New Yorker writer Nicholas Schmidle (ICWA fellow in Pakistan, 2006-2008) tells the story of the test pilots, engineers and visionaries behind Virgin Galactic’s campaign to build a space tourism company in his soon-to-be-released book Test Gods: Virgin Galactic and the Making of a Modern Astronaut.

The Washington Post describes a previously unreported account of a potentially deadly problem on the second test flight of Virgin’s suborbital spacecraft in February 2019 that Schmidle recounts: A seal running along a stabilizer on the wing had come undone. “The seal had disbonded on the way up, as the pressure increased with nowhere to vent,” Nick writes, leaving a “wide gap running along the trailing edge of the right h-stab,” or horizontal stabilizer. When Virgin Galactic’s president of missions and safety Mike Moses saw the gap, “he felt his stomach drop.” His wife Beth Moses, Virgin’s chief astronaut instructor, had been on the flight.

Publisher Henry Holt is set to put the book on sale May 4.



Washington Post article here.

Pre-order book here.


Top photo: Virgin’s Unity craft on February 19, 2016, Mojave, California, (Ronrosano, Wikimedia Commons)