Space Race 2.0:
SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, NASA, and the Privatization of the Final Frontier
Motorbooks, 2022, 176 pp., Hardcover. $40.00. www.quarto.com
In the 1950s and 1960s, the first Space Race pitted two political ideologies against one another: either communism or capitalism would prove superior. Ultimately, the U.S. landed on the Moon, the race’s crowning achievement. Now, more than a half-century later, the Space Race has pivoted from a contest between ideological rivals to private aerospace firms competing for contracts. Today, the defining success of a launch system extends beyond engineering and science to image and return on investment (ROI). Founded in 2002, SpaceX’s trajectory was determined by Elon Musk’s realization that he could achieve higher profits by vertically integrating — manufacturing his own rockets and spacecraft — rather than relying on third parties. The decision was prescient, resulting in a state-of-the-art headquarters in Hawthorne, California, and a series of stunning achievements. Space Race 2.0 follows the development of commercial space exploration to the present. While tentative first steps in private ventures are covered, such as those by Space Services Inc. and Orbital Science in the 1980s and 1990s, the focus is on today’s major players: SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic. While examining the hardware, author Brad Bergan also explores such considerations as the importance of design-forward equipment and the endgame: What ultimately is “in it” for firms at the forefront? Natural resources? NASA and ESA contracts? Commercial travel? Communications? And what legal boundaries, if any, restrain corporate interests in space? Space Race 2.0 is the ultimate visual look at this relatively young industry, looking back at recent remarkable decades — and looking ahead to what the future might bring.