How to Make a Spaceship

Sep 6, 2017

The author of a new book says the race to private space exploration began with Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis. Julian Guthrie wrote How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race and the Birth of Private Spaceflight to tell the story of the Xprize and the teams competing for the $10 million prize.

Author Julian Guthrie
Credit Chris Hardy

According to Guthrie, Peter Diamandis, a Greek-American engineer, physician, and entrepreneur came up with the idea of a contest to spur private industry to pursue space flight after reading Lindbergh's book. So, he tracked down Erik Lindbergh, in hopes of luring the family's support for the effort.

Guthrie says Lindbergh was dubious and wanted to know why, when we have lots of problems here on earth that need to be solved, we needed to start solving problems off of earth. But Diamandis had brought reinforcements: astronauts.

"They talked about how the whole system of the universe is reliant on us taking care of this planet," says Guthrie. She adds that "they talked about the transformative experience of looking down on the 'blue marble' from space." Lindbergh was convinced, but financing came much later. The prize was announced in 1996 before the $10 million was secured. It was claimed in 2004.

In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Guthrie about the book and the resulting race to private space flight.