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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 Jesrad ( 716567 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:55AM (#10429714) Journal
    According to Google's convertor, 368000 feet is 112 kilometers, not 102.

    Besides, 368,000 feet is also higher than the X-15 altitude record (roughly 355,000 feet).
  • by Nos. ( 179609 ) <andrew&thekerrs,ca> on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:55AM (#10429718) Homepage
    I know the Canadian daVinci project still intends to launch, even if the prize has already been won. I had planned to attend the Oct 2nd launch since its only a few hours drive from my home, and will try to attend the day they do launch.
  • Re:WTF!!?!! (Score:2, Informative)

    by MrP- ( 45616 ) <> on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:56AM (#10429730)
    Ok so what you're saying is, if you dont count all the money spent on research.. NASA can build a ship like the SpaceShipOne for $25 million?

    Hahahahhaa ok
  • by tmacd ( 761305 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:56AM (#10429732) Homepage
    I put together the footage I took at the last launch attempt into a video on my homepage. []

    The music is from the very cool band ZIA. [] The lead singer/songwriter was at the launch this morning. (Lucky woman!)
  • by Hieronymus Howard ( 215725 ) * on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:58AM (#10429769)
    It's officially won, if that will stop you sweating:


    (apologies if slashcode mangles the above link)
  • by barawn ( 25691 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:58AM (#10429772) Homepage
    368000 feet is 112 km, not 102 km.

    The first flight was 338,000 feet. This one was 30,000 feet (or ~10 km) higher.

    They made this one far easier than the one before.
  • 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.
  • 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 timbloid ( 208531 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:59AM (#10429790)
    According to this BBC report [];
    • "More than two dozen teams around the world are involved in the competition. Many of these teams, realising that SpaceShipOne would in all probability take the X-Prize on Monday, are already setting their sights on orbital flight.
  • 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: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.

  • by Frnknstn ( 663642 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:06PM (#10429894)
    After all, today's flight's pilot, Brian Binnie, is a South African.
  • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:07PM (#10429911) Journal
    I don't think it was Microsoft sponsoring it - I think it was Paul Allen personally putting some of his own money into the project.
  • by antispam_ben ( 591349 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:08PM (#10429930) Journal
    For those who didn't see this headline on CNN [] earlier today, here's a screenshot: []

    Oh how I hate news reporting of science. If people think SpaceShipOne goes into orbit just as does NASA's Space Shuttle, it's no wonder, with science reporting like this. "But it said it right there on CNN's website..." For some people it would be easier to explain that "a hacker [they wouldn't understand the 'cracker' distinction] put that headline on CNN's website" rather than a major news organization being wrong.

    An I overly cynical, or have I just been spending too much time around stupid people?
  • Re:I wonder... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jesrad ( 716567 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:09PM (#10429950) Journal
    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 iAlex ( 134189 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:10PM (#10429973)
    I live in Ridgecrest California which is about 50 miles away from Mojave. When I arrived at work this morning I first noticed a bunch of people outside looking up. Above us were two contrails doing a slow right hand pattern. White Night and probably the Alphajet chase plane. When the contrails were way to the south, probably over Edwards Air Force Base, SS1 released and shot off to space. Even from where we were we could easily see the orange rocket plume and also see when the exhaust stopped. A great show that I didn't expect to see at all today.

  • by RocketScientist ( 15198 ) * on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:11PM (#10429991)
    "Microsoft Money," as you put it, has done some very [] interesting [] and beneficial [] things. The X-Prize isn't the exception to the rule, it's pretty much the standard [] practice [].
  • Re:You are an idiot. (Score:3, Informative)

    by rawgod0122 ( 574065 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:12PM (#10429998)
    SS1 and NASA do different things, that is why there is a price difference.

    OK so a shuttle goes into orbit for how long and supports life and experiments for that duration. How long did SS1 stay up for? Not that long (just a couple mins). They didn't even do one orbit.

    Not that I am trying to take away from what they did. I shed a tear as I watched this morning.
  • by Ford Prefect ( 8777 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:12PM (#10430008) Homepage
    BTW, did anyone else notice that NASA TV didn't cover this flight? It's too bad, because the Ansari X-Prize feed was completely useless. Once people jumped onto the webcast, the poor server just didn't have the bandwidth to keep up.

    I checked NASA TV first, which is where I watched last week's flight - and there was nothing.

    In fact, I couldn't find any live feeds, although the 'News Multiscreen' thingy on BBC News 24 on Freeview was showing the launch. Yes, a tiny quarter-screen, silent view from a ground-based tracking camera, but it was better than nothing.

    It looked a lot smoother flight than last week's, as while it wobbled a bit from side to side while the rocket was burning, it had none of the terrifying roll. Interestingly, it was a different pilot at the controls - Brian Binnie instead of Mike Melvill. Still, he seemed to do okay. :-)

    Probably been linked to already, but here's Spaceflight Now's coverage [].
  • 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.
  • 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?

  • Their navigation display did actually flake out while the rocket was firing three flights ago; the pilot said he just kept going since with his head straight forward he could see the earth out of the corner of his eye and knew he was still going up. 4P [] []
  • It won. (Score:3, Informative)

    by mekkab ( 133181 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:16PM (#10430072) Homepage Journal
    Check the X-prize website (says they won as of 12:15 eastern) and Please update the headline accordingly.
  • 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 AGTiny ( 104967 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:17PM (#10430086)
    It was (and still is) live on the Science Channel.
  • by jhoffmann ( 42839 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:18PM (#10430101) Homepage
    I watched the documentary on the development & testing of SpaceShipOne, up through last week's flight. If you didn't see it, it was called "Black Sky" -- set your Tivo to look out for it. I'm sure they'll be showing it again.
  • 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 MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:24PM (#10430178)
    ....for the first privately-funded manned orbital spacecraft.

    And guess who's in the lead to win that prize: you guess it, none other than Burt Rutan and his group at Scaled Composites. You're forgetting that Scaled Composites did development work for both the McDonnell-Douglas Delta Clipper and Lockheed Venture Star programs. Though these programs were not complete successes it has given Scaled Composites valuable learning experience in building real spacecraft, and that experience gives them a huge advantage in winning the US$50 million prize. Besides, given Paul Allen's financial resources, Allen could easily part with the US$150-US$200 million needed to develop the so-called TierTwo project that will lead to a privately-funded manned orbital spacecraft. :-)
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:26PM (#10430212)
    NASA has still put many people in space for extended periods of time, including 12 manned flights to the moon.

    Care to clarify this one? I can agree with 12 men on the moon, but I only know of 9 manned missions to the moon, 6 of which landed on the moon.

    Apollo 8 - Circumlunar (10 orbits) no moon landing
    Apollo 10 - "Dress Rehearsal" no moon landing
    Apollo 11 - 2 men walk on the moon
    Apollo 12 - 2 men walk on the moon
    Apollo 13 - "Successful Failure" no moon landing
    Apollo 14 - 2 men walk on the moon
    Apollo 15 - 2 men walk on the moon
    Apollo 16 - 2 men walk on the moon
    Apollo 17 - 2 men walk on the moon
  • by Psychotext ( 262644 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:27PM (#10430219)
    Actually, NASA TV was the only webcast I could find that wasn't being slashdotted into oblivion (The x-prize webcast started great but then seemed to cut out every 10 seconds).

    NASA only seemed to cover it from just before seperation, which is why you may have thought that they didn't have a webcast for it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:52PM (#10430237)

    IIRC, the old X-15 rocket plane had to align its fuselage on a perfect ballistic trajectory to reenter the atmosphere, or it would tumble and break apart. It had little attitude jets on it so that the pilot could position it while outside of significant atmosphere (making it, for those moments, a real spacecraft).

    SS1, on the other hand, simply bends itself into a V shape, so that most or all of its wing area is significantly above its center of mass. Thus as it hits atmosphere the fuselage automatically hangs downward, preventing the kind of tumbling that would have killed the X-15. Once drag on the wings slows it far enough, SS1 flattens out again and becomes a glider.

    Does that help?
  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:15PM (#10430541) Homepage Journal
    No, he is an American citizen. Unlike other places(EU), we don't differentiate between "new" Americans and "old" Americans.
  • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:20PM (#10430621) Homepage
    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.
  • by Quarters ( 18322 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:28PM (#10430734)
    Just curious but the shuttle encounters alot of heat upon re-entry...

    No, no it doesn't. It doesn't encounter any heat whatsoever. It's quite cold in the upper atmosphere. The Shuttle generates a lot of heat upon re-entry, though. That heat is created by the friction of doing an atmospheric entry at a low angle and with high speed.

    The genius of SpaceShipOne is that it essentially tumbles back into the atmosphere at a high angle of attack, with a high drag configuration, and very low speed. The low speed entry generates very little friction and therefore negligable heat.

  • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:33PM (#10430805) Homepage
    For the purpose of the X-prize, "reaching space" is defined as reaching 100 km altitude. That's way short of reaching orbit. SpaceShipOne is not even close to being a vehicle that can go into orbit and return from orbit, and until it reaches that point, it hasn't caught up with what the US and USSR space programs could do in the early 60s.

    By increasing the power, something like SpaceShipOne could reach orbit, but that's the easy part. Returning without burning up is the hard part, and it's a problem on a whole different scale. When SpaceShipOne reached the top of its arc, its speed was zero; the problem is just to control the acceleration on the descent. A craft in orbit is going at 18000 mph, and all that kinetic energy has to be dumped. You can use atmospheric friction (as the space shuttle does, but then you generate enormous heat if you do it right, and if you enter at the wrong angle you either burn up or bounce off the atmosphere like a skipping stone. I don't think other approaches (like using onboard rockets to get rid of most of the kinetic energy) are feasible.

    That's not to say that these problems can't be solved. But acting like we're going to have space tourism tomorrow because some guys won the X-prize is mistakenly optimistic.

    I think, though, that private companies offering satellite launching services with non-reusable vehicles is a much easier objective to achieve. For that, you don't have to worry about the problem of re-entry.

  • by AeroIllini ( 726211 ) <> 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 aberson ( 461047 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:43PM (#10430945) Homepage
    not to argue, just for info:

    It only takes 15 hours of instruction until you can solo under the new Sport Pilot rules, full license can be obtained in as little as 20 total hours (minimum).

    Private pilot certificate is 20hrs to solo and 40hrs total (minimum).

    It takes absolutely no permits or instruction for you to legally climb into your very own (single-seat) ultralight... though you'd be very silly to do it that way. Even if you wanted to get training, you're only looking at 10-15 hours of work before you're on your own.
  • by prisoner-of-enigma ( 535770 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:49PM (#10431029) Homepage
    Not to try and take anything away from Brian's acheivement, but without funding by American Paul Allen (who got rich via the American company Microsoft) and without a design from an American company headed by an American (Portland, Oregon, to be exact) aerospace genius like Burt Rutan, Brian wouldn't have had anything to fly.
  • by windex ( 92715 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @01:52PM (#10431058) Homepage
    I'm working on a Private Pilot certificate and eventually a CFI/CFII so I can help teach some of the new crop of sport pilots. (I see money in that! :) Even with the new Sport Pilot rules, they are very, very limited in range and operating conditions. You can only operate under VFR, not at night, and you have to keep your gross weight under 1,320lbs. There are few commerical aircraft available with more than 1 seat in that category, and none of the planes in that group I've seen are intended for regular flight -- e.g. To Be Overhauled times of less than 1,000 hours, or worse yet, kit planes (which, of all aircraft, are likely to be the least safe, IMHO). Not to mention, if you want more than 2 people, you have to shift away from Sport Pilot rules entirely.

    For anyone interested in the new Sport Pilot rules, visit the EAA's Sport Pilot website []. If your more interested in a private pilots license, I've found Cessna's Learn to Fly [] site and the AOPA [] to be very valuable.
  • by harvardian ( 140312 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @02:26PM (#10431503)
    There've been a few reply posts to point out the fact that flying is safer than driving regardless of exposure, but here are some numbers for the interested:

    According to the Research and Special Programs Administration Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (who said our government is bloated?) here are the stats:

    Motor Vehicle
    -General population risk for accidental death: 1 in 6,300 per year
    -1.7 deaths per 100 million veh. miles

    Commercial Air Carriers (Includes large and commuter airlines)
    - General population risk for accidental death: 1 in 1,568,000 per year
    - 0.19 deaths per million aircraft departures

    To compare trip by trip risk, I'll estimate an average car trip at 20 miles. That yields 1.7 deaths per 5 million car trips, compared to about 1 death per 5 million airline departures. So using this estimate of car trip length, taking a car ride is almost twice as risky as taking a flight.

    For some more perspective, I took a class on health care two years ago that spent a lot of time on an Institute of Medicine report []. The report is famous for showing that preventable medical errors in hospitals are responsible for more deaths every year than motor vehicle accidents.

    And the industry that health care experts often use as a model for improvement? The airline industry.

    So you're healthiest in a plane...if you can't afford to fly all day, then a car will do. But don't go to a hospital!
  • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @02:58PM (#10431902) Homepage
    In a car, if you are a good, skilled, highly-responsive and attentive driver, you have decent odds of recovering, even surviving unscathed.

    That may be true, but it's not really relevant, since most people aren't. And even if you personally are lucky enough to be "good, skilled, highly-responsive and attentive", many of the people driving alongside you are not, and any one of them could make a stupid mistake that ends up being fatal for you, with no chance of recovery.

    The bottom line is: airplanes are maintained and piloted by highly trained professionals, and cars are driven (and generally not maintained) by anyone who can multiple-guess their way through a trivial 30 minute DMV test. That's why planes are safer in practice than cars.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @03:01PM (#10431930)
    Hahah. I know someone's going to post to say that "1999 called, and they want their troll back." But man, that shit still cracks me up. But I'm old.

    Original reference [] for the kids who don't get it. [] Though not commonly mentioned in lists of slashdot trolls, many variants have appeared here. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to locate.
  • Re:Food for thought (Score:3, Informative)

    by cmowire ( 254489 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @03:03PM (#10431949) Homepage
    No, there was no vehicle changes. They just knew where it would have a propensity to roll and flew to avoid it. You have to remember that it was nowhere near the point of structural damage, so as long as Mike didn't black out, the rolling motion would go away when reentry started.
  • by Caseyscrib ( 728790 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:05PM (#10432655)
    There was a 2 hour special on the discovery channel last night that I would highly recommend. It was called Black Sky: The Race For Space []. It is airing again 10/4 and 10/10 []. One of the things you said was exactly what Burt Rutan said; that you need to try the wacky theories as well, and it requires a lot of balls because you risk losing life, wasting money, and so on. He said that 50% of innovation was thinking and planning, the other 50% was developing and testing crazy ideas to see what worked. The rest of the program talked about their challenges, how they overcame them, Burt's previous experience, and a little about the prize. Cool stuff.
  • by transient ( 232842 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:39PM (#10433217)
    There are no statutory minimum hours for solo privileges (I soloed after eleven hours, some do it in as little as five), but the rest of your info is correct. You can solo as soon as you receive training in all of the required knowledge areas, pass an informal written exam, and get an endorsement from your instructor. The relevant regulation is 14 CFR 61.87 [].
  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:10PM (#10434225) Journal
    Glenn Mahone/Bob Jacobs
    Headquarters, Washington
    Oct. 4, 2004
    (Phone: 202/XXX-1898/1600)

    RELEASE: 04-329


    NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe today congratulated the
    SpaceShipOne team on the third successful flight of a private
    human spacecraft. The team also wins the $10 million X Prize

    "Burt Rutan, Paul Allen and the rest of the SpaceShipOne team
    are to be congratulated for this important achievement. They
    successfully demonstrated a new human spacecraft, a new
    propulsion system and a new high-altitude airborne launch
    platform," said Administrator O'Keefe. "The spirit of
    determination and innovation demonstrated today show that
    America is excited about a new century of exploration and
    discovery. We wish the SpaceShipOne team continued success
    and many more safe flights," he added.

    Aboard the International Space Station 230 miles up, the
    Expedition 9 crew, made up of NASA astronaut Mike Fincke and
    Russian Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, noted that for a few
    minutes this morning, they were joined in space by
    SpaceShipOne pilot Brian Binnie. "From Gennady and myself and
    the International Space Station team, congratulations on a
    job well done, and we're really glad SpaceShipOne returned
    safely," said Fincke.

    The X Prize Foundation created a $10 million prize designed
    to encourage space tourism through competition among
    entrepreneurs, engineers and other rocketry experts. The
    Ansari X Prize was conceived to reward the team, which
    designed the first private spaceship to successfully fly to a
    sub-orbital altitude of just over 62 miles (100 kilometers)
    on two consecutive flights within two weeks.

    The competition was modeled after the Orteig Prize, won in
    1927 by Charles Lindberg for the first non-stop flight
    between New York and Paris. All teams had to be privately

    For information about SpaceShipOne and the White Knight
    carrier aircraft on the Internet, visit:

    For information about NASA's exploration initiatives on the
    Internet, visit:


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  • by c.derby ( 574103 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:35PM (#10434415)
    actually, he's not... Mike Melville is South African. Binnie is ex-U.S. Navy.

    Pilot bios: []

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault