Book Review: Burt Rutan’s Race to Space – The Magician of Mojave and His Flying Innovations

September 3rd, 2011

Burt Rutan’s Race to Space – The Magician of Mojave and His Flying Innovations by Dan Linehan; Zenith Press, Minneapolis, MN; $30.00 (hardcover); July 2011.

Burt Rutan is an aerospace maverick, racking up a long list of innovative airplane designs – including the suborbital rocket plane, SpaceShipOne, the craft that bagged the $10 million Ansari X Prize purse for private spaceflight.

Author Dan Linehan has written an exceptional book, one that provides an insightful and exclusive look at Rutan and his creations. The reader is provided an absorbing account of Rutan’s early career, the establishment of Scaled Composites in Mojave, California, and the slew of projects – some still hush-hush — undertaken by the firm’s creative cadre of dreams and builders.

This volume is a rich blend of history, also coupled with some aviation 101 basics. Those well-written tutorials help the reader value Rutan’s out-of-the-box angle of attacks he has taken to whip into submission the dictums of aerodynamics, control and stability.

Documented is Rutan’s work on the record-setting aircraft such as the Voyager, the GlobalFlyer, and other adventuresome designs, such as the Long-EZ, the Defiant, Starship, and other propeller-and-jet-powered aircraft.

There’s no skimping on the illustrations in this coffee-table, large format book. They add up to 177 color and 48 b/w photos. Many of the images, sketches and drawings come from Rutan himself, adding to the personal feel of this tome.

Linehan provides an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the shaping of SpaceShipOne, tagging it as “a true example of elegance in engineering” – with the book’s final chapter detailing the work by the Scaled Composites team in developing the WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo launch system.

In closing out the book, Linehan asks: “I wonder who will be the next Burt Rutan aiming for the stars – homemade models to homebuilt aircraft to hometown spaceships.”

This book both underscores the revolutionary contributions by Rutan over the decades and is sure to stir the “imagineering” of readers, both old and young alike.

For more information on this book, go to:

By Leonard David

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