I don't think I've mentioned my background on the blog before, though I have talked about teaching science. I actually have a degree in Planetary Science which I completed in 2006, so I was immersed in all things space during the time period covered by Rocketeers. I remember the excitement surrounding the X-Prize and the new possibilities represented by the success of SpaceShipOne. Reading this book brought me back to that time and made me miss it.
Belfiore discusses the big names in the Ansari X-Prize competition and describes those early years of the private space industry. It was interesting to see what motivated the different teams and the various approaches to their designs. Belfiore does a good job of conveying their optimism and the tension during the test firings. It was easy to get swept up in those parts of the book. Ultimately, however, I came away with mixed feelings. The book prompted me to look up a lot of the companies and people mentioned to see their progress and it was depressing to learn how many have failed or simply stopped. Most ran out of money, some just couldn't make it work. It's not surprising but it is disappointing.
My biggest take-away from Rocketeers actually had nothing to do with the science or space aspects. As I was reading, I found myself envious of the way these guys followed their passions. John Carmack of Armadillo Aerospace, for instance, would get together with a group on Tuesday nights and Saturdays to tinker with their designs. It occurred to me that I haven't had anything really and truly excite me like that in a long time. I started thinking about what my Tuesday Night Thing might be; what am I that passionate about, what fuels my creative fire? I am not sure anymore.