When the Heavens Went on Sale
The Misfits and Geniuses Racing to Put Space Within Reach
by Ashlee Vance
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Pub Date 09 May 2023 | Archive Date 04 Jul 2023
A momentous look at the private companies driving a revolutionary new economy in space, from the New York Times bestselling author of Elon Musk
With the launch of the Falcon 1 rocket in 2008, Elon Musk’s SpaceX became the first private company to build a low-cost rocket that could reach orbit. And that milestone carried major implications: Silicon Valley, not NASA or nation states, was suddenly cemented as the epicenter of the new Space Age. Start-ups and the wealthy investors behind them began to realize that the universe—ungoverned and infinite—was open for business. Welcome to the Wild West of aerospace engineering.
When the Heavens Went on Sale tells the remarkable, unfolding story of this frenzied intergalactic land grab. Through his trademark immersive reporting, Ashlee Vance follows four pioneering companies—Astra, Firefly, Planet Labs, and Rocket Lab—as they build new space systems and attempt to launch rockets and satellites into orbit by the thousands. While the public fixated on the space tourism being driven by Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson, these new companies arrived with a different set of goals: to make rocket and satellite launches fast and cheap, thereby opening Earth’s lower orbit for business—and setting it up as the next playing field for humankind’s technological evolution, where we can connect, analyze, and monitor everything on Earth.
Vance has had a front-row seat and singular access to this peculiar and unprecedented moment in history. When the Heavens Went on Sale travels through private company headquarters, labs, and top-secret launch locations around the world, including California, Texas, Alaska, New Zealand, Ukraine, India, and French Guiana. He chronicles it all in full color: the private jets, communes, gun-toting bodyguards, drugs, espionage investigations, and multimillionaires guzzling booze to dull the pain as their fortunes disappear.
With the most detailed and intimate reporting of Vance’s career, When the Heavens Went on Sale reveals the spectacular chaos of the new business of space, and what happens when the idealistic, ambitious minds of Silicon Valley turn their unbridled vision toward the limitless expanse of the stars. This is the most pressing and controversial technology story of our time, a tale of fascinating characters chasing unimaginable stakes as they race to space.