Homebuilts In Space

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Rutan Road Show...

Aircraft designer Burt Rutan and his lead astronaut, Mike Melvill, arrived on the field Thursday in a Beech Starship, and drew an overflow crowd that night to AirVenture's Theater in the Woods, where they showed for the first time the cockpit video from Melvill's SpaceShipOne flight in June. The two told the story of their spectacular supersonic flight above the atmosphere, showing clips from a Discovery Channel documentary that will be released later this year. The 18-minute video featured shots from cameras attached to the tails of both the spaceship and the White Knight carrier aircraft, and inside the cockpit with Melvill.

"Be quiet during this part," Rutan advised the audience at a forum the next day, "and you can hear the sound of the M&Ms bouncing against the interior of the fuselage." The audience got a glimpse of the incredible view from the top of the spaceship's flight, to a curving horizon 950 miles away, beneath a deep black sky. The scene of an FAA official presenting astronaut wings to Melvill brought the crowd to their feet for a rousing ovation.