...Rules Antiquated, Ineffective...

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Rutan told the hearing that the regulatory process almost scuttled his Paul Allen-financed bid to win the Ansari X Prize, which his team accomplished last October. Although SpaceShipOne and White Knight bear little resemblance to the classic booster/payload arrangement that has typified space flight to date, under the FAA's new Office of Commercial Space Transportation, according to Rutan, they get the same treatment. Under those regs, the protection of the "non-involved public" in the event of disaster is paramount. "It resulted in cost overruns, increased risk for my test pilots, [and] did not reduce risk to the non-involved public," he said. Rutan offered a solution. He would rather his airplane-like systems be treated by the FAA as airplanes, with the emphasis on innovation to prevent problems from occurring -- but he's not optimistic. For one thing, the Office of Commercial Space Transportation is enshrined in law as the regulatory body. Assuming Rutan and his crew get to develop the personal spaceflight industry, he told the committee it will be a relatively accessible and comfortable experience for customers. He said customers won't accept being jammed into a tiny spacecraft, and that the next generation will have comfortable accommodations, large windows and room for them to float almost weightless for the five to six minutes they spend in space.