... Reveling in the Afterglow

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Success in spite of failures is arguably a more significant success. And for those who can simply read the numbers and quotes, for those who were not there, we must convey that this event was truly epic. To be there, it seemed the emotion behind every eye that had strained into the sky was shared in Rutan and Melville's post-flight embrace. And the tears Rutan wiped away as Melville took the microphone to speak could not be misunderstood. It was more than statistics and records; it was a feeling so positive, and it was grandeur. It was, after all, just Monday that a group of private individuals extraordinary for their dreams, talent and conviction came together under a common goal, and reminded the world that "the impossible" ... isn't. Had the flight gone off without a hitch, subsequent flights to fill the requirements and win the X-PRIZE would have soon followed (within weeks). As it is, there is no schedule for a next flight of SpaceShipOne. The troubles encountered will first be addressed and corrected. But whenever and whatever happens next, Monday was an event of inspiration for generations to come. Patty Gray Smith presented FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings to Mike Melville Monday morning. She then gave both Melville and Rutan, "who made it all happen," certificates "in recognition of this tremendous achievement." "I hope you display it prominently," she told Melville. "You bet on it!" he replied, "I don't suppose there are too many of these around." Not yet, anyway. Rutan, surprised to receive his own plaque of recognition, said under his breath, "I wasn't expecting that" and later leaned in to kiss Smith on the cheek. He then bowed into the press center microphones and stated clearly, "Now don't you ever say that Burt Rutan doesn't kiss up to the FAA." If somehow we've failed to impress upon you the purely positive nature and emotions generated by this historic flight, let us assure you, there's something you don't see every day.