Monday, June 21, 2004

One small step...

This morning Spaceship One, Burt Rutan's entry in the X-Prize competition (to create a reusable aircraft that can launch three passengers into sub-orbital space, return them safely home, then repeat the launch within two weeks with the same vehicle), completed the first manned private spaceflight without incident. Pilot (and now 'astronaut', that's got to look good on a resumé) Mike Melvill took the ship to an altitude of 62 miles, which while still suborbital is nevertheless outside of Earth's atmosphere.

Rutan is only one of many trying to wring access to space from the clutches of governments, militaries, and (of course) gravity. But the guy is preloaded for success... in the field of aircraft design, he's something of a Da Vinci. Most of the competition is way behind him - this isn't criticism, it's space we're talking about after all - and the design of Spaceship One shows the mix of elegance and innovation that has characterized his work for decades.

With NASA destroying the shuttle program (because somebody forgot to tell congress that strapping a huge rocket to your ass *might* cause occasional fatalities... think about Yeager and all of the early test pilots, go watch 'The Right Stuff', then look at today's simpering politicos who snub any research that might lead to a bad headline during their tenure), the privatization of space ('privatization' is a funny word, because in a way it really opens up space for everyone) is an important research area. It means that we might continue to explore space for reasons both scientific and economic, instead of just as an eternal pissing match between countries trying to prove their superiority (or trying to militarize space, as our clueless leader strives to).



Blogger krishna said...

Surely, a giant leap for mankind! When I read this news on page 7 of the daily newspaper (So ridiculous! This incredible news of far reaching implications was on page 7 while the first six pages were dedicated to the peccadilloes of the politicians and ludicrously rich), I was all keyed up. One man with vision and ingenuity was able to harness the creative energies of similar minded people and attempt something that was hitherto the prerogative of militaries/Governments!
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