Monday, October 10, 2005

SpaceshipOne joins aviation titans at Smithsonian

Burt Rutan's SpaceshipOne has been donated to the Smithsonian Museum's Air & Space collection and now hangs beside the Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis and Yeager's Bell X-1, the "Glamorous Glennis."

SpaceShipOne's designer, Burt Rutan, and its financier, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, were on hand as the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum took ownership of the 28-foot star-spangled spacecraft.

A year ago, Rutan and Allen captured the $10 million Ansari X Prize when SpaceShipOne dashed to the edge of space twice. The prize was aimed at encouraging space tourism through the development of low-cost private spacecraft.

Rutan told several hundred visitors in the building's giant lobby that he was pleased the Smithsonian so quickly recognized the importance of SpaceShipOne.

"I knew that the significance would be known and understood by everyone in 10 years," said Rutan, 62. "I'm extremely pleased to see it here this early."

This is definitely as it should be. SpaceshipOne is a marvel of engineering and a proof to the concept that the state-run That's-The-Way-We've-Always-Done-It&trade path to space ain't the only game in town. NASA's people are the geniuses everyone thinks they are, but Rutan is, too, and NASA needed a little shaking up. If we could just get NASA applying their mass to the methods pioneered by Rutan... well, it'd be a wonder to behold, let's just say that.

Congrats to SpaceshipOne and Burt Rutan, again!