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tv   Nicholas Schmidle Test Gods  CSPAN  July 8, 2021 4:18pm-5:18pm EDT

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that is it for us today, thank you for your participation today and thank you to the readers for attending. if you get the chance and make it to the festival of books.or, we'd love to have you sign up for the festival newsletter and thank you to the engineering technology. >> c-span shop.org c-span online store. his recollection of c-span products. your purchase will support nonprofit organization is to have time to order congressional directory with contact information for members of congress and the biden administration. her to c-span shop.org. nicholas on the creation of the space tourism company virgin galactic. test private engineers and leaders.
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>> either everyone, i'd like to on behalf of the bookstore for tuning in with us. nicholas new book, virgin galactic the making of modern astronaut. the q&a portion so if you would like to ask a question he asked the question about in class, if you like to purchase the book, click the green below it will take you to the source. thank you so much. >> thank you. greetings from cravath this is from the screen for those with me, nick is calling in from london to a young, correct? >> it is, yes.
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>> if comatose doesn't make sense, we will forgive him. really care to ask questions because i have read this book beginning to end and fill them up with it. so many different moves to it, it is partly story, i sort of flight, excitement, a story of speed from richard, one of the greatest personalities we know of, a story the father a very complex relationship that we will talk about.ns in 2011 when he wrote, i read the new yorker because i'm a journalist, he wrote this incredible instruction of bin laden raid he was killed, how did he get that detail? it was incredible. i met him in person when he was teaching at princeton, he sent me a copy of the book. i was sick w i get a lot of requests, normally when i do them, i read i don't know, ten
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or 15 pages, 20 pages from this i read, i couldn't stop reading it. it was beautifully written, exciting, much like the right stuff but a different era, branson and virgin galactic in the future of space space travel.c what sparked your interest in this? you were at the newti yorker at the time, 2014? >> that's when i got started. thank you, this>> is truly an honor to be in conversation and spent a lifetime here of my. when i started reading in front of pivotal books my dad gave me was friday night life so i sat down, when i thought about this project from the beginning, how to write take the subject matter
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and how to write approach it as if -- how to write approach it, how do i do a season with this company? that really started in 2014 which is a critical pivotal moment following 2014, virgin galactic was like the fourth supersonic test flight and the vehicle their spaceship, which may be helpful to show assimilation here you can see on the cover here there was this unique air launched system using a wife linked mothership character spaceship about 45000 feet much like planes of the mid century at that time, the mothership dropped the spaceship from the mothership old away from the two test pilots inside which is a unique from the other primary market mostly automated
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they like the rocket, the rocket flies horizontally a few seconds and enter space near vertical ascent to the heavens on this particular morning in october 2014 the copilot unites ignites the rocket second into the plight permits this on thinkable error. >> i remember. >> totally bizarre. >> essentially pulled the emergency brake on the highway. >> how fast were they going? >> they are going .8, they are just approaching mark one mark one on either side is what they call the transfer size which is this what we describe as the bermuda triangle of airspeed, this crazy moment on either side
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in which unexpected and unpredictable aerodynamic forces exert themselves from the vehicle and they were always aware that you have to keep spaceship has this unique feature as well for the tail rotates up and the reason is that upon reentry after they have gone to space, they need to figure out a way to allow for spaceship to make careful control reentry the idea was that the ship was more or less a tortilla rolled up like a talker and that's with the spaceship what i do" down micah shuttle so they said under no circumstances should you ever unlock the father, the movable tail so if you unlock the father as approaching mark one, for some reason morning the copilot did
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that and as he did, the aerodynamic forces pushed the tail up and shredded the vehicle apart in mid air. >> the pilot and copilot died, how many were killed? >> the copilot was killed, the pilot miraculously survived. there is no ejection seat, he somehow wiggled out of his seat, the parachute, he pulled the parachute, landed in a bush in the middle of the desert and survived. i member getting a news alert that day on my phone and wanted to just read the paragraph, wanting to stop for a second, there were so many assumptions in the article, richards space tourism probably crashes in the desert and itom was like wait a second, there's a billion or who owns a spaceship property that is fine with test pilots on board, flying at supersonic crashing and i -- mistakes
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suddenly seemed unmistakably high, this is happening so that was a moment for me i went to my editor of the new yorker inside we have to write about this this is insane and his question was, sound cool but can we get real access is what he said. my next trip was to go to california to talk to then vice president of the company, now president of the company to see if i could get real access. >> i'm always curiousi about that. how does a conversation like that go access is a double edged sword, with a reluctant, excited? they want assurances from you? were you nervous? you don't get access with this great idea -- how to the initial conversation go and work there
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other conversations? how much work did it take? >> it took a little bit of work, they were surprisingly receptive. i'll tell you, this was for a couple of reasons. one of which is that they had just come off this horrific crash and i said i wanted to get in there emotions were raw and i wanted to watch them work and build this vehicle from scratch that that time the company's pr had primarily been focused on the glitz and glamour they were offering and most of that was driven by their commercial office in london now president of the company, former vice president saw this as an opportunity to tell the story of the people, men and women out there turning wrenches, drawing the design, flying ship so he
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was surprisingly receptive to the idea. the other piece that helped me get in the door was the public affairs woman at the time was a huge fan andnd i told her i wand to write -- >> you get royalties on this. >> totally. [laughter] so that also helped get me across the finish line so there was also another piece, one of the pilots at that time the pilot court was five people and one of the p pilots i had known, he flew with my dad and we can get into this later but i had no 30 years ago and hadn't seen him in 25 years but when i found out he worked at virgin galactic, i met with him and i gave him my spiel how i worked and how i
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would do this and how the new yorkers fact checking apparatus work at all about and i explained to him andg he said so much of it has been false about us he wentso to mike moses and said i don't know nick personally, all of them worth mistrusting with journalist but if we are going to let a guy come in, he seems to come from a decent place. >> your father was the original matter, wasn't he? [laughter] he really kicked -- pilot for the marine, wask he not? >> he was so my dad at that time was a three-star marine general in charge of all aviation for marine corps but interestingly, three stars were less important to him, the fact that he was still, at his age, that would have been still in his early
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60st and still fly single fighter jets so he was a legend in the marine corps, one of the few distinguished, he flew the first thing of the gulf war flew this incredibly multimission in 1994 so yes, he is a legend in the marine corps. >> by the way, there are so many components in this book, is a lot like a machine, i don't know if you've read this but one of the things i liked, it's fascinating and i have no engineering background but what they look for and how they put the machine together, what works and what doesn't, i'm super find it, it's marvelous another component is this complex relationship, almost ironic to
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your dad and for those out there who have not read the book and i orhope you buy it, make rebels a little bit you crash in a ditch. >> which is interestingly, when fact doctor rambis, my mom and dad, my dad was employed at the time he wrote back to the fact checker and said i have no recollection of that, i was an evening my sophomore year of high school and i had to figure out a way to get repairs, i think there is a repair and the radiator we needed to repair by the time he got home so growing up -- >> do you fly? >> i don't. >> how is that possible for dad is one of the greatest pilots certainly in the history of the marine corps, he loves to fly,
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you t obviously like flying because you are doing this, was rebellion, i don't want to follow in his footsteps? you did kick -- stuff, i think he went to afghanistan and pakistan and you risk your life and you are out there in the mountains i think you're trying to get into the taliban but why not take up flying? >> it just never quite -- i don't know. just never quite sunk in and i realize one of the things i realized in writing this book was that i wasn't really interested in it because i was interested in flight, i was interested in the aviators. that i think, even now at one time when i started going to california the o book, one of te pilots said if you're out here
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all the time from others the opportunity for you to get your ouprivate license i talked about about for some reason, i can't explain it, it just didn't resonate with me. i go out and fly with the pilots of virgin galactic's and i look and say that was cool but it helped me understand the expenses and help me write about itd better but it wasn't something that animatedly and in some ways, shows many people say as inexplicable as making a crazy mistake on the morning of the october 21, 2014 flight like one can square to help someone who grew up in my household couldn't have a love of aviation and want to fly. >> was ever determined why he did that? probably notavt but i remember reading that and saying it makes no sense.
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i don't know anything about flying but has anyone ever determined what might have happened? >> there was an extensive review by the national transportation safety board, investigation into the accident and the conclusion was in the end, no one knows. they spoke to his wife, they tried to figure was he tired, distracteded? work lord load during flights is extraordinarily high in fat even among the test pilot community. there is a high degree of respect the test pilots are flying because in those 62nd, there's very little automated these guys, there is so much to pay attention to, margin off error is something. >> very little is automated?
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>> a rocket motor shop in the back, so as a piloting experience, there is nothing like flying a spaceship, nothing comparableng. we could talk c about this later but it raises questions about the liability of the business. >> i am curious about that well, i'll just ask. one thing i want to mention, telling a story, here's a company run by a flamboyant individual, richard, many other things, is going to establish pretty well then there is this horrific crash industry ever company trying to recover from that crash go on and see if they could build theom perfect
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spaceship. before i asked about brinson tell me about mark mark, the protagonist of this, how did this get to him? i think he knew your father. >> yes. when i got out to mojave, i was looking for someone to help me tell the story. once i realized i was getting this unique access the how to write bring it together in a compelling way and i knew mark had flown first three flights but had not flown the force and i later found out that on the fourth, the copilot who made this error and died was mark's best friend immediately i thought there's a super compelling story line so then i met mark and he told me he's
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been sharing, chasing this astronaut dream his whole life. he watched john glenn take his flight, he tells his dad that day but i want to do, i want to become an astronaut and most h fathers would humor their children and say of course you want to become an astronaut, son, anything you want. mark's dad was an objector and mennonite tells his son h no wa, no sign of his will become an astronaut because all the astronauts come from the military nobody has served in the military in this family. >> i forgot all of this detail. >> he goes and like all good rebellious teens sent do, he joins the marine corps and men as an infant air force, he chases this astronaut dreams for decades before r he finally gets to the company i was contracted totr build the spaceship for virgin galactic so when i first met him, we sat down at this pub
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near his house and i kind of explained to him that i wanted -- i saw him as a character immediately to me felt recognizable like i knew the type in some ways and we will talk about this later about what qualities i saw in my father in him but i didn't notice the time but he also knew my dad. my dad was his flight instructor 35 years ago yuma, arizona and he's had you remind me of somebody else and i knew your dad way back i when so it was an interesting moment and we are often asked, i think as journalists why we pick a topic, i stick with something far five or six years to write about it and one of the interesting revelations from this was that
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we are not the only ones picking. sometimes we come to a subject sometimes the subject comes to us and i think that mark knew he lived a phenomenal life was looking for someone to potentially help tell that story and i arrived at the right time and he arrived in my life at the right time and we have become good friends. >> he has read the book? >> he has read the book. >> what did he think? you went pretty deep with him. >> the new yorker piece which was raw, but you thinking? i think he felt i was there and understood him and all of the personal stuff, all the stuff
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about his broken marriage and failed relationship with his kids and allat that -- >> that was really wrenching in that part of the book. that's what makes it great, you got in deep with him and not they did this, they did that, the back story of mark and what he went through in his marriage and really with his kids, to. very deep and it shows loss laws are much more interesting than production basically and that was a terrific part of the book. >> and that's where this notion of the modern astronaut, there is a modern side which is a commercial space industry and all that for the other side is that every other porch of an astronaut we've read is a perfect complexion --
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>> but john glenn area type. >> totally. here comes mark who learned to own up to all these and let the reporter rummage around in his e-mail box looking for these details of this divorce i told him, this is with the company i conveyed, if you don't let me see the moment of tragedy or see the difficulties, there's a moment of triumph at the end for both you personally and the company is to have the same payoff. there were times, there was an incident or two with the company where people tried to one of tell me to leave a meeting or leave the room, something sensitive was happening and i just said these are the moments they are going to redeem the big
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moment in the end and that i think is the same argument i made to mark.om he sort of saw that that someone in to theth difficulties and it makes the success all that much sweeter in the end. >> how did mark remind you -- let's talk about your dad a little bit growing up, were you intimidated by him? i know he was away a lot, deployed a lot, did you really know him that well? >> is a great question. intimidated? he was an emotionally distant but towering figure. were not talking -- we were doing push-ups every morning. my dad's intensity came from the fact -- he always wanted to do
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things different mark intense normal ways should have been. it wasn't just hunting but was hunting wild boar's head with a bow and arrow and not just a regular bow but a long bow with arrows clutched in our garage with a 357 magnum strapped to his leg case the morse charge. >> that sounds fun. >> on a saturday afternoon. >> not a saturday afternoon, this is, you want to go hunting with me this week and? sure, 3:00 a.m. out of bed, i'm thinking the hour long drive to the marsh and then we get out and get in the boat go for an hour and pull into the marsh and get out in our boots and slopping through the mud, when
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you're 14 you're like man, this sucks. it is way too early to be doing this. >> for those who don't know, i think it was when you are beginning to be a. reporter, it is really hair-raising stuff. you are challenging life in your own right, you inherited that so to speak in a different way. was he friendly? if i've met him, i would be scared. [laughter] >> that is the thing, he didn't exude warmth my mom more than made up for it. my mom was sort of the heartbeat of the family and what i tried, what i have tried to reconcile in reckoned with his i always
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knew my dad was setting this expectation for us, my brother and i as we got older so as i'm writing this, i'm thinking about my relationship with my dad, i look at my relationship with my kids and i think okay, and much more present and available, they are sleeping right now so they might say that is such a tyrant still but i much more present but and mike setting the same -- how do you do both? how are you both physically present in warm and also a towering figure your kids want to constantly be striving to impress? so i knew when mark describes the relationship with his son, i can see it from both ways. i knew how difficult it was for his son to happen living as mark's son i sympathize with mark he says my son his estranged, he doesn't talk to
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me. i thought oh my gosh, i got a 6-year-old and 3-year-old you have got to be kidding me. i could never -- that was gut wrenching so it is a tough thing. my dad, incredibly inspiring, constantly wanted to live up to his expectations and there is no part that i think -- i think i appreciate the relationship more now than i did then. >> where did you grow up? for you all over the place. >> in the u.s. because of where the marine corps air station plus, we found south carolina where i live, we had three tours there for about ten years total in arizona which is comparable to mojave and it's awful middle of nowhere and a
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lot time in northern virginia between quantico and the pentagon, those are the main ones. >> let's talk about branson, another important part of the book. at the beginning, i guess the question is, was this as the project went on, branson is really serious. he sees this as the next frontier. presently, i know basement billions of dollars but these are very hard charging guys, challenging the future elon musk but what was your sense of branson, wasn't publicity? i want to do something different or have dedicated was it. >> i think he was very de
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dedicated. >> surprisingly.d >> here is the reason why. it's important to go back and realize the centrality of this aviation firm first designed that the spaceship one and two because it explains why mike that mistake in 2014 and why there weren't failsafe built into the spaceship so in 1996, there is a contest for the first $10 million for first privately built spacecraft could reach space twice in two weeks and the contest in 2004 is about to expire here comes scaled composite, small aviation firm in mojave and spaceship one, a smaller version the smaller
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version use this unique air lunch and three times that year and makes it to qualifying space in two weeks. so they have proven that can do this and branson comes around and says, he throws up $1 million toward the project in the end and put the logo on side of spaceship one right to build him a bigger version of his craft before spaceship want this this now but spaceship one has done this, the composite can do anything, there were crazy offers from people coming in if they had just proven everyone off so this is the central challenge because gail compositn
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to the airspace museum knows composites without even knowing them because the head of scaled composites has more design in the air and space museum and anyone else. >> these are remarkable characters. >> but there whole thing is building prototypes so they don't. reporter: a lot failsafe into the vehicles so now you have this company trying to build a certifiable tourism vehicle and you can see that is a recipe for disaster in some ways, they don't build -- they built redundancies where they need to be there but it doesn't need to be there, they don't put it in and then virgin galactic crumbs and faith got lawyers and all these people, is it going to be safe? these companies while they work
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together, ite wasn't -- it was the parking farthest thing you can imagine. there was a clash between those two that i found fascinating as well he had good reason to believe it is hard to know where branson's head was, he recently sold off $150 million worth of personal stock shares in virgin galactic and virgin galactic, it is hard to say. they have more money now than ever because they went public about a year end a half ago. >> i was wondering the status. >> before they went public, they had about $80 million in cash reserves left in their account and spending about $20 million a month so would be an issue very quickly. they went public and now they are still spending about 25 million a month, $660 million in
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cash. they have a a long road which ty can continue to figure this out, the fact that branson pulled his money or a large trunk, itut raises questions from to where he isla now with the wide-body f all of this. >> is it a viable concept recently about you on musk and how much progress, is it really a viable concept i know you can get people who want to do it but can it work? >> i think it can work for elon spacex -- i think it is doable. it leaves it exposed so many more, it leaves it exposed because who have man in a loop, to vent in a loop with a 2004
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that shows you can have the most extremely well-qualified train pilots and sometimes they still have that days and also, this is an airplane company that builds a spaceship and is not a spaceship company that builds a spaceship. the dna is an aircraft company, the vertical watch approach, blue origin main competitor spacex seems to be, you have more long-term fibrotic, that i think is probably going to be the way. don't write virgin galactic off totally but their prognosis where they will be in a few years is still magical thinking
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that they are going to fly weekly flights with this thing, they have only one mothership. because down for any period of time -- so that is top view of where it is in the coming years. >> i want to tell people out there, we are certainly open questions so pop them in, a few people have commented, this is from joe, he wants to know how does getting access packaging. get access to virgin galactic? someone else, i think joe also, a son of a mennonite actor, he loved airplanes as well but did not join the military. you do this book, when you set out to do the new yorker piece, are you anticipating it would bn able? or did it grow intoo a book?
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>> i knew after the first couple of trips out there, i knew what i had, the fact that they were letting me sit in on these meetings and record meetings and the granularity and the detail and the scale and invasion of what they were trying to do helped a me see a book potential there but it took a while to russell in a while to figure out what the story was. the worst couple of versions, there were too many characters. it was to flat, i can pick up where the ark was so it took me a while continue to dwindle out everything that wasn't him to pick up what would enhance it for the magazine piece, or enhances the story and what doesn't coming back to the book, he mentioned earlier it wasn'tt just one episode after another,
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it was helpful to have his story and figure out what beads into it, what you need to know in t terms of history and back story to further understand? >> that is an enormous trick, something grappled with and every book, how do you balance the character? i see it as a bicycle wheel and hub and the spokes are not the spokes get in the way of the narrative because i think we are drawn to character on the other hand, books are wonderful because they have context and you don't put in b e history and the other stuff, it doesn't have a context. i know you pull that off nicely and really well. missus in the afterward i was curious, they pull access, they
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go for it in 2014. 2018, mark moses, now president says work done. was that in response to the new yorker piece, where they nervous about something, were they trying to hide something? you been there for years, what happened?re >> the idea was that i was with them until they flew the fifth powered flight. i wanted to stick with them until i lose this first flight after they built the new spaceship. i knew there was something that was different and going to affect the relationship, couple of critical junctures, the morning of that hour flight in 2015, i had not been denied access up until then, i was not told that i couldn't come into a single meeting. i would ask there was a chore,
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there was one occasion they were talking about a man powered -- human resource think where they say you can't record, you can listen for contextan but this is the only meeting you can't record so that the m way it happened and i was walking in and i was barred entry in the present was a guy named steve. >> what is his title? >> he is employee number one -- >> he's number one? what does that mean? >> when he first came up with this idea in 2014, stephen was the guy tooth out the ticket, but i what market the company and focus on the customer experience. here's a guy, he was glitz and glamour. i knew attenborough didn't like the fact that i was invited he
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very much was controlling the pr narrative, he wanted to be focused on sponsorship deal and all of a sudden now there is this reporter running around, what do we do with this guy? so the magazine piece comes out in august of 18 and moses said to me one day, i remember on thursday i called him and said i've got this deal and i'm ready to get back in and moses said okay, give me a week or so, i need to work out some things, some people thought magazine piece made what we are doing soundug dangerous and of coursei might okay, you got three in the 2007 accident, what do you mean? are not the one making it sound dangerous. >> that's ridiculous.i
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[laughter] >> right? so that it became this fight for the soul of the company and someplace where i'm in one ear trying to say i'm going to tell the story -- and i richard liked the magazine piece. ... kept talking about how they had deals for a book. they were just making up these things to her that me from being in and the critical moment was, i had this wild and wonderful
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relationship with rand and without telling one invited me to the british virgin islands and then two days before it was set to d leave by, to my great,i should have never mentioned it but i let it slip that i was on my way to the british virgin islands and suddenly all the alarms were going off and the admiral called me and said let richard isn't going to be the one to do this but he can't come. and yes so you asked how i felt. i remember being really really really scared that i wouldn't be able to pull this off and i remember my dad that night said you have a book to write and that's the priority and i knew i had what i needed at that point.
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i had galactic flying its first test pilot saraa flights in december of 18 and february of 19 and in some ways it was a blessing in disguise because he gave me some distance. let me say okay i have my materials and now i can write about this realistically and i'm no longer fighting for access and in some ways i was really -- >> access for writers a double-edgedho sword. you can build a relationship and you have to be a list step back and look at it with sober eyes. in a way i think it's probably good. and you can get addicted to access as well. i didn't really think about the fact that i cut it off but it did enable you to step back. here's a question.
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how did writing this book a affected on my? i know you made 15 and your relationship with the book's character o and the people in yr own sphere so to speak. are there some people talking to you and some people not? you put them out there. >> i think he feels that, i know he, because i told them over the course of the writing that i felt like the relationship was different. it wasn't the traditional journalist source, journalist subject relationship. it transcended all of those normal boundaries and there was this moment that rock back the light when he became an astronaut when he flew for the first time in december of 2018 i'm watching his wife give them hugs and watching his sons
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giving him hugs and i was behind a son and i was all right well what's the right thing for me to do here because a reporter reaches out his hand and says nice job or you know gives them a couple of compliments but a friend gives the guy a bear hug and they i reached out and gave them a handshake and it felt justch and stale so i reached around thend gave him a hug andi feel like, he is more of that and he is a friend and it's really a unique relationship when you have a friend who you are writingho about who knows tt you are going to write things that are not complementary and not damaging. like i was not to damage him but there were things it did make them look great and he was okay with it and when i was talking a nwith his ex-wife what he was going to say wasn't going to make them look great >> but he knew that. >> he knew that and i mean i
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asked him for access to everyone and family members and he was cooperative to the end. he read the book and i think he feels the only time he has been reserved, he said it's all about me but people have written to him very complimentary things and said you know like you being willing to cooperate with this process gives me a whole new insight into who you are and he shared that. i think he's pleased with the way it turned out. >> what is he doing now? >> he still ati galactica waitig to fly the next rocketship flight sometime this month potentially. >> any regret -- regrets about the book or anything you would have done differently?
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you picked a former student as a researcher who became a very good reader. when you did your first draft and you read it and we all create our first draft and fear begins to set in. what was the problem with it? words there too many characters or with the narrative wasn't the it to be and what were the problems and how did you go back to fix them? >> the hardest part was writing about my dad because the back third of the book where it's kind of a targeted a's came really easy because it was a combination of action and a lot of access and a lot of documentary materials that let me piece together spaceflights with granular detail. the middle third was always my
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concern.th people talk about the saggy middle. how do you maintain that and that's when i knew i wanted to introduce and text visible who was a student of mine, she read various versions of that in said look you probably have 12 pages too much about your dad and 12 pages too much about you, were it so clear these pages that you are trying to figure out what it is you want to say and that's what it was for it was but a knew that my dad wasan special o me and why wanted to come to this story in what had drawn me to this story but i didn't want to feel pasted on her extraneous and i needed to figure out how to make it seem organic and natural and she very much help me do that. >> i think he gave the book is daschle personal dimension that
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it needed but it's a narrative issue. you do a rethink about getting rid of that?ss >> i did. >> i do that all the time. i'm glad you didn't because you gave the book to mention that went above this happen that happened. there was something that really went to the core of your soul. >> well, thanks. yeah i only thought about doing it when initially when i found out kind of look, it didn't come to me and until i sat down and started writing the book itself. i wrote a parenthetical about my dad and maybe eight words in a magazine that refer to my dad. and i wasn't sure how to do it. or you need to see a section of that digress too far from the
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central storyline. she said was their way to -- you're going on this digression about the values you inherited and is their there way to bring the story back in here. those reminders along the way, and it was helpful because she had been a student of mine and i had imparted all of these values that i had learned over the years and she in some ways sorted just held up a mirror and said don't forget what you told us the third week of class and gave me a dose of my own medicine and really, i cannot imagine doing this look without her. >> how long did it take you to right? c2 years more or less. from august of 18 to august of 20 i was nonstop and bend but
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doing a couple of it for other things along the way and when the pandemic hits i was probably a third of the way into writing it and then i had the next seven months over nothing else to do so that -- i'm not sure i have a lot of myself time in the quarantine period. i'm just curious how high does it go up. >> this is the subject of some controversy because most of the world to find space as 100 kilometers and three to 28000 feet. goa to -- virgin galactic is
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using 264000 feet and so look, if you look at the pictures of them looking down at the earth i mean stuff floating in the cockpit and the big blue earth down below. they are going to malls to mach 3 to get there. >> miles per hour how much is that? >> always i come back and say in real numbers how fast are you going? so mock one is roughly give or take 700 miles an hour so as you are going higher it's varying because altitude and airspeed though and this is where you get into uncomfortable territory.
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it's where my aviation speech hits reality. >> would you say close to 2000? >> yeah.0? yeah. >> wow. >> and the night of the spaceflight i said what doesn't feel like and he said you know he's never felt so sure of anything in his life. but at first you rumble through this thick air and you get into thinner in the motor, the rocket motors burning follow on and you are going nearly three times the speed up sounded the city know it felt like a thoroughbred. he just wanted to run and run and run. you could hear the excitement in his voice and i spent the evening a with him and he was wh me back at the house. he had spent a couple of years in the air force and one of the area 51or nevada sites.
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this is one of the more challenging parts for a reporter to write about a book. that night of the spaceflight he said i've got this and i've been saving it for a special moment goes and he gets a bottle that his wife had bought for him comes back with a rack of shot glasses. the shot glasses are from -- sites and you won't answer questions about any of them. i say like i think i've read a little bit about this one. what are they doing again and he would just shrug. i'm not going to go to jail for this project you know. so he asked me how i i wanted it nicer whatever you going to do. we did a few shots and i haven't
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drank whiskey since college. we clank and i take a shot and he looks at me and if i couldn't tell if a he was offended or depressed or what it was. he said i thought were going to sit that and i got back to my hotel my hotel and they lifted up and it was a 600-dollar bottle of whiskey and i was like oh my god. that was the intimate relationship the night of his grounding achievement me, him and his wife sitting along -- around the islandt table. it was a very memorable relationship. >> how high did you get? >> they have this little acrobatic trainer aircraft called the extra. they take this thing and they do loops and spends and all that.
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i went flyingng in that thing fr times and yeah it kicked my asked and made me think i was going to and all that. we probably only went 10000 feet high but it would go 10000 feet high did they intentionally would stall the aircraft then you would the aircraft. to them it's just like going to the gym. >> how was to the gym. >> how was it for you? did you? >> no but very close. the first few times it was very close and i had my little sort of bag in the aircraft are ready to reach for it a moments notice. >> we are about out of time and i would just want to read what i wrote. this is for "test gods." it's hard to know where to begin. if fascinating readable -- with
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an adventure story of the land of the great where with. >> and altitude. the journey unlike any i've ever read and pointed and personal. what makes a man or two may risk his life for a living miles above the clouds and the clouds and what does he leave behind and earthquakes he answers questions of elegant and grace. strap yourself in and get ready for one of a ride and i meant every word. i do this very rarely. we are just out of time. please get the book and read it for yourself and everything i said in b a blurb i really realy mean. you did a great job. what are you working on now? >> i'm trying to figure out what i want to do now. i could use some advice from you. after you finish a book project
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like this i wanted to sleep and i kind of wanted to get back to work. they looked for -- >> you don't need to sleep but you've been through a of a process. i would go for small pleasures and in a few months i would go along with the sleep thing. you'll know what storage store and something will hit you. is this your erstwhile? >> second. i read a book about pakistan and on well but this is far more personal. >> something is going to come across your desk or you're going to read something and you have the instinct to know this is the book and then you let p it sit r a while and if you still think it's a book amount later than at thee book. you are really really talented. anyway guys thanks for listening
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it thanks a lot. it's 3:00 a.m. in london and he deserves a rest and i'm on the west coast were at 7:00. good to see you again and thanks everyone. >> thank you. it's been fun. >> welcome everyone. my namee is valerie koehler i'm the owner of a boo

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