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Author Topic: This is so awesome! (space)  (Read 2714 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: June 21, 2004, 11:06:12 PM »

http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/06/21/suborbital.test/index.html

Private craft soars into space, history
By Michael Coren
CNN
Monday, June 21, 2004 Posted: 8:27 PM EDT (0027 GMT)


MOJAVE, California (CNN) -- The man who became the first person to pilot a privately built craft into space called his flight "almost a religious experience" after his safe landing Monday morning.

Test pilot Mike Melvill landed at Mojave Airport, about 80 miles north of Los Angeles, California, after taking the rocket plane SpaceShipOne to an altitude of more than 100 kilometers (62.5 miles) -- the internationally recognized boundary of space.

Melvill told reporters he had "a hell of a view from 62 miles."

"The colors were pretty staggering from up there," he said.

"Looking from the Earth up there, you know, it's almost a religious experience. It's an awesome thing to see. You can see the curvature of the Earth. I could see all the way out, way out past the islands off the coast of Los Angeles."

SpaceShipOne lifted off early Monday morning in the Mojave Desert, carried by the jet White Knight.

As the pair approached 50,000 feet, SpaceShipOne decoupled from the jet. After a brief glide, Melvill ignited the spacecraft's engines and ascended into space at Mach 3, three times the speed of sound.

Melvill said once he reached weightlessness, he opened a bag of M&M's in the cockpit, and the candies floated for three minutes while the ship soared high above California.

Problems cut flight short
The spacecraft returned safely, but control problems revealed after the flight forced Melville to cut it short and use a backup system to keep SpaceShipOne under control.

He said trim surfaces on SpaceShipOne -- movable surfaces on the craft's wings -- jammed during supersonic flight. The craft rolled 90 degrees twice during its vertical ascent and veered more than 20 miles off course in a few seconds.

"Right at top, I tried to trim the nose up, that's when I had the anomaly and had to switch to backup," he said. The craft peaked at 328,491 feet (100.12 kilometers), just 408 feet (124 meters) above the international boundary of space, according to Scaled Composites.

The trim surfaces were reconfigured for landing and then remained unused as Melvill guided SpaceShipOne back to a comfortable landing.

"It was a pretty smooth ride after that," he said. "I headed back to Mojave as fast as I could without reasonably hurting anything."

A loud bang Melvill heard during the flight appeared to be a nonessential part of the composite airframe buckling near the rocket nozzle. The slight indention in SpaceShipOne's exterior did not affect the craft's performance.

Melvill, 63, picked up the nation's first pair of commercial astronaut's wings from the Federal Aviation Administration.

"We have opened the frontier of human space flight," said Pattie Grace Smith of the FAA. "It's a major step ushering in a new era of low-cost space flight ... in reach of ordinary citizens."

The flight marks the pinnacle so far of Burt Rutan's vision of affordable, safe, private space travel.

Rutan's company, Scaled Composites, built SpaceShipOne with financial backing from Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corp., for a little more than $20 million. Rutan said the flight, which went from a concept in 1995 to reality less than a decade later, was the realization of a long dream.

"I'm so proud of that, it brings tears to my eyes," he said.

The rocket plane made its farthest and fastest flight to date.

Rutan said he would not speculate about the problems until technical data had been reviewed, something he expected in the next few days.

"The anomaly we had today was the most serious safety system problem we've had in the entire program," he said. "The fact that our backup system worked and we made a beautiful landing ... makes me feel very good."

Melvill, who has tested Rutan's planes extensively, reaffirmed Rutan's engineering skills and commitment to safety.

"That's why we are so good at what we do," Melvill said. "We cover all the bases."

A prelude to future flights
Those on hand for the launch included officials from NASA, the FAA, the X Prize Foundation and the Guinness Book of Records.

Peter Diamandis, co-founder of the X Prize, the $10 million award intended to spur civilian spaceflight, said Rutan's vision would open the door for those with the same dream.

"This is a warm-up for the Ansari X Prize, but it's a historic moment for all Americans," he said. "[I've heard], 'If God wanted us to fly into space, he would have given us more money'. Hopefully, the technology demonstrated here today will lead to designs that are cheaper and easier."

Scaled Composites is one of 24 companies from several countries competing for the X Prize, which will go to the first privately funded group to send three people on a suborbital flight 62.5 miles high and repeat the feat within two weeks using the same vehicle.

Rutan said SpaceShipOne would compete for the X Prize once the causes behind the anomalies had been resolved.

"We will be looking at all our data," he said. "We'll make a decision next few days."

After that, preparations for an official X Prize flight are finalized will take 60 days.

"This was not a perfect flight," Rutan said. "Then again a lot of these things you can do with a 60-day window and easily fix them."

The nonprofit X Prize Foundation is sponsoring the contest to promote the development of a low-cost, efficient craft for space tourism in the same way prize competitions stimulated commercial aviation in the early 20th century.

The prize is fully funded through January 1, 2005, according to the foundation's Web site.

Spectators witness history

SpaceShipOne flew more than 62 miles up, past the edge of space.  
The remote Mojave Airport, a licensed spaceport and the world's only civilian test flight center, also played host to an assortment of vehicles that converged on the site from around the country.

Buses, RVs, electric scooters, small ultralights and a variety of other vehicles were parked in the sandy soil across from the runway.

Many of the spectators said there was a feeling of history in the air. Some said that after waiting decades, they were finally witnessing the first steps toward spaceflight for them.

Josh Collins, 25, said he had flown from Maryland to see the attempt.

"Some people thought I was crazy, other people are jealous," he said.

Rutan mingled, talked and directed traffic with those who spent the night on the windy Mojave Desert floor across from the airstrip Sunday night. He saved one sign as a memento of the occasion: "SpaceShipOne; GovernmentZero".


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« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2004, 12:14:19 AM »

Hmmm. What exactly is the purpose of private space travel? "Space tourism"? Something about this seems rather...indulgent. I suppose it is rather impressive that we have the ability to do this, but I am at a loss as to its purpose, and why so much money is being spent on it.

I don't mean to put a damper on what seems to be an exciting occasion for some, but I just don't understand. Huh

~*Donna, who will remain in this part of the atmosphere for the rest of her days Smiley
« Last Edit: June 22, 2004, 12:15:22 AM by Donna Rose » Logged

hmmmm...
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« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2004, 01:23:15 AM »

Quote
This is so awesome!

I agree!

Wow!
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« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2004, 05:19:32 AM »

Well, I assume it would start as mosly tourism and amateur scientific experimentation, but who knows what will happen eventually.  I think the primary scientific hindrances to "real" space exploration are power supplies and propulsion systems.  If we see cold fusion developed into a workable system in my lifetime I think that will do a lot to open up the rest of the solar system for human exploration.
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« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2004, 03:22:53 PM »

He should have mounted a camera on his craft.

And as for the purpose of private space travel, best to consult some episodes of Futurama for the answer.

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« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2004, 03:24:53 PM »

You mean I get to have my very own Bender?  Where do I sign up? Smiley
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« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2004, 06:37:01 PM »

Quote
And as for the purpose of private space travel, best to consult some episodes of Futurama for the answer.

LOL.

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« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2004, 11:43:42 PM »

What I like was the shape of this craft.  Man, this could only have been designed by private ideas.  Definitely post modern.

JoeS     Cool

I agree!

Wow!
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« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2004, 11:54:43 PM »

I have this nightmare of commercialized outer space where GIANT light up  billboards are placed in space to sell fast food and blot out the stars...................
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« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2004, 12:50:37 AM »

Quote
I have this nightmare of commercialized outer space where GIANT light up  billboards are placed in space to sell fast food and blot out the stars...................

Ick. Nightmare indeed. No thank you.

~*Donna, still committed to living out the rest of her days in THIS part of the atmosphere, stratosphere, whatever the correct term is Smiley
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« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2004, 12:52:13 AM »

"When deep space exploration ramps up, it'll be the corporations that name everything, the IBM Stellar Sphere, the Microsoft Galaxy, Planet Starbucks."
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« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2004, 09:39:14 AM »

"You are not a beautiful & unique snow flake... YOU ARE NOT YOUR GRANDE LATTE!!!..."
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« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2004, 05:47:19 PM »

In Space it's Cold
In Space it's Dark
It's hard to find
A place to park

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C. M. Kornbluth and Frederick Pohl wrote an SF novel about a future that was run by the Ad Men.  "The Space Merchants".  A good read.  I recommend it.

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« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2004, 05:50:49 PM »

And for the purpose of private Space travel: Because it's there. To explore.  To do experiments without governmental logjams, maybe.  I shall refrain for the moment from quoting all of "To seek out new life and new civilizations..." because private space travel isn't FTL yet

(FTL= Faster Then Light, for any who don't read SF)

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« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2004, 06:29:59 PM »

Hmmm. What exactly is the purpose of private space travel? "Space tourism"? Something about this seems rather...indulgent. I suppose it is rather impressive that we have the ability to do this, but I am at a loss as to its purpose, and why so much money is being spent on it.

In the big picture 20 Million isn't much compared to how much is spent on other things. I found one stat that Americans spend twice that a day on snack foods.
And another that the yearly total spent on beer in this country is $25 Billion.

Ebor
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