Wednesday, September 29, 2004

SpaceShipOne

This morning SpaceShipOne, a private spaceship competing for the Ansari X-Prize, rocketed 67.8 miles (108 km) above the Earth. This is a true victory for all the private companies working to open access to space. While I do not believe that routine passenger flights into space will happen for several years yet (an opinion not shared by Virgin Galactic), this is a major step forward in the private-sector space race.

My hat is off to pilot Mike Melvill, who stayed calm despite the spaceship performing 20 or so barrel rolls while the engine was firing. The previous test flight also had some control problems. This should remind us that space flight is dangerous. As various private companies continue there research and development, we should expect that there will be failures, and unfortunately those failures will cost lives. The pilots of these aircraft understand this risk, just like NASA's astronauts do. So hats off to these great teams!

I'll admit I didn't think the X-Prize could be won by its expiration at the end of this year, and we are one flight away from a winner.

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