Liftoff Book Summary - Liftoff Book explained in key points
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Liftoff summary

Eric Berger

Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX

4.5 (153 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

Liftoff by Eric Berger is a thrilling tale that chronicles the early days of SpaceX and their attempts to revolutionize space travel through reusable rockets. It offers a fascinating insight into the challenges and triumphs that led to their success.

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    Elon Musk founded SpaceX because he saw that the US space program was in a sorry state.

    Elon Musk wants us to inhabit Mars. As global warming threatens life on Earth, he thinks we should leave our planet – or prepare to fail as a species. Out on Mars, we can engineer a new green world, a new Eden. This is what drives Musk’s company, SpaceX, as it pushes to build spacecraft capable of such a long and dangerous journey.

    Though SpaceX is still very young, the company already has a long history. Musk felt disenchanted with the lack of ambition he saw in US space exploration. As he looked around in SpaceX’s early days, he saw NASA and some other big aerospace companies – and thought: is this it?

    The key message here is: Elon Musk founded SpaceX because he saw that the US space program was in a sorry state.

    The story of SpaceX begins back in the year 2000. Musk was cruising down the Long Island Expressway with a fellow entrepreneur called Adeo Ressi. Musk had recently lost his role as chief executive at PayPal – the company he’d cofounded.

    As they drove, Ressi asked Musk what he was planning to do next – and the answer was all about space exploration. But Musk had his doubts: could a private individual really succeed in that field? And anyway, why would the world of space exploration need someone like him? Three decades had passed since the US had sent the Apollo astronauts to the moon. By now, surely, NASA must be close to sending humans to Mars?

    Later that day Musk checked NASA’s website for news on its Mars missions. But as he scrolled through the website, he couldn’t find any. He was astonished. To understand more, he began attending space conferences in California. And it was there that he found out the truth: NASA wasn’t planning to send people to Mars anytime soon.

    So perhaps a private individual like him could actually make a difference after all? If NASA was so unambitious, then maybe it would be down to entrepreneurs to explore space?

    Musk started to dream big. He imagined building his own rocket – and, just two years on, things really got moving. He called a meeting of leading aerospace engineers. As they gathered at the Renaissance Hotel in Los Angeles, Musk explained his plans. Their answer was just a chuckle. One even said, “Save your money kid, and go sit on the beach.”

    But these engineers, experienced as they were, didn’t know Musk. If anything, he’d become even more determined. He was going to build his rocket.

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    What is Liftoff about?

    Liftoff (2021) tells the story of SpaceX’s beginnings – from the day that Elon Musk resolved to send rockets to Mars, through the first failed launch attempts on the tropical island of Omelek, to the make-or-break fourth flight. From a scrappy new venture to the world-renowned rocket company we know today, Liftoff has the inside scoop on SpaceX.

    Liftoff Review

    Liftoff (2019) by Eric Berger offers an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at the space industry and the challenges of space exploration. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides fascinating insights into the history and future of space exploration, from the early days of NASA to the rise of private companies like SpaceX.
    • The book explores the human side of space travel, highlighting the personal sacrifices, dedication, and passion of the individuals involved.
    • With its captivating storytelling and in-depth research, Liftoff keeps readers engaged, making the subject matter of space exploration incredibly compelling.

    Best quote from Liftoff

    Musk wanted nothing less than human expansion into the Solar System, and the settlement of its worlds.

    —Eric Berger
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    Who should read Liftoff?

    • Fans of SpaceX and Elon Musk
    • Tech enthusiasts and budding aerospace engineers
    • Would-be space explorers

    About the Author

    Eric Berger is senior space editor at tech website Ars Technica. He previously worked at the Houston Chronicle and helped the paper become a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2009 with his coverage of Hurricane Ike. A certified meteorologist, Eric founded the weather forecasting site, Space City Weather, and lives in Houston.

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    Liftoff FAQs 

    What is the main message of Liftoff?

    Liftoff explores the quest for space exploration and the impact it has on humanity.

    How long does it take to read Liftoff?

    The reading time for Liftoff varies, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Liftoff a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Liftoff is a captivating book that offers unique insights into the world of space exploration. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Liftoff?

    Eric Berger is the author of Liftoff.

    What to read after Liftoff?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Liftoff, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven
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