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SpaceShipOne Captures the X Prize 896

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the takes-two-to-tango dept.
SpaceShipOne's second flight was a success, the craft successfully launching from mothership White Knight and returning safely about 20 minutes later. If the flight is certified to have reached the X Prize's target height (62.5 miles) before its safe return, it will win the $10 million purse, and more importantly attain the prestige of repeatably (if only technically) reaching space, on a budget embarrassingly smaller than NASA's. Today's flight was manned by 51-year-old test pilot Brian Binnie (rather than Mike Melvill, who piloted last week's trip), and according to spectators present at both launches seemed even smoother than last week's flight. The view from the sidelines was incredible. flapjack submits a link to CNN's coverage of the launch (which lists a claimed height attained of 368,000 feet), noting "Interesting to note that a majority of its funding ($20-$30 million) was put up by Microsoft's own, Paul Allen." See also the official X Prize site for continuing live coverage. Update: 10/04 17:05 GMT by T : I was able to attend the launch; read below for my short sketch of the event.
Impressions from the launch:

I got to Mojave yesterday evening (it's a long way from El Paso), slept in my car, and got to the airfield itself just before 4 a.m. Traffic on state highway 58 was brisk already, though not clogged (which it later became), and nearly every car was turning onto the two-lane entrance heading for acres of packed-dirt parking spaces near the runway from which SpaceShipOne would take off.

The crowd which built up in the following hours was surprisingly quiet on takeoff, which happened right at 7:45 local time. Not exactly hushed -- perhaps "hesitant" is a better word, or maybe just waking up. Only scattered clapping (guilty!) as the White Knight / SpaceShipOne piggyback duo lifted off, followed shortly by two chase planes, an AlphaJet and a Beechcraft Starship. The enthusiasm grew, though, as the flight progressed; a P.A. system kept the spectators informed of the trip's progress.

When SpaceShipOne finally separated and fired upward ("Good release, good release!" over the P.A, followed by enthusiastic cheering), it was after three separate two-minute warnings, then for one-minute and 30-second intervals. After an 84-second burn followed by a clean shutdown, SpaceShipOne coasted to its final altitude. At 90 seconds into the flight, the ship was well past 100,000 feet, and out of sight to the unaided eye. At 7:51, an altitude of 328,000 feet was reported, but the ship was still climbing for the next 40,000 feet under its own momentum. The reported peak altitude is enough to top the previous record, set by an X-15 at 354,200 ft. in 1963.

The descent was happily uneventful. At 60,000 feet, Binnie experienced "slight oscillations" -- consistent with previous flights, according to the announcer, who continued to count down the altitude. At approximately 45,000 feet, the conditions are right for contrails, and more cheering erupted when those popped into view. The crowd perked up and cheered even more with the first of two sonic booms audible on the ground (the booms that occur during ascent aren't), pointing and shading their eyes from the sun, following the ship as it traveled in wide arcs to bleed off the energy of the ascent, followed by a smooth 3-point landing.

(Special thanks to the members of the Foothill High School band who traveled the three hours from Orange County to watch the flight and play both before and after the flight. The launch itself was surprisingly low on ceremony, and their playing provided a bit of well-deserved pomp.)

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SpaceShipOne Captures the X Prize

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  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:51AM (#10429629) Homepage Journal
    Suddenly that old commercial advertisement for a Hilton Hotel in space doesn't sound so wacky anymore. What with Richard Branson investing in the Spaceship One technology for a fleet of commercial spacecraft.

    After the first several dignitaries and rich adventurers (and probably pile of useless pop stars and actors/actresses) the thing will probably be booked solid with geeks with telescopes.

    i wonder if William Shatner can get me cheap tickets through Priceline...

  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:52AM (#10429649) Homepage Journal
    Official X-Prize peak height from first flight [xprize.org]

    According to those numbers, the first flight was several kilometers lower than the number given by the Mojave radar. i.e. The X-Prize foundation says that SpaceShipOne only went ~102 km, while the unofficial numbers has said ~117 km. This time SpaceShipOne only went to 368,000 (~102km) according to the unofficial numbers. (CNN said that 328,000 is the cutoff point, not the altitude) Given how much lower that number is, I'm sweating bullets until I get the numbers from the X-Prize foundation.
  • Recalibrating prices (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kippy (416183) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:52AM (#10429653)
    Now that the Mercury missions have more or less been reproduced for ~$25 million, I'd like to hear some reassessments of modern Moon mission costs. Same for Mars. The media (and a lot of slashdotters by the way) like to come up with estimates which go something like "if Apollo cost $X billion dollars, Mars will cost 10 times that cause it's harder".

    Based on the fact that this was an order of magnitude or two cheaper than comparable NASA missions, anyone care to extrapolate a Moon or Mars mission if NASA is just turned into a clearing house for prize money? I'm guessing that Zubrin's crazy estimates of less than $25 billion seem a lot less crazy now.
  • Passengers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Buzz_Litebeer (539463) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:54AM (#10429687) Journal
    I thought to win the X-Prize that the team had to launch 3 people into space. Did spaceshipone use the equivilant weight when doing the launches?

  • I wonder... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LordZardoz (155141) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:55AM (#10429715)
    What will become of the other X-Prize contestants who were on track to make their attempts but did not do so in time?

    END COMMUNICATION
  • by daviddennis (10926) * <david@amazing.com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:55AM (#10429719) Homepage
    Much as I absolutely loathe Microsoft and their products, it's nice to see this kind of cool thing being done.

    I just hope these guys didn't use Microsoft Space Management to run the thing, although I have a nasty feeling that they had to :-(.

    Well, it worked. And today, that's all that matters. I lift a glass of metaphorical champagne. For today, a truce -- at least until I see my next Windows meltdown here on the ground.

    (Come to think of it, though, I believe Paul Allen has very little to do with Microsoft nowadays -- right?)

    D
  • Shwaaa? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GodHead (101109) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:57AM (#10429752) Homepage
    "prestige of repeatably (if only technically) reaching space"

    That is the point - to 'technically" do it. Sure the X-prize is won, but like a first in anything this is a starting point not a finish line.

    I'm sure more technically minded will discuss practial applications and new limits to be beaten. But I'm glad I was here to "witness" this. I imagine in 100 years when people will talk about this like they talk about kittyhawk now.
  • Thanks X-Prize (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dethboy (136650) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:58AM (#10429760) Homepage
    I grew up in the 70's dreaming of being an astronaut and going into space. That dream of course crumbed along with NASA.

    Now at least my children can have that dream again.
  • by hackstraw (262471) * on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:03PM (#10429837)
    This is an amazing feat. Definitely one of the top 5 space events in my lifetime. I do have a beef with the article summary though. This part:

    it will win the $10 million purse, and more importantly attain the prestige of repeatably (if only technically) reaching space, on a budget embarrassingly smaller than NASA's

    Although this is a great feat for a privately funded venture. This is only equivalent to NASA's first manned suborbital flight which happened in 1961. NASA has still put many people in space for extended periods of time, including 12 manned flights to the moon. And for all practical purposes, NASA started this adventure with no prior experience or knowledge of space flight. Also, a good portion of NASA's budget is for the first "A" in the acronym.

    Again, this is a great feat, and its a first, but this is only the very beginning of private space flight.
  • by BigGerman (541312) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:03PM (#10429838)
    >> Now that the Mercury missions have more or less been reproduced...

    I knew I would find posting like this one ;-)
    No they were not. Early Mercury missions were flying the ballistic trajectory. All the equipment (except the booster) was identical to the later orbital flights. The only different thing to do to a Mercury capsule to go orbital instead of ballistic was to push it harder with a more powerful booster.
    As such, SpaceShipOne flights (which go straight up) are NOT sub-orbital in a Mercury sense.

  • by Fortran IV (737299) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:09PM (#10429953) Journal
    Government-sponsored space flight a third of a century ago:

    - Was enormously more expensive (especially by the dollars of the 1960s);
    - Was hideously dangerous;
    - Nearly dropped dead after the Apollo flights;
    - Did not provide a reusable spacecraft (in fact, they've only just recently recovered the one Mercury capsule they lost).

    That said, I do wish that Burt Rutan had admitted more of the debt he owes to the research (however overpriced and inefficient it might have been) NASA has done over the decades. Instead, he put words in the mouths of NASA: We are screwed.
  • by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:10PM (#10429970) Homepage
    Finally we start going back to space without the Government keeping us from doing it right.

    Yes, the Government is no longer able to keep us from killing ourselves in the name of adventure. Truthfully, a lot of these X-Prize contestans remind me of the guy who attached weather baloons to his lawn chair. Is it any wonder that Scaled won it? Not really, they where the only contender.

  • by MsWillow (17812) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:11PM (#10429987) Homepage Journal
    I'm a night owl. I mean, a serious night owl. I rarely get to bed before 2AM, and tend to get up after 9 at the earliest. However, knowing that today's flight was to start at 7AM, I was up, ready and waiting, at 6:30.

    I was bebopping from one news channel to another (no, I don't get CNN), looking for coverage of the flight. About 7:30-ish, NBC said they were going to have the seperation live in about ten minutes. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Lots of blather about how Mt. St. Helens could erupt at any time, much blather about Hollywood news, politics, and/or both, but naft on Space Ship One.

    Then I caught mention that it had hit the mark, and would soon be landing. Again, live coverage of the landing coming up on MSNBC. Again, nothing. Nothing. More Mount St. Helens blather, more Hollywood, more people selling unsound "treatments" for non-existant "diseases",, then, finally, on Fox, a shot of SS1 landing.

    Total coverage, from 6 different networks' news shows? Under a minute. For an event that could well have a major impact on humanity for generations to come. Not even 60 whole seconds of air time. Compare this to Lindberg's landing, and the hullabaloo that caused.

    I'm steamed. As NBC claimed they were going to have live coverage, and didn't, and NBC is now MSNBC, I really hope that Paul Allen will raise the roof about this. After CBS' fake memos, and NBC dropping the ball here, I REALLY hate to point out that the place that had the most coverage, and the timeliest, was Fox News.

    Scary.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:12PM (#10429996)
    The other teams won't be going anywhere. Sure, Scaled goes down in the history books for their efforts but soon we'll all be able to watch the annual X-Prize cup. We won't just be seeing SSO make a trip to suborbital flight but instead seeing multiple launches per day for a week as many teams compete and bring us further, faster and closer to commercial manned orbital flight.
  • NASA Trashing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by darkmeridian (119044) <william.chuang@noSpAm.gmail.com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:14PM (#10430047) Homepage
    I don't understand why everyone dumps on Scaled Composites. I mean, they only spent $20-$30 million, but this was because scientists under NASA had already done a lot of the enabling R & D and put that into the public domain.

    Furthermore, this is a far cry from orbit. This was just lifting something into the sky. (Potential energy, which is equal to mass * grav. constant * height.) To reach orbit, you have to hit a really high rate of speed, which is kinetic energe: .5 * mass * velocity squared. V^2 is a really large number.

    So Scaled Composites was a great achievement, but it stood on the backs of giants. It's rocket will not scale to orbit, either, nor would that craft survive orbital reentry.
  • Re:extra weight (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalkerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:15PM (#10430056) Journal
    It was "extra mass".

    Though apparently much of this extra mass was in memorabilia, apparently the Scaled Composite employees and pretty much anybody donating large sums of money got to put stuff on this flight. Apparently one of the other test pilots got to put his moms ashes on this flight. Creepy.
  • by Jesrad (716567) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:15PM (#10430058) Journal
    Even if that happens, Scaled Composited can re-fit the SS1 for another flight even before the end of the two weeks limit. They played it safe so that a single miss wouldn't mean having to start over.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:17PM (#10430093)
    Not that it helps you much now, but the whole thing was carried live on the Science Channel (from before takeoff and it's still on, now).

    As an aside, for anyone who missed "Black Sky" (part 2 being shown on Thursday), I suggest you watch your local listings to see when it airs again. It was a very good documentary that shows a lot of the human side and inner workings of the Scaled team and their efforts to reach space.
  • Re:Figures (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ghostlibrary (450718) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:54PM (#10430263) Homepage Journal
    > Especially since private industry built our modern Internet where the government couldn't.

    >Boy, private industry picking up and popularizing a government service

    I'm glad you two both agree with me! Or put another way, duh! That's what's supposed to happen! Pure research (which especially these days, is mostly funded by the gov't) comes up with things that US businesses can then bring to market and profit on.

    Pure research drives industry. The US Gov't (through military and non-military programs) is the biggest sponsor to pure research. And US industry grows. See a connection?

    Oh, wait... neither of you are socialists who want the gov't to actually _compete_ with business, are you? I hope not.
  • by megarich (773968) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:58PM (#10430316)
    AIAA Long Island Section AIAA DINNER MEETING October 14, 2004 SpaceShipOne - First Private Manned Space Program Kevin Mickey, Vice President, Scaled Composites LOCATION: Jillian's, Airport Plaza, Northeast corner of Rt. 110 and Rt. 24, East Farmingdale, NY Time: 6:00 PM Sign-In, 6:30 PM Dinner, 8:00 PM Presentation Cost: $25 Members/Guests, $15 Student Members RSVP By October 11 to Gerry Yurchison (516) 346-0048, Gerry.Yurchison@ngc.com As of the latest news today, October 4th, 2004, the Scaled Composites contender for the ten million dollar Ansari X-Prize competition has become the successful winner. They are the first privately funded team to achieve 100km altitude with a three person payload, successfully return, and repeat the flight within two weeks. The first flight for the prize was September 29th. Their second flight today was achieved only 5 short days later. Our speaker will discuss the development, testing, and organization behind the SpaceShipOne program, and be able to share details and videos related to their amazing achievement. Mr. Mickey first joined Scaled Composites in 1986 as a Technician, fabricating parts and aircraft made of then-revolutionary composite materials. Later he worked at Lockheed's Skunk Works as a Program Coordinator, responsible for programs involving RCS (radar cross signature) models, composite structures, and flight. He then returned to Scaled Composites as a VP, Program Management, where he has been since 1996. He is responsible for the overall execution and performance of several projects, most notably SpaceShipOne, Scaled Composites manned spacecraft. It is generally seen as the leading contender for the Ansari X-Prize competition, and is the first entirely privately funded spacecraft.
  • Sky cycle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by amightywind (691887) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:05PM (#10430409) Journal

    Let us not forget that he also built Evil Knievel's Sky Cycle in the 70's. Did you see some of the exotic aircraft flying with SS1. They were his too. The guy is amazing.

  • just a reminder (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Peyton Holland (818977) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:06PM (#10430417)
    This is obviously a great situation for innovation, not only here in America, but also in the world.. here's why the SS1 program will go farther faster than NASA. NASA's governmentally funded and based.. they take all of their orders from the government. This is free enterprise at work here. If it took this program less than 5 years to get to the point where it's at now.. imagine where we could be in 5 more years? Trips to the moon, anyone? Wonder who's going to be the first to start researching ways to create artificial atmospheric conditions on the moon. Will there be an X-Prize for that?
  • by M1FCJ (586251) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:08PM (#10430440)
    I don't mind dying trying to reach space. I do mind dying while crossing the road.

    Some of the others were serious contenders. Unless you research the "wacky" theories as well, no one will find some new rules. Submarines: Huh, everyone knows metals sink in the water. Heavier than Air travel: Duh, of course impossible (according to much reowned Lord Kelvin, discoverer o many thermodynamic rules).

    Flying from baloons is quite viable, especially when you are talking about really big payloads. I hope daVinci team will manage to get to space, eventually.

  • Purpose of X Prize (Score:3, Interesting)

    by heir2chaos (656103) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:13PM (#10430506)
    I think it's wonderful that the SpaceShipOne team one the X Prize. However, I think it went a little outside what the competition was trying to accomplish. I do admit that it is a great achievement, but what I'm referring to is that the prize was for $10 million. In such, I think they were hoping that someone would spend less than that to pull it off with a reusable craft. They obviously spent much more than that. They still did it for less than the US government spends pulling it off though, so they still did prove a lot in the exercize. What do others of you think? I think prizes like this can be great to move our society forward and get individuals active in inovations.
  • sorry ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by timothy (36799) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:15PM (#10430536) Homepage Journal
    unlike CNN and other news acronyms, I didn't have a satellite connection from the strip, and had to jog back to the press room's wireless coverage ;)

    timothy
  • by Baldrson (78598) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:20PM (#10430609) Homepage Journal
    Carmack's team also has a better shot at Bigelow's $50M America's Space Prize [yahoo.com] than any of the other Ansari X-Prize contenders [xprize.org]. The 90% peroxide delay resulted in a more economical and safer methanol/peroxide(50%) mixed monoprop booster that is ideally suited for first stage reuse during orbital flights.
  • Re:Um no Re:WTF!!?!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geomon (78680) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:21PM (#10430624) Homepage Journal
    The question wasn't, as you claimed, whether NASA did any of the fundamental research leading to the SS1, but whether NASA had provided any valuable research to the manned spaceflight effort. From the article comment:

    "...reaching space, on a budget embarrassingly smaller than NASA's.."

    My point stands. I maintain that Rutan and others in the private space club have benefitted handsomely from the aeronautical research conducted by governmental space agencies. Individuals whose posts are generally of the vein "gee, Rutan did with $25M what it would take NASA billions of dollars to achieve" is bullshit. The data produced as a result of fifty years of NASA research, as well as research by the Russian and European space agencies, are now taught as foundation coursework in aeronautics courses. The posts that proclaim that Rutan and the private industry are going to do what took governments billions to do is a false economy.

    The textbooks that these aerospace engineers are using to calculate the design parameters of their space craft were written by the engineers and scientists of people who worked for NASA and other governmental space programs.

    To claim that private companies will invest the money necessary to generate a similar body of data making the next leap in space commerce possible is foolish. Business will need to be convinced that they can make a profit for their investment.

  • by windex (92715) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:33PM (#10430811) Homepage
    There are also other things at work, however. I will agree that exposure is a factor, however, a large part of it is also a matter of regulation.

    Getting a pilots license is a lot more work and a greater financial commitment than getting a drivers license, and accordingly, only people who are willing to take on that greater responsibility are flying.

    I have a non-commerical drivers license and a motorcycle endorsement. I spent a total of maybe 10 hours working on the drivers license, and maybe 15 on the motorcycle. After realizing how much I ride my motorcycle, and how dangerous it is (the other morning I had two quick stops required due to deer), I decided, what the hell, I might as well go get a pilots license too (I have an interesting view on my own abilities to increase personal growth).

    The sheer ammount of study required is astronomical. And that's just for operating under Visual Flight Rules, which do not allow operation during poor weather conditions. I can see how flying can be safer, only from a standpoint of pilot certification.

    If they adopted similar rules for driving, I'm sure the accident rating for automobiles would be decreasing instead of increasing. If you want to look at it from the most sane point of view, by overall percentage, the number of accidents that occur with automobiles has risen every year for 40 years. The number of accidents that occur with airplanes, by overall percentage, has lowered every year for 40 years, AND, there are more pilots in the sky than there were 40 years ago by a long shot.

    Given that, I can safely say that exposure in this case is overrated. If the accident rating remained consistant to the number of pilots, it would be a valid argument.
  • by CompressedAir (682597) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:50PM (#10431040)
    I happened to be on the loop while the Space Ship One flight was going on. Pretty much everyone here at Johnson Space Center stopped to watch it.

    One of the ground controllers told Mike and Gennady the news about the flight. Mike's statement was moving (hopefully I don't screw up his quote):

    "It's nice to know, if only for a few minutes, that we're not the only two people up here."

    That's how all of us engineers at NASA feel, as well. Most of us are here because we Believe in spaceflight, and it is a relief when some of that pressure gets taken off our shoulders.

    More the merrier. Great job Scaled!
  • by Julian Morrison (5575) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:59PM (#10431148)
    I assume any company that's selling suborbital trips will make a big production out of the whole pre-flight thing. A week of training, meet-the-astronauts, maybe ride up on the carrier plane for the guy ahead of you's flight, and then you actually get to fly. For that, it might start to seem value for money.
  • A ray of hope (Score:2, Interesting)

    by djtopper (747230) on Monday October 04, 2004 @02:16PM (#10431380) Journal
    With all the news headlines about Afganistan and Iraq ... and with the whole world seemingly hating the US these days ... I think the Scaled Composites team should receive a congressional medal for remdinding the world of what truly makes our country great. Proudly (once again ... thanks guys), DT
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @02:30PM (#10431549)
    the funniest part is when the gates foundation started flooding money into all these liberal/humanitarian causes, two things happened:

    1) NPR basically stopped doing anti-microsoft news;
    2) Blacks groups started supporting microsoft (the foundation targeted africa, etc).

    This knocked the legs out from under the liberal/democrat fight for software freedom via the law.

    it's called social engineering, and they did a textbook job...they spend a fraction of their wealth on liberal/humanitarian causes and effectively end all criticism of the company from either side of politics.
  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Monday October 04, 2004 @02:34PM (#10431586) Journal
    Today does not herald in the age of zero-G convention centers.

    I would argue that the first manned flight in space was the first step toward zero-G convention centers. Today is just one rung of a very tall ladder.

    A very important rung, because it is civilian, privately funded, done on the cheap, was done on the first attempt, has attracted more venture capital, uses a safer fuel, and more importantly it sparks the imagination of millions of kids, of all ages.

    Space hotels (of some sort) are not likely in the next 5 years, but as a 40 year old, they just MIGHT be in my lifetime. I had not thought so until recently.

    The future is getting closer all the time.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday October 04, 2004 @02:47PM (#10431738) Journal
    The risk of traveling by plane is lower than by car even if you compute it per mile travelled. It's not lower because you fly by plane less often. You are a lot less likely to die on a 400-mile plane trip than you are to die on a 400-mile car trip.

    I've seen that claim often. And suspect it's true. (I was in a plane, for instance, that blew ALL the tires on one side when it touched down - due to improper maintainence. I'm afraid I wrecked the captain's day when I congratulated him on the landing - he'd just bet another crwe member that nobody noticed anything.)

    But I'd trust it a LOT more if any auto fatalities of auto passengers in the horrendous traffic near airports (where you WOULDN'T have been driving if you didn't have to go there to transfer to/from the plane) were counted toward the air travel, rather than car travel, totals.
  • by MustardMan (52102) on Monday October 04, 2004 @03:06PM (#10431982)
    Troll? I'd consider it a joke, not a troll. Although those who don't get my jokes sometimes mod me as a troll, or more commonly offtopic, the majority of my posts are intended to make people laugh, with an occasional insightful or informative post thrown in there when I actually know something about the subject at hand.

    I mostly just post to get people laughing, not to troll. I also kinda like that you don't get karma for funny mods... I'm an attention whore, not a karma whore.
  • by nacturation (646836) <[nacturation] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday October 04, 2004 @03:45PM (#10432423) Journal
    I think the similarities are much more than the differences. My clothes washer can not only detect the water level, but it also adjusts its spin to evenly distribute the clothes in a matter than doesn't result in a wobbly spin. But even with all this advanced electronics, motors, sensors, etc. it still doesn't know if the clothes are clean at the end of the cycle.

    The Roomba is great as it can adjust its vacuuming pattern to avoid obstacles, but not only does it similarly not know if it's being effective at cleaning the areas it covers (will it re-do a spot if it didn't pick up all the dirt on the first pass?), it also doesn't guarantee that it will cover an entire room. The patterns it follows as it spirals and sweeps around don't guarantee 100% coverage. And there's also the possibility of it getting stuck.

    I wouldn't really call either of these robotic, in the classic sci-fi sense of the word. However, I'm not sure where the threshold is -- why one particular device can be considered robotic whereas another is just electro-mechanical.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @03:52PM (#10432496)
    Quoth Binnie:

    "Let me say I thank God that I live in a country where this is possible," Mr. Binnie said after landing and receiving a hug of congratulations from his wife. "And I really mean that. There's no place on Earth that you can take this flag and take it up to space."
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:03PM (#10433558) Homepage Journal
    "If a Canadian team had one there would be the same type of response. "
    No odds are it would have been an even bigger response since.
    1. It would have been an underdog team that had won. Rutan was always the favorite.
    2. It would have been the first Canadian manned space craft with a Canadian crew. Canada would have gone nuts and put there picture on a postage stamp already.
    3. The US would have gone nuts since we love the under dog.
    4. The EU would have gone nuts since it was a none US team that won.

    No it is not being blown way out of proportion at all. It is way cool and a good Aerospace "hack" if there ever was one.
  • by Mac Degger (576336) on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:49PM (#10434042) Journal
    Athough you are kinda correct, you're also not :)

    Whilst it's true that you need a lot of energy to achieve orbit, a rocket is actually one of the least efficient ways of accomplishing orbit; the reason they're still used is they're proven technology; this is the mayor one: space tech is some of the most conservative I know of. The stuff works, the tech/science is a knowwn quantity and rocket scientists are very resistant to change.

    Anyway, Rutan's approach is quite efficient: launching an aircraft isn't that energyhungry, and getting something from cruising altitude to orbit is also not to bad. In terms of energy, it's actually more effiecient to do it in these two stages than in one single go...one reason being that a rocket goes STRAIGHT UP, instead of conserving energy by developping lift by going forwards (like an airplanes wing does).

    And the best thing about Rutans approach? It's scalable :) That means in terms of passengers and fuel...which means that scaling the design gets more people higher :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:49PM (#10434560)
    The whole idea of vacationing in space is bullshit, especially at the quoted prices. If Brasnon's flights take off like he hopes, that's gonna be a lot of people blowing their kids' college funds to take a joyride in space.

    Plus, you also have the problem of building a hotel in space. Where do the materials come from? Earth. Your loads will have to be light and numerous to get enough materials up there using this method.

    Also, you have to take into consideration the costs of developing new aircraft to accomodate more people. Remember, it was much cheaper to develop the Sopwith Camel than it was to develop the 707. Also, since you're using two aircraft, instead of one, you'll need a plane that is capable of carrying your 707.

    I'd love to think that all of the problems encountered by the US space program could have been solved if they had opened up the space community to include private firms. However, these X-Prize contestants are standing on the shoulders of the proverbial giants before them. They are able to compete cheaply, because they aren't innovating from scratch. They don't have to pay for the mistakes that were made in pursuit of the knowledge they are building upon. I think that once these private entities are forced to innovate, they will realize that there is no cheap solution, and will adjust ticket prices accordingly.

    Considering the great costs and safety risks inherent in space travel, I HIGHLY doubt that space tourism will be the driving force in space exploration. Perhaps people with hugely expendable incomes like Richard Branson and Paul Allen are willing to blow tons of money on such trips, but I don't think they realize they're a very small minority. If we are going to push towards the stars, we need a real life/liberty/pursuit-of-happiness reason. Until that happens, most of us will put those space dreams back in the same drawer we've put our rocket packs and our tours of the Marianas Trench into.
  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Monday October 04, 2004 @07:10PM (#10434729) Journal
    I'd love to think that all of the problems ...

    Yes, I am sure you would, which is why you will be sitting at home when it DOES happen, and you will be the one yelling at the TV, saying how stupid they are to take such a risk.

    Not everyone is afraid to dream. I have spent my entire adult life taking risks (although nothing like space travel). The risk takers either reach the moon or die young. Old, crotchity people like you just sit on the sidelines, telling the rest of us everything is impossible, and that we are stupid for trying.

    I guess it takes all kinds.

    I guess going to the moon, breaking the sound barrier, and flying solo over the Atlantic were stupid, too, huh? I am sure others said it was stupid to even DREAM of flying in an aeroplane across the country, or the ocean, and even if we could, only the rich would ever be able to afford it.

    I guess the key to being a successful dreamer is to understand that to obtain your goal, you will have to use inventions that do not exist, find money that you don't have, take risks you don't even understand, but have the vision to see it through.

    But you're right, its much easier to simply say that it is impossible, and eventually watch others prove you wrong, on TV, from the comfort of your rocking chair. Thank god we are not all as smart as you are.
  • by Kismet (13199) <pmccombs@NOsPaM.acm.org> on Monday October 04, 2004 @09:52PM (#10435882) Homepage
    Yet, when unsafely operated and maintained playground equipment hurts our kids, we pass an ordinance to remove it from the community.

    On the other hand, we allow vehicles with the word "sport" in them to enter the market, and don't bat an eye at the horrendous fatality statistics on our freeways.

I never cheated an honest man, only rascals. They wanted something for nothing. I gave them nothing for something. -- Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil

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