Skip to main content

tv   Nicholas Schmidle Test Gods  CSPAN  July 8, 2021 6:59pm-8:04pm EDT

6:59 pm
will see a big green button that says buy book. you will be very well to be buying this book i think. so what else would you like to say? probably down to seconds is not just a minute. lex i just want to thank tucson festival books to ask me too come into his really been fun. and yes the last couple of chapters in the book are the lessons we've learned over the years on w leadership in the ways you can be more successful in complex operations. and so yes i'm glad you recognize that, that was the intent. thank you so much for having me here and for everybody who was watching. >> thank you. a little bit of, of gupta's which screens here.
7:00 pm
that is it for us today, everyone. thank you for coming today i thank you all for attending. if you get the chance can make it to the tucson festival of, who loved to have you sign for the festival newsletter. we again thank you to engineering and technology, for schneider to be the sponsors of this program. >> tonight tv technology and e-commerce, we start with the author of a biography of amazon founder jeff bezos' dennis senator josh hawley on his book the tyranny of big tech. also a conversation on the winners and losers from e-commerce but the author of the book, fulfillment. book tv is tonight starting 8:00 p.m. eastern on cspan2. up next year writer nicholas schmidle on the creation of
7:01 pm
the space tourism company virgin galactic to the stories of his test pilots, engineers and leaders. this is hosted by romans books are in pasadena, california. >> hi there everyone. what the thank you on behalf of the bookstore for tuning into the event with us. were lucky to have at this nicholas schmidle is going to be in conversation discussingti the new book, virgin galactic in the making of the modern astronaut. this does include a q&a portion feels like to ask nicholas a question any point quickly ask a question but towards the end of the event you like to purchase this book clean that green button and it will take you right there. the way i will take over much. >> thank you. >> , greetings from whatever this is. for those who are listening nicholas calling in from london. it is too i have in the morning is that correct? >> yes it is. >> your comatose we will
7:02 pm
forgive him. i'm just here to ask questions. i have read this book frome beginning to end and fell in love withh it. it is called test gods. there are so many different moves to it. it is a swashbuckling story is the story of flight, excitement, of speed, the story richard branson his latest personality that we know if it's the personality of nick and what is a very, very complex relationship that will talk about. i got toch know nick 2011 he wrote the best, i read the new yorker because i'm a journalist, i get envious. there is an incredible reconstruction of the modern rate, when lindon was killed. how did he get that, the detail was incredible. met him in person when he is teaching at princeton and is kind enough to send me a copy of the book. i will say, i get a lot of requests for blurbs. normally when i do them i
7:03 pm
read, i don't have ten pages, 15 pages 20 pages, this i read i could notdi stop reading it. excitingul, like the right stuff.ik but in a different era, the speed of branson and virgin galactic in the future of state, the future of space travel. so jumping into it, nick what sparked your interest in this. you are at the new yorker at the time was a 2014? >> that was when i got started. this is truly an honor to be in conversation and it has been a lifetime hero of mine will get to this later. when i started reading in one of the pivotal books my dad gave me was friday night life. when i thought about this project from the beginning it
7:04 pm
was how do i take the subject matter the rights of the and how do i approach it as if, how do i approach like friday night how do i do a season with this? that may be started in 2014,l is a critical moment a pivotal moment was on halloween in 2014, virgin galactic was flying before supersonic test light. the vehicle, their spaceship which made its helpful real quick to show the relation. you can see on the cover they have a very unique air launch system that uses a wide winged mothership to carry the spaceship aloft to 45000 feet. must like the s plains of the 2h century the s-1, as 15. at that point mothership drops the spaceship. the mothership pulls away.
7:05 pm
the two test pilots inside the spaceship is also a unique, distinguish her from the other binary rocketth companies which are mostly automated and vertically launched. you got to test they are like a rocket.. the rocket flies horizontally for a few seconds to the heavens. on this particular morning, and october 2014 the copilot ignites a rockets and seconds into the flight commits this unthinkable error. totally bizarre. essentially pulls the emergency brake on they highway. >> how fast is it going att that point? >> they're going .8 mok they are just approaching smock one. at mach one, either side of mach one is the transonic zone.
7:06 pm
that is, we describe it as the bermuda trial of airspeed. it's a crazy moment on either side of mach one there's unexpected on predictable aerodynamics exerts himself on the vehicle. the testers out there are where, spaceship to has a unique feature as well, tail rotates up. the reason for this upon reentry off to the government displaces to figure out a way to allow the station kept careful, controlled reentry. the idea was the ship would or less, the method i 14. like a taco. that's what the spaceship would do flight delegate shuttle craft. and so they said, under no circumstances you ever unlock the feather. that is the removable tail 30 feet never unlock the feathers you approach one. for some reason on this
7:07 pm
morning the copilot did that. and as he does at the aerodynamic forces push the tailwind up and shredded vehicle parked in mid air. there is a pilot and copilot guide how he were killed? >> the copilot was killed immediately copilot was killed. the pilot miraculously survived. there is no ejection seat. he somehow wiggled out to his seat, pulled a parachute, landed in at creosote russian the desert and somehow survive. remember getting a news alert that day on my phone and wanting the first paragraph oro two wanting to stop there so many built in assumptions in that article richard branson,ti space tourism company crashes in the desert. it's like wait a second period there is a british billionaire that owns a spaceship company that has a wing spaceship
7:08 pm
flying with test pilots on board that's falling supersonic test flight and crashing down? the stakes suddenly seemed unmistakably high. andha it's zany that this is happening. the moment for me out to my editor at the new yorker and said we have to write about this. this is insane. and his question was, sounds cool but can we get quote unquote real access is what he said? my next trip was to go out to california to talk to them and then vice president of the company to figure out if i could get real access. how could i embed with them? >> am always curious about that. how did that conversation go? and acts as a double edge sword with a reluctant where they excited? you do not get access with
7:09 pm
this great idea. had that initial conversation go? whether other subsequentor conversations? how much work to dictate? >> it took a little bit of work. there were surprisingly receptive. i will tell you for couple of reasons, one of which is that they had to come off this horrific crash. i said i wanted to get in there when emotions were raw. i wanted to watch them work. one thing to watch this new vehicle from scratch. and at that point the company's pr had primarily been focused on the glitz and the glamour of this five-star experience they were offering. and most of that was been driven by their commercial office of london. and mike moses enough president of the company formerly vice president cell this as an opportunity to tell the story of the people, the
7:10 pm
men and women out there turning the wrenches, jointly design, flying the ship. so he was surprisingly receptive to the idea. i will tell of other peace that really help me get in the door was the public affairs woman at the time was a huge fan i told her i wanted to write friday night lights. >> disputing royalties on this. [laughter] that also help get me across the finish line. so there is also one other peace to this was that one of the pilots, at that point the pilot total was five people one of the pilots i had known some admin and at 18 pilot i flew with my dad to get into it later. i had known 30 years ago and i not seen him in 25 years. but when i found out he worked
7:11 pm
at virgin galactic i went out there and met with him. i gavee him my spiel as to how i works, how i would do this and how the new yorker's fact checking apparatus worked in all that. he said look we had a lot of written about it so much of it has been full. he went to mike moses and said look i don't know nick personally. i think all were little mistrusted with journalists. we are going to let someone in this guy seems to come from decent stock. >> your father was the original maverick wasn't it. [laughter] [laughter] isn't that what issav called? your father was a really kick pilot for the marines was heas not? >> he was, he was. so my dad at that time was a three-star marine general who is in charge of all aviation for the marine corps. but interestingly, these three stars were less important to him than the fact that he was
7:12 pm
still, at his age, that would have been, he still has early 60s at that point. he was still flying single speed fighter jets. so yes pretty was a legend in the marinee corps. he got one of very few established line crosses fordi the mission he flew the first side of the gulf war. flew this incredible involves the mission in bosnia in 1994. so yes he is a legend in the marine corps. >> there are so many components to this s book. it is a lot like tracy kidder's machine. one of the things i like about it, it is fascinating.t i have no engineering background, none. but what they look for, how they put this machine together, what works, what
7:13 pm
doesn't and i'm simplifying is really marvelous. another component that is very, very complex relationship almost ironic to your dad. and for those out there have not read the book i hope you buy it you crash this portion ended did show my correct? >> when the fact checker ran this past my dad, my mom and dad, i think my dad was deployed at the time. he wrote back to the fact checker and said i have no recollection of that. that was an evening my sophomore year of high school. i had to figure out a way to get the repairs done i think there's a tear in the radiator or something we had to get repaired by the time he got home. >> you fly? >> i don't. >> how is that possible i'm just curious, your dad is one
7:14 pm
of the greatest pilots certainly in the history of the marine corps. he loves to fly. you obviously like flying because you're doing this book. was it rebellion? i don't want to follow in his footsteps? you did a lot of stuff there's a question will get to pretty think he went to afghanistan and pakistan and risked your life really out there in the mountains think you're trying to get w into the pakistani taliban. why not take up flying? >> it just never quite, i don't know it just never quite sunken. one of the things i realize in the process of writing this book was that i was not reallyoo interested in it because i was interested in flight. or in aviation. i was interested in the aviators. and that ivi think, even now when i started out to california for the book, and
7:15 pm
one of the pilot said hey you're out here all the time this opportunity figure pilots license. i kind of thought about it. for some reason i can't explain it. it just does not resonate with me i go off and fly with these guys were i flew the pilots of virgin galactic. i've come down said that's cool. it helped me understand the experience and help me write about it better. it was not something that animated me. in some ways it's is asked inexplicable making this crazy mistake on the morning of october 21, 2014. it's kind of like one cannot square to how someone in my household cannot have a love of aviation want to fly. >> was it ever determined why he did that?
7:16 pm
probably not, i remember reading that in saying this makes no sense for this is a kind of mistake i would make if i was up there because i don't know a thing about flying. did anyone ever determined what might have happened? >> there was an extensive review by the national transportation safety board, investigation of the accident. the conclusion wasn't at the end no one knows but the spoke with his wife, they tried to figure out was he tired? distracted? the workload it's worth noting the work load doing the boost portion of these flights is extraordinarily high. that is why even among the test pilot community, there is a high degree of respect for the test pilots flying spaceshiptwo. there's very little that's automated. these guys, they're so much to pay attention to the margin of error is so thin.
7:17 pm
>> very little is automated that's interesting. >> this thing is a piper cub with a rocket motor shoved in the back of. it is -- as a piloting experience, there is nothing like flying spaceshiptwo. there is nothing comparable. we can talk about this later uebut it does raise questions about the viability of the business. >> i am curious about that. one thing i want to mention to readers out there, what's cool about this book to us it's a story he's telling a story. here is a company run by very flamboyant individual, richard branson virgin airlines, many any other things. he's going to establish a space tourism business which sounds ready while to begin with. but he does it and then there is a horrific crash.
7:18 pm
it's a story of a company trying to recover from that crash, go on and see if they can build the perfect spaceship. before i ask about branson, tell me about stuckey who is the protagonist of this whole thing. how did you get to him? i think he knew your father. >> yes. when i got up to mojave, i was looking for someone who could help me tell the story. once i realized is going to get this very access is how do i bring it together in a compelling way? i knew stuckey had flown in the first three hour flight and not on the fourth. i later found out the fourthgh powered flight the copilot who made this air died was his best friend. samina thought f okay, there is
7:19 pm
a super compelling storyline. then i met mark and he told me that, he shared with me he's been chasing this astronaut dream is whole life. that age four he what should john glenn take his maiden flight. he tells his dad thated day, his dad comes home from work is as that's what i want to enjoy want to become an astronaut. most fathers would humor their children safe course you want to become an astronaut, son. anything you want. is that as a conscientious objector and a mennonite and tells his son know it's possible no scent of his will ever become an astronaut because they all come from military and no scent of his everyone to serve in the military. >> i forgot all this deliciousve detail. >> kinko's went all good rebellious teenager who joins the marine corps company joins nasa, goes to the airport. he's chasing the dream fordr decades before he gets the
7:20 pm
composite company that was contracted to build the spaceship virgin galactic. when he first met him, we sat down at this pub's house. when i explained to him i wanted to, i saw him as a character. and he immediately timmy felt recognizable. like i knew the type and some ways. we'll talk a little bit about this later, what qualities i saw my father in him. butti interestingly, i did know this at the time but he also knew my dad. my dad has been his flight instructor 35 years ago in arizona. so he said you remind me of somebody is too great i knew your dad way back when. it was an interesting moment we are often asked i think, as journalists why we pick a topic, why we are ready to stick with something for five or six years to write a book
7:21 pm
about it. i think one of the interesting revelations from this process was that we are not the only ones picking. sometimes we come to a subject and sometimes a subject comes to us. i think mark stuckey knew he lived a phenomenal life and had been looking for someone to potentially help him tell that story. i arrived at just the right time and he arrived at my life just the right time. we have become since really good friends. >> he has read the book. >> what he think? >> he went pretty deep and he was open. pretty deep with it. >> he knew it was raw some people said to him, what are you thinking? why are you cooperating with this guy still? i think he felt like i was
7:22 pm
fair and that i understood him. in all of the personal stuff,ri all the stuff about his broken marriage has failed relationship with his kids and all of that,. >> that was really wrenching as a great part of the book. >> thanks, thanks. >> that stuff is personal that's what makes for greatness you got in deep with him. and once again readers the back story of what he went there in his marriage and really what he bumped there with his kids is and it shows he's flawed. flaws are much more interesting than perfection. that was a part of this book. >> that's where this notion of a modern astronaut comes from. there is the modern side of that which is the commercial industry and all that. b
7:23 pm
there's the other side but every other portrait of an astronaut we have read is a set perfect complexion, character of great. >> john glenn stereotype. >> holy. jacobs mark stuckey was to own up to all of these fallibilities and to let this reporter rummage around in his e-mail box looking for salacious details of his divorce. this is easier with the company, i convey this. if you do not let me see the moment of tragedy and you do not let me see the difficulties, then the moment of triumph at the end for mote both you personally, mark and the company is not going to have the same payoff. they're an instant or two when the company, or people tried to tell med too leave a meeting or to leave the room if
7:24 pm
there's something sensitive happening. i just said these are the moments that will redeem the big moment in the end when hopefully will fly to space. i think that is the same argument i made to market drought. unfortunately he saw, he let someone into the difficulties and it makes the success at the end all that much sweeter. >> how did mark remind you, talk about your dad a little bit growing up. real intimidated by him? >> i know he was away a lot he was deployed a lot. did you really know him that well? >> that is a great question. so intimidated, he was a -- emotionally distant but calorie figure, right? we are not talking the great santini we are not doing push-ups every morning.
7:25 pm
my dad's intensity came from the fact he was, he always wanted to do things differently and a little more intense than normal ways should have been. who is not just hunting but his hunting wild boars. it was hunting wild boars of the bow and arrow. not just a regular bowel are long boat bow but it's what he flexed in our garage of the 357 magnum strapped to his leg in case the board charged. >> sounds like fun. [applause] >> that's how we hunted right? >> i found out, hey nikki medio hunting with me this week and customer sure 3:00 a.m. right wrote browsed out of bed the hour-long drive to the b marsh, we get in the boat and we drive to the marsh in the dark for an hour.
7:26 pm
we pull into the marsh we get out her boots and was slopping throughar the mud, when you are 14 you like man this sucks. [applause] it is way too early. >> clearly got that from them for those who do not know i think it's when you areo beginning to be a reporter. you did some really hair-raising stuff. you were challenging life in your own right. you inherited that it seems to me in a different way. >> was he friendly? if i met him i would be scared, i'm not going to live, he is so macho. >> that's the thing. yes. he did not exude warmth. my mom more than made up for paid my mom is the heartbeat of the family, right?
7:27 pm
what i tried to reconcile and to reckon with is, i always knew that my dad was setting the expectation for us, for my brother night as we got older. and so as i'm writing about this i'm thinking about my relationship with my dad and my relationship with my kids. i'm think okay and much present and much more available. the main condensate data such a tyrant still. i'm much more present. but in my setting the same? how do you do both how he physically present, warm and also being a power figure your kids like to be striving to impress? >> so i nail, when mark described his relationship with the sun i could see from both ways. i knew how difficult to have been living as mark sun.
7:28 pm
i also sympathize with mark we are estranged is not talked to me. i thought at that point i had a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old got to be kidding me? i could never that was justng gutwrenching. so yes. it's a tough thing. my dad is incredibly inspiring. constantly wanted to live up to his expectations. and there is no part of it moat, i appreciate the relationship more now than i did then. >> ported you grow up? or you all over the place? >> in the u.s. because of where the marine core bases are we bounced between south carolina where i lived with three tours there for about ten years total.
7:29 pm
yuma, arizona which is comparable to the mojave and the often the middle of nowhere. and then increasing a lot of time up in northern virginia between quantico and the pentagon. those are three main areas that bounce between. >> now let's talk about branson and in talking it's another important part of the book. at the beginning, i guess the question is, did you think it was a lark? is the project went on yet further in the book is not known branson's release areas? he sees this as the next i know they spent billions and billions of dollars these are very far charged guys like challenge the future like elon musk. s what was your sense of branson wasn't for the wasn't what the heck i would do something new
7:30 pm
and different? how dedicated was he to h it? >> i think he was very dedicated. >> surprisingly frankly. >> here's the reason why. it's really important to go back and realize the sensuality of this unique aviation from that first built spaceshiptwo and built spaceshipone as the predecessor. this explains why mike made that mistake in 2014 and why they were not all these failsafes built into the spaceship. : : : contest the first private leave built spacecraft to reach space twice in two weeks. so in 2000 for the contest is about to expire and here comes a small aviation firm they
7:31 pm
build spaceship one smaller version of spaceship to and use the unique airlines configuration it goes to space three times that year to make the two qualifying spaceflights in two weeks. concept the you can do this and branson says $1 million for the project in the end and put the logo on the side of spaceship one and earned the right to commission for the scale composite to build a bigger version of the craft so it didn't seem -- it might have seemed like that before but now that spaceshipone has done this, they could do anything. there were crazy offers coming in, they had just proven all so
7:32 pm
this is the central challenge because with scare composite did and has done, everyone who's been to the air and space museum knows that because the head of scaled composites has more design than anyone else. >> he's a remarkable character but their whole thing is building prototypes so they don't put a lot of failsafe into the vehicle so now you have this company trying to build a certifiable tourism vehicle and you can see that's going to be a recipe for disaster in some ways. they don't -- they built redundancies where they need to be but if it doesn't need to beb fair, they don't put their and virgin galactic comes along and faith that lawyers and all of these people worried about, is
7:33 pm
it going toav be safe? these two p companies while they work together, it wasn't, it was often the farthest thing than they can imagine so the clash between those two i found fascinating as well so it's good reason to believe it's hard to know what is now, he recently sold off $150 million personal shock scares and virgin galactic virgin galactic, it is hard to say. they have more money now thaney ever because they went public a year end a half ago. >> i was wondering what the status was. >> before we went public, 80 milli- dollars cash reserves left in their account they were spending about 20 million a month soleimani would be an issue very quickly.
7:34 pm
they went public and not spending about 20 -- 25 million a month but i have 660 million and cash so there's a long road to continue to figure this out but the fact that plans and products money out or a large chunk of it raised russians to a his head is for the liability. >> is af concept, we have been reading a lot of us recently about elon musk and what he's doing and how much progress, is it really a viable concept? i know you can get people who want to do it to pay the entrance fee or whatever it is but can it work? >> i think it can work for you on and i think it is doable. the challenge virgin galactic had forced its configuration leaves the exposed so many more, it leaves it more exposed
7:35 pm
because you have a man in the loop, human in the loop which is in 2004 shows you can have the most extremely well-qualified trained pilots and sometimes they still have bad days also, this isn't an airplane company that builds a spaceship and it not a spaceship company that builds a spaceship. the dna as an aircraft company aircraft company, the vertical takeoff and vertical launch approach the main competitor spacex used, it seems to be more long-term viability, that i think is probably going to be awake. not that totally but their prognosis of where they will be
7:36 pm
in a few years is still magical thinking they will be flying weekly flights with this thing and they only haveim one mothership. if the mothership goes down, but so that is a top view of where the liability is in the coming years. >> we are certainly open to questions so pop in, a few people have commented, after getting access to that help you get access to virgin galactic i think it was joe also, a son of a mennonite pastor, he loved airplanes as well but he did not join the military. when you set out to do the new yorker piece, would you anticipate it would be a
7:37 pm
bookmarks or did it grow into a book? >> i knew after the first couple trips, i knew the level of access i had, they were letting me sit on on these meetings and record these meetings and the granularity and the detail and scale and envision what they were trying to do help like there is a book potential there but it took a while to wrestle to figure out what the story was, the first couple of versions just had too many characters, to -- it was to flat, i couldn't figure out where the ark was so it took me a while continue to dwindle out anything that wasn't stuck in-figure out what would enhance this to a magazine piece? enhances the story and what doesn't and when i come back to the book, it was all, he
7:38 pm
mentioned earlier it wasn't just one episode after another, it was really helpful to have story and figure out what feeds into it, what do you need to know in back storystory the to further understand his story? >> that's an enormous trick writing fiction from about something i grapple with in every book, how do you balance the character combined i see it as a bicycle wheel and you have the spokes but due to spokes get in the way of an active? do they slow down parts there sort of gone w to character on e other hand, books are wonderful because they have context and if you don't put in the history and other stuff, it doesn't have the context pulled off really, really nicely and really well. this is in the afterward, i was
7:39 pm
curious emotionally, they go for in 2014, 2018 mark, how the president, correct? yes. >> says all right, you are done. was that in response to the new yorker piece? with a nervous about something, trying to hide something you'd been there for four years, what happened? >> the idea was always that i would stick with them until they luke the fifth flight. i wanted to stick with them into the lucas after they built spaceship. i knew there was something that was different and affect the relationship, a couple of critical junctures, one on the morning of that flight whichre s april 2015, i had not been denied access until then, i couldn't come into a single
7:40 pm
meeting, i would ask it was one occasion talking about a manpower human resource thing that says you can't report, you can listen for context but at the only meeting he can't report so that's why it happened in april 2015 flight, i was barred entry in the person was steve attenborough. >> who was he in the company? >> i think he was employee number one -- a commercial. >> number one, what does that mean? >> he first came up with this idea into thousand 14, stephen attenborough was the guy who would self the ticket, who would market the company and focus on the customer experience, he was the guy who was all with environment, this was him and i
7:41 pm
knew attenborough didn't like the fact that i was embedded. he wanted to be focused on sponsorship deals and there is this reporter running around, hardly do with this guy. the legacy is comes out preface deal and i'm ready to get back into moses said okay, give me a week or so, i need to work out some things from people thought the magazine piece made what we areve doing sound dangerous andf course i'm like guys, got three in the 2007 act was built up years ago, i'm not the one
7:42 pm
making it sound dangerous. >> that's ridiculous right? so it became this fight for the soul of the company and some ways where i am in one ear trying to say i'm going to tell the story, i knew richard liked the magazine piece, he e-mailed me and said to me he was reluctant to do this, he didn't want to be seen as something on journalists independence but he appreciated the time and effort that wentis into it and we saw n opportunity for me to continue doing what i wanted and i met him again in december 18, he reiterated that but they kept driving us, talking about how they had the book that turned out to just be --ot they were jt nonissues, they were making these up to prevent me from being in and for a moment was i
7:43 pm
have this one on one relationship, he had without telling anyone else the company invited me down to the british virgin islands and a couple of days talking about the company two days before i was set to lease, i said to my great -- i should never have mentioned thil but i said i was on my way to the british burden virgin islands and suddenly all alarms were going off and attenborough called me and said we're not going to be the one to do this but you can't come so if you asked how i felt, i remember being really, really scared i wouldn't be able to pull this off and i remember my dad having this conversation with my dad that night and he said you have a book to write in nevada's the priority in all of this, i knew
7:44 pm
that i had what i needed, mark was going to space, i had the first non- test pilot flight december, february, december of 18, a boy of 19 in some ways it was a blessing in disguise because it gave me distant, it let me say okay, i have my materials, now ii can write abot this soberly and realistically i'm no longer fighting for access was kind of the best things that could have happened but i was really -- >> access for a writer is a double edged sword, get really deep relationships, who has to. you end up liking these people so to be able to step back and look at sober eyes is tricky so in a way it was good you can get addicted to access as well, i
7:45 pm
don't really think about thatoe fact that they kept back. how did writing the book affect your own life? fourteen the relationship the book and the relationship some people and how did mark feel you put out there. i know because i told him over the course of the writing about like our relationship was different, it wasn't this traditional journalist subject relationship it was moments, it brought it to light when he became an astronaut and flew into space for the first time, he lands and i'm watching his
7:46 pm
wife give him hugs and watching his son give him hugs and i was behind his son and i was next up and i was like well, what is the right thing to do? as a reporter, he reaches out his hand and says nice job or -- like a friend gives him a bear hug and i reached out and gave him a handshake and it felt weird so i reached to the other arm and gave him a hug and i felt like he is more of a and a friend and it is unique relationship when you have a friend who knows that you're going to write things that are not optometric, i wasn't out to damage him but there were things that didn't make him look great and he knew what i was talking to his ex-wife what he was going to say wouldn't make him great.
7:47 pm
>> but he knew that. >> he knew that and i asked him for access to everyone and he was cooperative to the end and he's read the book and i think he feels the only time he was sort of reserved, he said it's hard for me to comment because of all about me but people have written to him complementary things and said you engaging, cooperating with this gives it a new insight into who you are he shared that with me and i think he feels, he is pleased with the way it turned out, i think. >> what is he doing now? >> he's still waiting to fly hopefully the next rocketship fight sometimes this month potentially. >> any regrets doing the book,
7:48 pm
anything he would have done differently? you set a researcher, i think a former student you really saved yourself and what ways, when you did your first draft, you read it and we all read our first drafts in fear because to set in from a whole is a problem? was too much over the map, too many characters was it that the narrative wasn't driving the way he wanted it to? for the problems and how did you go about fixing them? >> the hardest part was writing about my dad because the back third of the book where it's kind of them charging the space came really easy because it was a combination of natural action a lot of access and a lot of documentary materials that let me piece together granular
7:49 pm
detail. the middle third was always my concern. that book writer, people talk about the right, how do you maintain that? that's when iut knew i want to o introduced the personal side of the story and a former student of mine at princeton when you came spoken the class she read various questions about and i think you probably have 12 pages too much of stuff about your dad for 12 pages too much about where it so clear in the pages you are trying to figure out what is you want to say and that's what it was, i knew my dad was central to the story and why i wanted to come to the story and what drew me to the story but i was always worried it would feel extremely and i need to figure out how to make it seem organic and natural and she very much helped me do that.
7:50 pm
>> i think it gave the book a really special personal dimension that it needed but it's a narrative issue. did you ever think about getting rid of -- i think about this all the time. >> i did -- >> it gave the book the dimension that went about and that happened, there was something that went to the core of your soul which i thought was really cool. >> thanks, i only thought about doing it when initially when i thought what kind of book -- it didn't come to me until after i started writing the book because the magazine piece i had a parenthetical about my dad maybe eight words in the magazine piece referred to my got but i knew the book i wanted but i just wasn't sure how to do it and she also helped me read things and say you might have
7:51 pm
written a bit much for you need sections that digressed too far to the central storyline, is there a a way to tie on this digression about adventurism the values you inherited from is there a way to bring his story back in here? so those narratives reminders -- it was helpful because she had been a student of mine, i imparted all of these values i learned over the years and she in some ways sort of held up a mirror and said don't forget this is whatnd you told us that third week of class and getting a dose of my own medicine and i could not imagine doing this book with doctor. >> how long did it take you to write? you were living it for four or five years. >> two years more or less, august of 18 to august of 20,
7:52 pm
nonstop doing a couple of other things along the way and when the pandemic hit i was probably a third of the o way into writig and i denied the next seven months nothing else to do so it let me -- i'm not sure i had a lot of myself enough time with the grinding pandemic. >> i'm just curious, how high does it go up? >> this is a subject of some controversy because most of the world defines space as 100 kilometers 328,000 feet.
7:53 pm
virgin galactic is using the u.s. air force definition of space which is 264,000 feet so you look at the pictures of them looking down on the earth, floating in the cockpit, the big blue earth down below, it face. >> files an hour, how fast? >> i always wanted to try to ground this, i always come back and take give me real numbers, how fast are you going mach one is roughly give or take about 700 miles an hour so you could -- if you're going higher, it's all very and because altitude and airspeed and this is where i get into uncomfortable territory, the
7:54 pm
limitations of my aviation, it is reality. >> but would you say close to 2000? >> i think that's right listening to him describe remember what did it feel like? he said he never felt more sure of anything in his life at that time, he said at a certain time you rumbled through this air and you get to thinner air and the motor is burning bowl on you're going nearly three times the speed of sound and it felt like it's all right, she just wanted to run and run so you could hear the excitement in his voice that i spent that evening him drinking whiskey back at his house, you'll appreciate this, he spent a couple of years in the air force at one of these,
7:55 pm
one of the area if you want sites visit one of the more challenging parts to write in the book, he was so cagey talking about the details so that night of a spaceflight he's at this model whiskey and i've been saving it for a special moment so he goes that whiskey his wife bought for him and he comes back with iraq of shot glasses they are embossed with one of the squadrons from area 51 sites and he won't answer questions about any of them. he smirks when i say i think i've read a little bit about this one from a dark night, what are they doing againhi would jut be like -- i'm not going to go to jail for this project so he takes a bottle of whiskey requires it, he asked how i wanted it and i said however.
7:56 pm
he pours two shots, i don't drink whiskey, i have not drank whiskey college so we were going to zip with the shop process so we can think and i take this shot and he looks at me and i couldn't tell if he was offended or impress orr what and he said no, i o just met we were going o zip it i got back and i looked up and there was like $600,000 bottle of whiskey and i felt like a bump that was like the intimacy of the relationship from the night of his crowning achievement, me and him and his wife at the table talking about today so it was a very unique memorable relationship. >> you went up to the fight, how high did you get? >> they had this little acrobatic trainer aircraft that they fly up there and it build up tolerance and it spins and
7:57 pm
all that so they brought me up in the and i went in there four times and it kicked my butt and make me think i was going to vomit but we probably only went 10000 feet high and they intentionally install the aircraft and spin upside down and it looked like we were going to crash and then we pull out of the it's like going to the gym for them, this is what they do. >> how was it for you, did you vomit? >> no but very, very close. the first few times extraordinarily close and i have my little vomit bag under my leg and the aircraft ready to reach for it at a moment's notice but i managed to pull myself together. >> i want to read what i wrote because i really mean it. this is hard to know where to
7:58 pm
begin unique, fascinating brilliantly reported but unprecedented access, the adventure story of the great, addicted to speed and altitude. a journey unlike anything i've ever read pulsating is poignant and personal. he routinely risked his life for a living umpteen miles above the clouds. what does he leave behind on earth? answers with elegance and beauty, strap yourself in and get ready for one hell of a ride. i meant every word and i do this very rarely so. it, we are just about out of time, please get the book, read it for yourself andll everythini said in that blurb, i really mean it. you did a great job. what are you working on now? are you back at the new yorker? >> i'm trying to figure out what
7:59 pm
i want to do now. some advice from you, i both want to sleep and i also want to get back to worksl and i'm tryig to figure out what is going to scratch that itch. >> ivo another book i would go for, you don't need to sleep, you've been through a hell of a process, i would go for small pleasures and then you will know in a few months. i take too long between books, they take a lot out of me. it's all about getting the right story, it hits you you've done it, is this your first book. >> second book, but this one far more personal you're going to know, something is going to come across your desk or you are going to read something and is going to be short, three paragraphs and you will have the instinct, this is the book and you let itt sit for a while thik it's a book a month later and is a book you are really counted.
8:00 pm
anyway, for all of you with me, thanks a lot, get some sleep. it's now 3:00 a.m. and wondered what you deserve some rest. i'm on thedo west coast where is 47:00 o'clock but it's good to see you appreciate it. >> appreciate it, it's been fun. ♪♪ >> weekends on c-span2, intellectual. every saturday, american history tv documents america story sundays, book tv brings you the latest nonfiction books and authors. funding for c-span2 comes from these television companies and more including comcast. >> you think it's just a community center? no, it way more than that. >> comcast artist with 1000 community centers to create wi-fi enables areas so students can get the tools they need to be ready for anything. comcast support c-span2 as a
8:01 pm
public service. >> weekends on c-span2 brings you the best in american history nonfiction books. sarah, american history tv explores the nation past. coming up saturday 3:00 p.m. eastern on oral history, iraq war veteran calling his experience in the 1 degree the day his vehicle was hit by an ied in his road to recovery. in 8:00 p.m. eastern on lectures and history, every university professor, the role of ufo conspiracy theories have in shaping american culture to discuss changes in public opinion about extraterrestrials often paralyzed society. sunday's book tv features leading authors discussing the latest books on sunday on book tv 8:00 p.m. eastern on "afterwards". an insider's view on corporate in her book how forests work and
8:02 pm
work better in a chaotic world and then 9:00 p.m., best-selling author james patterson and former president bill clinton discussing drilling about the president's daughter about the abduction of a former u.s. president daughter. ♪♪ american history tv every saturday in book tv every sunday on c-span2. ♪♪ >> secret service was founded in the aftermath of the assassination of lincoln but it wasn't until the death of john f. kennedy the presidential protection service began to get closer attention from the american people. she began reporting on the secret service for the washington post in 2012. in the prologue of her new book, zero fail, she writes that she started her coverage on her forget, for scandal in which brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms while making arrangements for president obama to visit columbia we talk about
8:03 pm
her in-depth look in her new book, subtitled the rise and fall of the secret service. >> carol, on this episode of footnote live, was an act or wherever you get your podcast. ♪♪ >> now on book tvs "afterwards" program, bloomberg news brad stone reports on the growth and evolution of amazon and profiles its founder jeff face-offs interviewed by insiders chief correspondent eugene kim. >> i am excited to be here to interview you today for your t w book, amazon unbound. before we start, i want to tell you when i first started on amazon five years ago, the first thing i did was read your previous book about amazon, the everything sor


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on