The Ansari X-Prize was claimed today. SpaceShipOne, the groundbreaking ( spacebarrier-breaking, really) rocketship designed by Burt Rutan and financed by Paul Allen, made it all the way to 377,591 feet into space this morning. It was its second flight within two weeks with a 3-person weight equivalent payload to cross an altitude of 328,000 feet, which is the internationally recognized boundary of space. This meets the conditions to win the $10 million X-Prize.
This is just too awesome. A private firm designing and building an entire space program from launch vehicles to engines to safe reentry for around $25 million. As you may probably know, Richard Branson has decided to license SpaceShipOne's technology to start a new company, Virgin Galactic, that will send people to space for $200,000 a pop starting 2007.
Charles Lindberg's Spirit of St. Louis flight from New York to Paris in 1927 was in response to a similar contest, the Orteig Prize. Looking at how far commercial aviation has come in the decades since, one can only hope that the X-Prize leads to similar advances in space flight. I think it is not too wild a dream for us to actually go to space someday in the near future. I, for one, would love to.
Many congratulations to everyone involved, not only with SpaceShipOne, but all the other teams who have spent the last few years working to go to space and win the prize. Y'all rock.