Tomorrow Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the maverick spaceship company run by PayPal founder Elon Musk, is to launch its first rocket, a satellite launcher called Falcon 1.
I say “spaceship company” because Musk doesn’t intend to stop with just launching satellites; he wants to send people into orbit and beyond–to build true spaceships. He’s an idealist and a dreamer. He believes in the essential good of humanity and its ability to rise above the petty squabbles that threaten to destroy us and our planet.
Musk is an inspiration to me, along with Robert Bigelow, Burt Rutan, the folks at XCOR, and all the other idealists and dreamers gambling everything they’ve got to build us a better future, one in which we expand into space instead of imploding here on Earth like the civilization that built Easter Island.
Me, I’m riding on these guys coattails, just as far and as high as I can get.
It all started a couple of years ago when I knew I had to make a break for the better and become a book author.
I had three projects on my plate: a novel about a theater company on tour to the moon, a series of young adult novels about a railroad that travels through time…. And a book about the rocketeers competing for the X Prize. I decided to work on all three projects at once and the first one that started to take off would win all of my attention until it either crashed or took me somewhere.
What happened next was Burt Rutan went for powered flight with SpaceShipOne on the Wright Bros’ 100th anniversary, December 17, 2003. “Hello!” I thought. “These guys might actually make it to space!”
When Rutan announced another powered flight to take place on June 21, 2004, I knew that was make or break–he was going for space, and I’d better get there on the ground at Mojave with some kind of press credential and an editor who’d run my byline. If I could do that, I knew, my X Prize book might just earn a ticket to ride.
My story on that first commercial spaceflight for the New York Post let to assignments for Reuters, New Scientist, Wired.com, and now I’m working on my third cover story for Popular Science.
And at long last my agent has submitted my proposal for a book on commercial spaceflight (naturally no longer just about the X Prize) to nearly a dozen major publishers. I could hear as early as next week whether I’m to have a full-time career interacting with the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, or if I’ll need to dust off that YA series (the sf novel has already gone down in flames).
Meanwhile, Musk has $100 million of his personal fortune riding on tomorrow’s launch. He says he’ll give it at least three attempts before he’ll consider throwing in the towel (and maybe dusting off one of his old schemes).
It’s another make or break moment; if Musk is successful, it could change everything, just like SpaceShipOne‘s flights last year. And once again, I’m on the verge of breaking into the next level of my writing career. It’s no coincidence; like I said, I’m riding these guys’ coattails.
Watch this space starting at noon Pacific tomorrow (Saturday) for my reports on the countdown and launch as they happen.