All spaceflight is risky, any expert will tell you. Maiden voyages can be particularly tricky, given all the unknowns. Even SpaceShipOne, a smooth-operating, trusty craft, had a mishap upon landing during a test flight last December.
But the lure to break the bonds of Earth is strong. So strong that in a survey of the more than 100 people who have paid deposits to eventually go into space on a suborbital tourist flight, more than two-thirds said that if given the chance they would hop aboard SpaceShipOne on Monday for its first attempt to reach the great beyond.
SpaceShipOne -- with an as-yet-unnamed pilot and no passengers -- will attempt to become the first private craft to propel a human into space. The suborbital threshold is 62 miles (100 kilometers), informs news.yahoo.com
According to space.com a privately built rocket plane is ready to streak through the sky over Mojave, California desert on June 21. Project officials herald it as the first non-governmental piloted flight to leave the Earth's atmosphere.
Built by Scaled Composites of Mojave, California, SpaceShipOne is set to become the world’s first commercial manned space vehicle. Investor and philanthropist Paul Allen and aviation technologist Burt Rutan, head of Scaled Composites, have teamed to create the program.
If all goes according to plan, the hybrid motor-propelled rocket plane will carry its pilot some 62 miles (100 kilometers) into suborbital space above the Mojave Civilian Aerospace Test Center, a commercial airport in the California desert. Gliding to a landing strip stop, "it will signal that the space frontier is finally open to private enterprise," explains a Scaled Composites release about the flight.
If all goes well, they are expected to announce their next goal - the Ansari X Prize, which is offering US$10 million to the first team that sends three people, in a space vehicle 100 kilometers above the earth and repeats the trip within two weeks.
Although Allen and Rutan's SpaceShipOne team are registered as entrants, they have so far avoided committing to making a bid for the X Prize.
The prize's co-founder, however, believes that a few teams are close enough to win the prize and that 2004 will be remembered as the year when commercial space flight was born.
"I think we'll have an X Prize winner in the next three to four months," Peter Diamandis, president of the X Prize Foundation, said. "This is a pivotal year for space flight."
SpaceShipOne will be carried to an altitude of 15,240 metres by a larger carrier airplane, and then released to fire a rocket that will burn for 80 seconds to take it into the final stretch, reports tvnz.co.nz