October 2004


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And so begins an new era in spaceflight – updated*

CNN.com reports that Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne successfully completed it’s second trip to space within two weeks and has claimed the Ansari Z Prize for 10 million dollars, ushering in a new age in privately-funded space flight.

SpaceShipOne gets a ride to the upper atmosphere strapped to the belly of it’s mothership the WhiteKnight, then releases and fires it’s own rocket to soar into space. At the end of the flight, she glides back to Earth and lands on a conventional runway.

The current craft is only capable of three passengers, but Scaled Composites will now have not only the X Prize monies, but also a deal with the Virgin Group to launch Virgin Galactic worth another $25 million to expand the project and launch commercial space tourism over the next few years.

Anyone who has watched NASA’s budget go up and down over the years will be pleased to know that space exploration is no longer strictly in the hands of government, but rather in the capable hands of visionaries and pioneers who want to get off this rockball as much as I do. At the very least, it’s in the hands of people who know there’s money to be made out there, and only the bold can cash in. Either way, we win.

In another article at CNN.com, it looks like the best use for this new technology may be an even older problem: the ISS is filling up with junk.

With no garbage pickup by shuttles for nearly two years, the international space station is looking more and more like a cluttered attic.

“Room limited,” is how the affable astronaut Mike Fincke describes it.

The problem is, shuttle deliveries and pickups won’t resume until spring, and that’s if NASA is lucky. A barrage of hurricanes and their devastating blow to NASA’s launch site may well delay the next shuttle flight, by Discovery.

So the stuff will keep piling up and up.

Considering that SpaceShipOne launches out of the desert, I think the folks over at Scaled Composites might consider looking into designing a space-faring garbage scow. While certain items can be ‘tossed’ out to burn up upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, much of the clutter consists of broken or unused equipment left over from previous experiments. Kind of like my garage, now that I think about it.

Maybe NASA should hold a rummage sale to pad the budget.

One reply to “And so begins an new era in spaceflight – updated*”

  1. BtFR Says:

    Just to let you know, the X prize will now be a yearly affair and the foundation is planning on having a “yearly x-prize” and “fly in” like with aircraft in the old days. At least that is what Diamandis told Fox…Go here: http://www.xprize.org/home.php but just because it’s cool