This is a classic American tale of dreams and obsession--the suspenseful, brilliantly written account of one eccentric man’s hunger to open space travel to us all: to let us rocket into orbit, return to earth, and soar yet again--thus transforming space travel forever.
They All Laughed at Christopher Columbus
Gary Hudson was seven years old when Sputnik flew, nineteen when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, and all he ever wanted to do was to travel into space. Between 1970 and 1996 he founded and disbanded five separate rocket-building companies, none meeting with much success. Then, in 1997, at the age of forty-seven, he launched Rotary Rocket. His goal was to develop and build the Roton, the world’s first manned, single-stage-to-orbit, fully reusable spaceship, capable of shuttling ordinary people into orbit and back in a single day. Elizabeth Weil followed Gary for two years, and in this book she brings to vivid life a seductively--perhaps delusionally--optimistic world where science and science fiction meld and fuse, and where imagination and invention collide.
In California’s bleak and windswept Mojave Desert, Gary assembled a fanatical, mismatched crew of engineers and technicians, and Weil bears witness to their Roton endeavor, from first conception to final test flight. The cast includes a pyromaniacal engineer, a world expert on composite airframes, two former Navy test pilots, Gary’s infinitely patient wife, a third-generation Mojave motel owner, and an enigmatic and resourceful financier. At their center shines Gary himself, a man eternally reflecting the glow of a better, lighter, higher world--a world that, despite his flaws and failures, he perpetually convinces us we’re all about to reach.
Weil, a magazine writer, chronicles the efforts of one baby boomer determined to create a working space ship. Gary Hudson was fascinated with space exploration from his childhood, and by the time he approached his 50th birthday, he had nearly 30 years in the rocket-ship business. An eccentric fellow, Hudson attracted a small group of employees and investors equally as fanatic. Weil shadows Hudson for nearly two years as he attempts to raise money to build and complete the Roton, a single state to orbit reusable rocket. She attends conventions, speeches, employee barbecues, befriends Hudson's sickly wife and listens endlessly to Hudson's dreams. The book's anecdotes are somewhat reminiscent of stories about the development of computer companies or Internet startups the camaraderie, the hard work and a certain na vet about the business world. Weil's writing is simple and occasionally elegant, but the book would have been stronger had she revealed more passion for the subject: she remains an interested but impartial observer. The notion of traveling into space is wildly appealing, but this book never fully engages the reader: unfortunately, Hudson isn't a terribly likable guy and his chances of succeeding seem so slim.