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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

'Masterly' New York Times
'Riveting' Scott Kelly
'Remarkable' The Times

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 reality.

Now, a New Yorker journalist offers the definitive portrait of the adventurers leading the way to the stars. Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews with Virgin's lead test pilot, Mark Stucky, Test Gods describes the making of a modern astronaut: 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.

The result is the most vivid exploration of an astronaut's inner life since Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. It offers an intimate and unique insight into the new space race.

  • 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.

Praise for Test Gods

Adventure in its purest form - rich with risk, courage and friendships.


Riveting . . . This is the book about the new space race you've been waiting to read. An instant classic.

SCOTT KELLY, astronaut and author of Endurance

An absolute thrill . . . A hugely ambitious feat of reporting and storytelling, and a fitting twenty-first century sequel to The Right Stuff.

PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE, author of Say Nothing and Empire of Pain

Unique, fascinating, compulsively readable, brilliantly reported with unprecedented access, a kick-ass adventure story . . . Just strap yourself in and get ready for one helluva ride.

BUZZ BISSINGER, author of Friday Night Lights

So exciting. A new generation with The Right Stuff.


The book promises to profile the test pilots risking everything for grand dreams of space. What it actually does is much more interesting . . . Schmidle's care over terrestrial scenes sets this book apart from more familiar representations of airborne masculinity.

Washington Post

A Right Stuff for our moment of space travel . . . Riveting . . . A deeply reported and deeply personal book. It is a masterly work.

New York Times Book Review

A remarkable new book about the modern space race.

The Times

Does an admirable job of taking readers behind the scenes at Virgin Galactic . . . We get a sense of the precariousness of Virgin Galactic's spaceflight technology.


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