Before I came in this morning, I watched the second launch of Burt Rutan’s and Paul Allen’s (well, Scaled Composite’s, really…) SpaceShip One, in pursuit of the Ansari X Prize. All appearances are that they have won, but it’s not official until the pilot survives 24 hours (by international aeronautical federation rules).
I still have scrapbooks that I made during the early Apollo flights in 1968 (I’m not *that* old – I was 4 at the time), so space has been in my blood for a long time. But I’ve felt for a long time that NASA lost its way after Apollo. Shuttle was designed more to keep NASA centers open and be politically feasible than to be the next step into space.
Today, I think I saw what is likely to be the next step, with technology that comes more out of the aeronautical world than the space world, and comes from a small group of dedicated people working together rather than a large army. There are some obvious parallels there between space and software development that I won’t go into right now.
As soon as I heard that Scaled was going for the X Prize, I knew they would be the one to win, as whenever Burt Rutan gets in the game, he’s always a front runner. From the globe-circling Voyager to the Beech Starship, his designs have always had innovative solutions.