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Friday, June 18, 2004
Some other articles
smh.com.au: Bucket-shop rocket will shoot for the final frontier
Tourism's final frontier is ready to take one giant leap.
On Monday night, Sydney time, a century after Orville Wright's first flight and 43 years after Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth, a man will attempt to become the first person to reach space aboard a privately owned rocketship.
The unnamed pilot won't go into orbit, and the trip will last just 30 minutes. But if all goes well he will rise 100 kilometres in a craft named SpaceShipOne, enjoying three minutes of weightlessness.
"I believe the Government is the reason it's unaffordable to fly into space," says SpaceShipOne's designer, Burt Rutan. "Their help causes cost problems. I want to ... show it can be cheap."
If SpaceShipOne twice repeats the achievement, making two flights carrying three people in two weeks, Rutan will win the $14 million X-Prize offered in 1996 by a St Louis foundation to "jump-start the space tourism industry". Rutan, president of Scaled Composites, a company that develops revolutionary aircraft, says a ticket could cost less than $115,000.
newscientist.com: Civilian craft ready to make space history
On Monday, just a few months after the hundredth anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight, another historic flight may be added to the record books - the first civilian space flight.
The craft that will make the attempt, SpaceShipOne, is built by aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan and his company Scaled Composites,. He believes the flight could mark the start of another new age, in which spaceflight could become as commonplace as today's air travel.
Rutan's sleek little two-part rocket system is a far cry from the converted missiles that began the age of human spaceflight, and from the astoundingly complex space shuttles that require thousands of full-time workers to keep them flying. If the shuttle can be likened to a cargo truck, then the new craft is like a sports car.
The craft will launch on its maiden voyage into space with just a pilot on board, although it is designed to also carry two passengers. Assuming the flight succeeds, the as-yet-unnamed pilot will become the first person ever enter space on a non-government-funded rocket, and thus become the first true civilian astronaut.
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