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Monday, June 14, 2004
SignOnSanDiego: Sky-high ambition
Engineer sees opportunity for civilian spaceflight
The stars were out and a chill wind blew as the ecstatic crowd surged across police lines in a field near Paris 77 years ago.
Shouting "Cette fois, ca va!" – "This time, it's done!" – they hoisted Charles Lindbergh to their shoulders as he emerged from his single-engine airplane after a nonstop, 33½-hour flight from New York. He had proved it was possible.
Lindbergh later wrote he "was astonished at the effect his successful landing in France had on the nations of the world. To me, it was like a match lighting a bonfire."
Now, in the high desert 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, a legendary aircraft designer is on the verge of attaining a similarly ambitious goal.
At the Mojave Airport on June 21, Burt Rutan plans to strike his own match in the hope that it will light a bonfire for the 21st century. Rutan's goal is to become an antidote to NASA, to show that spaceflights can be done at relatively low costs with no government support.
Rutan's company, Scaled Composites, plans to launch a rocket plane called SpaceShipOne beyond the Earth's atmosphere and become the first privately financed team to create a manned space program.
The space shot should be visible for hundreds of miles. The vertical plume from an earlier test flight was spotted in Burbank. Read More
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