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Monday, July 12, 2004

Self-Taught Pilot Going to Space
chabot imageCompetitors and organizers of the Ansari X Prize -- the international race to create and fly a privately financed rocket ship for space tourists -- like to talk about launching a new era of barnstorming.

Like during the early days of aviation, they see pilots at the controls of experimental craft taking to the heavens by the dozens or hundreds. Mike Melvill became the first people's astronaut last month when he flew Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne to an altitude of 100 kilometers over Mojave, California. That marked the first time a civilian pilot at the controls of a privately built spacecraft had flown to space.

Now, a self-taught Canadian engineer leading a group of volunteers is determined to become space barnstormer No. 2.

Melvill's feat made Rutan's team the favorite to win the X Prize's $10 million jackpot when it launches its next flight later this year. But so far, no one has publicly given the required 60-day notice for a prize attempt. And Brian Feeney, the leader of a Canadian team that plans to blast a spherical capsule called Wild Fire into space, says he'll give SpaceShipOne a run for its money.


Last time Brian Feeney claimed he was going to announce launch plans at an event, he didn't, but as Scaled gets ready to fly, he doesn't really have any choice if he wants to be in the competition. July 21 should be interesting.


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