When Ky was a young boy, he'd lie in bed at night, look up at the glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling, and dream of being an astronaut.
Little did he know that his dream of space would turn into an obsession.
Ky Michaelson was a garage inventor from Minnesota who set out to do the impossible: become the first civilian to launch a rocket into space. As his epic journey unfolded, it would cost him nearly everything: his health, his fortune – and his family.
In 1997, Ky and his band of backyard rocketeers headed out to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, a desolate playa 100 miles north of Reno and the only place in the U.S. where amateurs can fly their biggest rockets. Over the next eight years, they made it their second home, returning five times in their quest to shatter the space barrier. They battled sandstorms, fought government red tape, and survived rocket explosions and crashes during their Quixotic race for space.
Throughout his incredible journey, Ky brought along camera crews, making sure every historic moment was documented. With over 300 hours of footage, ROCKETMAN traces Ky’s exploits at Black Rock: the build process, the numerous tests, the misfires, the fights, the sandstorms, the tears, the triumphs… and the explosive defeats.
As Ky fought the Feds for the right to launch, he was also up against another foe: his crippling dyslexia. Ky can’t read, or write, or do math. All his life, he’s relied on what he calls his “mechanical photographic mind” – to build rocket-powered race cars in the 50s and 60s, and then to create jaw-dropping Hollywood stunts in the 70s and 80s. Now, he bent his unique mind to its hardest task yet: designing rockets capable of soaring past 62 miles, the official boundary of space.
Ky Michaelson became known as Rocketman, not only among his tight-knit, determined team of space geeks, but also among space pioneers like Burt Rutan, Richard Branson and Elon Musk. He beat all of these well-financed, equally determined mavericks to space, joining the ranks of the Wright Brothers and Lindbergh as a true American pioneer of flight. Along the way, his efforts generated new rules and regulations that laid the foundation for today’s booming private spaceflight industry.