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Rocketeers: Visionaries and Daredevils of the New Sp and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

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Rocketeers: How a Visionary Band of Business Leaders, Engineers, and Pilots Is Boldly Privatizing Space Hardcover – July 31, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Touring the rapidly changing non-NASA community, Belfiore reports on the technology and business plans behind dreams of privately financed access to space. He profiles several companies active in this arena, including one that will be familiar to the news-following public, Scaled Composites. It launched an astronaut into space for a few minutes in 2004, inspiring enthusiasts and attracting paying customers. Just what customers will pay for seems speculative—a brief experience of weightlessness, a vacation in an orbital hotel, a voyage to the moon––so these companies are accordingly varied in their ambitions. Goals seem directly related to those of the company founders, and Belfiore's strong biographical sketches explain the founders' fascination with spaceflight, their rocketry skills (which range from accomplished to, in the case of mogul Richard Branson, nonexistent), and the hands-on work of their employees. Imparting the technical specs of engines and vehicles, Belfiore betters description with his evocation of the visionary euphoria that animates these entrepreneurial daredevils, sealing the deal for fans of space futurism. Taylor, Gilbert

About the Author

Michael Belfiore is one of only a handful of freelance journalists covering commercial spaceflight. Born in 1969—the year Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon—Belfiore has always been fascinated by space travel. He lives with his family in Woodstock, New York.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian; First Edition edition (July 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061149020
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061149023
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,409,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael's book Rocketeers is the first to chronicle the birth of the commercial space age. His The Department of Mad Scientists is the first to go behind the scenes at DARPA, the Pentagon agency that gave us the Internet and many other breakthrough technologies that have changed our lives for the better.

Michael has been excited about space travel and future technology since he discovered Robert Heinlein's Rocket Ship Galileo in his local public library at the age of six. In addition to writing books, he reports on what's next for major magazines and on his blog at and speaks to audiences around North America.

He lives in New York state's Hudson River Valley with his wife and two daughters.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David Zuchero on August 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
For anyone who, as a kid, sat enthralled in front of the television watching men walk on the moon, or anyone interested in where space travel may be heading in the future, this is the book for you. I stumbled across it accidentally on its first day of publication and finished it the next. Belfiore does a great job covering the landscape of current commercial space projects and the entrepreneurs trying to open space to all. I've read about many of the companies covered in the book before, but Belfiore provides a deeper insight into the fascinating people behind the companies and their dreams for space travel. Belfiore has a clean writing style that makes for a fast-paced read. The book ends with a bit of speculative fiction about what might develop in the future from these commercial space endeavors. If only a tenth of it comes true, I hope I'm around to see it.

I recently spent a few days at a NASA facility with a group of teachers. I asked them the same question that Robert Bigalow asks in the book, "What is America's inspiration today?" They didn't have an answer. Neither did I. And I didn't see an answer during my NASA visit. NASA is doing some great things with what they have, but they seem a somewhat demoralized by the fickleness of political support and funding. Who can blame them? Surrounded by mothballed and rusting test stands and equipment, it certainly wasn't the NASA of my youth or the Apollo program.

However, the commercial space guys seem to be a breed of their own. A group of dreamers, entrepreneurs and space buffs, some using their own money, trying to open space to regular folks. I think the commercial space pioneers described in the book could provide the excitement and possibly the inspiration we desperately need in this country. Sure, it's a long shot, but I think it might be the best one we have. I'm looking forward to it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Balbach on August 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fairly short and easy to read magazine-style investigative-journalistic
human interest narrative about some of the exciting people and companies
involved in America's burgeoning private space industry: the X Prize,
Burt Rutan, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, Robert Bigelow and a few others.
I thought the best chapters were about Burt Rutan and winning the
XPrize, in particular the blow by blow account of all the troubles they
had, very edge of the seat; also the backgrounds of Elon Musk and Robert
Bigelow. As a journalistic work it is ephemeral and will be outdated
(except as a source for later writers) but if your fascinated by
the events, people and rocket ships, this is an excellent overview valuable right now,
it's still too early to write the history. Belfiore writes for a number of periodicals like
Popular Science, Wired, New Scientists, and claims to be one of only a
few who are covering this exciting new industry, so he will certainly be
an author to watch in the years ahead.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dan J. Schrimpsher on August 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
To cut to the chase, if you want to buy a book on the private space industry this year, buy Rocketeers by Michael Belfiore. It is a brilliant look at the recent history of private companies trying to get into space and make a dollar by someone who was at ground zero. It is an easy read for anyone regardless of technical background.

For those of you who interested in more detail, Rocketeers starts out at the second X-Prize flight of SpaceShipOne, as Mr. Belfiore takes us from the VIP section at Mojave back through the Apollo era at NASA and its effect on him. I identified with his excitement and later disappointment at where NASA took us in space.

He follows the history of the X-Prize starting with Peter Diamandis' ingénues idea to have a prize for going to space. All this leads up to a word picture of what it felt like to see Brian Binnie break the 62-mile invisible wall into space. This marks the beginning of the modern private space age.

Rocketeers takes us to an in-depth peek into most of the major private space companies. He talks with the visionaries and engineers (and even passengers) from the most successful businesses, such as SpaceX, to ill-fated endeavors, like the da Vinci Project and everyone in-between including Bigelow Aerospace, RocketPlane, the Rocket Racing League, and Virgin Galactic. Moreover, he looks at each of these without judgment on their chance of success or importance. He simply reports what they are doing and why and lets the reader decide who is worth watching.

Before you accuse me of taking bribes from Harper Collins or Mr. Belfiore, there are some less than perfect parts of the book. First, the flow-of-consciousness science fiction style Mr.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Curtis J. Maloy on December 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a great book on the future of private space! I hope the author will
write "Rocketeers 2.0" real soon. Looking forward to following his career as a free-lance author. His contacts in the infant civilian rocket sector will pay major dividends for valuable future history of the civilian rocket boom years
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mark R. Whittington VINE VOICE on August 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rocketeers by Michael Belfiore is not so much a history of commercial space as it is a kind of survey of the state of affairs of the same as of about spring of 2007. If suffers a little from the stream of consciousness writing style, jumping from one subject to the other.

Nevertheless it is an inspiring story about a small group of entrepreneurs who propose to open the high frontier of space for commerce, and incidentally for everyone who is not a highly paid, highly trained employee of some government.

The subtext of Rocketeers, besides the dramatic stories of risk takers and dreamers building their own rockets, is a kind of wistfulness, bordering sometimes on anger on a future that never came to pass. Though Belfiore was busily being born in 1969, the year of Apollo 11, he shares the feeling that many of a certain age has experienced from time to time. It's the twenty first century, and where are those colonies on the Moon and interplanetary space liners we were promised.

The reasons that future has not yet come to pass are many and complex, but many people, perhaps overly simplistically, blame NASA. The agency that was once toasted as the organization that took men to the Moon in eight short years is not regularly excoriated as being a bloated, unimaginative, and often incompetent bureaucracy. It is an image, considering what has happened since Apollo, that NASA has helped bring on itself and will have a hard time (some suggest impossible time) overcoming.

No matter, say the heroes depicted in Rocketeers. If NASA can't bring about the future of a space faring civilization, we shall do it ourselves.
Belfoire leaps effortlessly from story to story.
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