Nicholas Schmidle, a staff writer at the New Yorker, is to draw on four years of reporting on Richard Branson’s space tourism company Virgin Galactic for a new book about the venture, to be published by Hutchinson.
Editor Rowan Borchers bought UK and Commonwealth rights in the as-yet-untitled book at auction from James Pullen at the Wylie Agency. Hutchinson will publish in hardback, trade paperback and e-book in spring 2021, alongside Henry Holt in the US.
Schmidle was embedded in Virgin Galactic for nearly four years, interviewing Branson himself on multiple occasions, as well as spending hundreds of hours with the test pilots, engineers, and technicians. The book will feature "intimate portraits" of key players including Mark Stucky, the lead test pilot at Virgin Galactic who recently flew the company’s first successful space flight, and is said to offer "a compelling exploration of the motivations and fears of those at the heart of the new space race”, as both an adventure story but also "a thoughtful meditation on meaning, risk and human ambition".
Schmidle said: "A story about a company trying to fly a rocket ship into space would be tantalising enough. But the human drama of what’s occurred behind the scenes goes beyond belief. And as a reporter, this is the kind of story you feel lucky to be able to tell."
Borchers added: "Anyone who has read the New Yorker will already have encountered Nicholas’s masterful sketches of some of the most extraordinary individuals of our time. Nothing has demonstrated this more clearly than his reporting from inside Virgin Galactic. I am thrilled he has chosen to expand it into this gripping and timely book."