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|SpaceShipOne Wins X-Prize|
The first private spacecraft went into space for the third time today and thus satisfied the requirements of the Ansari X-Prize foundation to win the $10 million prize. SpaceShipOne, piloted by Brian Binnie, well exceeded the target altitude of 62 miles and returned to its airfield without problems.
|SpaceShipOne Reaches Space|
The spacecraft was built with miniscule funding compared to similar NASA programs, which proves the longtime theory that private organizations can go to space cheaper and more efficiently than governmental groups. In addition, the SpaceShipOne franchise is already lined up to be profitable; with the support of Virgin Galactic for space tourism, the company hopes to send 3,000 people into space within five years, orders of magnitude above what the world's space agencies have been able to do in much longer time.
It is quite possible that this marks the death of space agencies as we know it. No, NASA will not go away, but perhaps it will allow private agencies to do most of the work and focus instead on promoting difficult goals and performing tasks that cannot be made to be profitable. This may also lead to the reorganization of how contracts are handed out at NASA, for we all know that even though private contractors handle most of the work for large projects, they are not nearly as efficient as a pure private enterprise would be. It is even possible that NASA may turn into a sort of FAA for space, regulating private enterprise only.
Whatever the outcome, it is clear that space will now be much easier to develop, and competition will drive development onward. Already, the Canadian team that was trying for the X-Prize has announced that it will continue work on its spacecraft. Once the cost per pound into space lowers enough, other interests will look at what advantages may be had in space. Forget space tourism or hotels -- think zero-g manufacturing, research laboratories, and cities in space to support them. All of this may be possible now that the foothold is achieved. This has enormous implications for the future of space, and any effort we may make towards Mars.
On the other hand, it may be that there will be very little change from this. A lot hinges on how well the Virgin franchise can pull off their most brave investment.
(More info: CNN.com)
- posted by Brian @ 11:54 EST