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Just recently, In the Months leading up to the culmination of the X-Prize there were two serious contenders for the fabled X PRIZE, A rocket known by its builders as Wild Fire, and an airplane referred to buy its builders as, Space Ship 1. "The da Vinci Project, led by Brian Feeney of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, registered as a contender for the X PRIZE on June 2, 2000." (About the da Vinci Project). Their Craft Wild Fire has a flight plan that first consists of the rocket being hoisted to 24 km. (80,000 feet) via hot air balloon, at which point the rocket slung under the balloon at an 80 degree angel, from the horizon, fires and hopefully delivers the rocket and crew into space. The manner in which the da Vinci Project went about reentry is somewhat low tech, "A reentry chute is deployed T plus 15 seconds after apogee and includes the base area high temperature cone which doubles as the landing absorption cushion to protect the engines." Unfortunately this team had some funding problems causing them to deviate slightly form their original plan of attack which did not include the hot air balloon (What happens during the Actual Flights).
On the other hand, Space Ship 1 is being constructed by a company called Mojave Aerospace Ventures, LLC based out of Mojave, California which is run by the very experienced Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites, and funded by Paul Allen of Microsoft (Leonard).
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"The Future Of Civilan Space Travel." 123HelpMe.com. 20 Feb 2020
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On the 4th of October 2004 an event occurred that may have greater implications for mankind than ever before in recorded history. On this day a new frontier was opened to each and every one of us, hopefully it will inspire as many young minds as did Wilber and Orville Wright's first flights at Kitty Hawk. SS1, piloted by none other than 51-year-old Brian Binnie reached an altitude of 112.2 Kilometers (69.7 miles). This was 12.2 Km. more than required to officially enter into space flight. In fact Binnie was not the first privately backed pilot to enter into space but the second in the same number of weeks, in of course the same aircraft, thus securing their places in history as the winners of the ANSARI X-prize. This great feat entitled Mojave Aerospace Ventures, LLC, lead by Burt Rutan and, backed finical by the deep pockets of Paul Allen, to the 10 million dollar purse (Leonard). Money obviously was not their motivation considering the project cost more than that, to the tone of some 20 million dollars (Coren). Last of all but certainly not least, Michael Melville and Brian Binnie, officially received, from the FAA, their astronauts wings making them without a doubt the coolest people on earth.
Although the first civilian craft into, space SS1 will not be the last. On 1 October 2004 The Canadian Government gave the go-ahead for Wild Fire's attempted space shot that is in some ways more impressive than that of SS1's. The da Vinci Project has been an underdog nearly the whole of their existence, but that seemingly does not affect their determination or willingness to proceed. They trod on without the backing of Paul Allen.
After hearing of Mojave Aerospace Ventures exploits, the eccentric British billionaire, Sir Richard Branson, who is also the companies highly touted CEO, did not want to be left behind. He signed a contract with Paul G. Allen's Mojave Aerospace to develop commercial vehicles capable of brining nearly any civilian into space. "It is envisaged that Virgin Galactic will open for business by the beginning of 2005 and subject to the necessary safety and regulatory approvals begin operating flights from 2007". Although this schedule may be a bit ambitious it does not rule out the feasibility of it actually coming to fruition. At an Expected $190,000 per seat this dream of space flight is not yet easily obtainable for the masses, but it is not out of the grasp of the driven few who want to be pioneers of the burgeoning frontier of Civil Space Flight (Virgin Group).
This new era could possible fare surpass the information age or even the space age of the 1960's by leaps and bounds of unimaginable proportions, but the path will not be a smooth one. Right from the get go, problems have littered the road to success for Burt Rutan, even popping up during the final phases of the project. For example, at the time of SS1's maiden voyage part of the Fuselage collapsed! Even though this was only a plastic slip-on piece added only for its aerodynamic value it certainly was not expected to happen, but that is to be expected when breaking boundries. On a separate occasion but also during SS1's accent to altitude under its own power the craft entered into an abrupt, and unplanned roll that lasted for a good fraction of a minute (Private Spaceship). " More seriously, though, the cause of the flight anomaly was unknown (the 62yr. old) Melvill conceded it was possible he had triggered the problem by inadvertently operating SpaceShipOne's rudder. That sort of thing can happen at my age,' he said. " (Brekke).
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Coren, Michael. "Private craft soars into space, history." CNN.com 14 July 2004. Google. 27 nov. 2004.
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