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SpaceShipOne Captures the X Prize 896

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 brainspank ( 515274 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:55AM (#10429717)
      just hope they don't lose your luggage.

      "I'm sorry sir, your bags went to Uranus."
    • by JUSTONEMORELATTE ( 584508 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:56AM (#10429735) Homepage
      Sounds great, if you want your summer vacation to last about 75 seconds.
      Oh, and cost US$200,000
      And have a non-trivial chance of killing you

      Other than that, I'm totally there dude!

      Free gmail invites []
      • Sounds great, if you want your summer vacation to last about 75 seconds.
        Oh, and cost US$200,000
        And have a non-trivial chance of killing you

        Other than that, I'm totally there dude!

        It's space exploration... to the max!!!!1!!!

        • by MustardMan ( 52102 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @02:14PM (#10431356)
          That's what I call REAL ULTIMATE POWER!!!!

          This post is about SpaceShipOne, REAL SpaceShipOne. This post is awesome. My name is James and I can't stop thinking about SpaceShipOne. This ship is cool; and by cool, I mean totally sweet.

          1. SpaceShipOne is a spaceship
          2. SpaceShipOne flies into space ALL the time.
          3. The purpose of SpaceShipOne is to flip out and do barrel rolls

          Weapons and gear:

          Rubber powered rocket
          White Knight mothership
          Floating M&Ms

          SpaceShipOne can fly anywhere it wants! SpaceShipOne sonic booms ALL the time and doesn't even think twice about it. This ship is so crazy and awesome that it barrel rolls ALL the time. I heard that this guy was flying SpaceShipOne. And when some dude launched the rocket the SpaceShipOne started oscillating like crazy. My friend Chico said he saw M&Ms totally float inside SpaceShipOne just because it was in a parabolic arc.

          And that's what I call REAL ULTIMATE POWER!!!!!!!

          If you don't believe that SpaceShipOne has REAL ULTIMATE POWER you better get a life right now or they will win the x-prize. It's an easy choice, if you ask me.

          SpaceShipOne is sooooooooooo sweet that I want to crap my pants. I can't belive it sometimes, but I feel it inside my heart. SpaceShipOne is totally awesome and that's a fact. SpaceShipOne is fast, cool, strong, powerful, sexy, and 31337. I can't wait to start watching my Star Wars DVD next month. I love SpaceShipOne with all of my body (including my pee pee).
      • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:24PM (#10430188) Homepage Journal
        Sounds great, if you want your summer vacation to last about 75 seconds.
        Oh, and cost US$200,000
        And have a non-trivial chance of killing you

        One day this will all be routine and our children's children will be fascinated that people went into space on those Saturn V powered mostrosities or even the space shuttles. You have to look past the present and visualize the future. After a few crotchety space stations, what's to stop someone from building a hotel/resort/convention center in space? Money. Practicality? Don't talk to me about practicality, I've been to enough convention centers and you oughta know people go there to get away, shoot some golf, etc. All of which and new entertainment possibilities be made possible in Zero G. The only concern I'd have about such a thing is radiation and stray space garbage smacking into it, but I think they could get that sorted out too.

        Dream a little.

        we've got another broken window, cruise over to the space K-Mart and get a space scooter full of whoever is hanging around to work on it.

    • by XNormal ( 8617 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:16PM (#10430074) Homepage
      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.

      ...and Robert Bigelow's Bigelow Aerospace [] working on inflatable space structures. Robert Bigelow is also the owner of the Budget Suites of America Hotel Chain.

      Bigelow has recently announced the logical follow-up to the X-Prize: America's Space Prize [], a $50 million prize to build a vehicle capable of taking 7 people to an orbiting space habitat and back before the end of the decade.

      Bigelow actually denies any plans for an orbital hotel, but with his background everyone keeps assuming that's his intention anyway.

  • by turg ( 19864 ) * <turg&winston,org> on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:51AM (#10429633) Journal
    That's a bit of a let-down, actually. I was hoping a few more people would have a successful first launch before someone managed to do it twice in two weeks. It would have been a little more dramatic.

    What do you think will happen to the other projects? I suppose they must have been funded well enough to not depend on receiving the prize.
  • by Cobalt Jacket ( 611660 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:52AM (#10429652)
    According to the anyone from the da Vinci know how to win!
  • 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.
    • by Burdell ( 228580 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:59AM (#10429777)
      This is nothing close to the Mercury missions. Even the first two
      sub-orbital Mercury missions went nearly twice as high, and the rest
      were all orbital. This is closer to the X-15 project: carried up by a
      plane and dropped and then firing a rocket engine to just reach the edge
      of space. There is a big difference.
    • by ozric99 ( 162412 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:59AM (#10429782) Journal
      Uhmm, these guys did a job (fantastic though it was) that NASA had already pioneered. I dare say they'd have spent a hell of a lot more cash had they not been following in the footsteps...

    • The X-15 (Score:5, Informative)

      by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:02PM (#10429821) Homepage
      I would say that it would be more accurate to say that SS1 reporduced the results of the X-15. What is interesting is that in terms of costs, both efforts cost the $25 Million.

      If you assume that a 1960 dollar is worth 4x of what it is today, then SS1 cost 1/4 of the X-15.

      Well done Scaled!

      • Re:The X-15 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:12PM (#10430018) Journal
        The difference being that with the X-15, it hadn't been done before. With SS1, the science and technology used was proven, mature and readily available.

        Not to say SS1 isn't a teriffic accomplishment, but it's not fair to compare the costs of these projects so directly!
      • Re:The X-15 (Score:5, Informative)

        by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:13PM (#10430024)
        "What is interesting is that in terms of costs, both efforts cost the $25 Million."

        The X-15 program cost a heck of a lot more than $25,000,000... though it did make nearly 200 flights, rather than three.

        'The program's total cost, including development and eight years of operations are usually estimated at $300 million in 1969 dollars. Each flight is estimated to have cost $600,000.'

        So that would put X-15 development cost at about $180 million in 1969 dollars vs about $25 million in 2004 dollars for SS1. Whether it's a fair comparison is debatable, however, since the X-15 had to make high speed flights as well as high altitude flights.
    • 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.

  • Burt Rutan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:52AM (#10429658)
    Say what you will, but this guy is a true visionary and genius. First the round the world on a tank of gas flight, and now this.

    Congrats to Paul Allen as well, for his vision and support.
  • Old News. (Score:5, Funny)

    by corngrower ( 738661 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:52AM (#10429663) Journal
    I was wondering when this news would be making it to slashdot. It's been nearly 15 minutes since I first read about it.
  • WTF!!?!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geomon ( 78680 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:52AM (#10429664) Homepage Journal
    "budget embarrassingly smaller than NASA's"

    Of course Rutan didn't perform any of the fundamental research that lead to the first manned flights, so his efforts are piggy-backing on those of NASA.

    What a bullshit comparison.

    • Re:WTF!!?!! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jesrad ( 716567 )
      I think the point is that the cost of building a spaceship has gone down several order of magnitudes these last years. With those current "embarrassingly smaller" costs for reaching space, who knows what services and products and opportunities await ?
    • Re:WTF!!?!! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by daviddennis ( 10926 ) *
      True on one level, false on another.

      Yes, NASA did much of the basic research.

      But that was all done decades ago.

      Does that mean they should have a permanent monopoly on space?

      If this had been a NASA mission, would it not have cost ten times as much? And that makes it pretty much impossible to go to space for any reasons other than big-time investments like satellites.

      I thought How the West Wasn't Won [] was a very nice parable on this subject.

    • Re:WTF!!?!! (Score:5, Informative)

      by G Samsonoff ( 161576 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:05PM (#10429879) Journal
      No, it is very much a valid comparison...

      Rutan uses an engine of a very different design than anything used by NASA (Nitrous Oxide and rubber), and the re-entry configuration (feathering the wings to maximize drag)is totally new AFAIK. Think about it - the skin of this spacecraft is constructed of fabric and glue!!!

      I would love to learn more about how Scaled was able to be so succesfull on such a limited budget using a completely new and radical desgn. There is probably a lesson here applicable to just about any engineering endeavor.

    • Um no Re:WTF!!?!! (Score:4, Informative)

      by WolfWithoutAClause ( 162946 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:14PM (#10430038) Homepage
      Of course Rutan didn't perform any of the fundamental research that lead to the first manned flights, so his efforts are piggy-backing on those of NASA.

      Let's see fundamental research:

      - flying (see Wright brothers- not NASA)

      - rockets in general (see Chinese/Goddard/Germans)

      - reentry feather tail (Rutan- not NASA)

      - jet engines (Whittle- not NASA)

      - hybrid rocket motors (irc Bevin, not NASA)

      - supersonic flight (X1-US Airforce- not NASA)

      In fact, I can't think of any technology on SS1 or WhiteKnight where the fundamental research was by NASA. Anyone?

    • Re:WTF!!?!! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:08PM (#10430452) Journal

      Yes, they are piggy backing on NASA.

      But I guess that NASA developed a number of things.

      1. Gun Powder.
      2. The rockets that flew
      3. Gliders
      4. Aircrafts
      5. V2
      6. First into space to find out what it really was.

      BTW, I have done work for NASA and it will always remain one of my favorite entities. But NASA did not stand alone. They stood on the shoulders of other giants.
  • Watched it live.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kid-noodle ( 669957 ) <> on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:52AM (#10429665) Homepage
    On the webcast. Wow. I mean really - ok, it isn't the moon landings, but it is one of the more significant things I'm likely to see in my life I think.

    I have to say, it brought a tear to my eye when they did it. Yo, America - you guys have something to be proud of today!
  • by greywar ( 640908 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:53AM (#10429679) Journal
    The rules say the pilot must land in good health. Good health means surviving 24 hrs after the landing.

    Even as we speak Spaceship ones competitors are arranging a hit......
  • by Randolpho ( 628485 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:54AM (#10429698) Homepage Journal
    Today is a great day for space afficionados. We've been rather fed up with NASA's castration for years... it's great that the doorway to space seems to be opening up again.

    Next step: orbit [].
  • 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?

    • Re:I wonder... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jesrad ( 716567 )
      I think at least one contestant is to offer some "extreme sport" adventures, like "ultra-high altitude sky-diving".

      Also, everything's not lost, there still is a $50 million prize offered by Robert Bigelow, for building a spacecraft that can bring 5-7 astronauts in orbit.
  • by daviddennis ( 10926 ) * <> 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?)

  • by kippy ( 416183 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:56AM (#10429725)
    I'm wondering what took up the extra mass to account for a 3 person flight. Did they have to take up extra stuff or did the weight of the pilot's 200 pound testicles suffice?
    • Re:extra weight (Score:4, Informative)

      by snake_dad ( 311844 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:18PM (#10430113) Homepage Journal
      Brass is heavy, yes :) From Spaceflight Now []:

      In both cases, only a pilot was on board. The total required weight - 270 kilograms, or 595 pounds - was made up of the pilot, video documentation equipment and personal items selected by the staff at Rutan's company, Scaled Composites, and the X Prize foundation, including Rutan's college slide rule, a teddy bear that will be auctioned off for charity and seedlings.

      And, on the first flight, the ashes of Rutan's mother. Otherwise, Rutan said, "we are not flying things that will end up on eBay and be sold or dealt with in any commercial nature at all," Rutan said before the first flight. "There's only a couple of things that are charity related, the rest are things the person who flies it has signed an agreement with us that he will not sell it, that it is for him and his family."

  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {}> on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:56AM (#10429729)
    Its also a hell of a lot later than when NASA did the same, with technology that is more widespread and cheaper to boot. When NASA did their shots, it had to invent pretty much all of the technology, whereas Scaled Composites had the benefit of all the public knowledge now available about space travel. Not to put a cloud on this success, but come on guys, comparing it to NASA and saying its much cheaper just isnt fair.
  • by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:56AM (#10429734)
    Shared by Sputnik and SpaceShipOne.

    Soviet Russia and Capitalist America, forever entwined by space history.
  • by mscalora ( 226843 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:57AM (#10429747) Homepage
    >...repeatably (if only technically) reaching space, on a on a budget
    >embarrassingly smaller than NASA's.

    Let's see them reach orbital velocity and then I'll be impressed by the budget difference.

    It is not that I am unimpressed by the flight, but I'm not really impressed by comparing the budgets of two totally different projects with totally different goals.
  • 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.
  • next stop: orbit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Peter La Casse ( 3992 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:59AM (#10429773)
    The next step is to achieve orbit. If that can be done as inexpensively as SpaceshipOne, then all sorts of space-related activities will benefit.

    This is an exciting time to be alive.

  • This Space Available (Score:3, Informative)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:59AM (#10429779) Homepage Journal
    NASA does a lot more with its budget than "only technically" reaching orbit. And despite a few tragic "early terminated" missions, its safety record is extremely high, especially compared to its competition. And the amount of science it has released into the public domain has been vast, and nearly inestimable. We'll see how well you and I benefit from the privatization of spaceflight. I'm filing my preemptive patent on "extraterrestrial birth" now, while supplies still last.

    And incidentally, it's been a long time since Paul Allen was "Microsoft's own" - as a major shareholder not employed at the company for decades, it's more like Microsoft is Paul Allen's own, to some degree. More appropriate is to say that the money invested in winning the X-Prize was "our own" before we paid the Microsoft tax.
  • 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 Believe ( 124651 ) <slashdot&sylvestro,net> on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:05PM (#10429868) Homepage
    Microsoft is finally associated with something that DOESN'T crash!
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:08PM (#10429940) Homepage Journal
    That's going to light a fire under a lot of asses... big ones.

    Congratulations are particularly in order for Anousheh Ansari's family [] without whom the X-Prize would not have been funded.

    Hopefully guys like Paul Allen and Bill Gates will get the idea they can do a lot more with their philanthropy money if they put up prize awards than if the schmooze it up with toadies. If they do they will start making major advances not just in space migration but in life extension, intelligence increase and fusion energy [] which will finally embarrass the government into doing what it should have been doing all along the right thing as well:

    Fund prizes, not proposals.

  • by THotze ( 5028 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:09PM (#10429959) Homepage
    I think its interesting to point out that Rutan & co. have made it into space, sure, just space, not orbit (but seriously, when did we start getting so picky? It is _still_ rocket science, and getting to space is still a technical achievement that took over 10 millennia of human technological progression), three times while NASA is still trying to cobble together a way of making their space shuttle (launch cost: about what every slashdotter COMBINED will ever make) safe enough to fly again.

    So basically, the ONLY way that the US can send anyone into space right now is with SpaceShip One - making it one of 3 vehicles, including Russia's Soyuz and China's Soyuz-esque rocket, that can go into space with people in it.

    Its also significant that I think this is the only completely reusable vehicle to ever go into space, as being able to do a one-week turnaround shows, having this capability has some pretty big benefits.

  • by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:11PM (#10429982)
    I watched the documercial last night on Discovery called Black Sky about the Scaled project, it's on again this week and there is a second piece coming up as well, it's worth watching.

    After I watched it I was thinking about who it really shows as being behind the ball. Well NASA is the obvious choice, but NASA made an investment from the 70s on into Shuttle and with the tangled web they have to tread with Congress and internal inertia, I don't think we can say "Look, NASA sucks!"

    Who it really makes look foolish, in my opinion, is the Chinese space program.

    They have been ramping up for thier space program for decades, and thier way of doing it was to buy Russian hardware, reverse engineer it and then build it again. No one knows how much that cost the Chinese, but look at Scaled. 250 people and about 25 million in venture capital is running a space operation out in the desert. Yea they haven't orbited yet. But they will, I've read it costs about $80,000 in fuel and prep.
  • 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.

    • by AeroIllini ( 726211 ) <aeroillini&gmail,com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:38PM (#10430888)
      ...I REALLY hate to point out that the place that had the most coverage, and the timeliest, was Fox News.

      Fox News actually had quite a bit of coverage. They only cut away during the (fairly) boring hour when the White Knight was still ferrying SpaceShipOne to 50,000 feet. Once it got close to separation, Fox stayed with it until well after landing, interviewing Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7 astronaut), Peter Diamandis (X-Prize founder), Eric Anderson (President of Space Adventures), and George Whitesides (National Space Society Executive Director). Their footage of the flight was not first-hand (it had another logo in the corner, so it was being rebroadcast), but it was quite good.

      Remember, MSNBC (and Newsweek, owned by them) were the ones who saw China become only the world's third spacefaring nation and say, "so what?" Even if we end up with "The World's Craziest Rocket Explosion Videos", at least Fox is looking spaceward, while the rest of the (national) media has their heads in the proverbial sand.

      On a related note, local coverage was really good. I was at the first launch last Wednesday morning, volunteering in the parking lot. Approximately 3 hours after the local Tuesday evening news coverage in L.A., traffic got really heavy. Seems the news coverage was compelling enough to make people drive through the night to get to Mojave. Even if the talking heads don't care, America apparently does.
  • by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:12PM (#10430007) Homepage
    "Interesting to note that a majority of its funding ($20-$30 million) was put up by Microsoft's own, Paul Allen."

    In a rare break of Microsoft solidarity, Steve Ballmer says most people flying to space are stowaways and Microsoft will lead the way to space. "There is no way you can get there with NASA. The critical mass has to come from the PC, or a next generation lift-off device."

  • Food for thought (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:12PM (#10430019) Homepage Journal
    First, the oblig congrats. It's an impressive feat, even though it is sub-orbital. :)

    Second, I notice Rutan did NOT go on the second flight. In fact, from the fact that the two "passengers" were balast (again!), I'm concerned that Scaled Composites were more concerned about the rolls in the first flight than they let on.

    Remember, Rutan was all dead-set on going into space on the second flight, and the spirit of the X-Prize rules was that the vehicle was to carry passengers. The fact that only the pilot was on the second flight indicates that the potential publicity coup of being on the second flight was outweighed by the risks.

    The only risks we're aware of are the "bang" heard on the first sub-orbital flight, and the propensity for SpaceShipOne to lose control on the edge of the atmosphere. The first problem was likely overcome, which means that the second problem likely has not.

    Whilst I certainly applaud Scaled Composites for what they have achieved, I think it's worth stressing that they will need to achieve a lot more (on the technical front) before the technology becomes viable.

  • Hmmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by djwavelength ( 398555 ) * on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:24PM (#10430182)
    When deep space exploration ramps up, it'll be the corporations that name everything, the IBM Stellar Sphere, the Microsoft Galaxy, Planet Starbucks.
    -Fight Club
  • by artemis67 ( 93453 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:26PM (#10430204)
    basically gave up on winning the X Prize. According to this press release [], they were dogged by two things: 1) they had pinned their hopes on using 90% peroxide as their fuel, but it wasn't available to them, and 2) a test flight crash on August 8th.

    They are continuing work, albeit at a slower pace.
  • Perspective (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mwood ( 25379 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:03PM (#10430378)
    Okay, way to go Scaled team!

    But I must object to "embarrassingly smaller budget than NASA's." NASA had to do their first manned suborbital flight with 1950s hardware borrowed from the artillery boys, and without 40 years of prior experience to draw on.

    The X Prize contestants are, in Newton's words, standing on the shoulders of giants. They're doing great things, and I applaud them, but there's no need to tear down other pioneers to build these guys up. The present work is quite impressive enough as it is.
  • 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 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!

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