Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight by Joe Pappalardo

Review published on February 21, 2018.

Space travel was once the sole domain of governments; they were the only ones who could afford the multi-million pound budgets and the long timescales for design, development and testing, as well as the risks associated with launching expensive rockets full of very explosive fuel. The once great NASA now has to buy space and payloads on rockets from ESA and the Russians.

Whilst it is no longer a race amongst countries for space, we now have a plethora of companies vying for government and private companies’ money as well as those trying to start the space tourism industry. There are some big players getting involved, Bezos with his Blue Origin company, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic. They have all been pouring vast sums into this industry as the sky is the limit for potential growth and profits.

Joe Pappalardo has had a fascination with space flight for a long time and has been fortunate (or lucky) enough to see many launches not only in America but at various sites around the world. As well as the main contenders who are developing their own rockets there are a large number of other companies that want to hitch a ride before the rocket goes, and it is these people that Pappalardo travels to see and talk to. He talks to those with the money, the rocket scientists making them work, the states that are investing in the infrastructure for their own spaceports. Even though technology is improving, it is still a dangerous game, there are stories of failed projects, huge explosions as rockets fail even before launch and sadly those who have had their lives extinguished pushing to the future.

I finished this on the day that Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon Heavy Lifter blasted off from Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral and put a car into space. I loved the Don’t Panic message on the screen on the dashboard, but most impressive was the return of the boosters bask to Earth, landing in perfect synchronicity. This is a really good introduction to the current state of space technology and those seeing it as just another investment opportunity. There are going to be few winners and lots of losers in this very expensive game. One day this will all be history; but at this very moment, it is the future.

Paul Cheney 4/3

Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight by Joe Pappalardo
Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd 9780715652848 hbk Jan 2018

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