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Eric Berger, Elon Musk, and the Stars of SpaceX’s Origin Story

By Jeffrey Hill | April 12, 2021

      Eric Berger, a soft-spoken Ars Technica journalist, meteorologist, and lover of all things space-related, has spent a lot of time with Elon Musk during the past few years. While watching the billionaire SpaceX founder closely as he sat in on board meetings and gathering with his family on flights to Texas, Berger discovered the formula behind the company’s two-decade ascension to space industry dominance. 

      It starts with Musk — an enthralling, passionate, laser-focused, relentless, moody, and sometimes difficult leader, with a unique gift for engineering. His greatest talent, according to Berger, may be his ability to locate and surround himself with the “right” people — those who mix well with his personality and can keep up pace for long periods of time. The people who helped Musk send his first Falcon rockets into space come into clear focus in Berger’s new book “Liftoff,” a widely-praised chronicle of SpaceX’s establishment in the early 2000s.

      In this episode of On Orbit, Berger brings us behind the scenes of writing “Liftoff.” He explains the influence that people like Tom Mueller and Gwynne Shotwell (who just become Via Satellite’s most recent two-time Executive of the Year winner) had on SpaceX’s success, and who he enjoyed speaking with the most while conducting research. Berger also shares some insights that weren’t included in “Liftoff,” as well as thoughts on who might lead SpaceX after Musk.

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