"The First Place We're Going To Bring It Commercially Is
by ANN Correspondent Valentino Valencia
Every chair was filled, and for most it was standing room only
at Pavilion 7 at Oshkosh. Anticipation filled the room Tuesday to
hear Will Whitehorn, Burt Rutan and Sir Richard Branson speak on
the future of space flight, and White Knight Two.
Branson and Rutan are often criticized in the general media...
but if there is one place that they are universally well received
and adored, it's Oshkosh. There was applause with every
accomplishment, and laughter with every joke. However, this did not
stop the gentlemen from getting their point across.
"The signal that we wanted to get across for rolling out White
Night Two is that we are getting ready for business," said Branson
to the captive audience. The business he was referring to was not
about sightseeing visits to space, but about a whole new way of
It's Branson's vision and passion for space, as Rutan put it,
that gives him "the ability and ambition to drive followers, in
masses, to go and get and take this, not to the beginnings of
commercial space flight, but into a whole new industry." Driven by
that ambition, they plan to move on very quickly to make that dream
"Richard and I have decided, that we -- as old as we are -- we
want to see commercial flights to make that beautiful swing around
the moon, too, from that resort hotel and I think that can happen
in our lifetime today," said Rutan.
The name of their new spacecraft production company is simply
called 'The Spaceship Company'. The name may not be too flashy, but
when you're the first to embark on a new industry, it seems fitting
that you keep the name simple.
Tuesday's forum at AirVenture came
just 24 hours after Rutan and Branson unveiled White Knight Two at
Mojave Air and Spaceport in California. Roughly three times larger
than the original White Knight, the four-engine, dual-hull aircraft
is the 40th aircraft design developed by Rutan that has made it to
the flight test phase. The wing spar, at 140 feet in length, is the
longest single carbon composite aviation component ever
White Knight Two will be the launch vehicle for SpaceShipTwo,
and Branson promised the vehicle -- named "Eve," after his mother
-- would fly at AirVenture 2009. But that's not all.
"We’re going to take it to Sweden to fly in the aurora
borealis, to the UK, Spain, and Australia from our home base in New
Mexico," Branson told the crowd. "But the first place we’re
going to bring it commercially is Oshkosh. We’re going to
make six new astronauts right here in the evening air show with
Needless to say, if the overall propose of Burt and Richard's
visit was to inspire and make people believe in something that is
bigger than themselves, then they definitely succeeded.
One audience member queried, "What is it us commoners can do to
help your endeavor?" Rutan responded, "when we started to built
spaceship one I started with approximately 115 employees, and is
now more than 300 employees, and a lot of those folks came right
out of this kind of audience. The types of people that we see and
meet at Oshkosh. The types of people that you see with passion in
their eyes. And when I walk on the stage here and talk to you, this
audience has more passion than any other audience than I have ever