No, No One Won The
XPrize... But Progress Was Made!
The past year has seen a lot of bad aviation news, but a bright
and shining hope remains in the form of the first private
ventures into space. Thanks to the $10-million X-Prize competition,
more than two dozen teams from around the world are trying to get
their own version of a reusable space vehicle 60-miles above the
Earth to become the first privately-run space operation.
Few stand a better chance to being first than Scaled Composites,
Burt Rutan's Mojave (CA) operation.
With its SpaceshipOne already in flight tests, the Rutan team
hopes to propel astronauts on a suborbital flight before any of the
other teams does. To that end, the SpaceShipOne team celebrated the
Centennial of Flight by sending the tiny craft through the sound
On December 17th, we wrote: On the day the
world celebrated the centennial of flight, Burt Rutan and company
were themselves high in the air over the California desert, testing
a vehicle for the next century of aviation. It was a significant
milestone for Scaled Composites in its bid for the $10 million X
PRIZE: The first manned supersonic flight by an aircraft developed
by a small company's private, non-government effort.
But that effort came at a cost to the Rutan team. SpaceShipOne's
left main gear "retracted" upon landing, sending the tiny
spacecraft spinning off the runway and into the sands of the
Mojave. Scaled Composites says the damage was minimal and hopes to
be up and flying again soon.
Obviously, an effort like this takes quite a bit of moola. Turns
out, the man behind Rutan's efforts is none other than former
Microsoft executive and big-time aviation enthusiast Paul G.
On December 19th, we
wrote: Billionaire investor and former Microsoft guru Paul
G. Allen Thursday confirmed speculation that he is indeed the
long-rumored sponsor behind the innovative SpaceShipOne project,
which broke the sound barrier today during its first manned test
SpaceShipOne and its White Knight turbojet launch aircraft
represent the first private non-government effort to demonstrate a
low-cost manned space effort. SpaceShipOne is a contender for the
"Being able to watch (Wednesday's) successful test flight in
person was really an overwhelming and awe-inspiring experience. I'm
so proud to be able to support the work of Burt Rutan and his
pioneering team at Scaled Composites," said Allen, who has funded
the effort since he and Rutan joined forces in March of 2001.
"As we celebrate the centennial of flight, it's wonderful to be
able to capture the spirit of innovation and exploration in
aviation. SpaceShipOne is a tangible example of continuing
humankind's efforts to travel into space, and effectively
demonstrating that private, non-government resources can make a big
difference in this field of discovery and invention."
There are, as we mentioned, more than two dozen other teams in
the running for the X-Prize. The organization itself puts it this
"Less than 450 astronauts and only a handful of piloted space
vehicles have flown during the past 42 years," says Dr. Peter H.
Diamandis, Chairman and Founder of the X PRIZE. "It is our
intention that the X PRIZE usher in a Golden Age of spaceflight
creating thousands of private astronauts flying aboard dozens of
privately owned and operated spaceships."