It’s not my title–my next door neighbor gave it to me a couple years back. And it’s not original to him. But it’s the name of my book on commercial spaceflight. And now I’ve got a publisher: Smithsonian Books/Harper Collins. Full working title: The Entreprenauts: Visionaries and Daredevils of the New Space Age.
My agent, Linda Loewenthal of the David Black Literary Agency in NYC, cut the deal just before Christmas. It’s been more than two years in the making.
Two years ago I approached Linda with a proposal to write a book about the $10 million X Prize. That was before Scaled Composites won the prize with the world’s first private manned spaceflights. Before the mainstream took the idea of private spaceflight seriously. And before I had any credibility in this field whatsoever. If you had published some articles on this topic, said Linda, you might have a chance.
Shortly after that, on December 17, 2004, Brian Binnie took Scaled’s SpaceShipOne on its first powered flight. Holy shit, I thought, these guys are really going to do this! When Scaled announced the first attempt to reach space in a private manned spaceship, I was ready with a stack of editors to call for an assignment to cover it. I knew that if I could get to Mojave with press credentials doors would open for more assignments and I’d get the cred I needed.
The New York Post gave me my break with a “curtain-raiser” story shortly before the flight. For good measure, I also picked up a magazine story assignment from a local arts and culture mag here in New York’s Hudson Valley. It was totally inappropriate for the mag, which covers the local arts scene and politics. The editor just loved the idea of private spaceflight and he couldn’t resist it. Surprised himself as well as me, I think.
That first spaceflight was on June 21, 2004, and it changed everything. There I was, proudly wearing a press badge that said “New York Post” on it. One of the other reporters there asked me what my beat was, what I write about. “Commercial spaceflight,” I told him without hesitation. “I write about commercial spaceflight.” He laughed at me. “Ho, ho, ho. Sure is a lot of that going on!” he cracked.
Now, after turning in my third Popular Science cover story in 12 months on that subject, along with countless reports for Reuters, Wired.com, and more, no one laughs when I tell them what my beat is.
I rewrote my book proposal, now about the rise and probable trajectory of commercial spaceflight and went back to Linda with it. I think it’s safe to say she was blown away by what I had accomplished in such a short time. But I think it’s more a testament to what a force this industry is becoming than my own abilities. Plenty of other writers could have done the same; it’s just that I was one of the few freelancers who took the subject seriously enough to stake a career on it at the right time.
I have a year to write the book. My publisher and editor believe in the industry’s inevitable rise toward the stars as much as I do. The same institution that houses such historically important air- and spacecraft as the Wright Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 Command Module, and SpaceShipOne, now has the first comprehensive book on commercial spaceflight as well. They’re targeting summer 2007 for publication.
In my next post I’ll give you details on what the book will cover. Don’t go away.