Test Gods: Virgin Galactic and the Making of a Modern Astronaut

Holt. May 2021. 352p. ISBN 9781250229755. $29.99. SCI
The thrilling, perilous, and sometimes deadly adventures of the people who are making the dream of commercial space travel a reality play out in this narrative of Virgin Galactic (one of the new generation of space companies, along with SpaceX and Blue Origin). New Yorker writer Schmidle (To Live or To Perish Forever) delves into the construction and testing of the space vehicle that will launch the vision of Richard Branson, the iconoclast British entrepreneur behind Virgin Records. The book interweaves the stories of daring flight test pilot Mark Stucky, other pilots, engineers, and subcontractors. Virgin Galactic plans to eventually take paying passengers into space on SpaceShipTwo, a suborbital space plane built and tested by the firm’s engineers and pilots. Like their counterparts at NASA and in the military, Schmidle writes, Stucky and the Virgin pilots “pushed the envelope” in each flight, testing both the spacecraft and their own mettle.
VERDICT Schmidle, whose father was a marine fighter pilot and instructor, applies his personal interest in aerospace subjects to this book’s extensive research and in-depth interviews. For fans of The Right Stuff or Top Gun.
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