. Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews with Virgin's lead test pilot, Mark Stucky, Test Gods describes the making of a modern astronaut. Schmidle recounts Stucky's life - from starry-eyed youth to NASA, the Air Force, and Virgin Galactic; and through dozens of gruelling test flights to his first successful trip beyond the earth's atmosphere.

Along the way, we meet the colourful cast of engineers, executives and mechanics battling to take Virgin to space. There's Branson, who emerges as an excitable if overoptimistic evangelist for commercial space travel. There's Mike Moses, Virgin Galactic's grounded, unflappable president. And there's Mike Alsbury, the pilot whose momentary miscalculation sends his aircraft crashing into the Mojave Desert - making him one of the first casualties of the new space race.

The result is a compelling examination of the inner lives of a new generation of astronauts. Theirs is a world where the line between lunacy and genius is blurred, and where no sacrifice is too great in pursuit of the dream of space travel.

  • Published: 6 May 2021
  • ISBN: 9781473568600
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

About the author

Nicholas Schmidle

Nicholas Schmidle joined the New Yorker as a staff writer in 2012. His first article for the magazine, ‘Getting bin Laden’, was a National Magazine Award finalist. Since then, he has written about a Russian arms trafficker, an antiquarian book forger, a wrongful conviction in Chicago, the former national-security adviser Michael Flynn, and many others. The winner of a Kurt Schork Award for freelance journalism, he is a two-time Livingston Award finalist, and has received fellowships from the Institute of Current World Affairs and the New America Foundation. In 2017, he was a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. He lives in London.

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