The world’s first privately built and flown manned space craft, SpaceShipOne, should have hit the 62.5 mile mark that defines the edge of Earth’s atmosphere within the past few minutes. Assuming it has it will be the first time in history that a manned space flight has been undertaken by a non-governmental organization. Video of the event is being relayed over several news websites including MSNBC.com which I only recommend because they’re using Windows Media Player as opposed to Real Player that most other sites are using.
It’s hard to say how significant this flight really is beyond the novelty of it being the first entirely private endeavor, but there’s no shortage of people speaking of this as being similar to the breakthrough of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk and there’s lots of speculation on possible space tourism as well. One thing that is for certain, though, is that before space travel becomes commonplace there has to be a reason to go and such a reason is more likely to be brought about by private industry than NASA. I’ve been meaning to do a write-up on President Bush’s grand vision of returning men to the Moon to set up a permanent base and then continue on to Mars and I even started on an entry about it, but it’s still a work in progress. In short, though, I think the whole thing is a waste of time and money and that’s coming from someone who would really love to see such a thing come to pass. I’ll work on finishing that entry up and getting it posted soon.
Either way, today’s test flight is certainly exciting for someone like myself who’s always dreamed of someday visiting space himself and hopefully it all goes well. We should know one way or the other within the hour.
Update 11:21AM: Looks like they managed to pull it off…
SpaceShipOne took off from the Mojave Airport, nestled beneath its White Knight carrier plane, at about 6:45 a.m. PT, sailing up into the clear desert sky. About an hour later, at an altitude of almost 50,000 feet, the White Knight released its companion craft, and SpaceShipOne test pilot Mike Melvill lit up his rocket engine for a 70-second straight-up blast.
About 15 minutes later, officials announced that Melvill and SpaceShipOne had done it, reaching an altitude of at least 62 miles (100 kilometers), the internationally recognized boundary of outer space.