... Orbit, Sooner than You Think

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Rutan hopes success in this venture would initiate a new private space race to usher affordable space travel to the common (perhaps upper-upper-middle class) man. Rutan estimates first-generation public spacecraft -- and SpaceShipOne is scaleable -- will offer "rides" at $30,000-50,000 and second-generation craft will do it for closer to $10,000. "We're heading to orbit sooner than you think ... The next 25 years will be a wild ride ... and one that historians will note was done for the benefit of all," said Rutan. The people who drove to the site in the Mojave desert -- like Lauren from Oregon, Eric from Santa Cruz, or Richard and Susan from Three Rivers -- clearly shared Burt's vision that the event would be, like the Wright Brothers' first flight before a skeptical audience in Europe, an exhibition for the ages. "I just wanted to be here to see it," said Greg, who flew in from Falls Church, Virginia. Nobody mentioned the 90-degree temperatures and the blowing dirt. We were there yesterday, and invite you to have a look around.

Whatever comes of it, the positive energy shared yesterday by all on site at Mojave was a tribute to Paul G. Allen, who is almost solely responsible for the program's funding. That result is perhaps fitting -- Allen told press yesterday that he himself was inspired by the space launches of the '60s and attracted by a new mission "crying out to be done." It is these attempts that push us forward. It is these risks that make us safer. And yesterday, it was clearly Burt Rutan's intention to do both.